Russian Federation. Pensioners across the Russian Federation protested in January that they had lost the benefit of free public transport from the beginning of the year and lost their discounts on medicines and electricity, among other things. In the demonstrations, slogans seemed like “Hitler took away a happy childhood and Putin a quiet old age”. But President Vladimir Putin blamed the government and regional leaders and promised extra pension increases and continued opportunity for free local traffic.
At Putin’s summit with US President George W. Bush in Bratislava in February, the threat to democracy in the Russian Federation became a major theme. According to countryaah, Moscow is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Russia. The Russian president denied that the Russian Federation was developing in a totalitarian direction, and in his annual speech to the nation in the spring, Putin said that development “as a free and democratic country” is the Russian Federation’s most important task.
But in May the Council of Europe pointed to Russian repression of the media, corruption and violence in the judiciary, and not least “disappearances” in Chechnya. In the same month, the oil company Yuko’s chief Michail Chodorkovsky was sentenced to nine years in prison for, among other things. serious tax breaks and embezzlement. The huge tax claims against Yukos were seen by observers as a way for the Putin regime to crush Yukos and Chodorkovsky, which emerged as a political threat. The protracted trial was considered to have had a negative impact on the Moscow Stock Exchange and the growth of the Russian economy.
Shortly after the verdict against Chodorkovsky, it was announced that the state-controlled gas giant Gazprom would buy the leading quality magazine of the Russian Federation Izvestija. Thus, the independent Izvestija again became the government body during the Soviet era. Gazprom has previously included the TV channel MTV.
Putin gathered in May a large part of the world’s leaders in Moscow to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. However, the Presidents of Estonia and Latvia had refused, citing that the end of the Second World War in the Baltics was followed by the Soviet occupation, which the Russian Federation believes should be apologized and compensated. US President George W. Bush stood by the Balts on a visit to Latvia, and from the EU demanded Russian recognition that the Soviet rule in the Baltic was illegal. The Kremlin responded sharply that it was not an occupation and President Putin challenged the outside world by calling the disintegration of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the century”.
President Putin saw more and more states of the former Soviet Union withdraw from the Russian Federation. In the spring he visited Ukraine and tried to correct the mistake of investing in the losing presidential candidate the year before. But after Putin’s visit, Ukraine formed a “Union for Democratic States” with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova with the intention of withdrawing from the Russian Federation’s sphere of interest. Putin also visited Israel in the spring, the first visit there by a ruler from the Kremlin.
In August, the Russian Federation and China conducted their first joint military exercise. By analysts, it was seen as politically oriented toward the United States, an attempt to strengthen positions in the security-political and economic rivalry between the major powers.
Western Siberia was affected during the late summer and autumn by the dreaded type of bird flu that can spread to humans. Experts warned that the virus could be spread by migratory birds to the southern Russian Federation and on to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The EU banned the import of birds and poultry products from the Russian Federation.
The violent turmoil in the Caucasus spread during the year in the southern Russian federation. In October, hundreds of hundreds of armed rebels in the Republic of Kabardinia-Balkaria attacked police stations and other government buildings in the capital Naltjik, where fierce fighting was fought with Russian government forces. According to official data, over 90 rebels, more than 30 government soldiers and nine civilians were killed, while Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev claimed that 41 Islamic warriors and 140 “unfaithful” were killed. In Chechnya’s neighboring republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia, there were numerous small-scale armed attacks, evidence that Moscow does not have full control over the poor, Muslim parts of the southern Russian federation.
In November, the duma approved by a large majority a law that makes the work of NGOs more difficult, eg. rights groups. After over a thousand organizations had protested, President Putin promised to discuss the law with Parliament.
In the local elections in December, the ultranationalist party Rodina was excluded from a court in Moscow because the party’s campaign contained racist messages. At the same time, a survey showed that 59% of Russians said yes to the slogan “Russia to the Russians”. Racist and xenophobic moods became evident in various parts of society during the year. In Parliament, 20 members demanded that all Jewish organizations in the country be banned, and fierce attacks against non-Russians appeared in the mass media. When President Putin attended the 60th anniversary of the Soviet troops’ liberation from Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, he said he was ashamed of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in the Russian Federation.
In December, the construction of an approximately 120 km long gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea started from the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland to northern Germany. Management will link the world’s largest gas reserves in the Russian Federation with the Western European market.
Vladimir Putin becomes President (2000-2004)
On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin surprisingly resigned as Russian president and handed over power to Vladimir Putin, who, under the Constitution, became acting president. Putin had in a short time built up a great personal popularity – not least because of his tough line in Chechnya.
The “Putin effect” was decisive when the President’s support party, this time called Unity, did very well at the Duma elections in December 1999 (for the first time after 1991, a majority for the President of the State Duma), and at the March 2000 presidential election, Putin won with 53 percent already in the first election.
