Friday, December 21, 2007
Why TIME chose Putin
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Владимир Владимирович Путин (help·info)) (born October 7, 1952) is the current President of the Russian Federation. He became acting President on December 31, 1999, succeeding Boris Yeltsin, and was sworn in as President following the elections on May 7, 2000. In 2004, he was re-elected for a second term, which expires in May 2008. He is Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2007, given the title for his "extraordinary feat of leadership in taking a country that was in chaos and bringing it stability.
President of Russia
Vladimir Putin timeline
Vladimir Putin Biography
Vladimir Putin was born on October 7, 1952 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. He was the sole child of a factory foreman, living in a communal apartment along with several other families. As a child, he studied the martial arts with a concentration on sambo, a combination of judo and wrestling. He was chosen to study at Leningrad School 281, which prepared its students for college.
In 1970, Vladimir graduated from preparatory school and enrolled in the Leningrad University. There, he majored in studies of civil law, while also continuing his practice of martial arts. In 1974, he was the city's judo champion and graduated in 1975 with honors.
After he graduated, he was recruited by the KGB, the Soviet Union's intelligence organization. He was sent to Moscow, where he studied espionage and foreign intelligence. There, he learned the German language and was awarded a black belt in judo. After completing his studies, he was given a position in the KGB First Directorate as an agent of foreign intelligence.
In 1985, Putin was sent to Eastern Germany to live in Dresden under a fake name. He was given a false job at a German-Soviet friendship society, which had been set up by the KGB. It is believed that he was spying on NATO's member nations and recruiting new agents during this time. During his time in Germany, he was able to get an idea of Western cultures and ideas that changed his perspective of the world.
In 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin returned to Russia after the KGB withdrew from reunited Germany and was highly decorated for his intelligence efforts. He was also given an administrative position at the Leningrad University, although he continued conducting intelligence gathering operations.
Putin was eventually hired as an assistant to his old professor of law, Anatoly Sobchak, who had become the chairman of the city council. When Sobchak was elected mayor of newly-renamed St. Petersburg in 1991, Vladimir was given the position of deputy mayor. During his time as deputy mayor, he helped direct foreign investors in the expansion of the city's economy and infrastructure.
In 1996, Sobchak lost his reelection campaign and left the mayoral office, along with Putin. Despite allegations and charges of corruption against Sobchak, Putin's career was not tainted. In 1997, he was given a position in the Kremlin as deputy to Pavel Borodin, the man in charge of the government's property department.
Putin put his time in the Kremlin to good use, making powerful friends and impressing his superiors. In 1998, he was appointed head of the Federal Security Service, the replacement for the KGB, by President Boris Yeltsin. In 1999, he was named prime minister by Yeltsin after numerous failures by other individuals appointed to that same office.
On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin resigned from his position before his term would end six months later. He appointed Putin as his acting successor, with the intention of ensuring that Russia entered the 21st century with a new wave of politicians who would continue reforming Russia. In the elections of March 2000, Putin won by a good margin, becoming Russia's youngest leader since Josef Stalin in 1922.
Throughout his tenure in office, Putin has been criticized for his handling of rebellions in Chechnya and Georgia, as well as the botched handling of a hostage situation that resulted in many deaths. More recently, he has been widely protested for his replacement of reimbursement for transportation and healthcare costs by cash, which many say does not fully cover the expenses. In spite of this, he has remained very open with Western countries and has implemented numerous beneficial social reforms in modern Russia, including the prosecution of the head of the Yukos oil corporation.
Time magazine has chosen Putin its "Person of the Year"
FACTBOX: Vladimir Putin - man of the year
Russian President Vladimir Putin was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" for 2007 on Wednesday for bringing stability and renewed status to his country.
Putin, 55, whose party recently won a big victory in parliamentary elections, is riding high on an oil-fueled economic boom and soaring popularity from a no-nonsense approach that has restored national pride with a big military build-up and verbal attacks on the West reminiscent of the Cold War.
Here are some key facts about Vladimir Putin:
* Putin was born in October 1952 in St. Petersburg, then called Leningrad. A former KGB spy in East Germany, he rose to head the KGB's successor organization, FSB, before being chosen as prime minister by the late President Boris Yeltsin in August 1999.
* He took over as acting president when Yeltsin stepped down in December 1999. After a huge public relations campaign to build a profile for the relative unknown, he was elected president in March 2000.
