Issue #27/82, February 1 - 10, 2000  smlogo.gif


Book Review


By Edward Limonov

Putin And Zhirinovsky

As presidential elections are approaching in Russia, foreign journalists are deeply digging past life of Putin Vladimir. Some details are interesting and revealing. Like for example almost immediate failure of young Putin in Bonn. In 1975 graduated from Leningrad's University law school twenty-three years old Volodya was employed by KGB. His first assignment was to Bonn, then capital of West German state. Putin went there undercovered as supposedly journalist of Russian news agency TASS. Unmasked by Germans as a spy, Putin was evacuated to East Germany. It is worth to explain that such a failure have had in those years an enormous negative impact on life of unfortunate agent. That failure made of Putin "neviezdnoi"--in other words from now on Putin was forever known for western intelligence services as a Russian spy, KGB officer. So it was a dead end of agent's career, it was no sense in sending him to work abroad, except to some fraternal countries of socialist bloc.

Another Vladimir, Zhirinovsky, have had a similar flop from beginning of his career in 1969. Graduated from Institute of Eastern Languages (traditionally patronized by KGB), Zhirinovsky went to Turkey to practice his language abilities and was arrested, as he tried to convert Turkish workers to communist faith. That is a lot of similarities in biographies of those two man of same generation. (Zhirinovsky was born in 1946, Putin was born in 1952.) In 1975 just from the beginning unlucky Putin was forever placed into category of losers. In following years Vladimir Putin have had a slow motion life of bureaucrat, paper-worker in Leipzig and Dresden. His insignificance was ironically underlined when after 13 years in service Major Putin have received a bronze medal from East German Ministry of Internal Affairs. Taken out of sport context, bronze medal sounds like a bad joke when placed in context of Ministry of Interior.

In the West, where letters "KGB" were always surrounded by some mystical horror, Putin's appointment to highest place of power in Russia was met with fear. For Russians it is rather enigmatic event that fearful one.

Two years after receiving ironical present of East Germans Putin left KGB. In 1990 he is in Leningrad, employed as helper to rector of Leningrad University. Putin helps in "international affairs". So insignificant, so small that job, even for a bronze medallist. But in May 1990, Mr. Sobchak is elected Chairman of Soviet of Leningrad. Actually from that very moment Sobchak becomes a master of Leningrad. In 1970-75, when Putin was a student at Leningrad University, Sobchak taught him a law. In 1990 Sobchak placed his ancient pupil as his own advisor.

According to Spanish newspaper "Vanguardia" (just published week ago) exactly in 1990 Putin was accused of financial crime by Leningrad's Soviet, exactly an institution which had a Sobchak as a chairman. Putin was involved in operation of purchase in the West of a food supplies for Leningrad. The foreign currency dollars were paid by Leningrad government, but food never came. We don't know how Sobchak have saved his advisor from prison, but Putin survived. (It is most likely that Putin acted on behalf of Sobchak, who later spend few years in Paris, fleeing an accusation of corruption.) When in June 1991 Sobchak was elected mayor of Leningrad, Putin was appointed as a Chief of Committee for Foreign Affairs of Mayor.

Zhirinovsky's life from 1969 was as dull as Putin's life after 1975. Working as law-consultant at "Mir" publishing house, Zhirinovsky was seated in the same tiny room with other employees. Surrounded by rubbish heaps and garages, publishing house "Mir" was located behind Rizhsky Vokzal. Place for losers, no future place. (In 1994, writing a book "Limonov Against Zhirinovsky", I have visited place; it is awful.) After twenty years of that "gallery", in 1989 Zhirinovsky made his first bold social step: he presented his candidature to elections for publishing house director. He got only 5% of votes. In March 1990 Zhirinovsky founded LDPR together with his roommate in "Mir", Stanislav Zhebrowsky. As a chairman of a Liberal Democratic Party, Zhirinovsky participated in presidential elections in 1991 (it is no doubt for now that he worked for and was paid on behalf of Yeltsin's rival, Nikolai Ryzhkov). That very year Zhirinovsky becomes known nation-wide. Thus both men went to compete for power same year, blessed for adventurers and losers, in 1990. Lot of a scam came to the surface in Russia that year. In difference from screaming, public, obscene Zhirinovsky, Putin is the knight of bureaucracy and dim corridors. He is bureaucrat par excellence. He was practically out of sight of public until July 25, 1998, when by ukaz of Yeltsin he was appointed the head of the FSB.

Now, about his face. Supposed mystery of Putin is no mystery at all. He is simply reserved and silent as a small employee should be. He had learned to be reserved and silent because he obtained a habit of subordinate man: shuttup and listen, when colonel, general, Sobchak, Yeltsin talks. Putin's politics of bureaucrat proved to be much more successful than Zhirinovsky's public screams.

ImageMap - turn on images!!!