If you happen to be in London….

 …I’d love to see you at my book launch. But the invitation comes with a warning: the book may not be what you expect on the basis of my other work.

Those who read my books for their ideas will be disappointed: there are precious few of those in this one.

Those who for some unfathomable reason are interested in the details of my life, will be disappointed too, if less so. For the book really isn’t so much about me as about Russia – admittedly as seen through my eyes.

Disappointment all around then? Well, not necessarily.

What I’ve tried to do is help the reader learn about Russia the way a child and a youngster would learn it while growing up there. Actually, that’s the second objective. The first one is to keep the reader entertained and amused.

You’ll laugh quite a bit at some of the stories. But if you get in the spirit of it, you’ll laugh the way I did – through tears. In Russian literature this combination of mirth and lacrymosity goes back to Gogol, or later to Bulgakov and Platonov.

It’ll be up to you to decide how well the same trick can work in very English prose. One way or the other, this promises to be a hell of a good party.

Hope to see you there – but please let me know if you’re coming (sonata@btinternet.com). We don’t want to run out of wine.



You are cordially invited to the launch of


How the Future Worked


 by Alexander Boot


an anecdotal account of Russia based on the author’s

not altogether happy memories of it


Published by Bretwalda Books


Wednesday, 25th September


at Daunt Books, 158-164 Fulham Road, London SW10 9PR


6.30 to 8.30 pm


email: sonata@btinternet.com

telephone: 020 7736 3286


Col. Putin, the last hope of Christian conservatism?

When this idea is put forth, my reaction is to say, “Pull the other one, it’s got church bells on.” Alas, these days I’m finding myself in the minority.

Western intellectuals are losing their minds so rapidly that a cynic is tempted to think they didn’t have much to lose in the first place.

Even conservative Christians, generally the brightest group, are showing signs of mental instability. In a way that’s understandable: they’ve been dealt enough head blows to suffer some mild brain damage.

One significant symptom is the growing if grudging admiration for Putin’s Russia, and Col. Putin in particular. Many British Christians, for example, have expressed admiration for Russia’s law banning homosexual propaganda among children.

Suddenly Col. Putin is being chalked up as one of the PLUs (People Like Us), if not without some reservations. At least, when this taxonomic perversion is committed by a British pundit, some sense of balance is occasionally preserved. When the accolade is tinged with the Gallic temperament, balance goes right out of the window.

Witness the article Tsar Poutine in the Figaro. The author, Eric Zemmour, thinks the West, specifically les anglo-saxonnes, has been beastly to Putin. Now whenever a continental uses the word Anglo-Saxon to lump all Anglophone nations together, he doesn’t mean it as a compliment.

In this instance, Zemmour “recognises the Anglo-Saxon techniques of demonisation. Remember, for example, comparisons of Saddam Hussein to Hitler.”

Unlike “Yeltsyn who sold his country out to trans-Atlantic groups”, Putin “has restored the state. And Russian patriotism. By authoritarian methods. In the tradition of the tsars.”

“Little by little, he has become the leader of  world opposition to the new ideological order dominated by the West [and characterised by] antiracism, globalism, homophilia, feminism, Islamophilia and Christianophobia.”

In other words, “While France has renounced her former mission, Putin has become the last defender of Eastern Christianity. …He defends national sovereignty, family and the Orthodox religion.”

A reality check, Monsieur Zemmour, s’il vous plaît. You know, reality? That elusive substance formed by facts, rather than ideological bias?

Col. Putin is a proud alumnus of the most diabolical organisation in the history of mankind. (“There’s no such thing as ex-KGB,” he once said. “This is for life.”) In the first 50 years of its existence it murdered 60 million people, including 40,000 priests just in Lenin’s lifetime (d. 1924).

In those turbulent days, Cheka (precursor of KGB/FSB) flying squads would machinegun whole parishes and rob the churches of their valuables. Worse still, Col. Putin’s sponsoring organisation turned the church hierarchy into its extension.

Specifically, priests were obligated on pain of death to divulge any juicy information vouchsafed to them in confession – and acceded, something that in the West would result in summary unfrocking.

This Faustian arrangement has led to an institutional paradox: the KGB in effect appointed and ran the prelates of the Russian church. Some of them, such as the first post-war patriarch Alexis and the Soviet representative at the World Council of Churches Metropolitan Nicodemus, were career KGB officers.

In the fine tradition of his lifelong employer, Col. Putin has kept this arrangement intact. All three candidates for the patriarchate in the 2009 election, including the eventual winner Patriarch Kiril, are professional KGB operatives.

Recently opened KGB files include countless reports on the activities of ‘Agent Mikhailov’ (Kiril’s KGB codename). Every report concludes that “Agent Mikhailov has fulfilled his assignment.”

Now imagine it’s 1967, 22 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany – the same time that has elapsed since the so-called collapse of communism in Russia in 1991. The West German government is led by an SS Obersturmbannführer (the equivalent of Putin’s rank) and is made up almost exclusively of officers in the SS, SD and Gestapo. Moreover, every notable clergyman is known to have collaborated with those organisations.

Do you think the Zemmours of this world would have been as ecstatic about the resurgence of Lutheranism in Germany?

