Oh, Is That How You Do It?

One of the difficulties we run into when studying the situation surrounding Caesar’s rise to power and assassination is trying to understand how someone can hijack a government like Caesar did (for better or for worse). How can that happen?

It is, of course, through an incredibly complex series of events, particular to the times, culture, and individuals involved that a republic or other liberal form of government shifts towards autocracy or dictatorship. Frankly, since I’m not too prone to power-grabs myself, it’s pretty bewildering to me, though fascinating all the same.

Anyway, based on some recent press coverage and commentary around the upcoming Russian elections, it looks like something similar might be in the making there. Check it out:

The truth is that, in the four years since Putin became president, business, like politics, has steadily fallen under his direct control, either by force or by the threat of force. It began when he seized the politically important TV companies, from Vladimir Gusinsky’s NTV to Boris Berezovsky’s ORT and TV6, as soon as he came to power…

…at the same time, Putin has also been nurturing a new elite of businessmen, like Miller, who run, not private, but state-controlled enterprises. These new bosses have been picked from the KGB or the St Petersburg administration, or both. They are united by their KGB beliefs and by personal loyalty and friendship to Putin.

To all intents and purposes,” a Russian tycoon said in Moscow this week, “Putin is the state.…”

The whole story is at The Register.

There was also this today from NPR’s senior analyist Daniel Schorr:

…Putin continued to concentrate power in his own hands. Putin has talked of ‘managed democracy,’ but his brand of democracy looks a lot more ‘managed’ than ‘democratic’.

Here’s the whole commentary. (It’s in Real Audio format.)

Not that there’s any real direct comparison between Julius Caesar and Vladimir Putin, but perhaps what is taking place in the Russian political scene today can give us a little insight into how a political system can slide from one form to another, instead of being jarred and shaken by revolution or coup.