Note: a version of this appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail in 1996 and I am amazed to see it preserved on the Web. I think I originally wrote it for the now-defunct Moscow Tribune about that time.
It was delightful to read Jennifer Rossa’s piece in the Moscow Tribune on 29 February 1996 resurrecting the greatest of all Kremlinological theories. What is known among the professionals as the Hirsute Analytical Tool – the alternation of bald and hairy Soviet leaders – was greatly relied on after its discovery in 1955. A theory of great predictive power, it was the crown jewel of the science of Kremlinology.
However, the HAT has greater power yet: as it survived the communist period so it pre-dated it. Alexander I (1801-1825) was balding; Nicholas I (1825-1855) was also balding. But then the cycle settled down: Alexander II (1855-1881) had a full head of hair, Alexander III (1881-1894) was balding and Nicholas II (1894-1917) had hair. Note, however, the Imperial Corollary: emperors are balding, communists are fully bald.
Unnoticed by other researchers, and here presented for the first time, is the Facial Fur Addendum. Facial fur started gently in the 19th century, rose to a crescendo, died away among the communists and bald faces have been the rule ever since. Alexander I was clean shaven, Nicholas I had a moustache, Alexander II had mutton chops, Alexander III and Nicholas II had full beards. Lenin had a beard, but only a goatee, and Stalin, the last in the series, had a moustache.
The HAT refers only to male rulers of course and Russia had several female rulers in the eighteenth century but not since. Tentative analysis suggests the existence of a long term cycle – possibly involving Big Hair (which Catherine certainly had). The return of women rulers is indicated for the next century.
The HAT is worthless at predicting length of term. For example, Stalin, a Hairy Guy, was in power for nearly 30 years while Chernenko, another Hairy Guy, was in power for only eighteen months. Therefore, it is quite wrong to suggest that the HAT predicts that President Yeltsin will lose the June election. The Hat was discovered in an imperial period when rulers tended to hold office for life. It may not apply to a republican, democratic Russia. If it is still valid, all it predicts is that President Yeltsin’s eventual successor will be a Bald Guy, possibly with a neat moustache.
Note: I was greatly amused to see, when Putin re-appeared as President, that the HAT has lost none of its power. And here is the latest version: