The Putin Legacy
 General Information
THE PUTIN LEGACY
Sunday, February 17 @ 6:30 PM ET, 3:30 PT, 7:30 PM Maritimes
As Vladimir Putin prepares to hand the Presidency of Russia to his chosen successor we look at the controversial stamp he leaves on his country. The program includes an interview with a vocal critic about the cautionary tale of Mikhail Khordorkovsky, the billionaire entrepreneur who crossed Putin and became a Siberian prisoner, and a report from our CBC correspondent Alexandra Szacka on Putin's rewriting of the Soviet past, to suit an authoritarian future. Also, we have an interview with CBC producer Alex Shprintsen who is preparing a documentary about the reasons for the popularity of Putin in Russia.
On March 2nd Russians go to the polls to choose a new President to replace Vladimir Putin after eight years in the job. In the West, observers are reluctant to call this an "election", so suspect is the process. The Kremlin has put forward a candidate, Dimitri Medvedev, who will, undoubtedly become the next President. His only real competitor, an opponent of Putin's, named Mikhail Kazyanov, was banned from the ballot on trumped up charges. Putin will remain powerful. He's expected to become Prime Minister. The Russian media, largely muzzled, is cowed by the Kremlin's power moves. In the West, leaders are shocked by this retreat from democracy, but uncertain about how to respond.
One vocal critic, though, is a Canadian lawyer named Robert Amsterdam. He has been tied to Russia ever since he became a lawyer for Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He's the famous Russian tycoon who ended up in a Siberian jail, after crossing Putin in 2003. Back then, Khodorkovsky was Russia's richest man after buying up a huge oil company during the years of unregulated privatization. At that time, in the early 1990'S, the government sold public companies for cheap prices to well connected insiders. Many became instant millionaires. Khodorkovsky was among the most influential of the new capitalists...until he publicly criticized Putin and started supporting opposition parties. He soon felt Putin's steel fist. Arrested for fraud and tax evasion he has landed in a prison near Mongolia for a nine year term. This may stretch longer.
Robert Amsterdam continues to represent Khodorkovsky, despite the setbacks. Many ordinary Russians are unsympathetic to the tycoon, believing he made his fortune at their expense. But Amsterdam is adament that Khodorkovsky's fate illustrates the brutality of the Putin Regime.
Vladimir Putin's legacy will be having attempted to restore some of the power and prestige of Russia, lost when the Soviet Union was dissolved in the 1990's.
In that, he was successful, largely because of an oil boom that brought some prosperity and renewed influence to an impoverished country. But Putin, a product of former Communist and KGB networks, has clear ideas about what was good about the past.
Unlike Boris Yeltsin before him, he did not turn his back entirely on the Soviet era. Putin is also, it seems, not as critical of Josef Stalin and his period in power from the 1930's to the 1950's, a time of dictatorship and repression, but also one of nation building and a victory at War. The CBC's Moscow correspondent, Alexandra Szacka, explores in a report on our program, the Putin government's efforts to reappraise the Stalin era..to the horror of many historians and survivors of the Stalinist terror.
Finally, we also have an interview with a journalist here at the CBC who has covered Russia for many years, producer Alex Shprintsen. He's headed to Moscow next week to work on a documentary exploring something the West has never fully understood, the undeniable popularity of Vladimir Putin and of many of his policies.
 Technical Specs
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