“Who is Putin? Perhaps the best person to answer this would be the president of the Russian Federation himself. And that is exactly what he does in the book,” said Dr Najam ul Sahar Butt, the Urdu translator of First Person, an Astonishingly Frank, Self-Portrait by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a collection of interviews by N. Gevorkyan, N. Timakova and A. Kolesnikov. The Urdu version of the book is titled Mard-i-Ahan.
The launch of the book organised by the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Karachi and the Association of Pakistani Graduates from Russia & CIS at Friendship House here on Saturday was well attended.
Having studied in Moscow, the translator, who also happens to be a medical doctor running a hospital in Lahore, said that he could understand the language quite well, which had helped him translate several Russian books into Urdu. “I no longer reach for the dictionary to look up the meaning of difficult words, too,” he said.
About the subject of the book, President Putin, he said he came from a poor background like Abraham Lincoln of the United States. “Putin’s grandfather was a cook. His father was a soldier in World War II when he got injured and lost a leg. Later, he found work in a factory. His mother also did menial jobs. Putin is very proud of his parents. He says he never imagined he’d end up as a politician,” he said.
“There are so many misconceptions about Russia. Having studied there, I myself am seen as being brainwashed by the Russians. But the truth is that I studied there, worked there, which provided me with a great opportunity to observe the people there up close. The translation also captures the culture and way of life of the Russian people,” he said.
“I am glad to see Pakistan and Russia come close enough to be holding military exercises together as we have recently seen,” he said.
Well-known writer and columnist Zaheda Hina said that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) was a superpower once but its breaking up make Russia look weak. “That was when Putin arrived on the scene to help the people of Russia find their lost pride. He can be rather stubborn when it comes to getting things done. He believes in rebuilding and strengthening of institutions such as health and education. He is the architect of modern Russia,” she said.
Oleg N. Avdeev, the consul general of Russian Federation, who was also present on the occasion, said that he was happy to see the book translated into Urdu. “It is a collection of six interviews with President Putin, which brings out his persona. Hopefully, it will promote better understanding about the Russian people and help bring the people of our countries closer,” he said.
Yury Zozulya, director of Russian Centre for Science and Culture, Friendship House, and Dr Zahid Hasan, chairman of the Association of Pakistani Graduates from Russia & CIS, also spoke.
Originally published in Dawn, March 27th, 2017