Russia dangles freedom to prisoners if they fight in Ukraine. Many are taking the deadly gamble. – CNN, August 9, 2022


Putin was sitting in the Kremlin (In these troubled times, where else?) at one end of the, by now famous, 30 feet long table. As a responsible dictator, he was concerned about the health of his subjects and his own too that faced a threat from the Chinese virus that had been renamed in Russia as the Ukrainian virus to keep the Chinese buying the Russian oil, an act of grace on Xi’s part that kept the Russian war machine lubricated. The other end of the table was occupied by Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff. Russians love their family and show love for the family patriarch who addresses everyone in the family with their nicknames, which are mandatory for everyone in the family. They use these even to catch Western spies; they are tutored their formal names but not the nicknames.

Somewhere in Russia, there is a big book written down centuries ago that froze the nicknames for every Russian name. Nobody has seen that book but every Russian mother knows its contents by heart and assigns the appropriate nickname to a child at its birth and it remains attached till the very end. Since the old book is still being hunted, many Russian experts have brought out very useful handbooks for the Western barbarians so that they may avoid adopting nicknames to pretend to be part of a Russian family. How can that ever be; Russians have more of Neanderthal genes than any other Europeans as proved by the genetic analysis of Mr. Kostenki, who lived in Russia 37,000 years ago.

Westerners are bad students and have a tough time mastering the rules, because these involve invention. Russians are good at invention and the USSR had claimed that everything worth inventing was invented by a Russian named Popov; somewhat like Manu in India. So the son of Ivan Petrovich will have a patronymic Ivanovich. What will be the patronymic of the son of Petrovich’s son? As with any scientific subject, you cannot jump levels and have to wait till you reach there. So, Dmitri Ivanovich Popov  is Gospodin Popov in a formal setting, Tovarishch Popov to his Communist Party comrades, Grazhdanin Popov when in handcuffs, Dmitry to his boss, They also have a form that can be used by those who love or hate Popov – Dimka! The Westerners are naive enough to think hatred and love are antonyms when their own great teacher Elie Weisel had said that the antonym for both is indifference, a word unknown to the Russians and the Chinese who never commit the sin of leaving anyone alone, that being an anti-social act. We Indians share many traits with both, this being one of those. By now, the reader would have grasped that the Russian art and science of naming in Russia is more advanced that it is in the decadent West and rivals that of name calling in China.

Valery, the man with heavily decorated shoulders, at the other end of the long table has the same name as French Valéri, both coming from Valerius in Latin, the putative language of the decadent Romans among whom Valerius was a family name since ancient times. That appears to be the reason why English speakers find it so difficult to master French and Russian (and vice versa) and the non-English world does not display very kind emotions when Latin is mentioned. Russians have a special reason not to like the Romans and their Latin because they follow the Greeks, cultural rivals of Rome in all matters of life and death, like religion.

Putin being the patriarch of whole of Russia, he has a right to call everyone by the nickname and so Valery becomes, well, Valery, an exception in the land of ubiquitous nicknames. Reassuringly, Vladimir or the counterpart Volodymyr (Zenesky) means the Lord of the World, not merely of the Rings. But not so reassuringly, Putin’s well-known name “Vladimir” is a fake and the Ukrainian’s “Volodomyr” is real Russian. But let us come back to the long table where Putin and Valeri have been waiting for our attention. Now Putin is known for long emotional sentences without punctuation when speaking in public and short, cryptic questions when interrogating, a habit acquired from the days when he was head of the dreaded FSB (dreaded because of its name: Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti).

As any interrogator knows, question should be short and its repetition long. So when Putin’s respondent answers the short question with a long answer, the question is repeated and Putin does not expect the answer to be repeated. God forbid, if the answer too is short; there would be a long sentence awaiting the respondent. Short answer to a short question is mimicry and dictator is always one and the only one, the inimitable one.

So Putin asked the short question: Where do we find the toughest cookies?

Valeri: My wife bakes them.

On this day, Putin was in a good mood and Valerie survived the gaff. The art of survival is Valery’s forte. He has survived Putin’s questions for a decade as Chief of the General Staff. His gaffs on the long table are neutralised by his capability to deliver – not the US kind where Biden, as commander-in-chief, is taking in biologically male transgender as soldiers and they are proceeding on maternity leave to deliver babies. Valerie has delivered Crimea and hypersonic missiles and has partly delivered Donbas with Ukrainian steel plants and nuclear plants as additional babies. Having decided to let Valery and his wife’s tough cookies live a little longer in the interest of Mother Russia, Putin felt the need of a public speech in the privacy of that Kremlin room to make Valery deliver the right answer to his short question.

“So Valery, we have had martyrs, but too few. We had to classify troop deaths as state secret because less than 100,000 have been killed or wounded. I feel small, my nation needs martyrs, a whole lot of them. We grow lot of flowers. We used to import too till dollars ran away. We still have Uzbek and Kazakh tulips that can be bought for roubles, a lot of roubles. That is no problem, we can print more. We need flowers for Martyrs. Martyrs and flowers are inseparable, when the martyr is living and when the martyr has been martyred. We need them for the route on which they march to martyrdom, on the coffin, on the grave. I will not dilate on the self-evident. Ask any of those brave mothers whose number is increasing everyday but not to my satisfaction. They ask for flowers on their sons, I mean their sons’ metamorphosis to mortal remains in service of immortal Russia and its almost immortal, bare-chest rider, this knight here who needs no shining armour.

Stalin martyred 20 million not counting the 24 million martyrs of the Second World War. But for the Wagners, I would have felt even smaller; they contributed 5000 martyrs. I have stopped meeting world leaders. Look at the shot of me with Xi, he towers over me. He detained two million in Xinjiang alone; our jails have half a million and that includes real men like murderers, drug dealers, rapists and paedophiles and only a small number are the real criminals, who disagree with me on small, inconsequential issues like our elections and democracy and political parties. Should we waste our time on such inane matters or devote ourselves to removing the blot on Mother Russia, variously described by the gleeful West as collapse, implosion, disintegration, fall, whatever, of our glorious achievement called USSR?”

Though the last part was a question, Valery knew that it was not a question and remained quiet. Putin was visibly pleased and continued.

(These are excerpts from a leaked document from the Onion Domes and we shall report the outcome of the hunt for the “toughest cookies” in the next part.)

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