Thursday 18 December 2014

Moscow Calling

It's the little things.

The 11am news on Radio Four led on Vladimir Putin.

Then came half an hour on the Russian ultranationalists who were sending men to fight in Ukraine.

Followed by half on hour on Stierlitz, "the Soviet James Bond", an interesting insight into the fact that the Soviet Union had a popular as well as an elite culture, that it really was very popular indeed, and that plenty of people are well and truly nostalgic for it.

Finally, the news at noon led on Vladimir Putin.

This is Radio Four. This is, rightly, what we Radio Four listeners are deemed to need to know.

Angela Merkel's English is good, but it was for Russian that she won nationwide prizes as a schoolgirl. Putin was the KGB Bureau Chief in Berlin; his German will be practically native. His English could be a comedy sketch.

The long history of common culture is as evident from the very name of Stierlitz, a fierce and cerebral Soviet patriot, as it is from the fact that, at the outbreak of the First World War, the German, Austrian and Russian Ambassadors in London were all cousins.

The Austrian one was called Mensdorff, and the Russian one was called Benckendorf. It was the German one who was called Lichnowsky.

I grew up at what we we were at least implicitly taught was the End of History. It wasn't.


  1. Damn, you are a clever and well read man.

  2. Best political thinker of his generation, that's Mr L.

    1. Bloody hell, I hope not!

      There ought to be some contenders by now. Look out for a post on that in the New Year.