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Published September 25, 2022 Updated September 25, 2022

Russian Federation

Russian Federation pack featuring leading political figures of the time, c.2000.

2000 Russia Political Television Add to Collection

Although undated this pack was published after Boris Yeltsin's rule (1991-1999), a period of liberal reforms and Russia's opening up towards the West, and at or near the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s first Presidential term (2000-2004).

This 36-card pack was a joint project between the newspaper Kommersant and the television programme Namedni, and each of the four suits is equated with one of the four pillars of Russian power: hearts represent the family; diamonds the liberals; spades the siloviki (a lobby gathering former security services agents), while clubs portray the St. Petersburg circle of political figures close to Putin (Piterskie). Vladimir Putin’s face is shown on all four aces, but all of the other cards show the face of a prominent politician of the period. While many of those portrayed are still in evidence in the Russia of today (indeed, several are currently subject to western sanctions), the pack also harks back to a time when liberal politicians were also included in government: for example, Boris Nemtsov (assassinated in 2015); Andrei Illarionov (who has become a critic of Putin's administration and who declared in April 2022 that "it is absolutely impossible to have any positive future for Russia with the current political regime); Mikhail Khodorkovskii (who in 2001 founded Open Russia, a reform-minded organization intending to "build and strengthen civil society" in the country. In October 2003, he was arrested by Russian authorities and charged with fraud); Anatolii Chubais (resigned over invasion of Ukraine); Alexei Kudrin (a Russian liberal who resigned from government in 2011 and from 2011 to 2022 was the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences in St. Petersburg State University).

Russian Federation pack, c.2000 Russian Federation pack, c.2000 Russian Federation pack, c.2000

Above: Russian Federation pack, a joint project between the newspaper Kommersant and the television programme Namedni, c.2000. 36 cards.

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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