Inside Vladimir Putin’s Head

Michel Eltchaninoff

(Actes Sud, 176 pages, 2015)


***Winner of the Prix de La Revue des Deux Mondes***

***Short-listed for the Prix Aujourd’hui***

***Foreign rights sold in Germany (Klett-Cotta), Poland (Studio Emka), Norway (Lava Forlag), Turkey (Illetism), Greece (Diametros), and Spain (Librooks)***

The explosive cocktail that is Russia today has been described by Michel Eltchaninoff via his portrayal of the country’s autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin—Poutine in the French spelling. Eltchaninoff, a philosopher and specialist in Russian thought, looks at Putin’s ideological sources for his worldview. What does the master of the Kremlin think about? What are his aims and desires for the lands bordering Russia, for Europe, and even for the world?

Vladimir Putin arrived on the political scene in 1999, as prime minister. Since then many have tried to understand what makes him tick, how his spectacular rise to power was achieved, and where his limits lie. Michel Eltchaninoff offers a look inside the head of one of the most controversial leaders in the world today in hopes of shedding light on his actions; he dissects his ideology and traces the foundations of his beliefs.

The author starts with the view that Putin’s anti-Western, anti-globalization perspectives are based on the notion that, since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia has been repeatedly humiliated by the West. Why did this approach appeal so much to ordinary Russians? The chilling truth that Eltchaninoff uncovers, by looking at the texts Putin holds sacred, is that he wants a return to Russian imperialism joined with religious orthodoxy. He wants a Slavophil, religious nation. He wants to turn back the clock, and the nation, to the nineteenth-century grandeur of Russia, but always on his own terms.

Inside Vladimir Putin’s Head invites us into the psyche of the Russian president in order to better understand the doctrines, the geopolitical visions, and especially the recent conflicts Russia has become engaged in. Eltchaninoff believes that understanding Russian philosophy will help us understand Vladimir Putin. Inside Vladimir Putin’s Head gives us that opportunity.

Michel Eltchaninoff is the deputy editor-in-chief of Philosophie Magazine.