With the Winter Olympics kicking off in a week or so, everyone’s talking about Russia. And, alas, the host of Sochi 2014 is hardly receiving glowing press.
But, if all of the criticisms being levelled at the land of cossacks and goulash are going way over your head, never fear.
Have a read through this cheat sheet, inspired by the excellent words of Mr Russia himself; Prime Minister, turned President, turned Prime Minister, turned President, Vladimir Putin.
What does Putin think about democracy?
“We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly.” – June 2005
So, before we start, it’s important to know that Putin’s definition of good democracy is “better than in the country with an electoral process that – at the time – was being entirely facilitated by an external military alliance”.
One of the biggest controversies surrounding Putin is how long he has been in charge of Russia. He has been either Russia’s Prime Minister or President since 2000.
Ultimately, he does this to evade limits on terms of service (which are now a lengthy SIX years). But, you could argue that doing this just gives the public what they want. Putin regularly receives approval ratings exceeding 70% – and that’s a whole lot of Russians who love the Putz.
The question at the end of all of this is: Is Russia a Democracy? Yes and no. Yes, in that people vote, and the person who wins the vote gets elected. But no, in that a lot of the things that we associate with democracy (an independent press, dissenting voices that don’t get thrown into jail etc.) are often compromised in what has basically become a one-party system – but more on that later.