Vladimir Putin could not have openly lamented the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, before his accession to power, former US ambassador Michael McFaul claimed – only to be instantly served an example to the contrary.
The factually inaccurate claims came as McFaul challenged his Twitter audience on Monday to provide evidence of a younger Putin going against the Russian political system under President Boris Yeltsin. “Post for me that Putin speech in 1992 when he lamented the collapse of the USSR,” he asked, before confidently asserting that one didn’t exist, followed by the hashtag #FactsMatter.
Putin was intimately connected with the ruling regime in the 1990s. He worked for Yeltsin! Yeltsin named Putin acting president. Voters merely ratified Yeltsin’s decision. Stop believing 21 years of Putin myth making & revisionist history. #FactsMatter.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) February 22, 2021
One of the first replies, however, was exactly the thing he’d requested: a piece of footage from one of the earliest TV interviews with the incumbent Russian president.
In 1991, freshly minted civil servant Vladimir Putin was interviewed by Soviet documentary filmmaker and TV host Igor Shadkhan. The film, which Shadkhan reluctantly agreed to make, was meant to help St. Petersburg residents get better acquainted with the team of Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, Putin’s patron and boss. One of Putin’s stated goals was to make his KGB past – which was a matter of controversy, considering the security agency’s dreadful reputation – a widely known fact.
Speaking about the USSR, Putin said pretty much what he would go on to repeat on many later occasions. He called the communist ideology a “beautiful and damaging fairy tale” that hurt Russia very much.
“In this context, I’d like to say a few words about this tragedy that we are experiencing today – the tragedy of the collapse of our state. There is no other way to describe it. I believe [the Bolsheviks] planted the time bomb under the edifice of a unitary state called Russia,” he added.
Shadkhan interviewed Putin again, more than a decade later, in 2002, resorting to his favorite schtick: playing old footage and having his guest comment on his words from back then. An extract from this program, in which Putin said he was “ready to repeat it word for word” was posted in response to McFaul’s challenge.
Putin came to power in Russia in 1999, propelled by an ailing Yeltsin, just like McFaul surmised. That is a matter of public record that does not appear to be challenged by the “21 years of Putin myth making & revisionist history,” mentioned by the former US diplomat – at least not in the Kremlin’s messaging.
McFaul, now an academic at Stanford University, is considered a respectable Russia expert in the US. His opinions on Twitter are followed by more than 560,000 accounts. He served as the US ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama between 2012 and 2014.
If you like this story, share it with a friend!