The Cambridge University publishing house refused to publish the book of its long-term author Karen Dawisha called “Putin’s Kleptocracy: Whom Does Russia Belong To?” The publishers do not doubt the reliability of the investigator, however they fear possible court plaints on part of the Russian government.
Dawisha spent five years gathering materials for her book. Her main goal was to investigate the sources and establishment of the regime she calls “Putin’s Kleptocracy.” The author wanted to show how the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and his companions could have gotten the idea to use the possibilities of high government offices for personal enrichment. The story starts with a tale of Putin’s activities in as part of the KGB in Dresden and ends with the hundred days of his first tenure as President in the year 2000. Having finished working on the book, Karen Dawisha sent the manuscript to the Cambridge University publishing house, which has published seven of her previous books, and was surprised and disappointed when she received a letter from editor John Heathlam with the refusal to publish her eighth book.
The editor writes that after consulting with lawyers, the publishing house was forced to refuse its longtime author. And the issue is not the quality of the work, but the risk of a possible plaint to defend honour and dignity on part of the Russian President’s lawyers. “We simply don’t have the money (and that is tens of thousands of pounds) to afford such an expensive and long court process,” writes the editor. “The Russian President and the people surrounding him have never been held accountable for the activities you are describing in the book, and in case of a libel lawsuit, we will have a hard time proving your rightness in the British court.” According to British law, in case of a lawsuit regarding libel, the burden of proof lies on the defendant. Therefore the reason for the scandalous decision of the British publisher was fear in the face of the response of the Russian President. Karen Dawisha is a politics professor at the University of Miami and the director of the university Centre for Russian and post-Soviet investigation. In an interview to Radio Sovoboda she talks about the political system created by Vladimir Putin:
“The system he has created allows the people from his inner circle to become billionaire which, to my mind, is obvious. Putin is at the centre of this circle and participates in this enrichment. He provides the work of the mechanism, by protecting the property of his close associates, meanwhile the property outside of it does not have guarantees of safety. To be on Putin’s teem, it is necessary to share his political goals and intentions. The Russian President is part of this system himself. He cannot be called poor, and, of course, he uses all the advantages and possibilities of his position, which shows, in particular, in the construction of a number of presidential palaces.”
“You call the current political regime in Russia kleptocracy, so literally “government of thieves,” which takes advantage of government power for personal enrichment. What are your grounds?”
“I view this regime as a political system, in which the financial risks have been nationalised, and the revenues privatised. I will give an example. When the Russian stock market fell in 2008 and the shares fell lower than anywhere in the world, almost 80%, the state supported those banks and companies, the owners of which were part of Putin’s circle of friends. In the US the state also saved General Motors from bankruptcy, however the difference is that in Russia the criteria for salvation were closeness and loyalty to the Kremlin, and not the significance of the object to the national economy. It is closeness to the Kremlin that is the source of revenue and wealth. The people who are part of Putin’s circle take advantage of privileges, they are part of boards of directors of high-revenue companies, they are appointed as their heads, they receive state contracts and meanwhile they never risk their assets, as the state is nationalising these risks, taking them upon itself. If you look at the list of companies that received state contracts to construct Olympics objects in Sochi, you will see that they did not risk losing their money and got significant revenues, as the state was constantly backing them. Putin may argue that he had nothing to do with these companies, however their contracts were received form the government. So kleptocracy is first and foremost a system in which the financial risks are nationalised and the revenues privatised.”
“Nonetheless, Vladimir Putin is very popular, his ratings are higher than ever. How would you explain this?”
“In the first week after his being elected President in 2000, Putin employed certain means against the media assets belonging to oligarchs Vladimir Gusinskiy and Boris Berezovskiy. This was his first attack on independent mass media. The fight against free press has become his mail political goal since the very beginning. The fixture of the leader of the “great new world” on this goal says a lot. It is characteristic that his main goals are not social programs, not the development of democracy, but the fight against free press. Independent mass media are extremely important to understand what is really happening in the country. And as a result of Putin’s policies, after 14 years of his governing the country, free mass media have disappeared from Russia. They might argue that there is “Novaya Gazeta” and a handful of other independent media, but their readership constitutes an insignificant minority. If you control television, you have the opportunity to make people remain ignorant regarding what is happening in the world and their own country. The success of mass propaganda that has engulfed the country should not be underrated. The goal Putin has posed for himself at the beginning of his presidency has been realised. The elimination of free press was necessary to him in order to widen political manoeuvre,” thinks the author of the book “Putin’s kleptocracy: whom does Russia belong to?” Professor Karen Dawisha.
In the end the fate of the manuscript was lucky: the American published Simon&Schuster has already announced that “Putin’s Kleptocracy” will be published on September 16th of the current year. In the US the book falls under the protection of the first amendment to the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina