Thursday, April 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Putin Family Values

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – Given the Kremlin’s promotion of traditional family values and Russian interest in all things Putin, a distant relative of the Kremlin leader has put out a second edition of his genealogy of the family, the presentation of which in Moscow this week speaks volumes about Vladimir Putin’s real family values.

            Reporting on, Vladimir Shvedov notes that in 2002, Aleksandr Putin put out in a small print run a volume about the Putin family tree, a book that called attention to the fact that there are “according to various assessments, only two or three thousand Putins” in Russia (

            Now, Aleksandr Putin, a businessman and distant cousin of the Russian president, has reissued it in a glossy and high-priced format – 1500 rubles (45 US dollars) even with a discount – in the hopes of exploiting popular interest in Putin the president and in his family.  And this week, Aleksandr, not Vladimir, presented it at the Biblio-Globus trade center in Moscow.

            With a cover showing the Kremlin, the Russian tri-color and the countryside, the book promises, Shvedov says, to trace “the history of the family of V.V. Putin, the president of the Russian Federation” on the basis of archives and family sources.  The editors include “an impressive list of doctors of science.”

            But despite that, the journalist says, there were many empty seats at the presentation and apparently little demand for the purchase of the book. He read it, the reporter continued, because one of the sales clerks allowed him to leaf through the volume without having made a purchase.

            Some of Shvedov’s discoveries are instructive.  According to the book, he says, extended families “are gradually returning to the consciousness of our much-suffering people,” because in Russia as “in any country, “the greatness of the nation and the state is built upon the ancient foundation of the old families.”

            Filled with pictures and family trees, the book also shows where various Putins live: they are to be found “most of all” in Astrakhan oblast, in Kamchatka and in Magadan, the latter two places of course being the location of some of the largest and most infamous GULAG camps in Stalin’s time.

            Moreover, the book traces the name of Putin to a Russian saying which Shvedov freely translates as meaning that “the most extreme measures” have to be taken against outsiders “if the population does not accept their views.”

            Forty minutes late, the author Aleksandr Putin finally showed up. “A smiling gray-haired man in no way like the president,” this Putin thanked those who came and distributed copies of the “Slovo” newspaper for the audience to read.  In them, he tells the story of how and why he came to write the book.

            In Shvedov’s words, “the author on the whole was neutral and almost ironic.”  In Aleksandr Putin’s words, “Putin is someone with a peasant character’” who is engaged in the titanic work of “correcting an historic injustice” by restoring the country torn apart in 1991.  If he succeeds, Aleksandr Putin said, he will be remembered as “an in-gather of the Russian land,” like Ivan Kalita or Joseph Stalin.”

            The journalist also notes that the “Slovo” newspaper also featured articles with headlines like “The Enemies of Putin are the Enemies of Society.”

            According to Aleksandr Putin, Vladimir Putin at one time “looked at” the book and gave his approval, although Aleksandr admitted he hadn’t met Vladimir for some time.  But Aleksandr said that he hoped that what he had done would help his distant relative with his enormous tasks as well as help others understand the importance of family values.

            The problems with the presentation began when Aleksandr Putin opened the floor for questions. One historian asked a critical one about sources and was encouraged to leave by a staffer who said “we didn’t invite you. You appeared here and are now giving some kind of critical comments.”  The historian left without protest.

            The historian was followed a someone in a costume who began talking about “the difficult situation with Ukraine.  He denounced the slogans of the Maidan and was applauded. He then said, “We are Russians and we are accustomed to discuss and criticize our rulers, and therefore it is wonderful if there is support and an objective work by authoritative people, and he was applauded again.

            Eventually, the master of ceremonies announced that Aleksandr Putin was tired and wouldn’t take any more questions, but “all those who wanted to could come up and get his autograph.”  Some in the audience who were members of the Biblio-Globus Club that had sponsored the event did so.  Others didn’t bother.

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