* He has overseen a steady concentration of power within the Kremlin walls, sidelining the political opposition and imposing tight control on the media. This has caused his Western critics to question his democratic credentials.
* He has played to his power base in the security forces and military by fostering a tough-guy image. Before the poll, he told Western governments to keep their "snotty noses" out of Russia's affairs.
* Delivering on a vow he made when first elected president in 2000, he has crushed the Chechen rebellion for now, though sporadic attacks continue on Russian forces.
* His years in power have been marked by a significant rise in living standards, helped by soaring oil prices, but large sections of the population still live in poverty.
* He has prided himself on bringing stability and predictability to Russia after the zig-zags of the Yeltsin years. He described the demise of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."
* Two outspoken critics of Putin, journalist Anna Politkovskaya and ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, were murdered in 2006, raising concerns in Russia about the stability Putin has been credited with enforcing after the chaos of the 1990s.
* Putin, highly popular at home, will not give himself a third consecutive term. But he has made it clear that when he steps down early next year he intends to retain political influence in the country. Dmitry Medvedev was nominated this week as the candidate of Putin's party for the presidential election. Medvedev, a close Putin ally, was a foregone conclusion after the president gave him his personal endorsement.
* Polls have shown that talking tough about Russia standing up to foreigners strikes a chord with millions of Russians who yearn for the Soviet Union's once mighty superpower status. (Writing by David Cutler and Richard Balmforth, London Editorial Reference Unit)
TIME’s Person of the Year is Vladimir Putin
Russia’s president beats out Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, other big names for title
Eighteen years ago, Mikhail Gorbachev was named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year for leading the political revolution that tore down the Iron Curtain and broke apart the Soviet Union. This year, Vladimir Putin, the man who restored Russia to a leading role on the world stage, has taken that title.
The highly anticipated announcement was made live on Wednesday on TODAY by TIME managing editor Richard Stengel. He said that TIME’s readers had chosen author J.K. Rowling first in an online poll.
But Putin won the title for taking Russia from chaos to a position of importance in the world today. Being TIME’s Person of the Year is not necessarily an honor, in Putin’s case.
Stengel characterized Putin as dynamic but dangerous. “He doesn’t care about civil liberties, he doesn’t care about free speech. He was very bitter about the way Americans look at him and the way Americans’ treat him. He is an angry, angry man,” Stengel said.
Stengel said one thing that makes Putin extraordinary is that he is not interested in making people like him. “He has no charm,” Stengel said. “He is just pure force and pure force of will.”
TIME’s editors chose the controversial Putin over a list of candidates that included former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Prize for his battle against global warming; Rowling, who published the seventh and final chapter of her Harry Potter series; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the confrontational president of Iran; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Apple CEO Steve Jobs; Gen. David Petraeus, leader of the Iraq surge; and Chinese leader Hu Jintao.
Putin is the fourth Russian leader to be chosen Person of the Year. Joseph Stalin was named twice, in 1939 for signing the alliance that opened the doors for Hitler’s war on Europe and in 1942 for joining the Allies in World War II. In 1957, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader at the height of the Cold War, won for leading the effort to put the first satellite in space. And in 1989, Gorbachev was on the cover for ending the Cold War.
Last year, the Person of the Year was “You,” the millions of people who have made the Internet a vital force of communication and culture.
Stengel said that Gore finished second in the opinion of the editors, with Rowling third, Hu Jintao fourth and Petraeus fifth. It was the first time the magazine ranked the runners-up.
Voters online chose Rowling first, Gore second, Ahmadinejad third, Rice fourth, Jobs fifth, Petraeus sixth and Putin a distant seventh.
But the Person of the Year isn’t a popularity contest. “We all grew up with Russia as this great superpower and rival to the U.S.,” said Stengel. “But in the ’90s, Russia was a basket case.”
Putin changed that, restoring political order — at the cost of civil liberties, his critics say — and world influence. With vast oil wealth and a 2,000-mile border with China, Stengel said, “Russia is really critical to the future of the 21st century.”
Russians Agree With Time, Putin is Person of Year
Leaders Who Are Difficult Can't Be Ignored
Most Russians shrugged as if to say "of course" when told that Time magazine had named Vladimir Putin person of the year.
Slava Zoshchuk, a microbiologist, told ABC News, "I am not surprised. ... It's great, because he has done a lot for the prestige and the stabilization of the country."
Svetlana Nagornavo, a maid, said, "It's good. I voted for Putin. I am for stability."
To many analysts, too, Time's decision comes as no surprise, but for very different reasons. Putin made headlines regularly this year. Whether it was for publicly chastising senior American officials or being snapped shirtless on a fishing trip, Putin was in the news.
Masha Lipman, a political analyst with the Carnegie Institute, told ABC News, "I think he made a lot of headlines and was talked about a great deal … when somebody is difficult there is no way to ignore. He made the West reckon with Russia, for better or for worse."
It's been a tough year for U.S.-Russian relations. Disagreements over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the U.S.' proposed missile defense system have raised tensions between the two countries. For better or for worse, though, Putin's message has remained constant. As Lipman summarizes it, "Russia says no and there is no way to ignore Russia."
Putin rarely talks to Western journalists, and the fact that he sat down for an extensive interview with Time magazine is important in itself. Lipman says, "There's always this combination of caring about the opinion of the West and also ignoring it."
Dmitry Peskov, the deputy press secretary for Putin, told ABC News about Time's choice. "It's quite positive news, this choice for 2007. It's a kind of acknowledgement of the vital role that he has played over the last eight years, helping to pull Russia out of the chaos of the '90s and restoring national pride. Undoubtedly, under the leadership of President Putin during these eight years, Russia has re-emerged as a constructive and active voice in shaping the course of international relations and has expanded influence around the globe."
Certainly in 2008 the world will be hearing more from that voice.
Vladimir Putin keeps Russia guessing on future
Russians are anxiously awaiting word on their leader's future as Vladimir Putin prepares to use his overwhelming victory in a flawed parliamentary election to retain power beyond his official retirement date next year.
Shrugging off international condemnation of the vote, the president kept his nation guessing as he savoured his triumph largely in private.
But after years of waiting, the Russian people could discover within a fortnight what his official job description will be after next March's presidential elections - a contest in which Mr Putin is currently constitutionally forbidden from participating.
On December 17, the ruling United Russia party meets to choose its presidential candidate.
With its crushing victory in Sunday's parliamentary election now confirmed, the party could argue that it has the popular mandate to select Mr Putin - a move that would require either a referendum or the "discovery" of a constitutional loophole to be put into effect.
If it chooses a pliant alternative candidate, Mr Putin is instead likely to emerge as prime minister or leader of the party, positions that could be imbued with new powers now that United Russia has a constitutional majority in a parliament that lacks even a single genuine opposition deputy.
Whatever option is put into place, Mr Putin's international credibility has suffered a serious buffeting, after the small number of foreign observers that were allowed to monitor the parliamentary election condemned it as seriously flawed.
United Russia won over 70 per cent of the seats in the State Duma but observers said the election was characterised by intimidation and numerous violations and the West united to condemn the conduct of the poll.
The Foreign Office called on the Kremlin to investigate electoral regularities while the German government took the unprecedented step of declaring that Russia was "not a democracy".
"These were not free and fair elections, they were not democratic elections," government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters.
"Russia was no democracy and is no democracy."
Despite the international storm that it is likely to cause, analysts say that there are growing signs Mr Putin could defy the West - who he recently told to keep "its snotty noses" out of Russian affairs - by running for a third term.
As the parliamentary campaign reached its crescendo last month, apparently spontaneous demonstrations erupted across the country calling for Mr Putin to stay on as president.
By mid-November it was revealed that the demonstrations were being spearheaded by a movement that simply called itself Za Putina or For Putin.
Its leaders insisted that the organisation was nothing more than a grassroots initiative created to "express the spontaneous love of the Russian people" for their president.
But analysts said the movement showed all the hallmarks of being a Kremlin concoction and predicted it would be used as a vehicle to allow Mr Putin to remain as president.
They also claimed that Za Putina had been deliberately modelled on Mao Tse Tung's Red Guards movement during the Cultural Revolution and would be used to make denunciations against ruling party deputies considered disloyal to the president.
The organisation has already created an online petition and is planning to deliver "30 lorries with 30 million signatures" to the Kremlin, pleading with the president to stay on.
"Everything is now ready for a referendum," said Yevgeny Kiselyov, a leading political commentator.
"Now this movement is being used to reinforce the notion of Putin the father, Putin the son and Putin the Holy Spirit."