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December 12, 2003 by AK

Onomastics and Anthropometry on the Constitution Day

As they never get tired of saying, on a lighter note (my wife and I stopped by a record store today), I suggest that we examine President Putin’s first name, Vladimir. Like Boris, it is Slavic — a minority among common Russian names. Like Boris, it is not a typical name for the top guy in Russia’s history: from St. Vladimir, who baptized Russia, to Vladimir Lenin, who de-baptized it, I can only name one ruler by this name, the wise and successful Vladimir Monomachus. In the general population, however, the name is quite common, its colloquial forms being Volodya, Vova and, of course, Vovochka — the sexually overcharged puerile character of a gazillion adolescent Russian jokes.

Putin is short, lean and lithe (while Schroeder, for instance, is short and stocky), and walks like a cat, as students of martial arts do. Let’s look at the tall/short czar distribution in Russian history. Peter the Great, the merciless Westernizer, was rather tall (6’9” or so). After his death, for most of the 18 century Russia didn’t have male czars (Peter II, Ivan VI/III and Peter III don’t count). The century’s last emperor, Pavel I, supposedly Peter’s great-grandson and something of an oddball, was short. Alexander I, Napoleon’s male nemesis; Nicholas I, the all-Russian Feldwebel; Alexander II, the Liberator, and Alexander III, the reactionary peacemaker, were all tall and impressively built. Nicholas II, the loser, Lenin, Stalin, and Khruschev (another liberator of sorts) were all short. Strangely, but I don’t remember how tall Brezhnev was; Andropov was tall and Chernenko nothing special. Gorbachev is relatively short; Yeltsin is tall and big. Overall, this list seems to show one should beware of short Russian leaders more than tall ones.

Finally, there is a long-noted alternation between bald and hairy leaders, at least in post-1917 times. Ignore khalifs for an hour, and you’ll see it’s a no-nonsense law of History!


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