Of all the ghosts in the Kremlin, the two that haunt Vladimir Putin the most are those of Yury Andropov and Mikhail Gorbachev.
For Putin, these two very different reformers represent the force of light and the force of darkness.
In many ways, Andropov was Putin's role model and his guiding light.
The former KGB chief pursued an authoritarian modernization of the moribund Soviet economy -- but sought to do so while maintaining an autocratic political system and keeping an iron grip on dissent.
For Putin and his "siloviki" associates, Andropov was a genius and they view the fact that he died before he could complete his plan as a national tragedy.
And now, the Kremlin leader is determined to complete his hero's work.
But if Andropov provided Putin with a father figure to emulate, Gorbachev gave him an example to avoid at all costs.
For Putin, glasnost, perestroika, democratization, and a pro-Western foreign policy were harbingers of chaos, deprivation, and the disintegration of an empire.
And for this reason, he views any political reforms that result in more pluralism and federalism as a mortal threat.
And for Putin, the fact that Gorbachev is lauded in the West is only proof of his weakness.
In fact, Putin seems determined to be Gorbachev's polar opposite.