First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to the Russia - Islamic World strategic vision group and its Coordinator Veniamin Popov for an invaluable contribution to a speedy publicaton of the book timed to the 100th anniversary of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's birth.
His figure is a magnet for authors. It has been my lifelong desire to write a book about his personality and achievements.
The publication is not just a study on a specific historical period but hopefully a book that is politically relevant today.
Here is what I mean. The world, both East and West, lacks leaders who would be popular and recognized by people because of exceptional integrity and honest. Nasser had both the features. Here is just one example shared with me by former head of the Cairo-based Arab Socialist Union Abdel Majid Farid, who made the arrangements for the commemoration ceremony following Nasser's death in 1970. He also helped Nasser's family to move out of the palace into an ordinary house and dealt with inheritance matters. He recalled that his colleagues and him were shocked to see how modest the president's personal effects were. His account only had 420 Egyptian pounds. It turned out neither he or his family had any accounts abroad.
I think Nasser's creed should be a benchmark for any political leader. This book is a wakeup call to political elites from around the world in terms of demeanour and ethnics they need to follow to be eligible for any executive positions.
Nasser's second prominent trait that merits respect is his focus on infrastructure development despite his military background. He was a true founder of a new Egypt. The country saw the biggest ever drive in terms of the number of industrial, energy sites and other facilities that were established under his rule.
Remarkably, later in Egypt and elsewhere, including Russia, there were people who made 'the push towards privatisation' their major campaign plank. They would often highlight their 'success' in selling off state-run companies. It begs the question of what is more important, establishing a plant or privatising it, that is simply selling it off.
I feel the past several decades saw false concepts taking over and it is time to put everything back in its place. Top jobs should be occupied by people with a capacity to create and build. Nasser's example is very much a role model.
There is another striking feature he was known for, a sense of measure and a humane attitude in implementing the most severe economic reforms. Last year, Russia marked one hundred year anniversary of the 1917 Revolution. It is true that the revolution itself and the following change of order were done in a very brutal manner. Nasser's method of reforms was much more balance and humane. While nationalising big and medium-sized enterprises with a goal to build a strong public sector, he would also take care of the former owners, positively responding to their claims and complaints.
I am positive that Nasser's social philosophy and his methods should be studied as an object lesson for how social transformations should be carried out.
The book relies on documented evidence, including de-classified materials of the UK Public Records, i.e. wires sent by the English embassy from Cairo, that I was able to get access to thanks to an outstanding diplomat, Russia's ambassador to the UK, Viktor Popov.
It might have been easier for me to pen the book about Nasser since I could also rely on the accounts of my senior colleagues from the Soviet embassy in Egypt who worked closely with Nasser.
I think I was lucky in my career: following a successful university internship at the Cairo embassy I was invited as an assistant by Sergey Vinogradov, Soviet ambassador to Egypt, a wonderful diplomat and great man.
Following his meetings with Nasser, Mr. Vinogradov would share some of the impressions, often emotionally charged, which gave a unique glimpse into Nasser's mindset as a nation's leader and personality.
In terms of military cooperation between the Soviet Union and Egypt at the time, I was lucky to have a consultant by my side, my father's old war-time friend General Pyotr Lashchenko. An informed and competent officer, he became the first Soviet aide to the Egyptial President after the 1967 war.
Nasser showed a lot of respect for General Lashchenko and highly valued his skills as an army commander and prior combat experience.
Militarily, Egypt was in a difficult situation back then and Nasser and Lashchenko sometimes had heated debates but have always found solutions and the combat readiness of the Egyptian army was rising rapidly.
Now, I would like to thank my colleagues whose input has been critical in making the book the way you see it today,
My acknowledgement goes to my reviewers, Vice-President for Research at the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies Vitaly Naumkin, Phd holder in Economics, Head of the MGIMO Center for Middle Eastern Studies Andrey Fedorchenko.
All of their remarks were taken into account, and, definitely, helped to make it a better book.
When it was ready, I continued looking for an appropriate title. I am thankful to my daughter Natalia who pointed out a stark difference referred to in the book between Nasser whose legacy is one of human praise and respect and former rulers who are only remembered by pyramids. It was her advice to call the book 'Nasser's Pyramid' reflecting an enormous appreciation by the Egyptian people for their late leader.
My Egyptian colleagues sent me an extensive pool of photographs featuring Nasser. If the book is ever re-printed, I would love to see more photos of this great, vivid and handsome man.
Moscow, January 23, 2018