MOSCOW • The Kremlin is bestowing a special gift on a select group of Russian officials this holiday season.
The gift is: Words. Not just any old words, but the collected wisdom of President Vladimir Putin, compiled into a 400-page book, modestly titled Words That Change The World.
The hardback, not much thicker than 2.5cm but mercifully shorter than the 55-volume collected speeches of Lenin, includes snappy, Twitter-length quotes, drawn from Mr Putin's most important speeches and interviews in the last 12 years, to help attract the so-called Putin generation of young Russians.
"His policy is consistent and predictable and cohesive," said Mr Anton Volodin, a media-savvy marketing manager at Set, a Russian youth political movement, who edited the book. Mr Volodin, 29, described the President's words as "prophetic", and said he decided to publish the book so that every senior official or important politician could have Mr Putin's most important pronouncements readily at hand.
The editors highlight some infamous Putin aphorisms on the book's black-and-white cover, which features a portrait of the Russian leader. His quote from 1999 about terrorists, "We will waste them in the outhouse," is there, along with a seemingly mundane confession: "I drink kefir". Kefir is a popular yogurt drink.
Mr Volodin and Mr Makar Vikhlyantsev, 31, another editor, spent five months culling 150 speeches and interviews, finally selecting 19 to be included in the book. It starts with Mr Putin's address to the United Nations in 2003 and ends with his speech there in September, when he called for an international coalition to fight terrorism.
The selected speeches reflect the major themes of Mr Putin's presidency - taking aim at rivals and touting Russia's virtues.
The book includes Mr Putin's speech to a global security conference in Munich in 2007, when he bristled with resentment at how Russia had been treated since the Soviet collapse.
That speech did indeed presage much of what was to come in a new, more aggressive Kremlin policy towards the rest of the world.
"Russia, we are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason, those who teach us do not want to learn themselves", Mr Putin said, singling out the United States for its use of military force, "that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts".
When news of the book was reported, members of Moscow's intelligentsia recoiled at what they viewed as a Russian version of The Little Red Book, the pocket edition of Mao Zedong's maxims, first published in China around 1964.
"Countries with authoritarian and autocratic regimes always make an effort to publish the most eloquent pronouncements of the leaders, even when they are not so eloquent," Russian historian Nikolai Svanidze told the Russian website RBC daily.
Mr Putin's office has traditionally tried to ward off any suggestion that he was developing a cult of personality, and despite Set's close ties to government youth-outreach efforts, the Kremlin maintained it was not involved in the creation of the book.
"I have not seen this book, have not read it and I don't know who is sending it off," presidential spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov told reporters.
NEW YORK TIMES