Putin’s stated goal was to rebuild Russia as an international superpower. The recipe for achieving the goal was a continued liberal economic policy combined with a decentralization of political power. During Putin’s first presidential term, political centralization consisted in particular that the regional level – the Federation subjects (regions) – had their individual room of maneuver sharply cropped. This was done, among other things, by bringing more of the tax revenue to the federal level, by establishing new federal agencies at the federal subject level, and by creating “federal circles” with the task of coordinating the federal subjects’ policies with the president’s policies.
Also Russian media labeled the new centralization. For a short time, for example, all national television channels came back under direct or indirect state control, while Putin-critical media oligarchs Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky went into exile.
Well-aided by strong economic development, during his first presidential term Putin succeeded in consolidating his position as Russia’s undisputed leader. Temporary setbacks, such as the submarine Kursk shipwreck in 2000 and the hostage action at the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow in 2002, did not weaken this picture. Putin’s message of order and concentration of power represented for many a positive contrast to the chaos and power dissolution of the Yeltsin era.
Following the 2003 Duma election, the United Russia, Putin’s support party, achieved two-thirds majority in parliament, and in March 2004 Putin got rid of the last members of Yeltsin’s former inner circle (the “family”) ahead of the presidential election, including Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov. Hereafter, the government and the presidential administration were dominated by Putin’s men (first and foremost by the so-called “siloviki”, men with a background in the security sector). New Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Putin’s Second Period (2004-2008)
In the March 2004 presidential election, Putin won a superior victory with 71% of the vote in the first round. After the election, Putin continued to strengthen the central power. Following the hostage campaign in Beslan in September of that year, he implemented several important reforms, including the reintroduction of presidential leaders at the regional level, changes in the composition of the State Duma (introduction of clean list elections) and the creation of an alternative “parliament”, the Chamber of Social Affairs, with representatives of civil society. However, despite the community chamber and its NGO representation, Putin was strongly criticized for restricting the freedom of civil society.
Although, in Putin’s second presidential term, a largely liberal economic policy continued, in recent years the state has secured ever greater control over strategic economic sectors, primarily the energy sector. In connection with the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for example, the state bought up important parts of the oil giant Yukos. Revenues from oil and gas production contributed to substantial surpluses in the Russian state budget. In 2004, a stabilization fund was established to reduce inflationary pressures, and from 2005 part of the funds was channeled into so-called national projects that focus on Russia’s most acute problems: health care, education and research, the housing sector and agriculture.
Medvedev as President and Prime Minister
In 2008, Putin’s second presidential term expired and, according to the Constitution, he had to resign. Putin stood behind United Russia’s candidate, Dmitry Medvedev, who was elected.
During Medvedev’s presidential term, a large-scale modernization program was initiated with the aim of strengthening technological development, in particular in the areas of energy efficiency, nuclear power, IT, medicine, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and telecommunications.
The international financial crisis in 2008 hit Russia more strongly than many other countries because oil prices also fell simultaneously. However, the country had managed to build up large foreign exchange reserves. One third of these were used to save banks and manufacturing companies, and as early as 2010 the Russian economy was growing again.
Medvedev was closer to a European rule of law than his predecessor, who took over as prime minister. Putin exercised the position with such force that a “tandem regime” was discussed between the president and the prime minister. At the 2012 election, Putin was able to stand again and win. Medvedev became prime minister.
Putin’s third presidential term (2012-2018)
The Russian constitution does not allow the re-election of the president more than one consecutive time, but after a period of office he resigned in March 2012, winning the first round of elections by 63.6 percent.
During Putin’s third presidential term, Russia marked itself as a self-governing player on the international stage, particularly in the context of the Ukraine crisis and the Syria crisis. In 2014, the Crimean Peninsula was annexed and incorporated into the Russian Federation.
Foreign policy has been conflicting, with the inclusion of the Crimean Peninsula in the Russian Federation in 2014, Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis and the military involvement in Syria in 2015 as the most controversial.
Since Putin took over as president in May 2012, there has been a noticeable tightening of freedom of organization in the country, especially targeting groups that receive financial support from abroad and use the funds for political activities. A 2012 law states that such organizations must declare themselves “foreign agents”. In parallel, the authorities have embarked on a more pronounced conservative line on issues related to culture and lifestyle.
In connection with this, a law was passed in 2013 to protect minors from harmful information. Positive information about homosexuality is one of the laws aimed at protecting minors. This law has aroused attention abroad and various protest actions have been initiated, including targeting the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014. Homosexuality is legal in Russia.
A number of terrorist attacks against civilians were carried out. Behind were various groupings originating in the North Caucasus. Among the worst in the 2000s are the hostage-taking in the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow (2002), in Beslan (2004), the bomb blast on the Moscow Metro (2010) and the bomb attack at the Volgograd railway station in December 2013. Particularly notorious terrorists are Shamil Salmanovich Basayev (dead 2006) and Doku Umarov.