Kasparov, The Chess Master, Takes on Putin: A New Yorker Podcast

kasparov2.jpgDavid Rem­nick, the edi­tor of the New York­er and author of the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning book, Lenin’s Tomb, has recent­ly revis­it­ed the coun­try he knows so well. And what he has to show for it is an exten­sive piece on Gar­ry Kas­parov, arguably the best chess play­er in his­to­ry, and his dan­ger­ous move into the polit­i­cal are­na. In Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia, nei­ther polit­i­cal dis­sent nor polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion goes over ter­ri­bly well. Since he took the reins of pow­er in 2000, more than a dozen jour­nal­ists crit­i­cal of Putin have turned up dead. So have some politi­cians. Then there was the dra­mat­ic case of Alexan­der Litvi­nenko, the for­mer KGB agent turned Putin crit­ic, who died of radi­a­tion poi­son­ing in Lon­don last fall. All of the cas­es remain “unre­solved.”

At great per­son­al and finan­cial cost, Kas­parov is try­ing to lay the foun­da­tion for a legit­i­mate polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion. Get­ting there, how­ev­er, won’t be easy. For one, Putin, hav­ing shored up Rus­si­a’s econ­o­my and nation­al psy­che, is immense­ly pop­u­lar, hav­ing upwards to an 80% pop­u­lar­i­ty rat­ing. Even the old dis­si­dent Alek­san­dr Solzhen­it­syn likes him. Then, there’s the fact that Putin has almost a tsarist, “L’État, c’est moi” kind of grip on pow­er. In a pod­cast­ed inter­view (iTunesFeedWeb Site) that grew out of Rem­nick­’s arti­cle, Kas­parov talks about his expec­ta­tions for the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Rus­sia, when Putin is con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly required to cede pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to anoth­er politi­cian. Here, he tells Rem­nick that Putin will con­tin­ue call­ing the shots because, as he puts it, Rus­si­a’s polit­i­cal elite is so feck­less that they would “vote to make Putin’s dog the prime min­is­ter.” This strikes the lis­ten­er as a strange but time­ly com­ment, espe­cial­ly in light of Putin’s announce­ment yes­ter­day that he may seek to become Rus­si­a’s prime min­is­ter, which would essen­tial­ly give him the chance to con­tin­ue exer­cis­ing pow­er from what one diplo­mat has called “a par­al­lel struc­ture.” That’s a move that should prove hard for Kas­parov or any oth­er Putin oppo­nent to par­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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