Vladimir Bukovsky on how to speak to Putin

I have freely translated pieces from a recent interview by Vladimir Bukovsky, the famous Soviet dissident, with Ukrinform. The subject is how to deal with Putin: tell him to go hang himself.

To clear things up from the start, poslat’ na khuy technically means “to tell one to impale oneself on the speaker’s or somebody else’s penis” but in practice is a rude way to tell a person to go away and never come back. A short version, poslat’, is essentially the same but more socially acceptable. I’m using “f— off” and similar expressions in the translation.

You mustn’t give in and you shouldn’t put up with it. While the enemy is in your territory, don’t negotiate. That would be admitting defeat, de-facto. I understand that one has to put up with pressure from Merkel and other clueless people. They think they are peacemakers but they actually do a lot of harm. In fact, if you’re negotiating with Putin, it means he is halfway to winning. But Merkel does not understand anything – what can you expect from her? She was chief of East German Komsomol under Honecker. She’s a conformist by nature.

What can you do then? I’ve thought about teaching a special course in the West: how to tell people to f— off. We’ve got a simple answer in such situations in Russia: “Go do you-know-what to yourself.” My lessons are primarily for politicians. Together with my friend Edik [Eduard] Kuznetsov, we spent two hours teaching this to the current Israeli PM, Netanyahu…

In Camp 35 in Perm, convicts had their own interethnic Grand Council. It dealt with problems in the camp unofficially, making sure there was no arbitrary breaking of rules [proizvol]. Once Ukrainians complained to the council: “We have a problem. One of us, an aging, mild-mannered teacher from Transcarpatia, often gets summoned by the kum [a cop with broad authority overseeing convicts’ lives in a camp] and from his office, the cop always sends the teacher to solitary for fifteen days. So he gets locked up all the time and he’s an old man and his health isn’t that great…” I said the case was clear: “The cop is recruiting him as an informant and the teacher doesn’t know how tell the cop to f— off. The teacher is replying to him in a nice way: ‘Sorry but I can’t… sorry but I don’t really want to…’ You’ve got to tell it the Russian way: explicitly, looking him in the eye.’

The High Council asked me to explain all that to the teacher. When he was out of the hole, I approached him and we brewed tea… The teacher turned red: ‘I cannot say such words.’ I spent two hours teaching him… His lips wouldn’t curl to utter that expression – he knew several languages but couldn’t tell a person to f— off. But I prevailed. The cop called him to his office again; the teacher told him to go f— himself and got locked up again. But they left him alone after that.

Telling people to go hang is a great art, which the West never mastered in dealing with the Soviets. But that’s the only way because KGB is a special breed of animal. They don’t understand a “no”; you can’t have an agreement with them – they won’t offer a compromise themselves and an adversary’s offer of a compromise is a sign of weakness to them. So if you don’t flip off KGB, you’ve just brought great trouble upon yourself. It means they are going to pressure you more and more until they recruit you. To the KGB, you’re one of two things: either you’re their enemy or you’re their agent. And there’s nothing in-between the two.

That’s why you have to stare Putin in the eyes and say, “Putin, go and do you-know-what.” That’s all. I’m ready to go to Kiev and teach Petr Alexeevich [Poroshenko] how to do that.

Two notes. Bukovsky is speaking Russian so it’s natural that he calls Poroshenko Petr, or Pyotr, Alexe(y)evich rather than Petro Olexiyovych. If Putin were to move to Ukraine and speak Ukrainian, he would be addressed as Volodymyr Volodymyrovych.

Second, Bukovsky was truly famous in the USSR: only 29 in 1971, he was arrested for a fourth time and sentenced to seven years in prison and five in exile for protesting against the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union. The Soviet press tended to avoid mentioning political dissenters but Pravda not only wrote about Bukovsky but called him a “heinous hooligan.” When the dissident was exchanged for the leader of Chilean communists, Luis Corvalán, a doggerel became popular in the USSR that went like this:

They’ve exchanged a hooligan
For Luis Corvalan.
Where can we find a suitable whore
To exchange our Brezhnev for?


  1. Thanks for the translation. Bukovsky is right. Someone should tell Putin to go forth and multiply. There’s been way too much “diplomacy” in this crisis, from one side at least. If I hear another expression of “grave concern” I’m going to scream. Luckily, some of the eastern members of the EU are becoming more forthright.

    And has any leader of a major state lied as brazenly on the world stage as Putin has done over the past six months?

    I remember Bukovsky’s statement on human rights: “I’m not from the left camp, I’m not from the right camp, I’m from the concentration camp.”

  2. How refreshing to read something along the lines I have been quoting for some time. Rather than accuse Putin of all manner of problems we should be encouraging him and Russia to join forces with the West to make a concerted effort to deal with ISIS and, after the latest atrocity in Pakistan, the Taliban. The more intelligent nations need to get together to deal effectively with an evil that is spreading. Obama should wake up and remove all sanctions immediately and commence negotiations with Putin now.

  3. Spot on there beelza the Kremlins useful idiots always go into overdrive on here when Putler has a big steaming pile of sh1te to cover up 😉

  4. Though admittedly that it has been plausibly argued that Poroshenko probably knew better but his hand was forced by the nationalist nutters like the US State Dept’s pick “Yats”.

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