Putin’s Poisons

Russia is a country of symbols. Major political shifts here are always accompanied by a change of outward trappings, as a graphic demonstration of a rupture with the old. In March 1917, as the Russian throne stood empty after the abdication of the last Czar, the crowned double-headed eagles — the symbols of the fallen empire — were being toppled all over the country: thrown down from the façades of government buildings, bridges, theaters, department stores, and spectacularly from the rostrum in the State Duma’s hemicycle in Petrograd. The new currency printed by the provisional government featured the eagle without the crowns or the scepter — a rare collector’s item as it only lasted a few months, until the eagle was eliminated altogether when the Bolsheviks seized power in a coup d’état later that year. Trying desperately to cling to power as the country — and the world — was

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