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The Media-political System


With Putin’s appointment as prime minister and the onset of the new war in Chechnya, it became obvious that the media-political system would hardly be able to survive beyond the next parliamentary and presidential elections. The irony of the situation was that Putin owed his own elevation, to a great extent, to the mechanisms of the system. Putin’s sudden rise out of nowhere was the work of the Kremlin strategists and their allies in the media, who created his neatly packaged media image, which scored such a success with the voters.


Crucial electronic and other media outlets, including Russia’s two main television stations, Channel 1 (ORT) and Channel 2 (RTR), controlled either by the government or pro-Putin businessmen, were consistent in promoting both his candidacy and the war in Chechnya. They waged sustained and often vicious attacks against Putin’s rivals, the former prime minister Evgeny Primakov and Moscow’s mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Having used the instrumentality of “manipulated democracy” to effect his ascent, Putin then proceeded to wrestle the levers of the media-political system from the hands of the media magnates. It is clear that Putin sees the media as a vital tool for shaping public opinion and achieving national accord on major political issues. These include, first and foremost, the war in Chechnya: Putin authorized stronger military controls over the media in the battle zone and appointed a wartime “media tsar,” Sergei Yastrzhembsky, to control the flow of information about the war to the press.

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