Falling out with Putin

Russians are these days adding a literal meaning to normally figurative expressions. The two I have in mind are ‘falling out’ and ‘Did he jump or was he pushed?’.

This linguistic rumination is prompted by the news that yet another critic of Putin fell out of a window to his death.

According to Russian state media, Ravil Maganov, chairman of Lukoil, Russia’s second largest oil company, committed suicide. Considering that no note was found and there was no evidence that Mr Maganov had ever contemplated such a drastic act, one has to commend the Russian police on the lightning speed with which they solved the incident.

Neither they nor the journalists were deterred by the rather bizarre method chosen by Mr Maganov. First he checked into a hospital for a routine medical, obviously wishing to make sure he was in good enough health to negotiate the pearly gates.

Having been reassured on his medical condition, he then jumped out of a hospital window. Such are the vagaries of the mysterious Russian (or, in his case, ethnically Tartar) soul. A pragmatic Westerner would have spared himself the trouble of bureaucratic check-in and instead found a window closer to home.

Just a fortnight earlier, Maxim Rapoport, another Russian businessman critical of Putin in general and of the bandit raid on the Ukraine especially, fell out of his apartment window in Washington DC. Could it be that both he and Maganov took the honourable way out because they could no longer bear the guilt of their opposition to the sainted leader?

Rapoport’s case stands out among the recent defenestrations and other suicides committed by Russian businessmen. After all, he had nothing to do with the hydrocarbon industry.

Maganov, on the other hand, was the sixth major energy executive shuffling off this mortal coil by a daring jump in recent months. Some of the others took their whole families with them, on the fair assumption that they too were guilty by association.

The burden of guilt is one possible reason for suicide. The other is the burden of too much knowledge. This dovetails with the topic of my yesterday’s obituary for Gorbachev.

When ‘Micky Envelope’ presided over the demise of the Soviet Union, he was busily monetising all the Party assets. They were hastily converted into roubles and then into wagonloads of US dollars – exchange rates no object.

The mechanics of the op were handled by the KGB, specifically its financial wizard Col. Veselovsky. But the overall supervision was provided by Nikolai Kruchina, head of the Central Committee administration, reporting to Gorbachev personally.

Kruchina’s principal Western liaison was Robert ‘Cap’n Bob’ Maxwell, whose little girl is currently doing time for sex trafficking. Between them those two operators accumulated a wealth of knowledge, the burden of which, to quote loosely from the Book of Common Prayer, proved intolerable.

As a result, Kruchina fell out of his office window in August, 1991, and Maxwell fell out of his yacht two months later. Suicide was the ruling in both cases, naturally.

A sense of fairness compels me to acknowledge that Russia doesn’t hold exclusive rights to defenestration. The Czechs have a fine history of it too.

Thus both the Hussite War in the 15th century and the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th were triggered by defenestrations in Prague. (In fact, the second episode gave rise to the word ‘defenestration’.) But to give the Czechs credit for honesty, neither incident was put down as suicide.

More recently, the Czech foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell out of his office window in 1948 to ease his country’s transition to the dictatorship of the proletariat, or specifically Stalin. Since Masaryk was slow on the uptake when it came to grasping the attendant benefits, he fell out with the communists, to continue our journey through the land of puns.

Even in the Soviet Union defenestration has a distinguished history, especially as a method of dealing with defectors. Thus the celebrated naval commander Fyodor Raskolnikov first fell out with Stalin in 1938 and then, having defected to France, out of a Paris window in 1939.

Lest you may think Vlad is merely an epigone, a great statesman isn’t necessarily one who comes up with a wealth of original ideas all the time. As often as not, he merely evaluates historical experience, chooses its best parts and adapts them judiciously to current needs.

Current needs must call for a spate of suicides among Russian energy executives and other uppity moguls, and Vlad’s ears are finely attuned to hear the clarion calls of the Russian grassroots.

A word of advice though. Whatever you do, don’t apply for a top position with a Russian energy company. The job seems to be too taxing by half, especially if you fall out with Putin.

5 thoughts on “Falling out with Putin”

  1. “Thus both the Hussite War in the 15th century and the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th were triggered by defenestrations in Prague.”

    That defenestration just prior to the Thirty Years War was unsuccessful. Those tossed out the winder landed in a heap of garbage and survived.

  2. On the whole, another great article. However, I do spot one glaring hole in the argument. As a patient of the NHS you certainly must sympathize with a man who, after checking into the hospital, has the sudden urge to throw himself out the window?

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