Putinism is the political system of Russia formed during the leadership of Vladimir Putin. It is characterized by the concentration of political and financial powers in the hands of "siloviks"--current and former "people with shoulder marks", coming from a total of 22 governmental enforcement agencies, the majority of them being FSB, Police, Army and national guard of the Russian Federation. According to columnist Arnold Beichman, "Putinism in the 21st century has become as significant a watchword as Stalinism was in the 20th".
The "Chekist takeover" of the Russian state and economic assets has been allegedly accomplished by a clique of Putin's close associates and friends who gradually became a leading group of Russian oligarchs and who "seized control over the financial, media and administrative resources of the Russian state" and restricted democratic freedoms and human rights. According to some scholars, Russia has been transformed to an "FSB state".
The term "putinism" was first used in the article by Andrey Piontkovsky published on 11 January 2000 in Sovetskaya Rossiya and placed on the Yabloko website on the same day. He characterized putinism as the highest and final stage of bandit capitalism in Russia, the stage where, "as one half-forgotten classic said, the bourgeoisie throws the flag of the democratic freedoms and the human rights overboard; and also as a war, "consolidation" of the nation on the ground of hatred against some ethnic group, attack on freedom of speech and information brainwashing, isolation from the outside world and further economic degradation".
Sociologists, economists and politologists emphasize different features of the system.
M. Urnov and V. Kasamara established among political scientists "direct signs of the departure of the current political system of Russia from the basic principles of competition policy":
A sociological investigation unveiling the phenomena was done in 2004 by Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who determined the proportion of siloviks in the Russian political elite to be 25%. In Putin's "inner circle" which constitutes about 20 people, the amount of siloviks rises to 58%, and fades to 18-20% in Parliament and 34% in the Government. According to Kryshtanovskaya, there was no capture of power as Kremlin bureaucracy has called siloviks in order to "restore order". The process of siloviks coming into power allegedly started in 1996, Boris Yeltsin's second term. "Not personally Yeltsin, but the whole elite wished to stop the revolutionary process and consolidate power." When silovik Vladimir Putin was appointed Prime Minister in 1999, the process was boosted. According to Olga, "Yes, Putin has brought siloviks with him. But that's not enough to understand the situation. Here's also an objective aspect: the whole political class wished them to come. They were called for service... There was a need of a strong arm, capable from point of view of the elite to establish order in the country."
Kryshtanovskaya has also noted that there were people who had worked in structures "affiliated" with the KGB/FSB. Structures usually considered as such are the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Governmental Communications Commission, Ministry of Foreign Trade, Press Agency News and others. "The itself work in such agencies doesn't involve necessary contacts with special services, but makes you think about it." Summing up numbers of official and "affiliated" siloviks she got an estimate of 77% of such in the power.
With Putin's signing an executive order on 3 July 2020 to officially insert the amendments into the Russian Constitution, they took effect on 4 July 2020.
According to former Securitate general Ion Mihai Pacepa, "In the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within a state. Now former KGB officers are running the state. They have custody of the country's 6,000 nuclear weapons, entrusted to the KGB in the 1950s, and they now also manage the strategic oil industry renationalized by Putin. The KGB successor, rechristened FSB, still has the right to electronically monitor the population, control political groups, search homes and businesses, infiltrate the federal government, create its own front enterprises, investigate cases, and run its own prison system. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin's Russia has one FSB-ist for every 297 citizens."
"Under Russian Federation President and former career foreign intelligence officer Vladimir Putin, an "FSB State" composed of chekists has been established and is consolidating its hold on the country. Its closest partners are organized criminals. In a world marked by a globalized economy and information infrastructure, and with transnational terrorism groups utilizing all available means to achieve their goals and further their interests, Russian intelligence collaboration with these elements is potentially disastrous", said politologist Julie Anderson.
Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy shares similar ideas. When asked "How many people in Russia work in FSB?", he replied: "Whole country. FSB owns everything, including Russian Army and even own Church, the Russian Orthodox Church... Putin managed to create new social system in Russia".
"Vladimir Putin's Russia is a new phenomenon in Europe: a state defined and dominated by former and active-duty security and intelligence officers. Not even fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union - all undoubtedly much worse creations than Russia - were as top-heavy with intelligence talent", said intelligence expert Marc Gerecht.
Some economists consider the political system in Russia as a variety of corporatism. According to Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor of Vladimir Putin, this is a new socio-political order, "distinct from any seen in our country before". He said that members of the Corporation of Intelligence Service Collaborators took over the entire body of state power, follow an omerta-like behavior code, and "are given instruments conferring power over others - membership "perks", such as the right to carry and use weapons". According to Illarionov, this "Corporation has seized key government agencies - the Tax Service, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, and the government-controlled mass media - which are now used to advance the interests of [Corporation] members. Through these agencies, every significant resource of the country - security/intelligence, political, economic, informational and financial - is being monopolized in the hands of Corporation members".
Members of the Corporation created an isolated caste. A former KGB general said that "a Chekist is a breed... A good KGB heritage--a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service--is highly valued by today's siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged."
Russian politician Boris Nemtsov and commentator Kara-Murza define Putinism in Russia as "a one party system, censorship, a puppet parliament, ending of an independent judiciary, firm centralization of power and finances, and hypertrophied role of special services and bureaucracy, in particular in relation to business".
Political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky considers Putinism as "the highest and culminating stage of bandit capitalism in Russia". He believes that "Russia is not corrupt. Corruption is what happens in all countries when businessmen offer officials large bribes for favors. Today's Russia is unique. The businessmen, the politicians, and the bureaucrats are the same people. They have privatized the country's wealth and taken control of its financial flows."
Such views are also shared by politologist Julie Anderson who said the same person can be a Russian intelligence officer, an organized criminal, and a businessman. She also cited former CIA director James Woolsey who said: "I have been particularly concerned for some years, beginning during my tenure, with the interpenetration of Russian organized crime, Russian intelligence and law enforcement, and Russian business. I have often illustrated this point with the following hypothetical: If you should chance to strike up a conversation with an articulate, English-speaking Russian in, say, the restaurant of one of the luxury hotels along Lake Geneva, and he is wearing a $3,000 suit and a pair of Gucci loafers, and he tells you that he is an executive of a Russian trading company and wants to talk to you about a joint venture, then there are four possibilities. He may be what he says he is. He may be a Russian intelligence officer working under commercial cover. He may be part of a Russian organized crime group. But the really interesting possibility is that he may be all three and that none of those three institutions have any problem with the arrangement."
According to politologist Glinsky, "The idea of Russia, Inc.--or better, Russia, Ltd.--derives from the Russian brand of libertarian anarchism viewing the state as just another private armed gang claiming special rights on the basis of its unusual power." "This is a state conceived as a "stationary bandit" imposing stability by eliminating the roving bandits of the previous era.", he said.
In April 2006, the effective privatization of the customs sphere infuriated Putin himself, where businessmen and officials "merged in ecstasy".
Some observers discuss the ideology of new Russian political elite. Politologist Irina Pavlova said that chekists are not merely a corporation of people united to expropriate financial assets. They have long-standing political objectives of transforming Moscow into the Third Rome and ideology of "containing" the United States. Columnist George Will emphasized the nationalistic nature of Putinism. He said that "Putinism is becoming a toxic brew of nationalism directed against neighboring nations, and populist envy, backed by assaults of state power, directed against private wealth. Putinism is national socialism without the demonic element of its pioneer...". According to Illarionov, the ideology of chekists is Nashism ("ours-ism"), the selective application of rights".
In March 2020, Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, emphasized Vladimir Putin's special ideological role: "Today, facing the current challenges and the threats that exist in the world, oil and gas are not our advantages. As you can see, both oil and gas can fall in price. Our strength is Mr. Putin, and we must protect him".
In 2010 Peter Sucia, the American historian and The National Interest contributor, was one of the first publicists to explicitly describe Putin as a leader who's sincerely convinced in his fascist values as righteous. Sucia wrote: "Some historians and economists have noted that fascism is actually an anti-Marxist form of socialism, especially as it favors class collaboration and supports the concept of nationalism -- the latter being something that Marxists could never support. A diehard Marxist leader wouldn't get on a plane and fly halfway around the world to try and win support for the Olympics to be hosted in his country, even his hometown. But a tried and true Fascist might do so".
Van Herpen compares in detail the many and often surprising parallels that exist between Putin's regime and that of Weimar Germany and Mussolini's Italy, indicating the presence of strong Fascist elements in contemporary Russia.
However, this is tempered by other elements that show a resemblance with the Bonapartism from Napoleon III's France and the post-modern populism of Silvio Berlusconi, creating a hybrid system which can be labelled 'Fascism-lite'. Although 'Putinism' has a softer face than Mussolinian Fascism, it still contains a hard core of ultra-nationalism, militarism, and neo-imperialism.
The proper interpretation of the "judge not" passage was that every day was judgment day, and that men would be judged for not killing God's enemies when they had the chance. In God's absence, Ilyin determined who those enemies were