With the transfer of presidential power in Moscow from Vladimir Putin to Dimitry Medvedev, Leon Aron explains the legacy of Putinism in AEI's Russian Outlook:
Putin's ability to forge a political system stable enough to be bequeathed to a successor merits affixing his name to it as a distinct authoritarian regime. While exhibiting many familiar traits, which include select but resolute repression, Putinism displays a number of features that distinguish it from classic authoritarianism. Some--such as the emphasis on lost glory and imperial nostalgia, the "besieged fortress" outlook, spymania, and a foreign policy shaped by retribution and resurgence and serving as the principal basis of the regime's legitimacy and the key factor of political stability--hew rather dangerously to fascistic polities. Others, such as corporatism and sultanism, are reminiscent of traditional authoritarian economic policies.
An analysis of these and other features of Putinism yields important clues about the regime's performance and longevity and Russia's behavior in the world. In the short run, the state's control of politics and the economy appears to be strengthened by the lack of competing political institutions, the "sultanistic" grip on the economy, truculence in foreign affairs, and the additional legitimacy stemming from the unchallenged view of a country with enemies at home and abroad. In the longer term, the same policies can also reliably be shown to lead to economic stagnation, political destabilization, and a dangerous deterioration of the country's external relations.
As a student of Marxist "dialectical materialism"--a required course at Leningrad State University, as it was in all other colleges and universities of the Soviet Union--Putin must be aware of such an evolution. As a successful authoritarian ruler, he no doubt will ignore this knowledge.