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The Rules of Power

The Big Idea for Friday, February 14, 2014

The 2014 Winter Olympics is a highly choreographed spectacle that has so far played right into the hands of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Starting with an opening ceremony, Putin has shown impressive savvy in his ability to mask the reality of Russia’s stagnant economy, weak legal system and stunted democracy. 

In today's lesson, Masha Gessen, a longtime activist journalist in Russia who recently moved to the U.S. in light of Russia’s ongoing crackdown on the LGBT community, gives us an up close view of what’s really going on inside Russia. Gessen describes the brutal crackdown on political opponents, separatists in Chechnya and Dagestan, journalists, migrants and the LGBT community. And yet, you don't get much of a sense of that when you turn on the TV. What you see is a 21st century Potemkin village - a fake settlement designed to impress foreigners and the Russian public alike. 

Putin is certainly not the only politician to use these tactics. The use of spectacle to mask an ugly reality is one of the rules of power that allow political leaders everywhere to pull the wool over the public's eyes. 


  1. 1 Behind Putin's Potemkin Village
    Big Think Editors Specific Gravity
  2. 2 Power Corrupts, Corruption Empowers
    Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
  3. 3 The Art of Sham Elections
    Mark Cheney Think Tank
  4. 4 How to Usurp Putin
    Garry Kasparov

The Rules of Power

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