Comrade President [Tovarisch President] (2004)

Director Vasily Bereza; script writer Pavel Shirov; producer Andrey Norkin, Pavel Shirov, Vasily Bereza; editors Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sergey Buneev, Alena Stepanenko, Viktor Kulganyuk, Tatiana Lobko, Aleksandr Orlov, Tatiana Adamyan

Production: TV company Echo
Length: 2 episodes, each 52 minutes
Where it was shown: RTVi; In Europe, USA (no details); Ukrainian TV – 5th Channel; Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia (2005); Some festivals, outside of the main contest

Film online Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Personalities shown: Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Eltsin, Leonid Brezhnev, Pavel Grachev, Gennady Zyuganov, Anatoly Sobchak, Eugeny Primakov, Samir Saleh Abdullah (Ibn al-Khattab), Sergey Stepashin, Yuri Andropov, Patriarch Alexy II, Yury Skuratov

Characters: Aleksandr Yakovlev, Ruslan Aushev, Andrey Piontkovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, Boris Nemtsov, Viktor Shenderovich, Evgeny Kiselev, Boris Berezovsky, Sergey Dorenko, Vitaly Korotich, Akhmed Zakaev, Georgy Satarov, Henry Reznik, Vladimir Bukovsky, Oleg Kalugin, Boris Vishnevsky.

According to one of the filmmakers, this film was banned in Russia. This might have happened because the filmmakers questioned the results of the 2003 Gosduma elections in the film. They chose to focus on Putin because the answers to the main questions always returned to him. And in a way, they kept trying to answer the question “Who is Mr. Putin?” Nobody knew about either Putin’s political views or his political program. It was an attempt to understand why an almost unknown person was elected as president in Russia in 2000 and re-elected in 2004 for a second term without question. In the first episode, they show Putin’s life from his graduation from university to his inauguration. In the second, they talk about his first presidential term.

The documentary was made by RTVI, a media outlet owned by Russian oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky. They filmed in Russia, the US, and Great Britain. It is a collection of archival videos and multiple interviews. One can notice that this documentary, which was made in the early 2000s, when compared with the documentaries about Putin from the 2010s and 2020s is not as smooth in editing and the quality of shooting, but the interviewers are more open and critical about important and often tragic events in Russia. The filmmakers tried to show different points of view. Berezovsky, Dorenko, Zakaev, and Kalugin represent a kind of opposition, while Vitaly Korotich (a former editor of “Ogonek”), Aleksandr Yakovlev, and Ruslan Aushev represent witnesses and Coicipants in historical events. Yakovlev talks about the return of Soviet symbols such as the flowers on Andropov’s tomb and the Stalinist era. Piontkovsky, Shenderovich, and Kiselev talk about the restrictions of freedom in the media and the case of NTV while Sergey Dorenko investigates the Kursk disaster and Putin’s reaction to it, and Aushev talks about the Nord-Ost terrorist attack.

Comrade President (2004). Guards are opening doors in front of Putin.
Comrade President (2004). Guards are opening doors in front of Putin

A voiceover presents the pre-presidential years of Putin’s life through archival videos and interviews. Interestingly, the filmmakers decided not to use the ‘standard’ photos from Putin’s family album.  Instead, they focus on Putin’s career. They analyse the role of the KGB in the life of the future President and in the country in general. A special interest is shown towards Putin’s return to Russia from Germany and the development of his career: how he left his work at the university and became a bureaucrat.

Comrade President (2004). Anatoly Sobchak and his assistant Vladimir Putin

Filmmakers also emphasize Putin’s activities regarding the fight against terrorism and the war in Chechnya.

Comrade President (2004). Putin is outing on the uniform for a military jet to go to Chechnya.

Comrade President (2004). Putin in military uniform is greeting another person in the uniform.

The episode where ELtsin leaves the Kremlin is quite emotional. Putin’s inner circle follows both presidents: the new and the old. Boris Eltsin, though he seems to be more emotional, opens the door for Putin, hugs him and leaves the Kremlin.

Comrade President (2004). Eltsin’s farewell.

Episode 2.

The second episode tells stories about Putin as a president. Starting from his inauguration and continuing through his fight with the oligarchs; scandal with Yury Skuratov, the Prosecutor General of Russia (1995-1999) and the Kursk tragedy.

Comrade President (2004). Presidential inauguration. Putin is walking on the red carpet.

Comrade President (2004). Presidential inauguration. Putin and Constitution.

Comrade President (2004). Putin on CNN says that the submarine drowned. He is smiling.

Sergey Dorenko, (TV journalist):

In the absence of society, we become telenation. How can I be involved in what Putin is doing? I can only go and turn on the TV. This means that I only observe the TV president. I have no other president. I only have Teleputin. And so, it is with each of us. And this Teleputin is interesting – we like him, he gives a feeling of peace.

Andrey Piontkovsky (political scientist):
Let’s be objective. Putin is a sincere patriot of Russia. But he is sincerely convinced that the future of Russia, its modernization can be conditioned by the tough means of authoritarian rule.


1. Umetsky, D. (2004) Novie izvestiya. Telezvezda na eksport. Interview with Andrey Norkin.

2. Vilegzhanin, R. (2004) Moskovskie novosti. Prezident tebe tovarisch. Interview with Pavel Shirov and Vasily Bereza.

3. Afanasieva, E (2005) Ekho Moskvi. Novosti, kotorih ne vidyat v Rossii. Interview with Andrey Norkin.

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