Are you familiar with any of these names? Sergei Shoigu, Nikolai Patrushev, Alexander Bortnikov, Yuri Kovalchuk, Vladimir Medinsky, or Anton Vaino? Hint: They are NOT characters in a book written by Leo Tolstoy. Instead of fictitious, these individuals are reportedly Vladimir Putin’s BFFs. At least, they are today.

Supposedly, there was another guy on that short list not too long ago. Anatoly Chubais. He and his wife are now said to be residing in Istanbul. Apparently, there was a bit of a falling out between Vlad the Mad and Anatoly after Comrade Chubais recently got on social media and featured a picture of Boris Nemtsov, a rather vocal Russian opposition leader who met an untimely demise on a Moscow Bridge in 2015. It seems the posting of such a photo is akin to opposing the Ukrainian war, and such sentiments are currently heavily frowned upon in and around the Kremlin.

Rumor has it Chubais actually gave Putin his first Kremlin job. And Vlad repaid the favor by making Anatoly the Russian climate envoy back in December 2020. He also was something of the post-communist privatization czar after the fall of the U.S.S.R. His various economic investments might have left him rather well off, hence the ability to hie off to Turkey when the time was right.

There is no word on whether the remaining cadre of companions surrounding Putin are anything other than totally loyal. They all might be 100% on board with recent military decisions, or they just always avoid crossing the Moscow Bridge. Chances are, most, if not all, of the advisors are playing their cards close to the vest and waiting to see what happens with the bombs and bullets.

It could be the chosen few are steeped in fairly recent history and have been reading up on a time when another strong-armed Russian leader was in pretty much total power. Back in 1953, a guy named Stalin (you may remember him) was the comrade-among-comrades whose word was basically law. Reports vary as to whether he was responsible for killing 20 million or 60 million fellow citizens, but one thing is certain: The Ukrainian people were not to his liking.

In those bygone days, Ukraine was already part of the Soviet Union. Taking over the country by military force wasn’t necessary. However, from what I’ve read, those pesky Ukrainians had pushed back on Stalin’s idea of collectivization. Basically, the State was to run all farms and distribute all the harvest produced on those acres as it saw fit. Ukraine’s small farmers, who mainly grew enough for their families and maybe a neighbor or two, didn’t like the idea of giving up their land and livelihoods.

Stalin was not a fan of such resistance. And he retaliated by going ahead and taking all the grain and other foodstuffs produced in Ukraine and sending them to other countries under his control. That resulted in the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33. It was known as the Holodomor, a word that apparently combines the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death.” As the fine folks at relate, Holodomor “by one estimate claimed the lives of 3.9 million people, about 13% of the population.”  All because some independent-minded Ukrainian farmers (“saboteurs” in Joe’s lexicon) wanted nothing to do with his totalitarian regime.

Stop me if any of this sounds vaguely familiar.

By 1953, Stalin was 74 years old and had already had some health issues (a stroke and heart attack in the 1940s seem to be the consensus). No one was quite sure about his next move. His inner circle consisted of four powerbrokers who were also potential successors.

The cast of characters included Deputy Premier Georgy Malenkov, Chief of the Secret Police Lavrenti Beria, Defense Minister Nikolai Bulganin, and a rising Communist Party star named Nikita Khruschev, who, oddly enough, was pretty much a Ukrainian. At least a couple of those guys may have thought they could provide better leadership than Stalin.

On the night of February 28th, Papa Joe and his merry band of sycophants were all together at Stalin’s dacha. By the next night, the 30-year reign of terror was over. Some speculate Joe was poisoned, although that’s never been 100% proven. And the Ukrainian Khruschev would eventually emerge as head honcho. (He would later denounce Stalin.)

Now, all that having been said, there’s no reason to believe history might repeat itself, is there? Surely Shoigu, Patrushev, Bortnikov, Kovalchuk, Medinsky, and Vaino want nothing more than to serve their buddy Putin unequivocally. Just as Stalin’s quartet did. In the meantime, keep those names handy. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, right? And the Ukraine team is playing well.

©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III  – Freelance Writer