Russia’s strong man, Vladimir Putin, is even more in the news this week with revelations, in the Washington Post and The New York Times, that his country was determined to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election, and moved to support this via hacked emails and other methods, or so CIA sources claim. A full-tilt probe is forthcoming. But for now, consider this bit of Putin history.
In my new book, The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill, I explore what happened when the wall finally fell in 1989. For one thing: emboldened East Germans ransacked offices of the notorious Stasi secret police (whose informers play a key role in my book). This has had important favorable consequences down to this day, as files retrieved (the ones not shredded) allowed citizens to discover who was spying and informing on them for decades. And writers such as myself have been able to draw on these files for books and articles.
The story of what Putin–then a high-level KGB spy official in Dresden–did when the Wall fell has emerged in recent years, including his own tale (meant to place him in a heroic context) of holding off the ransacking mobs with a pistol. Here’s one link. And the Daily Beast had a longer take, including the image of Putin burning files himself in a stove. My book explains the full significance of the liberation of the files–and of East Germany.
“Putin succeeded in persuading the crowd to fall back.” State TV has in the past described how Mr Putin brandished a pistol in front of the crowd and used his fluent German to make it clear he was prepared to use it.
“This is Soviet territory and you’re standing on our border,” he was quoted as saying. “I’m serious when I say that I will shoot trespassers.” A witness was quoted as saying that Mr Putin issued the threat with his trademark assurance.