The world was in quite a pickle in 1944, the year Vladimir Putin was born. The Germans were being chased out of the Baltic Countries (soon to become slave satrapies of the USSR) and the historic Hanseatic Port of Riga was now a huge concentration camp, where eleven million prisoners of all nationalities were forced to build Liberty Ships until they dropped dead from hunger.
Little Vladimir knew nothing of this. His father was a leading apparatchiknik in the Bottle City of Kandor, beyond the Urals. Vlad lived a sheltered life. So sheltered that when he was fourteen and sent to prep school, the other boys laughed at him when the instructor asked for High Points of the Great Patriotic War and Vladimir Putin suggested the Battle of Mukden.
Vladimir didn’t mind. He consoled himself with his Paint-by-Numbers set (a legacy from his wealthy aunt) and dreamt of the day when the finest trollops and art galleries down Nevsky Prospekt would vie for his favors.
How Vladimir loved coming home for the long holidays! The soft incandescent light burning in the hallways, showing the way to the Fabergé-tiled washroom with the gold-plated faucets; for this had once been the dacha of Grand Duke Nicholas.
“Would you like soft pretzel for little breakfast, Vladimir Ivanovichki?” his mother whistled down the hall, using the diminutive of the familiar patronymic. “Soft pretzel good, come all way from Philadelphiosk!”