Vyacheslav Ivanov: “When I pronounced Khodorkovsky’s name, Putin turned green”

May 18, 2012

Russian academic, Vyacheslav Ivanov, is responding to a question that is plaguing the minds of many people, and not just Russian citizens. What can we expect? Politicians, sociologists, authorities, people in power and those who oppose them were all asked this question. Today, it seems, the answer is predetermined. However, Ivanov, the encyclopaedist, professor and author, gives his answer below, and also talks about Khodorkovsky, Putin and human feelings.

Do you think Putin will liberalise the regime?

It is impossible.


Because, I think, he has a pathological passion for money. Not for the power – then he could just make himself “His Majesty”. He probably is thinking about it. But he is a coward. If he wasn’t afraid he would have become an Emperor. But he loves symbolical money. Why does he need so much money? It is abnormal: he understands that he has nowhere to run – even though it would have been the best option, if he boarded the plane and flew to Finland or Italy. But then, there would be an investigation, Interpol and other unpleasantness – he understands that. I read on his face the mixture of cowardliness, small mindedness, incapability and complexes, which make him a dangerous person. I am afraid he thinks he represents the national spirit or something like that. That is where toying with the Russian Orthodox Church is coming from.

You mean – “all power is from God”, the Russian Orthodox Church became the source of legitimacy for Putin, which he lacks?

That is what I say, if he was not afraid, he would have crowned himself…

Many would disagree with you; they would say that you are underestimating Putin’s mind and intelligence: he settled accounts with oligarchs, forced some people to emigrate, imprisoned others, like Khodorkovsky, for instance. He forced businesses to pay taxes – his predecessors could not do that; he trained everyone that without his decision nothing will happen in the country – whether it is the big purchase-sale deals, enrichment or investments…

He is a gangster. The gangster can do a lot of things. Stalin was a gangster. Perhaps, in this sense he can be compared to Stalin, because Stalin was also unintelligent and incompetent. But he was a gangster. And those who played a political game with him (Stalin), even Bukharin, who was a friend, they perceived him as a human. However, he has nothing human in him as he didn’t have any human emotions. I think that Putin has feelings only for a dog. I think that he doesn’t have any feelings for anyone around him. The human without human feelings – it is horrid. What Khodorkovsky did wrong? Khodorkovsky thought that they are, if not friends, but people in some kind of human relationship. But it is not possible to have any human relationships with Putin.

Why are you so sure?

I talked to Putin – straight after the arrest of Khodorkovsky. I told him – since Khodorkovsky understands that science needs to be financed he deserves good words. Putin granted me a medal. Those were times when he has not yet taken off his mask. But when I pronounced Khodorkovsky’s name, he turned green. The reaction was biological. There was no mask in front of me; there was a terrible, bloody man. I saw it with my own eyes. Therefore, I was not surprised at everything that happened after.

Read the interview in full on The New Times (in Russian)