The free world’s politicians have recovered from their shock at Vladimir Putin’s latest land grabs and political murders; the journalists, together with Putin’s surviving opponents, have retreated to their desks to produce a flurry of books, of which these three are part. The most substantial in research, as well as length, is Steven Lee Myers’s The New Tsar. ‘Tsar’, however, is the wrong title for a man who more resembles a Führer or Duce. The old tsars, at least the last half-dozen, were very different from Putin: they were prepared for their role by Europe’s most enlightened tutors, they were concerned to provide an heir fit to rule after them, they were related to most of the crowned heads of Europe and, usually, they tried to maintain good relations with their cousins’ kingdoms. True, the old tsars did not prevent the Crimean War or the First World War, but they generally kept the peace. The main fear of the old tsars’ loyal ministers was that one day the country would be run by ‘the cook’s children’ they had carelessly allowed to receive education.
Inasmuch as Vladimir Putin is a cook’s grandchild, that fear has been realised.