Written by Andrew E Kramer
A nearly 20-year taboo on reporting in the Russian news media about President Vladimir Putin’s personal life has unraveled — just a little — with an interview broadcast on state television with a woman who has been described as his daughter.
The interview suggested some softening of Putin’s steely image and the prospect that his two adult daughters may be easing into public life.
Russia has no enduring tradition of a public first family, and Soviet and post-Soviet leaders have taken various approaches. Putin, a former spy, has mostly kept his daughters out of sight.
He has occasionally spoken with affection of his daughters, and last year announced that he was a grandfather. Still, throughout his tenure Putin has insisted that his family life remain private — even as state television has lavished coverage on his leisure time spent alone in the Siberian outdoors, hiking or horseback riding, sometimes shirtless.
Vedomosti, a Russian newspaper, reported that the interview, which aired Thursday and was rebroadcast Friday, was the first with the woman, Katerina Tikhonova. She has been widely reported by Russian and Western news media to be the president’s younger daughter, though Putin has never publicly acknowledged her as such.
On the show, Tikhonova was asked about her work as director of a scientific institute. The show profiled a group of scientists developing devices that read brainwaves.
The coverage, as fawning as that accorded to Putin, portrayed the research as groundbreaking and vital for Russian technology, suggesting an emerging role for Tikhonova as a champion of Russian science.
Her appearance on state television suggests a potential public role for the presidential family, a fraught topic in Russian political culture since Soviet times, Nina Khrushcheva, a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York and a granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, said in a phone interview.
The Kremlin has declined to comment on Tikhonova’s identity. During the television show, she was identified as “director of Innopraktika and deputy director of the Institute of Mathematical Study of Complex Systems at Moscow State University.”