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Does Vladimir Putin Talk Just Like a Czar?

Czar Alexander I

Photograph by Heritage Images/Getty Images

Czar Alexander I

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been compared to many things, including Stalin, Hitler, and Ivan the Terrible (all too harsh), as well as a certain Ukrainian dog (uncanny). But the most intriguing analog may be to the erratic, ultimately reactionary Czar Alexander I, who ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825 and was styled “Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias.”

A Finnish graduate student stirred a flurry of publicity this week by noting that Putin’s recent justification for the occupation of Crimea sounded a lot like Alexander’s justification for the occupation of Finland in 1809. I called Anneli Portman, who is getting a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Helsinki, to ask for some specifics. She kindly supplied excerpts from several speeches by the two Russian leaders, and I filled in some of the Putin quotes myself.

Photographs (from left) by Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Coy is Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor. His Twitter handle is @petercoy.

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