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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


If Vladimir Putin has indeed declared war on the oligarchs, most people would say, "and about time too." ?

But Russian history suggests some disquieting parallels. Ivan the Terrible's destruction of the boyars, Peter the Great's crushing of the rebel Streltsy, Stalin's systematic elimination of his every rival f and now Putin against the clique of individuals who have virtually cornered the national economy. ?

The tsars and the communists preferred mass executions and show trials; today it is tax inspectors and the financial police who have been sent in ?

The pattern, however, is similar.

Mr. Putin's instinct is to brook little dissent. The assault against Vladimir Gusinsky, whose TV channel refuses to fawn to the Kremlin, smells of an assault on free speech.

The president insists that his goal is democracy, but this would be more convincing had he not surrounded himself with cronies from his old KGB days.

Once again, we face the eternal Russian question: Is the price of progress an erosion of freedom? In Mr. Putin's case the jury is still out. But the increasingly likely answer is yes.

July 13