In his article published in The Guardian titled "Vladimir Putin sits atop a crumbling pyramid of power" the author Vladimir Sorokin compares the corrupting nature of power to the dangerous and irresistible seduction of the ring in the famous Tolkien trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.
Sorokin argues that similarly Vladimir Putin has succumbed to an old authoritarian system established out of fear and paranoia by his ancient predecessor Emperor Ivan IV in 16th century Russia.
"In Russia, power is a pyramid. This pyramid was built by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century – an ambitious, brutal tsar overrun by paranoia and a great many other vices. With the help of his personal army – the oprichnina – he cruelly and bloodily divided the Russian state into power and people, friend and foe, and the gap between them became the deepest of moats. His friendship with the Golden Horde convinced him that the only way to rule the hugeness of Russia was by becoming an occupier of this enormous zone. The occupying power had to be strong, cruel, unpredictable and incomprehensible to the people. The people should have no choice but to obey and worship it. And a single person sits at the peak of this dark pyramid, a single person possessing absolute power and a right to all."
late Middle Ages
Portrait of Ivan IV by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1897 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)