On “Hanging by the balls”

Putin’s statement to Nicholas Sarkozy, “I’m going to hang Saakashvilli by the balls” is making the rounds in the news.  Putin’s crude words, which he is known for, has prompted questions over how much he really detests Saak, and whether this hatred figured in how Russia dealt with the Georgian leader.  Whatever Putin said or not, and if he did what it means for Kremlin policy is besides the point.  The image of Saakashvilli hanging from his balls wasn’t the only image of humor in Putin and Sarkozy’s exchange.

“I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked. “Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?” Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah — you have scored a point there.”

Even Saak found the incident funny.  “I knew about this scene, but not all the details. It’s funny, all the same,” he said on French radio.

Putin’s “hang’em by the balls” quip reminded me of similar statement made by none other than Stalin. In a note attached to V. I. Mezhlauk’s 1930 sketch N. P. Briukhanov (above), Stalin wrote:

To the members of the PB:

For all the sins, past and present, hang Briukhanov by the balls.  if the balls hold out, consider him acquitted by trial.  If they do not hold, drown him in the river. I. S.

Briukhanov’s balls must have held.  In April 1931, he was rehabilitated and appointed Deputy of the People’s Commissariat of Supplies.  Unfortunately for him, his oppositionist past caught up with him and he was arrested in 1938.  His balls, now eight years older, must not have been able to stand the tension.  They snapped.  Briukhanov was shot.

Both pictures come from Piggy Foxy and the Sword of the Revolution: Bolshevik Self-Portraits.