2019年4月19日 星期五

How Powerful Is Vladimir Putin Really? 俄總統普亭 究竟握有多大權力?

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紐時周報精選 How Powerful Is Vladimir Putin Really? 俄總統普亭 究竟握有多大權力?
Try Van Gogh the Suburban Professional 梵谷狂野? 試想他是住郊區的上班族
How Powerful Is Vladimir Putin Really? 俄總統普亭 究竟握有多大權力?
文/Andrew Higgins

After 19 months in a Russian jail awaiting trial for "extremism," Dennis O. Christensen, a Jehovah's Witness from Denmark detained for his faith, received an unexpected lift from President Vladimir Putin at the end of last year.


The president, speaking in the Kremlin in December, declared that prosecuting people for their religious affiliations was "a total nonsense" and had to stop.


But instead of curbing a campaign across Russia against Jehovah's Witnesses, Putin's remark has been followed by more arrests; a conviction and six-year prison sentence for Christensen; and, in a new low, reports late last month of the torture of believers detained in Siberia.


The gulf between what Putin says and what happens in Russia raises a fundamental question about the nature of his rule after more than 18 years at the pinnacle of an authoritarian system: Is Putin really the omnipotent leader whom his critics attack and his own propagandists promote?


Or does he sit atop a state that is, in fact, shockingly ramshackle, a system driven more by the capricious and often venal calculations of competing bureaucracies and interest groups than by Kremlin diktats?


The belief, widespread among critics of President Donald Trump, that Russia propelled him to the White House by colluding with his campaign is premised in part on the first view of Putin's capacities and reach. The Mueller report, if ever released to the public, may help Americans better understand how Russia does or doesn't work in reality.


But to some of Putin's fellow citizens, the Russian president's grip looks less firm than often imagined.


Ekaterina Schulmann is a political scientist in Moscow and a member of Putin's Council for Civil Society and Human Rights who challenged the president over the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses at the December meeting in the Kremlin. She said Putin's grip on the country had been vastly exaggerated by both supporters and opponents.


"This is not a personally run empire but a huge and difficult-to-manage bureaucratic machine with its own internal rules and principles," she said. "It happens time and again that the president says something, and then nothing or the opposite happens."


A plethora of bureaucratic and political forces both reinforce and sap the president's power: the security services, the Russian Orthodox Church, billionaire oligarchs, local officials and others, each with its own sometimes competing and sometimes overlapping interests. Putin has to manage them as best he can, but he doesn't control everything they each do.








俄國的寡頭政客包括第一副總理、俄羅斯石油公司總裁謝欽(Igor Sechin),以能源事業致富的Volga投資基金創辦人提姆琴科(Gennady Timchenko),2013年獲普亭特赦的石油富豪霍多爾科夫斯基(Mikhail Khodorkovsky)等。

Try Van Gogh the Suburban Professional 梵谷狂野? 試想他是住郊區的上班族
文/Nina Siegal

We like to think of Vincent van Gogh as a creature of the elements: buffeted by the wind and rain, or going mad in the sunflower fields under the wilting Provençal sun.


But here's another, just as valid, idea of van Gogh: comfortable, middle-class Vincent in a top hat and coat, commuting to work in Victorian London and spending his weekends rowing on the Thames or strolling in Kensington Gardens.


That was, indeed, van Gogh in his early 20s, when he moved to London from his native Netherlands to work for international art dealing firm Goupil & Cie as an assistant in its branch in the Covent Garden district.


Van Gogh didn't make a single painting in London, but as "Van Gogh and Britain," a new exhibition at Tate Britain makes clear, his time in the British capital had an enduring effect on his work.


The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 11, offers us a vision of van Gogh as a thinker who absorbed the cultural influences around him, especially 19th-century English literature, and often used references from British illustrations, prints and paintings in his work.


"Looking at his work through his relationship with Britain brings into the foreground his amazing intellectual curiosity," said Carol Jacobi, lead curator of the show.


Recent research into lesser-known chapters of van Gogh's life, such as his time in Britain, have provided us with a more well-rounded image of the artist, slowly replacing the old vision of a wild man whose art came directly from the soul — though it will take a long time to shift that idea, said Sjraar van Heugten, an independent van Gogh art historian and curator based in Belgium.


"It's entirely clear that van Gogh was not the completely spontaneous painter who worked very fast, almost without thinking," said van Heugten in an interview. "He read very widely: literature as well as popular science. If you carefully study his work, the image arises of a man who carefully thinks about his works and prepares."


Van Gogh got his job in London at the Goupil gallery through family connections in the Netherlands. Both Vincent and his brother Theo worked first in the firm's branch in The Hague, and about the same time that Theo moved to the Brussels branch, Vincent was sent to London. They both ended up working in the Paris headquarters, but although Theo rose through the gallery's ranks, Vincent was fired a couple of years later.


"It's really interesting to think of van Gogh as having this commercial chapter to his life," Jacobi said.


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