“Dogfight under a carpet…”

“Dogfight under a carpet…”

Churchill alleged­ly com­pared Russ­ian pol­i­tics to a “dog­fight under a car­pet.” It was men­tioned in The Econ­o­mist of 17 Novem­ber 2005: “Like watch­ing dogs fight­ing under a car­pet, was how Churchill described Russ­ian pol­i­tics. On Novem­ber 14th the car­pet stirred, when Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin announced that Dmit­ry Medvedev, head of the pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion since 2003, was to become first deputy prime min­is­ter.” It seems to be fair­ly well known. Can you give me the exact quote and a cita­tion? —P.C.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, because it’s an amus­ing line that sounds a bit like him, I can­not. We searched Churchill Online, includ­ing Churchill’s own fif­teen mil­lion words—all his books, arti­cles, speech­es and pub­lished papers. “Dog­fight” gets ten hits, all refer­ring to aer­i­al war­fare. “Car­pet” has 264 hits but none close to this quo­ta­tion, and “under the car­pet” draws a blank. With­out fur­ther infor­ma­tion, we have to con­clude this is unsub­stan­ti­at­ed. The Econ­o­mist is unhelp­ful, pro­vid­ing no attri­bu­tion, and not even a byline by which one could query the author.

Alas these red her­rings are all over the Inter­net, with no attri­bu­tion what­so­ev­er. I devot­ed an appen­dix of Churchill by Him­self to near­ly 100 of most pop­u­lar, which Churchill either nev­er said, or denied say­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I missed this one.

One thought on ““Dogfight under a carpet…”

  1. Hel­lo,

    That quote seems to have gained pop­u­lar­i­ty since this 2009 post. It has appeared in a sub­stan­tial num­ber of news­pa­per arti­cles and books in a some­what mod­i­fied ver­sion refer­ring to bull­dogs (instead of dogs) and a rug (instead of a car­pet).

    See for instance:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/09/world/europe/09kremlin.html?_r=0
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/84833242-4692-11e0-967a-00144feab49a.html
    http://readrussia.com/2013/05/23/putins-bulldogs-and-their-bones/

    The quote is nev­er sub­stan­ti­at­ed by any ref­er­ence. Thanks a lot for your very inter­est­ing work and insights.

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