Why Putin May Not Be the Man We Think He Is
Policy + Politics

Why Putin May Not Be the Man We Think He Is


To the citizens of Russia, President Vladimir Putin is a judo-chopping, tiger-taming, Edward Snowden-protecting, U.S.-defying national hero. But according to a new book, it’s all a façade. The book, by a Moscow political scientist, claims that Putin is actually a pathetic weakling.

The controversial biography, Putin, by Stanislav Belkovsky, says that an unhappy childhood left Putin shy, unassertive, and scarred to this day. Belkovsky says the tough-guy show that Putin puts on for the Russian press is just an act to hide his insecurities.

Related: Six Reasons Vladimir Putin Is Primed for a Fall

“The small Vladimir, who grew up practically without a father and without the love and care of his parents, was a withdrawn and grim child,” Belkovsky writes, according to Der Spiegel, the German weekly news magazine. He alleges that Putin was born two years before the year he gives as his birth – and that he was born to an alcoholic father. He says Putin’s mother shipped the child off to St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), where the couple who would act as his parents raised him.

Belkovsky, described as a star columnist at a Moscow tabloid, also insinuates that Putin, who is divorced with two daughters, might be gay. He calls the Russian president a “gay icon,” adding that in 2007 Putin participated in a “truly erotic photo session in which Putin and Prince Albert of Monaco posed topless with their fishing rods in their hands." (He stops short of calling Putin gay, hedging that "a cult figure among homosexuals is not automatically a homosexual himself.")

Related: Slide Show: Vladimir Putin: International Man of Mystery

Belkovsky offers little proof for any of this; it’s bad armchair psychology at best. He also acknowledges that people who write these kinds of things about Putin often meet unfortunate ends – he even mentions a journalist who died under mysterious circumstances after researching Putin’s background.

But the book is gaining popularity in Moscow. It’s become so popular that the Kremlin has been forced to respond to it.

“Belkovsky's remarks are lacking any basis, or as we say it in Russia: They are total rubbish,” Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told der Spiegel.

But the cat’s outta the bag, or as they’d say in Moscow, sbilsya koshki meshok. Now, Belkovsky better be careful or he might end up mertvyy.

That’s Russian for dead. - Follow David Francis on Twitter @davidcfrancis

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