Here’s a design problem: How does one respond to the events in the Ukraine in a useful and meaningful way? The first is to know something about Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (born in Leningrad on October 7, 1952). In 1975, he began his career in the KGB as an intelligence officer, mainly in East Germany until 1989. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin retired from the KGB with the rank of colonel, and returned to Leningrad as a supporter of Anatoly Sobchak (1937-2000), a liberal politician. After Sobchak won election as mayor of Leningrad (1991), Putin became his head of external relations; in 1994, Putin became Sobchak’s first deputy mayor.
In 1996, Putin was appointed head of the Federal Security, an arm of the former KGB, as well as head of Boris Yeltsin’s Security Council. In 1999 Putin became acting President, elected to the job in 2000. Term limits prohibited Putin from running for the presidency again in 2008. (That same year, presidential terms in Russia were extended from four to six years.) In 2012, he recaptured the presidency and this time he’s around until at least 2024 – and young enough to last. That event prompted an outpouring of posters, for which I was one of the curators.
In addition to his draconian stance against gay rights (smartly represented above), he’s staunchly connected to the religious rightwing as evidenced by the severe measures taken against Pussy Riot. He has unleashed the smoldering nationalist passions of the Cossacks, recalling earlier Czarist pogroms. And as of this past Saturday, his armies invaded Ukraine and occupied the Crimean capitol — in a tactic that resembles Hitler’s 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland. It’s not complicated to see that Putin is on a dangerous path. Makes one nostalgic for Glastnost.