Striding masterfully through St. George’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, Vlad the Conqueror pondered his role as a Man of Destiny.
“It’s not easy to measure up to the past leaders of Russia,” he brooded. “Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great slaughtered enormous numbers of people at home and abroad in building the largest nation on earth.” Stalin, too, he noted, “showed the world what could be accomplished by a strong man with an unrelenting will to power.” After all, Stalin “succeeded in murdering millions of Ukrainians through starvation, gobbling up portions of Eastern Europe through an alliance with Nazi Germany, smashing Hitler’s legions after the führer broke with him, and pushing Russian domination right into Central Europe during the early Cold War. Now those were real men!”
Frowning, he added: “Of course, the Russian empire went downhill after that. Stalin’s namby-pamby successors fumbled along, trying to hold it together through invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan. And then, Gorbachev”―Vlad spat out the name―“that traitor, he wanted Russia to behave like a normal nation. But it’s not a normal nation,” Vlad told himself heatedly. “It’s a great nation. And great nations require great leaders!” Pausing briefly, he stopped to regard himself, fondly, in a diamond-encrusted mirror.
“And look at what I’ve already accomplished in restoring our nation’s grandeur―not only rebuilding our military forces and arming them with new nuclear weapons, but using Russian military power to obliterate Chechnya, secure footholds in Georgia and Moldova, annihilate resistance to Assad’s dictatorship in Syria, and launch Russian mercenary forces throughout Africa.”
He stopped and smiled. “But the highpoint so far is surely my invasion of Ukraine. I’ve leveled its cities, massacred many thousands of Ukrainians, sent millions more fleeing as refugees, and annexed its land into Russia. As my long-time friend, Donald Trump, remarked of the invasion, ‘this is genius’!” Pausing before another mirror, he again admired his profile.
“Alas,” he conceded, “not everyone recognizes greatness when they see it. In the wake of my glorious invasion of Ukraine, 141 nations at the UN General Assembly voted to condemn it, though four wise nations did give it their support: North Korea, Syria, Belarus, and Eritrea. At home, too, many thousands of Russian subversives―betrayers of their Motherland (and of me!)―demonstrated and signed petitions against the war. Fortunately, we’ve already arrested about 20,000 of them. Also, perhaps a million Russians, losers all, fled to other lands.” He groaned wearily. “Well, they won’t be missed!”
“Furthermore, abroad, where I’m gratified to learn that I have many fans among rightwing and leftwing zealots, public opinion has turned against me.” Vlad scratched his head in dismay. “Even those segments of the Western peace movement that back my policies don’t seem to ‘get it.’ One busy bee who writes and speaks incessantly about the war in Ukraine almost completely ignores my role in it. Instead, she chalks up the conflict to the policies of the United States and NATO. Don’t I get any credit for anything?!” He shook his head sadly.
“And then, of course, there are the damned Ukrainians who, instead of welcoming our invasion, destruction, and occupation of their country, are resisting! This is surely another sign that they are unfit to govern themselves.” He concluded, morosely: “What a mess!”
“Yes, life is unfair to me,” Vlad sighed, as warm tears suddenly appeared and rolled lazily down his cheeks. “And it has been for some time.”
He ruminated: “Things are not so easy when you’re a little guy―only 5 feet, 6 inches tall―in a big man’s world. Peter the Great, a hero of mine, measured 6 feet, 8 inches. So he certainly had an advantage there! Also, on top of that, my puberty came late. To keep from being bullied by the other boys, I took up judo and, at the age of 19, became a black belt. Then,” he laughed, “I joined the KGB, and people soon learned not to mess with me or with my new circle of friends.”
“Naturally, as I moved up the Russian government hierarchy, I became known for my tough, masculine style and approach―riding bare-chested, muscles rippling, on horseback, imprisoning uppity women, and making even the mention of homosexuality punishable by imprisonment. And I saw to it that my political opponents were packed off to prison camps―at least when they didn’t develop the nasty habit of getting poisoned or falling out of windows.” Pounding his fist on a table inlaid with gold and ivory, Vlad chortled at his wit.
“Some say that I’m a cold person. Actually, though, I can be warm and accommodating when it’s useful in forging friendly relationships with other great leaders―men of power like Xi Jinping, Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In 2018, when bin Salman was being snubbed by other government leaders at the G20 summit for ordering the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a dangerous journalist, I went right over to the prince and we exchanged joyful high-fives. We’ve been great pals ever since.”
Smiling, Vlad remarked: “None of them, of course, has my sophisticated grasp of international relations, and they will ultimately recognize my superior wisdom as my mastery of world affairs and my power grow ever greater. Even now, though, they are turning to me for leadership.” Spotting another mirror, he gazed lovingly at his splendor.
Standing tall and throwing back his shoulders, he proclaimed: “Yes, I’m no longer Little Vlad. I’m the supreme commander of the biggest country on earth. And, under my rule, it’s growing even bigger. Today I am Vlad the Conqueror! Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Then, glancing about the vast, ornate hall, he muttered: “Now where the hell is my Viagra? Where did I put it?”