Cathy Young on Putin's New Old Russia

Moscow returns to authoritarianism at home and aggression abroad.


Politsurfer / Wikimedia Commons

In the 1990 film Awakenings, survivors of an encephalitis outbreak are brought out of decades-long catatonic states by a new wonder drug, but then start relapsing as its effects wear off. There is a particularly poignant montage near the end of the movie in which the once-"awakened" patients are returned to wheelchairs and hospital beds and re-outfitted with adult diapers as they revert to the status of living death.

Consider it a predictive metaphor for recent events in Russia, a quarter century after the country's awakening from communism, writes Cathy Young. The neo-authoritarian Kremlin regime of Vladimir Putin is closing its grip, squeezing the air out of the remaining pockets of dissent, cranking up the propaganda machine to Soviet levels, and setting up the conditions for a new Iron Curtain.

It's impossible to tell where the Russia-Ukraine crisis will lead. But one thing is clear: The spring of 2014 featured a high-water mark for Putin's post-Soviet restoration, with its overt and belligerent rejection of "Western values," its confrontational stance toward NATO, and its aggressive claim to dominance in formerly Soviet territories, writes Young.