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First Person

The Rise and Rise of Vladimir Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual meeting with top military officials in Moscow on Dec. 24, 2019.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual meeting with top military officials in Moscow on Dec. 24, 2019. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen on how the Russian president is planning to rule for life.

Vladimir Putin called for changes to the Russian Constitution last week that would potentially allow him to continue ruling the country even after his presidential term runs out in 2024. After his proposal, the entire Russian cabinet resigned, allowing Putin to appoint a relatively unknown technocrat as prime minister.

Putin, a former KGB spy, has ruled the country for more than two decades as either president or prime minister. The Russian Constitution bars him from seeking another presidential term. But the changes he’s proposing would weaken the presidency, allowing him to serve in some other capacity and still retain control. Putin remains popular in Russia, but his approval rating has fallen in recent years, in part over the country’s economic problems.

On First Person this week, we hear from Masha Gessen, a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of the book The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Gessen received a National Book Award in 2017 for another book she wrote called The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

About First Person:  Each week on First Person, we conduct a narrative-driven conversation with one person whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world. Our guests tend to be people who have participated directly in events, either as protagonists or eyewitnesses. We get them to tell their story, not just offer analysis. First Person is hosted by FP deputy editor Sarah Wildman. Sarah is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.  See All Episodes

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