Russian President Vladimir Putin is a well-known dog lover. It is not uncommon to see an official photo of him in his Kremlin office, meeting with some high official, and there, in the foreground, a black Labrador retriever – Connie – reclines on the floor.
In 2004, the children’s book Connie’s Stories was published. But it was not a salacious, ground’s eye view of Kremlin life. In fact, the word “Putin” does not appear in the book; usually the dog Connie refers simply to his хоз≈яин (master).
In Russia, long before Putin came to power, dogs roamed the halls of power and the alleyways of slums. But everywhere they were considered loyal friends. In the movie Diamond Arm, when the boorish Upravdom [head of the house committee] blames a dog owner for letting his pet “do his thing” on the courtyard grass, the hapless Semyon Semyonovich Gorbunkov recalls his experience in London, where dogs are allowed everywhere – because, he insists, “соб≈ака друг челов≈ека” (dog is man’s friend). To which the lady retorts, “Не зн≈аю, как там в Л≈ондоне, не был≈а. М≈ожет, там соб≈ака друг челов≈ека. А у нас – управд≈ом друг челов≈ека.” (“I don’t know how things are in London – never been there. Maybe there, the dog is man’s friend. But here it is the Upravdom who is man’s friend.”) The famous exchange from this 1970s movie, suggested what a hard life – cоб≈ачья жизнь – Soviets had, if their best friend is really the Upravdom. (Yet, if you have walked through enough Russian courtyards, you may well agree that Gorbunkov’s Upravdom had a point about dogs leaving their mark.)
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