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'You Take Risks' - What Putin's Life Stories Tell Us About Him

What do stories told in Putin's 2000 autobiography - such as concerning the sweet smell of hay - reveal of his true character?

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

That's Putin!  All pomp and circumstance.  Yes, indeed.  That's him to a T.  Walking through golden palace doors.  With his ominous “gunslinger gait!”  According to Christmas 2015 Edition of the prestigious British Medical Journal [which came down from its lofty perch to bash him], anyway.  A team of British psychiatrists say it’s the way KGB agents are trained to walk to hide the fact they’re packing heat!  [Obama, beware!]

And to think the West once believed that Putin would be another happily-corruptible Boris Yeltsin when the latter resigned the Russian Presidency on New Year’s Eve 1999; and Putin succeeded him.  What high hopes the West had that with a few billion thrown his way, he’d let the rape of Russia rip right along as it had.

The West felt so misled.  Hadn’t he said he was a “hooligan” in that quasi-autobiography he had put together as part of his Western-style Presidential campaign for his first full term of office in 2000?  On page 18 of the English edition of First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President, to be exact.

Putin even put out macho images of himself on the advice of his Western-style campaign consultants--just as George Bush was doing in his own campaign that year--to prove to their respective voters what a wholesome guy each was.  

But then Putin couldn't go through those silly shirtless photo ops without cracking a smile.  Whereas sadly out-of-shape Bush... nearly had a hernia...lifting up that damn branch for the cameras.


And there was even a parallel with the US Supreme Court stopping the vote-counting in Florida.  And that was...

In a sudden reversal that reeked of Kremlin intrigue, the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation ruled that First Person could not be sold to the public--even though the book was already published and in the warehouses--until after the Presidential election!  As the work was found to show "signs of electioneering" for only one candidate--Vladimir Putin!  Imagine an autobiography being so one-sided!

But does First Person really place Putin in such a positive Presidential light?

Yes, it does show that he can be decisive.  As in deciding not to have his nose set by a doctor after it was broken in a boxing match.  And he was right in predicting that his nose would heal [after a fashion] on its own too [FP, p.19].  But was that a wise Presidential-type decision that he made?

Or how about the way he proposed to Lyudmila?  First listing all his faults at great, great length before asking for her hand.  [FP, pp. 60-1  Would you want him to negotiate treaties for Russia that way?

And what about the story of how little Volodya [as he was affectionately called back then] bravely cornered this small scared rat in the hallway of his building.  Only to have it leap at him!  And chase him down a whole flight of stairs! [FP, p. 10]

Talk about blowback!  That's what US Presidents do.  They attack some little country.  And BAM!  They have terrorist acts on their hands  Would Putin as the President of Holy Russia act as blindly?  With the same Satanic pride?  Or was his soul forever humbled by that small rat?  

A Christian would say here that God sent Putin that rat to show him the path towards true humility.  And the fact that he tells the people of Russia this story of how he himself was humbled by a rat makes me at least believe that he "got the message," so to speak.  image

But you may see things differently.

And what about Putin saying that he had been a real "hooligan" at one time?  Yes, indeed!  In response to the interviewer's question as to why he hadn't been inducted into the Young Pioneers till 6th Grade (when most kids get inducted in the 4th Grade), Putin responded it was because he had been a "hooligan" till he was 10 or 11, when he realized:

That my pugnacious nature was not going to keep me king of the courtyard or school grounds, I decided to go into boxing.  [FP, p. 10]

All on his own.  Just like that.  No threats or bribes from anyone.  The decision to get professional training in the martial art and gentlemanly sport of boxing was entirely his own.  

And though boxing didn't last long, it set him on a path of self-discipline that changed his whole life.  In short order, he applied himself in school.  His grades shot up.  He began taking classes in Sambo and Judo with his long-time trainer and mentor, Anatoly Rakhlin.  And at last he was inducted into the Young Pioneers.  He was even elected Captain of his Unit!

But could hooliganism still be in his blood?  Might a President Putin go back to being a "hooligan"--big-time!--if he was elected to a full term of office?   Shades of Boris Yeltsin on steroids!

And then the way First Person ends!  Nothing could be worse!  [Or better, depending on your point of view.]

Asked to describe something "stupid" that he's done in his life, Putin responds:

"OK. Once I was driving with my senior coach from [the] Trud [Athletic Club] to a base outside Leningrad [St. Petersburg]...  A truck with a load of hay was coming from the other direction.  My window was open; and the hay smelled delicious.  As I drove past the truck on a curve, I reached out the window to grab some straw.  The car suddenly swerved....  Whoops!  The steering wheel turned; and we were headed toward the rear wheel of the truck.  I turned the wheel abruptly in the other direction; and my rickety Zaporozhets went up on 2 wheels.  I almost lost control of the car.  We really should have ended up in a ditch.  [Not upside down with your skulls crushed?]  But, fortunately, we landed back on all 4 wheels.

"My coach sat there.  Frozen.  Speechless.  Not until we pulled up at the hotel, and he got out of the car, did he look at me and say, 'You take risks.'  Then he walked away...  What drew me to that truck?  It must have been the sweet smell of the hay."  

That's is how First Person ENDS?  

Would he try and take another country the same way?  Reckless of the consequences for Russia?  What an impulse disorder!  That book would have blown the election if it had reached the voters!  And what Western propagandists would have done with this!  They make Russia a mirror of their own avarice already!  And now THIS!  What insanity!  The man does drive on 2 wheels!  It's a damn lucky thing [or a Providential thing] that the Election Commission ruled as it did!

That's one way to look at things.   

Me--I see a young Putin, his hand stretched out, his body flying weightless between earth and sky, his nostrils filled with soft, sweet smell of fresh, fragrant hay.  Carried on a sun-filled breeze.  As balmy as the Breath of God.  The scent of Heavenly hay.  How he longs to catch a golden bouquet of this new-mown hay.  And bury his face in its fragrance for one death-defying instant.  Yes. His is a true Russian soul, seeking Tolstoyan transcendence.  One could bed a Blessed Baby down in a manger overflowing with this Heaven-scented hay.  That's my response to Putin's foolish act. Or as Tolstoy himself once said : 


"Happiness is the concern of life. Rejoice the sky, the sun, the stars, the grass, the trees, the people.".

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