Russia: April 20, 2000

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New Russian President Vladimir Putin is a prototypical Russian character, "the strong man" who is there to save the country. Putin is neither a democrat or reformer, although as a pragmatist he recognizes the need for both democracy and reform. Putin reveres the KGB, which he tried to join at the age of 15. (When told that he must complete a tour in the Army or an advanced education, he asked which advanced degree would be best. Told "law school", he began working immediately toward that end, eventually graduating from Leningrad Law School University and entering the KGB. He never considered a military career.) Putin witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall first hand, and spent days burning classified KGB documents at his post in Dresden. He speaks to Russian nationalism, and has the victory in his Chechen War to cement his credentials. Within days of taking power, a Russian reporter who had spoken openly against the government disappeared, and Putin referred to him as a traitor. --Stephen V Cole


 

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