Welcome to the Kremlin’s phantasmagoric world, where a heady mixture of Orthodoxy, socialism, imperialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and Mother Russia worship defines and distorts reality. Vovochka is the fictional story of “Vovochka Putin” and his intimate friend—a KGB agent with the same nickname. The two Vovochkas recruit informers in Berlin’s gay bars, spy on East German dissidents, survive the trauma of the Soviet Union’s collapse, fight American, Ukrainian, Jewish, and Estonian fascists, and plot to restore Russia’s power and glory. As their mindset assumes increasingly bizarre forms, “Vovochka Putin” experiences bouts of self-doubt that culminate in a weeklong cure in North Korea. A savagely satirical novel, Vovochka is also a terrifyingly plausible account of a Russian president’s evolution from a minor KGB agent in East Germany to the self-styled Savior and warmongering leader of a paranoid state.
“I’ve been actively criticizing Putin in all my academic work since the early 2000s,” says Motyl. “Since 2006 I’ve been insisting that his regime is fascist and that he is a tyrant. His imperialist war against Ukraine was, thus, a direct consequence of his ideology, mindset, personality, and regime. It was at the height of the war, in late 2014, that I resolved to fight Putin, not just with analysis, but also with satire. After all, there’s nothing that narcissistic macho leaders hate more than to be laughed at. Vovochka is, in that sense, a sustained laughing at Russia’s paranoid fascist Führer.
The book is dedicated “To all the victims of the real Putin’s wars.”