Vladimir Putin Rewrites History (and the Present)
Tucker Carlson licks boots
In 2002, Russian security services published a photograph: It showed Achimez Gochiyayev, clad in a track suit; sitting next to Ibn al-Khattab.
The photo was shocking and perplexing. Gochiyayev hailed from the North Caucuses, but he had lived and worked in Moscow for more than a decade. Al-Khattab was a warlord who had fought against the Russians in the First Chechen War. The photo was the missing link, authorities said, to explain why Gochiyayev had orchestrated a series of explosions which killed more than 300 people — and which very nearly killed many more. He was working for the Chechens.
The photo of Gochiyayev matched closely with a composite sketch of a man who had been spotted visiting the apartment buildings. The bombs had been hidden in storage spaces under the buildings — two went off, two were defused.
But there was a strange tension at the middle of the accusation. It had been nearly three years since the bombings had taken place: Why was the state just now, finally, making this allegation? Months earlier, when al-Qaeda attacked America, the culprits were identified in a matter of days.
Some in Russia were convinced that the state was incapable of getting to the bottom of the bombings. Or, perhaps, they were just unwilling to. Suspicious independent investigators, who knew all too well the Kremlin’s penchant for deception, had been conducting their own probe.
Shortly after that photo was released, the investigators’ phone rang: The voice on the other end said Gochiyayev wanted to talk.
The investigators set up a clandestine meeting. There, Gochiyayev admitted to renting storage areas inside the apartment buildings where the bombs had been placed. But, he said, it wasn’t done at the behest of al-Khattab: He was asked to rent the locations by a business associate. One who happened to work with the FSB. After the first two blasts, he put two and two together and called in details about the other two storage facilities to the police, possibly saving hundreds of lives. Then he skipped town.
This sent the non-state investigators down a rabbithole. They became fixated on this composite sketch of Gochiyayev. The more they stared at it, the more unreal it became.
They sifted through press clippings from the day of the first bombing. The papers had initially run a composite sketch that looked nothing like the one which had been published later. This initial sketch looked nothing like Gochiyayev. In fact, one of these independent investigators, an ex-FSB agent named Mikhail Trepashkin, recognized the man as Vladimir Romanovich, a gangster and informant to the security services. After the explosions, the sketch of Romanovich was altered to look like Gochiyayev, his patsy.
One of the main investigators, Alexander Litvinenko, rushed to bring this information to an committee studying the bombings. They wanted to move quickly to ensure that the facts would not be altered, like that composite sketch of the bomber.
They were right to be worried.
Romanovich had been killed in a hit-and-run just weeks after the bombings. Trepashkin was arrested for illegal weapons possession a week before his scheduled testimony at the committee. Gochiyayev disappeared, and hasn’t been seen since. Litvineko was poisoned with polonium in London and died in terrible agony.
The composite sketch, the one based on a lie, became the historical truth. The damning photo linking the alleged bomber to Chechen terrorists became the pretext for the Second Chechen War: A chance for a former FSB agent, who had just been installed as President of Russia, to make his mark.
In the two decades since, Vladimir Putin has understood at a profound level the importance of rewriting both the past and the present.
This week, on a very special subscribers-only Bug-eyed and Shameless, I want to talk about the grand platform which Tucker Carlson gave to Putin’s revisionist history. And I want to connect these blatant falsehoods to the actual historical record, lest their tag-team become the established narrative.
To properly understand Bug-eyed and Shameless, we must start in the 11th century with Prince Sviatopolk I the Cursed…
For those who haven’t watched last week’s much-ballyhooed sit-down interview between the Russian autocrat and his most enthusiastic Western press attaché: You’re not missing much.
Clocking in at over two hours, the interview is only worthwhile to watch Carlson struggle to tread water in the shallow end of the intellectual kiddie pool.
Perhaps the greatest moment comes around minute eight, as Putin waxes about the reunification of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, and Carlson interjects. “I beg your pardon, could you tell us what period? I’m losing track of where in history we are.”
“It was the 13th century,” Putin sneers: “Now, I will tell you what happened later and give the dates so that there is no confusion.”
Carlson tries to intervene a minute later, as he is handed stacks of historical documents by a Putin underling, to protest that Putin’s historical diatribe seems completely irrelevant — but Putin brushes him off. “It may be boring,” Putin says, “but it explains many things.”
And, he’s right!
Understanding Putin’s uses, and abuses, of Russian history can go a long way towards understanding how he has managed to mollify a nation into accepting a war it doesn’t want. So let’s break down some highlights and correct the record.
And lord knows that Tucker Carlson wasn’t going to do it.