Rights acquired by
Ciela Norma, Sofia
Edicije Bozicevic, Zagreb
Corint Junior Publishing House, Bucharest
People's Oriental Publishing, Beijing
Just Publishers, The Netherlands
J.L.V. publishers, Latvia
Do you remember the Hollywood film by the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, “The Man who wasn’t there?”? The main character is played brilliantly by Billy Bob Thornton. His character has been forgiven for his real transgressions, but he is sentenced for committing a murder which he had absolutely nothing to do with. International public opinion is trying to do something similar with Putin as well. And in the inevitable finale of “The Man who wasn’t there”, a distant relative of the main character leaves a rhetorical question hanging in the air: “What kind of man are you?” This is a question to which there has been no answer since the day that Putin came to the throne. Back at the Davos forum in February 2000, a journalist asked the entire Russian delegation headed by the Prime Minister at the time, Mikhail Kasyanov: Who is Mr. Putin? The entire delegation simply refused to reply.
Now dozens of books and thousands of articles have been written about Putin, but there is still no answer to this question. Often the authors were hindered by intentional ideological bias. Some of them genuinely believe that VVP (Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, as our Russian president is called in various parts of the world) the savior and restorer of the nation, and the first to open the gates to the latest bright Russian future. Others, on the contrary, are full of spite and hatred towards this “Kremlin tyrant” and blame him for the destruction of young Russian democracy, which my country first got a taste of in the late 1980s, when the Leninist-Stalinist empire, which seemed indestructible, literally collapsed “online”. Both of these groups of people are wrong. This book has been written to destroy the most persistent myths about Vladimir Putin.
Putin never served the intelligence, and furthermore he cannot even be considered to be a person from the system of the KGB of the USSR. In this system he was an outsider, and at the end of the 1980s it almost destroyed the future president of the Russian Federation, causing his Soviet career, as standard as a paneled apartment building, to take a dive. Putin’s political history begins with Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of St. Petersburg (1991-96) – a hardline and open antagonist of the Chekist machine.
Putin is a genuine, true successor to Boris Yeltsin. He did not break with the Yeltsin strategic course, as the Russian (and international) liberal community is inclined to believe, but on the contrary, he brought it to the logical extreme that had been set.
Putin is one of the most important and wealthiest business men in the country, and a friend of business.
VVP did not liquidate the Yeltsin oligarchy, and did not deprive the most important businessmen of the 1990s of their influence. On the contrary, the Yeltsin oligarchy under Putin only became stronger and richer.
Putin never built a power vertical. A power horizontal arose during his rule, consisting of an innumerable amount of centers of power. In each of these centers of power, where large amounts of money are merged with the bureaucratic resource, Russian power is born, lives and from time to time dies. Putin is the last to find out about many of the decisions taken by the centers in this power horizontal, or never finds out about them at all.
Putin is a Russophobe. And a classic one, par excellence. He is very critical of the Russian people, and does not believe that they are fit for consistent productive work. Russians, in Putin’s opinion, are dreamers, but not doers. He would probably agree with the statement that a Russian person can be holy, but not honest. According to Putin, power in Russia, like philosophy, should be German, but how can this be achieved?
Putin is not a macho man and not a romantic lover. He is a knight of sexual solitude with an unclear (or to use the clever expression, amorphous) sexuality. Most of the rumors about his manly triumphs and romances are an advertising gimmick, which is either done well (for example, the rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, which everyone believes), or not so well (the singer Anna Netrebko, which is not even believed in by people who know that this woman sings at the Vienna Opera).
Putin is an idealist. He genuinely believes that he has been a good rule for Russia in the given historical time, in the existing circumstances. Not a great, brilliant ruler, but a good, decent rule. He didn’t let the country down, or the people who raised him to his position. Perhaps he is not so mistaken here, or at least not entirely mistaken.
You can expect anything from Putin except radical reforms. The dominating idea of his rule is to act in such a way that under his rule, Russia does not look worse than it did previously, according to a set of formal indicators. The welcoming words of Boris Yeltsin that he uttered on the 31st of December 1999 – “Take care of Russia!” – were taken quite literally by VVP, without a touch of irony or cynicism. So we shouldn’t listen to the 127 assurances by the Russian president about a “change in the model of the Russian economy” or “imminent mass arrest of corrupt people”, Putin is the lord of inertia. He never changes old things for new things, if the old things still work, even if there are glitches, the main thing is that it works in the old way, that the oil pipe and oil price bring fortune.
For his whole life, Putin has been looking for a father and a son. Not in the biblical, but in the simplest human sense.
Putin is a synthetic little man (Akaky Akakievich from Gogol’s “The Overcoat”), the “little bit of a hero” of all great Russian literature.
With Russia's military intervention in Ukraine Putin has opened Pandora’s box. And there’s no point in trying to tell ourselves that major troubles will not happen to humanity. They have already begun.