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Again, Russia is waiting for Godunov
By Mark Medish
Russia has entered its political season a little early. Although elections are more than a year away, Russians talk seriously about “the 2008 question”. This question refers to who will succeed President Vladimir Putin, who is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term. Kremlin succession has been a vexing issue for Russia for centuries, partly because institutions and the rule of law are weak. Will Russia remain trapped by its troubled history?
After its first dynasty died out in 1598, Russia was plunged into a succession crisis. Speculation centred on Boris Godunov, who had been chief minister to his brother-in-law Tsar Fyodor, son of Ivan the Terrible. Godunov had killed the only male heir, Ivan’s son Dmitry. Russia’s bard Alexander Pushkin wrote about this historic drama. The play and its author were viewed with official suspicion when it was first performed in the 1830s. Who knows what would happen if Pushkin published his play today, especially in the wake of mysterious poisonings.
The writer is vice-president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served on the US National Security Council as senior director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs