Russia has been locked into a winter of authoritarian rule at home and military adventures abroad under Vladimir Putin. In Kremlin Winter, Robert Service, one of our finest historians of Russia, plots the seasonal shifts in events since 2012 and those that may be expected in the immediate future.
When Mikhail Gorbachëv introduced perestroika in the mid-1980s, the USSR went through a springtime of growth and release. The Soviet order collapsed in 1991, and Boris Yeltsin initiated a summer of transformation as Russia acquired a market economy and aspired to a new place in the world community. It was a season of achievement but also of disappointment, leading Yeltsin to relinquish the Russian presidency at the end of the century in favour of Putin, his young prime minister.
Putin’s rule has been full of surprises and there has never been a moment when politics in Russia have been entirely stable. At the same time there has been a steady progression in the direction of repression, control and international assertiveness. However, shoots of liberal growth have been appearing in the icy ground of public affairs, and Putin has been unable to take his supremacy for granted as he strives to impose his will on both the ruling team, its institutions and society at large. He has made the weather at home and abroad, and yet he is also facing a snow blizzard of difficulties in the economy and international relations.