How Do You Get to Be a Governor in Vladimir Putin’s Russia?
MOSCOW According to Aleksei Diumin, it happened late one night, far from Moscow. He was standing guard at a presidential palace where Vladimir V. Putin was sleeping. A bear approached. “He and I looked each other in the eyes,” Mr. Diumin told a Russian newspaper. Then the bear backed away slightly. “I opened the door and emptied my gun’s entire clip at his feet.” The bear retreated. Russia’s president was safe.
莫斯科——按照阿列克谢·迪乌明(Aleksei Diumin)的说法，事情发生在一天深夜，在远离莫斯科的地方。他在弗拉基米尔·V·普京(Vladimir V. Putin)下榻的一处总统官邸放哨。一头熊逐渐靠近。“我们相互直视，”迪乌明告诉俄罗斯的一家报纸。然后熊稍微后退了一点。“我打开门，冲着它的脚下打空了整个弹匣。”熊退却了。俄罗斯总统安然无恙。
Mr. Diumin told the story of his encounter with the bear in February. Former bodyguards always have a stock of true-life tales for deployment at the dinner table. But Mr. Diumin’s account came only when he became a major Russian politician. That month, he was named acting governor of Tula province, an area just over a hundred miles from Moscow.
Tula is one of the capitals of the Russian military industry and has produced a significant proportion of Russian small-arms weaponry since czarist times. Tolstoy is buried on his estate in the region. But despite Tula’s rich cultural and political tradition, it seems Mr. Putin was unable to find a man in the province capable of serving as governor.
Tula’s leader seemingly appeared from out of nowhere, and his biography revealed that his main credential was 15 years of service as Mr. Putin’s personal bodyguard. Governors in Russia are formally elected by the residents of each region, but the complex nominating process and the election commissions, which are controlled by the Kremlin, allow the president to make anyone he wants a governor, including someone who had never set foot in the region, even as a tourist.
Deep local roots are not a prerequisite for a governorship in Russia today. Stavropol, a strategically critical territory in the Caucasus, is governed by Vladimir Vladimirov, a bureaucrat from the distant Yamal Peninsula who organized Mr. Putin’s famous flight with the cranes. (Four years ago, when visiting Yamal, the president flew a hang glider at the head of a flock of Siberian cranes, guiding them to their winter migration.)
The governor of Pskov province is Andrei Turchak, the son of Mr. Putin’s judo partner in the 1980s. Andrei Vorobyov, the governor of Moscow province, is the son of Yuri Vorobyov, a close associate of Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu back when Mr. Shoigu worked at a local Soviet Communist Party committee in Siberia. These sorts of appointments no longer surprise anyone, but a bodyguard is something new.
普斯科夫州的州长为安德烈·图尔恰克(Andrei Turchak)，他的父亲是普京在80年代的柔道搭档。安德烈·沃罗比约夫(Andrei Vorobyov)是莫斯科州的州长，他的父亲尤里·沃罗比约夫(Yuri Vorobyov)是现任国防部长谢尔盖·K·绍伊古(Sergei Shoigu)的心腹，两人的关系可以追溯到后者在西伯利亚的苏联共产党地方党委工作的时候。这类任命对人们来说已经不再稀奇，不过保镖当政还是有点新鲜。
In the photographs that journalists were able to find after Mr. Diumin’s appointment, he is standing next to Mr. Putin, wearing the crucial bodyguard accessory: an earpiece. Most photographs also show another bodyguard, and commentators joked that he, too, was destined to be a governor. The joke became a reality in July: Yevgeny Zinichev, also a former Putin bodyguard, assumed the governorship of Kaliningrad province, an exclave separated from Russia by Poland and Lithuania.
Neighboring European countries have long had a strong influence in Kaliningrad. (Poland and Lithuania are members of both the European Union and NATO.) The region has had — by Russian standards — a rich democratic tradition since the 1880s. No modern governor of Kaliningrad province has stayed in power for more than five years. In 2010 the governor, Georgi Boos, was forced into retirement after protests.
But apparently this new governor is not afraid of protests; the opinions of his constituents interest him far less than good relations with the man he used to guard and who bestowed this region on him. This summer Dmitri Mironov, another member in Mr. Putin’s personal security detail, became governor of Yaroslav province. And this year Viktor Zolotov, a Putin bodyguard from 20 years ago who subsequently headed the president’s personal security service, took over the command of the National Guard — a newly formed security service intended ostensibly to “fight terrorism” but in reality to suppress internal unrest.
不过，这位新州长显然并不害怕抗议；相比选民的意见，他对和总统保持良好的关系抱有更大的兴趣，他曾经保卫总统，而总统将加里宁格勒授予了他。今年夏天，在普京私人护卫队效力过的迪米特里·米罗诺夫(Dmitri Mironov)成为雅罗斯拉夫尔的州长。同样在今年，普京20年前的保镖、继而成为总统私人安保部门负责人的维克多·佐洛托夫(Viktor Zolotov)接手了国民卫队。这是一个新成立的安全部门，其宗旨表面上是“打击恐怖主义”，但实际上是压制内部动荡。
A sequence of bodyguards turning, one after another, into government officials seems like a setup for a joke, but this is the logic of authoritarianism at work. When all power in the country coalesces in one man, he becomes more isolated with time until ultimately he finds himself completely alone, convinced of his own uniqueness and suspicious of comrades in arms who still recall his first steps in politics.
In 2013, Mr. Putin divorced. No one knows whether he now has a wife, and if he does, who she is. Newspapers write that his daughters live in secrecy under different names. So now Mr. Putin is left not only without political allies, but seemingly without a family as well. At this point, he simply has no one to turn to except for the people he sees every day and has no choice but to trust. These people are his bodyguards.
The post-Soviet political system has been unable to establish institutions independent of the president, and now the system is falling victim to its own weakness; instead of politicians, its ranks are being filled with a small number of loyal people. When Mr. Putin runs out of bodyguards, maybe he will start appointing his cooks and maids.