The tsar of the French

In attracting Gérard Depardieu to Russia, Putin has won what Russia’s leaders have sought for centuries – French respect.

Vladimir Putin has finally done it. Russia has been vying for the West’s esteem for centuries, with approval by the French – a sought-after prize since the time of Peter the Great – coveted the most. But, despite the defeat of Napoleon and the First World War alliance, Russia could never get any respect from France. Indeed, the Marquis de Custine’s “Letters from Russia” suggested that Russian civilisation amounted to little more than the mimicry of monkeys.

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