Putin. The Leap Year [Putin. Visokosny god] (2001)

Director Vitaly Mansky; cameramen Yuryi Ermolin, Vyacheslav Sachkov, Alexandr Kuznetsov, Eugeny Sveshnikov, Pavel Sukhov, Sergey Miroshnichenko, Igor Muraviev, Sergey Shishkin, Vitaly Mansky; sound director Lidiya Scherbakova, Alexandr Veselkin; producer Natalia Manskaya

Production: Studio “Vertov &K” ordered by TV Channel RTR
Length: 55 min
Where it was shown: TV Channel RTR (Russia)

Personalities shown: Ludmila Putina, Tony Blair, Maya Plisetskya, Bill Clinton, Gerhard Schroder, Yury Luzhkov, Alexander Lukashenko, Nursultan Nazarbaev, Sergei Shoigu, Patriarch Alexy II, etc.
Characters: Vera Gurevich, Vladimir Putin

Film online (4 minutes):

Excerpt from Putin. The Leap Year (2001).

Putin. The Leap Year [Putin. Visokosny god] was made by Vitaly Mansky with footage from the first year of Putin’s presidency (starting from his first days in the Kremlin when he became the Acting President until May 7th, 2001, the 1st anniversary of his official presidency). It includes some material from Unknown Putin. Peace and War [Neizvestny Putin. Mir I Voina]  (2000). Mansky comments on some of the footage. In 2018, Mansky made another film, Putin’s Witnesses [Svideteli Putina] (2018), where he also uses video from the two earlier films.

The camera follows Putin during his trips, visits, and meetings, and the film is organized as a whirl of faces and places that Putin walks and works through. This is a series of work trips rather than an election campaign or a promotional tour. The way the film is edited takes you through this non-stop presidential year: catastrophes and terrorist attacks, TV shows, and sparing with kids on tatami mats. Putin is presented as a very active and versatile person: he drives a tractor, flies a plane, tours a submarine, etc. He dares to go to Chechnya and leave flowers where the paratroopers from Pskov died and visits Vedyaevo, the place where the Kursk submariners lived before dying in a tragic accident.

There is Vladimir Putin whose image has not yet been completely formed into the one we know nowadays. It is not yet the image of the Soviet spy Stierlitz from the Soviet TV series “Seventeen Moments of Spring” that is often replicated in recent TV documentaries about Vladimir Putin—an image that seems so close and familiar and yet so distant and strange.

We observe the happy face of the president when he talks to women on the street; we observe his pale and tragic face when he speaks about terrorist attacks; we observe him comforting a random man in the passage under Pushkin Square after the terrorist explosion there. These scenes, as well as the one with Putin cuddling a dog, swimming in his pool, or talking about the impossibility of grabbing a beer like a normal person, shorten the distance to Putin as a personality enormously.

Putin is hugging a man in the passage under Pushkin Square in Moscow after the terrorist attack

Women become an important element of the film’s storytelling: old women in the streets, a young girl with a Pioneer tie, the famous ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who bows to him on the stage… The old babushkas call him “My boy” and say they trust him.

These women hug him, smile at him, honor him. Then widows of the sailors from the sunk submarine Kursk become a part of the film’s agenda, a silent (in this documentary) symbol of the tragedy within the submarine. In Putin. The Leap Year we often see the President’s wife Ludmila. She appears with him at official meetings, in trips that are left unnamed, walking together and holding hands. It is very rare that such footage is included in documentary films about Putin. In most, the focus remains on his mother and teacher, rather than his wife or daughters.

Vladimir Putin’s personal life in this film appears as a kaleidoscope of family photos, which travel from one documentary to another. Mansky and Putin, in the film, have several conversations that often happen late in the evening. They discuss uncomfortable topics: the possibility of extending the President’s term, life after leaving the presidency, Vladimir Putin’s political views, and his attitude to the Communist past, both his own and that of his country.

Quote from the film:

I have talked quite often with monarchs in various parts of the world during official visits in this last year. And I can say that their fate does not inspire me to repeat something like that because their life is hard, full of limitations. People, they do not belong to themselves and that is their destiny. And this is already forever. In this sense, the life and fate of the elected head of state is, in my opinion, much better, because it gives a person an opportunity and a chance to prove himself in the greatest deed of serving the Motherland, to the maximum. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to live a normal life after fulfilling official duties, after the end of a term of office. However, at the same time, it always reminds him that this period will end someday. And, firstly, it will be necessary to live the life of a normal person and it is necessary, as we used to say, to not be ashamed of the lived years. And so that there was an opportunity in their new position to boldly look people in the eyes, not to look away. And then it is also very important – you need to understand that you will live like a normal citizen. And what you do with the state today, and with society today, you will have to face this in a few years as an ordinary citizen. This is a sufficiently serious incentive to think once more when making decisions and not be guided by monarchist ambitions when making decisions.

Vladimir Putin


  1. Tarasov, A. Interview with Vitaly Mansky. Avtorskya programma Alekseya Tarasova. Gost Vitaly Mansky. Efir ot 25.04.2018
  2. Karpenko, M. Filmography of Vladimir Putin. Kommersant. 2018


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s