(LENINGRAD’S STATE UNIVERSITY)
In 1970 V. V. Putin entered Leningrad’s State University on the law faculty. Ten years earlier in a hot august day E. V. Savenko came to the second exam in Kharkov’s State University. He was sitting on the windowsill in a white shirt, ate an apple and wondered looking at the fuss of the university entrants, at the nervous grimaces of their faces. They were clearly worried, afraid to be refused. E. V. Savenko didn’t understand why they were so worried. And thinking that he’ll have to spend the next five years in the company of these quiet scared young men and women whom he, a free provincial guy, did not respect, he got sad. And then he got up, carefully put his apple core on the windowsill and went down the stairs. At the same time rang the third bell calling to the exam. By October E. V. Savenko was working as a spider-man fitter in a construction trust: I erected a workshop building on Malishev’s factory, commonly it was called the tank factory because tanks were produced there.
You see, the period is the same, only nine years of difference. But the young men are different. One is a conformist, right after school he enters university, but by doing so he misses out life experience, only school and parents have formed him. The other drifts on life with pleasure, realizing that life is more important, never again undertakes attempts to enter a university, works on many Kharkov’s factories, among others on the famous even today for his strong union movement “Hammer and Sickle” factory in the 1963-1964, where he even takes part in a three-day strike. In result the end product is absolutely different. A dictator and his opponent, an opposing intellectual authority. Two years before the scene in Kharkov’s State University mentioned above, in 1958, in spring after reading the book “Alexander Blok’s youth poems” I got by accident, I started to write poetry and write them to this day.
But let us return to Putin, at that time still eighteen years old. Nikolay Kropachev, the dean of Saint Petersburg’s University remembers that Putin was studying on an individual plan. He studied without Cs, only Bs and As. Putin defended his diploma on the subject of “The principle of the most favorable nation in international law” and got an A, he passed state exams with an “excellent” distinction.
It is in Leningrad’s State University that Putin met a person who will later have an enormous influence on his life, Anatoly Sobchak. The famous democrat worked then as an assistant on the chair of economical law and later became a senior lecturer. According to some sources, Putin wrote one of his term papers on Sobchak’s course.
“During his studies, enthusiastically narrate the official sources of the president’s biography, Putin led an active social life,” he went to construction battalions, participated in sambo competitions, fought for “labor reserves”. In the institute he started to professionally practice judo. In this time Japanese martial arts in the USSR were mostly a prerogative of the special agents. Putin became sport master of judo in 1975. Already a KGB agent, in 1976 he became Leningrad’s judo champion. After that year Putin’s sport successes come to naught. Biographers explain this circumstance by service trips.
In university, in the beginning of the fifth session Putin was recruited by state security agents. And after graduating he was directed to the KGB Moscow school where he spent a year. According to his own words Putin “accepted to work in the KGB instantly and without hesitating for patriotic reasons”. One of his friends remembered that in youth Putin himself tried to initiate his recruitment but he didn’t succeed – the KGB was suspicious of initiative takers. However they have apparently noticed the promising guy and later found him by themselves.
My acquaintance with the State Security Committee happened a couple years earlier than Putin’s. In October 1973 I fell in their vision field, apparently for many reasons at once: I was rubbing elbows with dissidents (in particularly with the famous V. Gershuni), with foreigners (with my wife I visited Venezuela’s embassy and was close with its ambassador in Moscow R. Burelli), my wife’s sister was married to a former Lebanese attaché and lived in Beirut and according to some sources was a GRU agent (with which the KGB’s external intelligence always had hostile relations). I was arrested in my apartment on Maria Ulyanova Street and later called many times to the KGB office on Dzerzhinsky Street. I categorically refused the offer to be an informer and report to the KGB about what happens in Venezuela’s embassy and among the nonconformists, artists and poets to whose circle I belonged. In response to my stubborn answer I received the proposition to leave Russia, which I did with my wife in the following 1974 year. So the KGB had taken part in my life, influenced it and my formation as a person. Because all of this took place in the West where I was expelled thanks to the KGB efforts.
Lagging behind me, following the flow while I was swimming against the flow, Putin did not manage to have the monstrously rich life experience I had. (1960-1967 – Kharkov’s factories, then from 1967 to 1974 – Moscow’s milieu of intellectuals and dissidents and then the American experience of 1974-1980 and the French one of 1980-1992.) His experience is the modest and one-sided, monotonous, typical experience of a soviet person. Such an experience does not help to understand the problems of Russian life nor the life of other countries. VVP’s modest stay (farther about this) in the German Democratic Republic did not enlarge much the worldview of the FSB director and later president. It did not enlarge much. But let us follow further the flow of Vladimir Vladimirovich’s university life.
According to the Arguments and Facts newspaper Putin was almost expelled from the institute’s second session. It is not clear for what. If we are to believe the dean N. Korpachev about the good marks, they could not have expelled him for poor progress. Arguments and Facts (issue 3, 2000) makes the supposition that there were maybe “ideological” reasons. Since the student Putin, like many others was fond of Russian variety art and also, supposedly recorded Villy Tokarev and Mikhail Shufutinski who were not officially supported then on tape.
“In the evenings Putin used to play backgammon with his comrades”, says a source. (I would not be surprised if he played backgammon with himself. This is the kind of man he is, the RF president.) Besides backgammon, Putin’s hobby became cars. His first car became a Zaporozhetz that Putin acquired in 1974. The origin of this Zaporozhetz is unclear. Supposedly it was won in a lottery. Either by VVP himself or by his father Vladimir Spiridonovich.
According to Elgam Ragimov, his university friend Putin does not like vodka (at least he did not like it then), but he loved milk. He liked to visit bookstores on Nevski Street and liked to drink beer with friends. “Also Putin liked to play jokes on his friends and acquaintances”, informs A. A. Mukhin’s investigation “Vladimir Putin’s special file”, from where I took most part of my information about the president’s biography. However it does not say how the president played jokes. There are mean jokes and there are nice ones. “He loved to argue on political subjects, defending Russians and Russia”, point out the same source. And also: “During this period Putin, who had escaped from his “tight” childhood compensated his reserved character by joyfulness. This joyfulness has accompanied him ever since”. This is one strange reminder about the supposed joyfulness of student Putin. Today he does not give the impression of a joyful person. At the same time A. A. Mukhin tells us: “It is interesting that according to Putin’s neighbors in Saint Petersburg (his communal apartment near Moscow’s station), children were always a bit scared of him”. The joyfulness is hard to believe in but not the fact that children were scared of such a man. Children, like animals have an acute sensitivity towards dangerous people. A cat will never sit in the lap of a dangerous person.