Let’s extend the parallel – it extends so naturally, the temptation is irresistible. What if the same SS government had fused with organised crime to create the widest money-laundering network in history? Routinely murdered its opponents both at home and abroad? Suppressed free press? Maintained one of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals? Consistently supported and armed the West’s enemies? Cynically used Christianity to advance its cause?

These are all accomplishments of which Col. Putin can proudly boast. Is Mr Zemmour aware of them?

Hitler ended unemployment and revitalised the economy. Stalin industrialised Russia. Putin has banned some of the things there we’d like to ban here. Is Mr Zemmour familiar with the downside in all three instances?

The downside makes none of the gentlemen a present-day answer to Charles Martel. In search of those able to defend Christianity, we should look inwards, not to Putin’s fascist state.

Zemmour’s revolutionary ancestors used to say “Pas d’ennemis a gauche” (no enemies on the Left). Like them, we desperately need allies. Unlike them, we have to apply moral criteria to choosing our allies, for otherwise we’d be just like them.

As to Christianity, God has saved it from countless enemies. Let’s pray He will save it from ‘friends’ like Col. Putin of the KGB. 














London now pursues an independent foreign policy

Commenting on the Syria vote in the Commons, our Chancellor George said, ‘Look, I think Parliament has spoken.’

Now so has our mayor Boris. The motion should be re-submitted to Parliament, he declared, because “to use gas for mass murder is a crime that we cannot allow to go unpunished.”

It’s clear that Boris is taking lessons in democracy from the EU: if at first you don’t succeed, skydiving isn’t for you – but voting is. If the vote goes against you, keep’em voting until they get it right.

At a time when Presidents Barack Hussein and even François (!) have decided to seek legislative approval for military action, Boris is sorry his old Bullingdon Club friend Dave didn’t act as a dictator.

Boris certainly would have done, and that’s the whole point of his Telegraph article. Give me the chance, he seems to be imploring. I won’t wimp out like Dave. I’ll deliver “a calibrated and limited response to a grotesque war crime”.

No, thanks, mate. One Bullingdon cabinet is enough.

It’s clear to Boris, if not to the rest of us, that Assad has “killed hundreds of civilians in an act of utter savagery.” Hence the proper response is to kill a few hundred more by launching a ‘calibrated’ laser-guided response, with its predictable collateral damage.

I think Boris has got it wrong. He’s a member of the Conservative party, not a neoconservative one. Those chaps operate on the ancient wisdom ‘spare the bomb and spoil a land’.

Serbia? Of course. Libya? Naturally. Iraq? Definitely – the best way to introduce democracy is to attach it to laser-guided missiles. Now of course the democratically controlled Iraqi army has massacred Camp Ashraf, so what should we do? Bomb them again? But hey, we’re the ones who put them there.

Dave has been saved from having to grapple with such dilemmas by Parliament, but Boris can rely only on his flaming conscience, fluent pen and flatulent mouth. As a mayor, he’s accountable to Londoners. As a columnist, he’s accountable to no one.

As if to allay the suspicions of cynics like me, Boris gave a sop to his erstwhile friend, now his competitor, Dave. I’m not angling for Dave’s job, he pretends to be saying. On the contrary, “I predict that by the end of this episode it will be Labour that looks divided, and David Cameron who looks the statesman.”

Nothing, and certainly not an attempt to trick Parliament into another vote, will ever make Dave look the statesman – for the simple reason that he isn’t one. What’s more, Boris knows this perfectly well – and he knows that everybody knows he knows.

In other words, while indignantly accusing Labour of playing politics, Boris is trying to show the Milibandits how the game should be played for real. Morality doesn’t even come into it.

In our post-Christian world it never does. “But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint,” warned Edmund Burke. The warning wasn’t heeded.

In the absence of virtue (which to Burke meant specifically Christian virtue), real politik has to mean really amoral politics. Under such conditions, democracy manifestly can’t elevate to government those fit to govern.

Instead democracy turns into spivocracy, the rule of those driven exclusively by self-interest and specifically by lust for power. On second thoughts, one has to be careful when using the word ‘lust’ in the context of Boris Johnson. Perhaps ‘striving’ would be safer.

Since these days every assertion has to be supported by forensics, this comment on democracy must also demand evidential proof. By way of such I suggest a little experiment you can conduct yourself.

Take any four consecutive British prime ministers during Burke’s lifetime (1729-1797) and compare them to our last four ‘leaders’ (John, Tony, Gordon and Dave). See what I mean?

It’s clear that a time when neither ‘Christianity’ nor ‘constitutional monarchy’ was a figure of speech in the UK, politics attracted an infinitely better grade of human material.

That’s what enabled England to civilise half the world, after a fashion, and Britannia to rule the waves, and not those of the electronic variety.

And Boris? He’d be well-advised to stay within his remit, that of the mayor of London. The city doesn’t conduct an independent foreign policy, though some of its boroughs do. Lambeth, for example, declares itself to be a ‘nuclear-free zone’, perhaps in the hope of avoiding direct hits from enemy missiles, should it come to that.

Boris really ought to curb his impatience: he may eventually get there in the end, but he should watch his step. He may be popular with some Tories, but Dave won’t be supplanted without a fight.

And you don’t ride into such battles armed with ideas that 75 percent of the people and most of your party reject. It’s best to contain your impatience and wait for Dave to stab himself in the back once too often. He’s bound to oblige.