Gorbachev: Putin Has Castrated Russian Democracy

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the coup attempt that precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev is out with some harsh words about Vladimir Putin:

Mikhail Gorbachev has accused Vladimir Putin of “castrating” Russia’s electoral system and said he should not seek re-election as president.

The ex-Soviet leader was interviewed by the BBC’s Bridget Kendall on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the failed coup which led to the collapse of the USSR.


He told the BBC that in the last two decades the country should have got further along the road towards democracy.

He laid much of the blame on Mr Putin who, in the view of many, remains the real power in the land.

“Putin and his team are for stability but stability kills development and results in stagnation,” Mr Gorbachev said.

“The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it.”

While president, Mr Putin drastically reformed the electoral system to effectively exclude independent candidates and smaller parties from parliament, and centralise control of the regions.


Mr Gorbachev acknowledged the Putin years had seen some achievements but said he did not think Mr Putin should not stand again next year, as it was time for a change.

He said the next five or six years would be crucial and, if Russia missed this window and failed to modernise and become more democratic, it would forever lag behind.

It’s unlikely that Gorbachev’s words, true though they may be, will have much impact in his own country, where Putin is exceedingly popular while Gorbachev himself is largely ignored.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.