His name is Nikita

 

Nikita Mikhalkov, a famous Russian filmmaker and head of the Russian Cinematographers Union, comes across as, to rephrase Goethe, ‘the part of that power which still produceth ill, whilst ever scheming good.’ One of the most celebrated movie directors - he has received, among many other awards, the Oscar and the Grand Prix at Cannes – Mr Mikhalkov has managed to alienate people so much that everything he touches seems tainted with mire.

For some inexplicable reason, he keeps showing an explosive mixture of hubris and disdain towards ordinary people, yet kowtows to the powerful. There is something maddening in Mikhalkov’s knack of being the Kremlin’s best friend, irrespective of who holds office.

Nikita Mikhalkov, who is 65 and is formidably energetic, has a past so colourful that it might make even a sixties rock musician blush. In March 1999, during a master-class when a young man thrown an egg at him, the maestro kicked the attacker in the face while his guards were holding the man. He comes from an aristocratic family, yet the Mikhalkovs have never fallen out of favour. Sergey Mikhalkov, the filmmaker’s father, was the author of the Soviet, and later Russian, anthems: first, in 1944 glorifying Stalin, then in 1977 minus Stalin, and in 2000 minus the Communists.

When asked whether he has a flashing blue-light on his car - the privilege only top government officials are supposed to have - Mikhalkov guilelessly answered that he has and that ‘this has always been the case and will always be so.’ In 2008 he sent a letter to President Putin asking him to remain in power, though the Constitution does not allow one person to hold the office three times in a sequence. This week, Mikhalkov announced his political manifesto, called Enlightened Conservatism, where he said that ‘it is time to stop talking about political independence, individual freedom and the miracles of the market economy – they have never happened in Russia and bring little effect.’

It is not surprising, then, that Russians were infuriated last week when Vladimir Putin signed a decree setting up a levy