Speaking of despots...
W&D is reading an amazing book, The Romanovs, by the brilliant Simon Sebag Montefiore . W&D is just up to where the dreaded Rasputin comes upstairs, as it were, into the lives of Nicholas II and his nutzo wife Alexandra. Downstairs, Rasputin had a very competent cook, who later went onto become a cook for Lenin. And then for Stalin.
The cook's name was Spiridon Ivanovich Putin. Vladimir Putin's grandfather.
W&D guesses that the grandfather learnt a great deal about autocracy from his former employers. And passed the learning down the line.