Putin and the Uses of History

“Using history, Putin has scaled his role as case officer up to a national level,” write Carnegie Corporation grantees Fiona Hill and Clifford G. Gaddy in the current issue of The National Interest.    

Their intriguing profile of the Russian leader “Putin and the Uses of History” reveal the two central elements of the Putin persona: his firm conviction that his personal destiny is intertwined with that of his country; and his resolve to fashion the Russian destiny through slow, methodical decision making over a long period of time.  

Over the course of his career, write the two Brookings Instituion scholars, from Leningrad to Dresden to St. Petersburg to Moscow, he has moved from being an outsider and a peripheral figure to a man who actively makes history. Instead of Fidel Castro–style mass speeches, Putin takes the case officer’s approach, engaging one-on-one with the Russian people in public settings, including televised hotline call-ins and press conferences, where everyone listens to him respond and tailor his answers to the questions of a specific individual. He also resorts to outlandish performance pieces in which he transforms himself into a deep-sea diver, race-car driver, biker, airplane pilot, sportsman––all to appeal directly to different Russian audiences. 

Fiona Hill directs the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution and is an expert and frequent commentator on Russia; and Clifford Gaddy is a senior fellow at Brookings and an economist specializing in Russia. 

Read the full article.