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Putin’s History Notes

Spins on the Putin/Medvedev relationship are a mainstay of Russia reporting, but RFE/RL are coming at the diarchy analyses from a new angle today with a recourse to Russian history. 

Whilst talk abounds on the likelihood of Putin’s return, Aslan Doukaev points out that centuries ago, Ivan the Terrible employed his own ‘Putinesque’ power-management techniques: appointing a hand-picked proxy leader, remaining on the sidelines for a certain period, and then staging a comeback.  Is Putin planning on taking his cue from the masters?

The current division of power is not without historical precedent, as any Russian history buff will tell you. In 1574, Ivan the Terrible abdicated the throne in favor of his courtier Simeon Bekbulatovich, a baptized Tatar nobleman. A chronicler describes Ivan’s bizarre move as follows: “At that time Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich enthroned Simeon Bekbulatovich as tsar in Moscow and crowned him with the crown of the tsars, and called himself [simply] Ivan of Moscow…. All the offices of the tsardom he passed to Simeon, and himself rode simply, like a boyar…, and whenever he comes to Tsar Simeon, he sits at a distance from the tsar’s place, together with the boyars”.

Ivan would return to the throne 11 months later. There is little doubt Putin will do the same in 2012.