(NYU Jordan Center) The Achilles Heel of all authoritarian regimes is the question of succession: what happens when the incumbent ruler leaves office. Dictators face a dilemma: pick a successor too early, and they may turn on the previous incumbent, blaming him for unresolved problems. Pick them too late, and the newcomer may lack the authority to take over the reins of power.
Russia got lucky in 1999: they managed a relatively smooth transition from one authoritarian leader to another without triggering elite breakdown, social unrest or civil war – although the second Chechen war perhaps invalidates the latter claim. It was the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power from one leader to another in Russia’s 1000-year history.
Three features of the 1999 “Operation Successor” stand out. [...]
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