Last Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila spoke to journalists after attending the ballet “La Esmeralda” in the Kremlin Palace in Moscow. They announced that they had separated and their marriage was over.Vladimir Putin, Lyudmila Putin

I won’t comment (though I could do that) on the moral side of divorcing a person with whom one has lived for 30 years, raised two children and whose duty it would be to support the spouse at the moment when both are “over the hill.” It’s the symbolism of the event that is worthy of note. Just as nations are seen in the leaders they elect and tolerate, the intellectual and social environment of Russia was seen in the interview given by Mr and Mrs Putin. Everything was permeated with hypocrisy and deception – starting from the very fact of the interview. As if quite accidentally, the first couple “bumped” into a journalist while strolling in the hall after the performance (a contrived coincidence, “a piano in the bushes”, as the Russian saying goes). The journalist asked about their impressions of the ballet. Mr. Putin and his wife were trying to show off their intelligence by over-intellectualizing the impressions. One must admit that the husband was more “heavy-footed” in his assessment by using the slangy word “shikarno” (roughly corresponds to “kicky”) two times. Both definitely knew that the question about the impressions was only a prelude to the main question about their relationship: “La Esmeralda” was only a camouflage used to deliver something more important. The second question was asked by the journalist in such a low voice that the word “divorce” was scarcely heard (“Is it true that…?”). The reasons the Putins put forward for their (mutual?) decision to get divorced could hardly be called credible: allegedly, the President was a 100 per cent public person who was dedicated to his job, while his wife didn’t like publicity and was “tired” of living alone. It was stated at the time when the whole of the ex-USSR is never tired of gossiping about Mr. Putin’s extramarital affair. Incidentally, in 2008 the newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent was closed down by the authorities for this juicy news about the President.

One of the latest “political” jokes which I appreciate: A Russian apparatchik talks with his wife on June 6th : HE: “My dear, I don’t love you any more and have decided to get divorced.” SHE: “Could you at least take me out to the theatre, then?”

2013-06-09Kasparov1Seemingly unrelated, another symbolic fact of Russia’s life is significant to me: the chess legend Gary Kasparov, who is now known as a political activist and an opponent of the present regime, decided not to return to Russia from abroad knowing that he would be arrested and imprisoned. This picture dating back a year ago stays very vivid in my eyes: the grey-haired Kasparov, one of the strongest brains of nowadays, is being pushed into the prison bus by the blockheads who will always support their czar, regardless of what the czar is, and notwithstanding  the mental slavery of the country in which they live.


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