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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vlad's School Report

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Putin,

I have just returned from Moscow where I visited your son at the academy there. I am writing to you to express some concerns I have with your son's behavior.

First, as I know you are already aware, Vladimir continues to terrorize the children of the neighboring Kavkaz School despite repeated protests from the academy’s staff. But more worryingly, there have been some new developments in recent months that give rise to increased concern on our part.

Vladimir has become very aggressive in the politics of our own playground. Firstly, he has set up a gang of seven boys and together they have been hounding the 89 boys of the Governor family (who admittedly are fairly rambunctious themselves).

We could ignore this as there has been no actual violence and to be frank, behavior in the playground — which has been unruly in the past — has generally improved. To give you an example, in a recent fight between one of Vladimir’s "gang" members, young Leonid Reiman tried to snatch the mobile phone of an older boy, Dmitry Zimin. We understand that Vladimir stepped in and made Reiman return the phone, which is good.

When Vladimir graduates from the academy and joins society at large, his aggressive behavior and "strongman tactics" will be frowned upon.However, we cannot condone the existence of "gangs" in the playground, nor do we approve of young Vladimir appointing himself as a playground policeman as, after all, that is what school rules are for.

Furthermore, what is unforgivable is that other members of the "gang" have actually turned to violence on occasion. We are led to believe (although we have no proof) that Vladimir has cooped Gazprom Major into his circle of "toughs" who then persuaded Gazprom Minor to beat up young Gusinsky, who is now in the hospital and may not recover.

Nevertheless, given the long tradition of rough and tumble in the Moscow academy, staff is willing to ignore Vladimir’s brutal behavior in the playground, as he seems to be making dramatic progress in his classes.

Let me start by underlining that since Vladimir began school this March he has still a long way to go. There is still no progress in the subjects of banking, agriculture and utilities — all essential to his future graduation.

I take some slight encouragement from a recent term paper he wrote on "Restructuring the Central Bank of Russia," which showed that he understands that this is an important topic. However, his solution of effectively renationalizing the Central Bank suggests Vladimir still has a poor understanding of this subject.

I blame this in part on Vladimir’s insistence on continuing to associate with Viktor Gerashchenko, a particularly unsavory member of his gang.

Likewise, Vladimir has made no progress in utilities. Although he has written several papers on this topic since April, in conjunction with his classmate Anatoly Chubais, they have continued to get Ds. Vladimir’s tutors say that he is in the process of writing a new paper that will be submitted in November, which I hope will show that he has finally buckled down to the task at hand.

In both these subjects he is struggling with the basic approach. While he is a supremely confident young man (clearly seen in his love of sports, where he is particularly adept) these papers suggest that he believes he can solve most problems on his own. I would strongly recommend that he be enrolled in a movement such as the Boy Scouts, as he badly needs to learn of the joys of team work. Being king of the playground may be nice for him, but it is not necessarily pleasant for the other children.

This said, I am happy to report that Vladimir is showing great promise in several other key subject areas. I know that you are well aware that he passed the first part of the tax exam with flying colors and I am glad to say he continues to get straight As in the subject of tax collection. I feel confident that Vladimir will do well in the second part of the tax reform exams coming up after the Christmas break.

But what you might not be aware of is his good results in his class on Customs Reforms, where he has also scored an A. He has learned to use the computer recently installed in the Customs department and handed in, this month, a poignant essay on how "reducing the complexity of the customs tariff system will reduce corruption." I understand that this essay went as far as to discuss the benefits of a single tariff for all imports, which shows a radical boldness of thought that we had not previously expected from him.

Likewise, Vladimir has turned in a solid performance in the Pension Reform, Intellectual Property and Budget classes. Unfortunately, a bout of tummy bug among his classmates in Duma 101 meant that the term paper on Land Reform has been put off for at least a month, despite an encouraging start.

As for the rest of this term, Vladimir’s tutors inform me that he is showing signs of making progress in other areas. According to the Cabinet curriculum he is due to take a series of important tests in the run-up to the holidays.

Probably the most important, and certainly the most difficult for him, will be the Bureaucratic Reform Bee that is due in November, whereas I think he will do better in the Production Sharing Agreements exam due by December.

In conclusion, let me say that while I applaud Vladimir’s academic progress, I feel that I must point out that when he finally graduates from the academy and joins society at large, his aggressive behavior and "strongman tactics" will be frowned upon.

If he is serious about reading Economic Prosperity at the WTO University, then he will need to change his friends and learn to behave in a more civilized manner.

Best Regards,
Jean Lemierre

Ben Aris is a Moscow-based freelance journalist. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.