Preserved Stories Blog

An exemplary study in story management: Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2015)

I’ve been reading with interest a Brookings Institution study entitled: Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2015).

The way the book itself is constructed is a study in effective story management. As well, the contents of the book – featuring a cogent overview of the past and current impact of Russian history – constitute an exemplary study in story management, as demonstrated in the authors’ timely narrative of the life and times of the current Russian president.

I’ve outlined reasons for my interest in the Brookings study at a previous post:

Mr. Putin (2015) illustrates that story management is possible even in the absence of evidence-based biographical details

I have an interest in this study in particular because it have given rise to many insights for me, regarding how stories work, and how they are managed.

I have a strong interest in the fact that so much can be explained regarding the past and present of Vladimir Putin even in the absence of solid biographical data.

I am impressed, as well, with how this Brookings study has been able to draw out information related to people’s formative life experiences, and in that process arrive at a coherent story about what a given person’s mind-set and world view happens to be, with particular relevance to what is happening in the news right now, on any given day.

Colonel Samuel Smith and the management of organized violence

I can connect to the strategy that Fiona Hill and Clifford Caddy, the authors of the study in question, have adopted. Some years ago, I developed an interest in the story of Colonel Samuel Smith, about whom I have written at some length in years past, at this website. There is relatively little known, by way of archival and historical evidence, regarding the colonel, who in the late 1700s and early 1800s owned all of the land that is now known as Long Branch, the Toronto neighbourhood where I have lived for 20 years, and who owned land beyond the borders of Long Branch as well.

Because little is known about the colonel, in the historical record, I began to read about the history of the British empire, First Nations history, and the world history of warfare. Such reading has enabled me to get a good understanding of what the colonel’s life and career – and the life and career of a friend of his, John Graves Simcoe, about whom more biographical details are known – were about. Biography can only explain a finite amount about a person’s life and behaviour. That’s a key insight that I have gained, from my study of the context of Colonel Samuel Smith’s life, and from my study of Fiona Hill and Clifford Caddy’s excellent overview of Mr. Putin’s mind-set and world view.

The Story of Mississauga

This personal study has proceeded within the context of a wider area of study, namely the study of what stories are about, and how they work. The concept of story management, as distinct from storytelling, is of particular relevance for me, at this stage of my reading and thinking about these topics. The Story of Mississauga project has in particular prompted my interest in understanding how story management  – as a concept and practice related to heritage management – works.

Mr. Putin is not experienced in dealing with hostile crowds

The foregoing comments are a preamble to the following quotation (p. 183) from Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2015).

Having closely read all of the rest of the book, this is a passage that really stands out for me:

The les­sons Putin then learned during his time in St. Petersburg in dealing with businesses propelled him to Moscow in 1996. He came to Moscow and embarked on a mission that did not require the application of his lim­ited economic or political skills. He was not supposed to provide input into policy or deal with mobs. He was called up almost as a “sleeper operative” to work for people in the Kremlin and eventually deal with businesses and businessmen, as he had done in St. Petersburg. The methods for exerting leverage he had developed in St. Petersburg were his key strengths. The other tools at his disposal would become relevant later when he began to move rapidly up the leadership ladder in Mos­cow. Only when he got to the top would some of his weaknesses – like dealing with hostile crowds – prove problematic.



An April 13, 2016 (note it’s 2016) Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article by Fiona Hill is entitled: “The one-man show the West doesn’t understand.”

An April 13, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia: Exclusive: GCHQ is said to have alerted US agencies after becoming aware of contacts in 2015.”

An April 16, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “Hungary’s liberals find a hero in their battle against Viktor Orbán: Academic Michael Ignatieff’s stand for academic freedom has gained attention.”

An April 19, 2017 Reuters article is entitled: “Exclusive: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election – documents.”

A May 6, 2017 Los Angeles Review of Books article is entitled: “Protest Tea: Victoria Lomasko’s ‘Other Russias'”.

A May 11, 2017 Boston Review article is entitled: “Understanding Populist Challenges to the Global Order.”

A May 22, 2017 Center for European Policy Analysis article is entitled: “The dangerous appeal of the Russian regime.”

A June 2017 Global Dialogue article is entitled: “Duterte’s Revolt against Liberal Democracy.”

A June 18, 2017 CBC article is entitled: “Civilian oversight key to offensive cyber operations, says expert: ‘When you use malware against someone, they can reverse engineer it,’ expert says about cyber bombs.”

A Best of 2016 Longreads article is entitled: “Theorizing the Drone: What does the rise of the drone mean for justice, for the ethics of heroism, for psychology? Most important of all, who is dying and why?”

A July 2017 Longreads article is entitled: “A Heart That Watches and Receives: ‘Please don’t give up on the truth.’ A commencement address by author and historian Hampton Sides.”

Peel Regional Police and the Story of Mississauga

The following topic is of relevance with regard to what will be features as integral to the Story of Mississauga: An April 22, 2017 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Peel police discriminated against decorated officer based on race, rights tribunal rules: Peel police discriminated against a South Asian officer and devalued the South Asian community, a human rights tribunal has ruled.”


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