Perhaps no other political figure since American President Theodore Roosevelt has been more visible in experiencing the outdoors than Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. His time in the field has been witnessed, admired and, yes, even criticized the world over, thanks to a wealth of media exposure. His adventures, ranging from fishing to horseback riding to “hunting” animals with a tranquilizer rifle for scientific research, are lead stories in many news markets.
For the first time ever, Prime Minister Putin talks about his deeply held love for the outdoors in an exclusive interview with Outdoor Life.
Outdoor Life: A great deal of your popularity, both in Russia and in the United States, stems from your involvement in and enjoyment of the outdoors. At what point in your life did you first become interested in the outdoors? And how has your affection and appreciation for the outdoors grown since then?
Vladimir Putin: I know there are a lot of enthusiasts in the United States who share my love for the outdoors, but I hope it’s not the only thing that attracts their attention. What is important for me is how people evaluate my work and whether Russia’s international policy is clear and understandable to them.
With respect to your question, I would say that my fondness for the outdoors, like that of many other people, has its roots in my youth and, particularly, in the books I’ve read. I have always loved and avidly read the novels of Jack London, Jules Verne and Ernest Hemingway. The characters depicted in their books, who are brave and resourceful people embarking on exciting adventures, definitely shaped my inner self and nourished my love for the outdoors.
Besides, youth summer camps have long been popular both in Russia and in the United States. Young folk who go there simply cannot stay away from their community’s life, which abounds with numerous sports events, outdoor games and competitions. In fact, if a person has been happy enough to meet a good tutor during his early years, he or she will keep a lifelong habit of spending his or her time in an effective and useful manner.
In this respect, I was lucky enough. I had an interesting childhood strongly connected with sports. I also had very good teachers. Probably thanks to this fact, I have not changed my attitude toward outdoor activities. Maybe it has become even more profound and deliberate. I increasingly appreciate what I have achieved because of sports. In other words, a habit for a healthy lifestyle and an opportunity to be outdoors.
I would also like to add that recently my passion for adventures, journeys and outdoor activities has got a new dimension. In 2009, our oldest non-governmental organization, the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), suggested that I should head its Tutorial Council, and, of course, I agreed.
I might now start describing the RGS’s longstanding and really legendary history, its great contribution to developing new lands, including the Arctic, the Far North, Siberia and the Far East, as well as to studying ethnography, geography and a range of other scientific disciplines, and developing Russia’s environmental activities and statistics. However, it would take this Outdoor Life issue and a few ones to follow. Moreover, you may find everything connected with the RGS on its website (rgo.ru). I will only define its key objectives.
The majority of them are geared to raising public interest in accurately exploring national geography and our historical and cultural heritage, involving our citizens in environmental activities and stimulating scientific work.
The very mission of the RGS reaches out to my heart, namely to inspire people to love Russia. This phrase contains a desire to open up Russia’s beauty, diversity and identity to our society and to the whole world, to present its authentic image. And I am happy to get an opportunity to take a personal part in the RGS’s work and help to realize its outstanding and substantive projects.
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