MOSCOW - Referencing the Russian President has never been easier.
Vladimir Putin’s entire oeuvre of speeches and addresses over a 15-year career has been collected in a new three-volume book that premiered at a Moscow book fair over the weekend.
The book, titled Direct Speech, and issued by the publishing house Zvonnitsa, claimed to be a “portrait of an era” with Putin cast as a central figure in the history of the 21st century “equal to the likes of Charles de Gaulle or Fidel Castro,” according to the book’s publisher Georgy Zaitsev.
The book is “needed by today’s Russians — governors, and deputies, mayors, and heads of village administrations, historians, political analysts, diplomats, and students — all who are interested in modern politics and history,” from the description of the book issued ahead of the book fair.
"It's like a time machine. I feel like I'm returning back to my childhood," said Dmitry Gubin, an independent journalist based in Moscow.
Gubin noted that, just as weighty volumes of Lenin, Marx and Engels were must-have displays on the bookshelves of Soviet bureacrats, the Putin editions are certain to become required props for official spaces tied to today's Russian state.
"The printed version will be definitely bought by [Putin's ruling] United Russia party and by state cooperations to demonstrate they are absolutely loyal to Putin," Gubin told VOA. "But it's hard to imagine that someone will curl up to read this at home," he added.
Putin joins elite list
With “Direct Speech”, Putin now enters the pantheon of Russian-Soviet leaders with multi-volume editions — joining Vladimir Lenin (55 volumes) Joseph Stalin (14 volumes), and Leonid Brezhnev (4).
The Kremlin gave its tacit approval to the book’s publication — with Putin’s press spokesman noting Putin’s soaring popularity made such as “understandable” and easy access to the president’s speeches “a positive thing.”
But in the book's design (a retro dark blue jacket with grey embossed lettering and clunky polit-speak. Volume 1 is subtitled "Addresses by the President of the Russian Federation to the Federal Assembly: On the Situation in the Country and Basic Directions for Internal and External Policies. 2000-2015") some see an overly active embrace of Soviet bookshelves' past.
Pre-orders are brisk
The publisher claims pre-orders have been particularly brisk in Crimea, the peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.The move sent Putin's ratings soaring at home despite triggering western sanctions and a war in eastern Ukraine.
Indeed, a reassertive Russia under Putin is one of the major reasons for the book's existence, said publisher Georgy Zaitsev.
“Putin’s first term as president was dedicated to keeping Russia a unified state; the second — to lifting the country up from its knees. Our book reflects these stages,” Zaitsev commented to the Russian media.
But in giving Putin the encyclopedia treatment now, the journalist Dmitry Gubin sees opportunism alongside an acknowledgement of Putin's mortality.
Even the book's cover, he noted, is suggestive of a tombstone.
"I'm sure the bureaucrats will all buy it," said Gubin. "And I'm also sure that the volumes will disappear as soon as Putin is gone."