Vladimir Putin is reputed to love Russian literature. So did Joseph Stalin, who read voraciously and even gave “advice” to authors after reading their manuscripts carefully. For that matter, Czar Nicholas I made himself Alexander Pushkin’s personal censor, a dubious honor the poet would rather have forgone. Even Lenin was influenced as much by Nicholas Chernyshevsky’s utopian novel “What Is to Be Done?” as by Karl Marx.
Why would Russian leaders take such an interest in literature? Even if Mr. Putin only pretends to be guided by great writers, why should he feel the need for such pretense? American presidents don’t claim to get their ideas from “Moby-Dick” or “The Scarlet Letter.”
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