Gary Kasparov on Putin's Russia and the Godfather:

In this Wall Street Journal op ed, former chess world champion and Russian opposition leader Gary Kasparov analogizes Vladimir Putin's Russia to The Godfather:

Mr. Putin's government is unique in history. This Kremlin is part oligarchy, with a small, tightly connected gang of wealthy rulers. It is partly a feudal system, broken down into semi-autonomous fiefdoms in which payments are collected from the serfs, who have no rights. Over this there is a democratic coat of paint, just thick enough to gain entry into the G-8 and keep the oligarchy's money safe in Western banks.

But if you really wish to understand the Putin regime in depth, I can recommend some reading. . . [G]o directly to the fiction department and take home everything you can find by Mario Puzo. If you are in a real hurry to become an expert on the Russian government, you may prefer the DVD section, where you can find Mr. Puzo's works on film. "The Godfather" trilogy is a good place to start, but do not leave out "The Last Don," "Omerta" and "The Sicilian."

The web of betrayals, the secrecy, the blurred lines between what is business, what is government, and what is criminal--it's all there in Mr. Puzo's books. A historian looks at the Kremlin today and sees elements of Mussolini's "corporate state," Latin American juntas and Mexico's pseudo-democratic PRI machine. A Puzo fan sees the Putin government more accurately: the strict hierarchy, the extortion, the intimidation, the code of secrecy and, above all, the mandate to keep the revenue flowing. In other words, a mafia.

I don't fully agree with Kasparov's assessment. Putin's regime is not "unique in history." To the contrary, predatory regimes that combine corruption, repression, and skullduggery are all too common in the developing world. As I have noted in an earlier post, one of the main themes of The Godfather is that all government has a great deal in common with organized crime. Russia's government is more Mafia-like than those of the West, but not more so than many other regimes elsewhere in the world. And as Kasparov would probably agree, even a Mafia state is still a major improvement over the mass murdering totalitarianism of communism.

The tragedy of Russia is not that its current government is uniquely bad. It is that the country had the human and material resources to do so much better, as the post-communist states of Eastern Europe and the Baltics have done. The tragedy for the world is that this particular Mafia state has large quantities of oil, gas, and nuclear weapons.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Why People Get Much Worse Government than they Deserve:
  2. Gary Kasparov on Putin's Russia and the Godfather: