Russia is the largest country in the world, with 11 time zones spanning Eastern Europe and northern Asia. It shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea.
In early history, Russia was a collection of cities that became an empire. Emperor Vladimir I introduced Greek Orthodox Christianity, the religion of President Putin and most Russians. A few centuries later Mongols and Tartars invaded. By the late 16th Century the Romanovs controlled, and produced Tsar Peter the Great. Peter sought to recreate Russia in the image of Western Europe, introduced reforms, extended territories, constructed the Trans Siberian Railway, and created a city on the Gulf of Finland, St. Petersburg. The Russian Empire produced Catherine the Great, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Tzaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Tolstoy.
During the Revolution, Tsar Nicholas abdicated before he, his wife, and his children were executed. By 1920 Vladimir Lenin created the world’s first socialist state. The Bolsheviks promised to end Russian involvement in wars, and abolish symbols of tsarist Russia. Private ownership of land was ended, farms, homes, and churches were destroyed, equal pay for all was ruled, and everyone worked for the government, healthcare programs and education reform was enacted. Russia was renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
When Lenin died, Joseph Stalin grabbed control, expelled his rival Leon Trotsky, and executed political enemies. During WWII he joined the allies and invaded Germany. Secret police and the Communist Party used brutal methods, which included party purges, political repression, forced collectivization, Gulag labor camps, a man-made famine, and forced resettlements. Millions died, but he remained as leader until his death in 1953. Nikita Khrushchev condemned Stalin and dismantled many of his policies. Khrushchev gave the Soviet Crimea Peninsula on the Black Sea to the Ukraine in 1954.
Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Cherenkov were leaders before Mikhail Gorbachev became Secretary General. Shortages of food and supplies were followed by a severe financial crash that was worse than the 1929 crash in America.
When Boris Yeltsin emerged from the glasnost/perestroika reforms as the new leader of the Soviet Union; there was pervasive corruption, significant organized crime and great instability. International terrorist groups infiltrated the country. Yeltsin transformed the socialist economy with price liberalization and nationwide privatization. Great wealth fell into a small number of hands and international monopolies. A few benefited mightily as Russia suffered inflation, economic collapse, and social problems. In 1991 the USSR collapsed and disintegrated into 15 countries.
Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin was promoted to Prime Minister in 1999. Later in the year Yeltsin resigned and appointed Putin as President. Putin has been consistently reelected. He restructured the government, and launched criminal investigations into the businesses of high profile Russians that had greatly benefited during the economic policies of Yeltsin. Religious organizations were restored.
Talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, made Putin the first Kremlin leader to visit Israel.
Political unrest in the Ukraine ousted President Victor Yanukovych in 2014. Putin sent troops into the Crimea. Opinion differs on the outcome. Several European countries and President Obama do not believe that the majority of the Crimea population voted to secede from the Ukraine and reunite with Russia, that it was unprovoked aggression. In spite of this, Putin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Intelligence agencies in the United States agreed that Russian intelligence was behind the email hacks of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, who was the Chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Embarrassing information forced DNC chairman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz into an unceremonious exit.
Anonymous sources attempt to link Trump to the Russians. Intelligence officials have stated that there is no factual basis for these leaks and rumors. It is peculiar that FBI Director James Comey is not investigating illegal intercepts of Trump officials or the illegal dissemination of intercepted information leaked to the media.
Leadership of the Democrat party accuses Russia of impacting the outcome of the American Presidential election, demanding investigations for out of thin air allegations. Disclosure of embarrassing tactics used by the DNC may have affected how some people voted. However, there is not a whiff of evidence that Russia did anything to rig the election outcome against Hillary Clinton.
Without a hint of fact to back assertions, speculation continues to float that President Trump or his team was party to illegal foreign intervention. Media keeps banging this drum as though President Putin is Doctor No; and SPECTER is able to disrupt missile launches, spin locks into gold, cause environmental chaos, walk on the moon, and change the outcome of a presidential election.
Ian Fleming and 007 are having a shaken very dry martini and chortling over this one.