10 October 2018

Vladimir Putin, the Petty Strongman
Who Straddles the World

The former middle manager and sidelined spy now rules an
empire of influence that stretches from the halls of the Kremlin to war-torn Ukraine, 
Syria, and the streets of Londongrad...

A 'dim, but not commonplace' appearance with a face marked by 'morose concentration' was how Leon Trotsky recalled his first encounter with Josef Stalin in Vienna in 1913, 27 years before Stalin ordered a Mexican agent to fatally plunge an ice-ax into Trotsky’s cranium. 

 A 'grey blur' was how the prominent Menshevik Nikolai Sukhanov described the future Soviet dictator in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik seizure of power, a world-historical event in which Stalin, a priesthood dropout turned bank robber, played no discernible role. 

Sukhanov was later jailed, then shot. We know from the scholarship on 20th-century totalitarianism that evil can be both banal and radical and that these seemingly contradictory characteristics can be embodied in the same person. Tempting as it is to see the prime movers of history as great men and women, more often than not, it’s the middle managers and grey blurs who
conquer and destroy nations...

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