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Putin's paranoia deviates from its Soviet roots

By Leonid Bershidsky

04 Apr 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Russia has yet to resort to the drastic reprisals of the Stalinist years, writes Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky. Even so, the regime’s opponents still risk hefty jail sentences if they dare to protest.

Many of us who grew up in the Soviet Union find grimly familiar features in today's Russia, including a blossoming official paranoia grounded in a siege mentality. But as Tolstoy might say, each paranoid regime is paranoid in its own way.

Putin's long-standing view of the West as a cynical, transactional adversary has more in common with a gangland boss's caution in the face of rivals than with the ideological competition that was still playing out even in the Soviet Union's final relatively vegetarian years. But Putin's fear of his own people threatens to reach a Stalinist fever pitch, even if it's not quite there yet.

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