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Bald or hairy: rule of thumb for Russian leaders

Vladimir Radyuhin

— Photo: AP

PUTTING THEir HEADS TOGETHER: Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting in Moscow in this recent photo.

MOSCOW: Whatever other imprint, Russia’s likely future President Dmitry Medvedev will leave in history one he has already made with his hairline: he has confirmed the long-standing Russian theory that bald and hairy leaders alternate each other in the Kremlin in strict succession.

This rule has never been broken for close to 130 years, ever since the balding Alexander III took over from hairy father in 1881.

Nicolas II, who succeeded Alexander III, was hairy, Vladimir Lenin was bald, Joseph Stalin was hairy, Nikita Khrushchev was bald, Leonid Brezhnev was hairy. Balding Yuri Andropov was succeeded by hairy Nikolai Chernenko, who left his seat to bald Mikhail Gorbachev.

Hairy Boris Yeltsin promoted balding Vladimir Putin, who has now supported hairy Dmitry Medvedev as his preferred successor.

A closer look at Russian history shows that the strange tradition of hairy-bald succession worked also for those turbulent times when interim leaders replaced each other in kaleidoscopic succession. During several months of turmoil after the February Revolution of 1917, which brought down Nicolas II, and the October Revolution of 1917, which installed Lenin in power, Russia was ruled by the Provisional Government. It was first headed by bald Count Lvov and then hairy Alexander Kerensky.

Another short interim period came after Stalin died and before Khrushchev came to power. There again bald Beria was replaced by hairy Malenkov.

Many Russians believe that it is God that his playing with them. Some claim, for instance, that hairy Yevgeny Primakov pulled out of the 2000 presidential race against baldish Mr. Putin because he did not fit into the hairy-bald succession pattern and, therefore, had no chance of winning.

Adherents of the quirky bald-hairy theory say that Mr. Medvedev is assured of victory in the March 2 presidential poll, not so much because he has the support of the incumbent President, but because he is hairy enough.

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