It should be clear to all Russia watchers now, that Vladimir Putin's real role in the state is not really president, nor national leader, nor will it ever truly be just prime minister, should he choose that position for himself.
No. Putin is chairman of the board of Kremlin, Inc. He is not the head of a country, but of a business. In light of this interpretation of his role in Russian politics, it makes sense that he has decided to back Dmitri Medvedev, only 14 years my senior, to be president of the geographically largest country in the world.
For, under the interpretation of Putin's Russia as a corporatist state, Medvedev will certainly be president, but in the sense of a corporate president -- the face of the company, the person you send to conferences and luncheons, the person whose face greets you when you open up the first page of the company's annual report. Putin will remain chairman and CEO. But Medvedev will be the investment-friendly face of the company called the Russian Federation.
Indeed, Putin's decision to select Medvedev to be the next president had an immediate impact on the stock market. It has been interpreted as a decision that favors business, not a popular endorsement from the masses. It should raise the value of Russian stock, given its recent slump in the wake of widely criticized elections.
In light of the history of Russia, I am beginning to see the Putin government as not the successor to the communist government of 1991, and only partially to the Yeltsin government of 1999. Instead, the Russian tricolor reveals for us the philosophy behind the machinations. The Russian flag first flew on the ships of Peter the Great. It was the flag of Tsar Nicholas II, the flag of a system of government saw Russia not as a country, but as one of my professors put it, as a large estate owned by the tsar.
So, in the past 90 years, we have seen Russia move from estate to collective farm and now to corporation. If we Russia watchers wish to understand better our eastern neighbor, perhaps it would make sense not to view it as a country or a nation, but rather as it is operated, as a corporation. And for those of you worrying out there, if you interpret Russia as a corporation, then the term "hostile takeover" takes on a whole new meaning.