Pumpkin Person (PP), an up and coming IQ blogger, has estimated Putin’s IQ to be about 127.
He derives this based on a z-factor analysis of Putin’s status as the most powerful White person in the world (135), based on the 0.4 correlation between IQ and income (and presumably, power), minus an adjustment for his relatively dimunitive height (-8), based on the 0.24 correlation between IQ and height.
The method is of course questionable for any number of reasons. That said, for someone who openly admits to knowing “virtually nothing” about Putin, this is entirely understandable. Even people who know more about him will have a hard time making very good estimates because of the paucity of public records of Putin’s academic performance.
That said, I think in general that is a fair estimate, not least because my own impression of Putin’s IQ has also long been about 130.
Below I will be trying to substantiate this estimate with more detail.
First off, a little expounding on PP’s argument
PP probably makes too much of the height thing. First of all, he uses an estimate of 63.5 inches (161cm), versus the official figure of 67 inches (170cm), on the basis that there is a conspiracy theory to inflate Putin’s height. Second, he compares Putin’s height with old American dudes (174cm), whereas the proper comparison would be with old Russian dudes (168-170cm as shown right). In fact, if we posit that there is no conspiracy to overstate Putin’s height, and it really is 170cm, then he would be entirely typical of men of his generation. (This would make him similar to Napoleon, another very powerful man who was reputed to be short but was in fact entirely average in that respect for a late 18th century Corsican).
Of course these points are also rather moot in the sense that you’d also then have to adjust down for Flynn Effect, especially since this is the 1950s USSR you’re talking about, i.e. still a semi-Third World country in socio-economic terms, with residual malnutrition. This would have almost the same exact effect of knocking 5-10 points off and getting 125-130.
(Another point raised by the commentator SFG is that another issue to consider is that shorter dudes face face extra headwinds to success due to purely social factors, so the IQ of a short person who manages to attain power nonetheless might be expected to be higher, if anything. PP argues that the correlation between height and money is actually very slight once adjusted for IQ. But I am not sure you can so cavalierly extend this from from money – which you can make without much in the way of social status – to power – where having status and a telegenic presence is a necessity).
Additional arguments for Putin having an IQ of 130
He got into Leningrad State, one of the USSR’s elite universities (though not the most elite Moscow institutions – but then as far as I know he didn’t apply to them anyway). His performance, though classified, was evidently good enough for him to be eventually accepted into the KGB’s foreign espionage department. However, his career progression in the KGB was slow. He only began to rise fast after joining the world of 1990s Russian politics.
He is known for making witty rejoinders and having a very good grasp of facts, numbers, and statistics in discussions.
He is fully fluent in German. Since becoming President, he has also developed semi-fluency in the English language, despite an obviously crowded schedule. All this hints at a solid degree of intelligence.
According to insider accounts, his typical reading material consists of bulky historical tomes. That suggests high intelligence and discipline.
He is also genuinely religious, and religiosity has a negative correlation with IQ. His family are both working class; grandfather was a chef for Lenin and Stalin. But the Putin family is also surprisingly long-lived, especially by Russian standards – most of them tend to live into their late 80s and even 90s. Longevity is positively correlated with IQ.
Though I have trouble recalling any very specific examples, my general impression is that he is NOT at an elite level of intelligence (i.e. 145+). This loose impression is backed up by another commentator at PP’s blog, Konstantin Surzhikov, who appears to be both Russian and familiar with psychometrics (he might be this guy with an IQ of 144).
Hi there. I am blessed to know several persons with recorded IQ’s from 123 to 142 (sd 15,age-addjasted western norms). So, I’d like to put my 50 cent here. Putin acts and talks as a person with IQ definitely lower than 137, but slightly higher than 125. My subjective impression that it can be a bit higher than 127, but all in all it fits your guess very well/ I understand clearly that this kind of approach can hardly be better than your calculation , but my only – but important – advantage is that I am a Russia citizen, a native Russian, watching that very active and talkative guy on TV here for years. Well done anyways!
Could Putin’s IQ be much higher than 130? The argument from geopolitics.
There is a well-established stereotype of Putin “outplaying” Obama on the world stage (see all the Putin playing chess while Obama plays checkers rhetoric floating around), which PP alludes to.
One problem with estimating Putin’s IQ at 127 is that there is reason to believe Obama’s IQ is close to 140. Can Obama really be smarter than Putin when we keep seeing reports that Putin is always outsmarting Obama.
It has been found that IQ correlated postively with assessments of US Presidential leadership performance, so this is certainly worth bearing in mind.
However, there are two caveats to be borne in mind here.
First, we will only know how geopolitically successful (or not) Putin truly is not today, but in a decade’s time or so. As I have covered on this very blog, the concept of mnogokhodovka – the concept that Putin is carrying out a long-term, very intelligent series of chess moves that will end up in the creation of Novorossiya and the defeat of the US empire that – is fast becoming a laughing stock amongst both liberals and anti-Kremlin nationalists. Even the pro-Kremlin nationalists who created this concept are now abandoning it.
Second, there are reasons to believe the correlation between IQ and leadership performance in Russia might not hold nearly as strongly in Russia as it does in the US. That is because the Russian elites are far less loyal to Russia than American elites are to the US. Some literally care more about having access to French cheese than the lives and wellbeing of their less privileged compatriots in Crimea. Much more exposed to Western influence thanks to their international contacts and English language proficiency, they tend to develop a cargo cult mentality towards the West, which expresses itself in cringing obeisance to Western foreign policy and the wholesale adoption of Western ways, and should the people object, they could always be dissolved and another elected (as per Bertolt Brecht). This is based on the idea that Western acculturation will reap great dividents and that the West itself has Russia’s best interests at heart. Of course, neither has been true historically.
It is worth noting in particular that Gorbachev, possibly the USSR’s most intelligent leader, was also the one who failed in the most singular, spectacular way: His country ceased to exist, and his approval ratings in Russia remain within polling margins of error to this day.
This does not just apply to the politicians, but to voters too. A map of voting patterns in Moscow shows the richest places displaying the highest support for liberal pro-Western figures like Navalny, with the very highest support for them registering in areas around elite universities. As such, supporters of patriotic and conservative currents in Russian politics (as opposed to liberal) suffer from a cruel bind – we are objectively dumber than the people who would have us kneel before the likes of Obama.
However, as the HBDsphere will know better than anyone else, this does not mean we are wrong.
The media and academia are constantly promoting multiculturalism and these elites may make more of an effort to brainwash high IQ people because they’re the future elites. Little effort is made to convince low IQ whites to embrace multiculturalism because it doesn’t matter what they think; and indeed allowing low IQ whites to dwell in racialism further stigmatizes it as low class, which is exactly what the intelligentsia wants. Further, low IQ whites might be harder to brainwash anyway because they don’t have enough brains to wash.
Ergo Russians and the Western media/political complex.
Could Putin’s IQ be much lower than 130? The argument from plagiarism, aggression, corruption, and unwillingness to engage in debates.
Putin did have his PhD thesis written for him in the 1990s, but every Russian politician was doing the same thing. In Russia’s context, that say’s nothing about Putin’s IQ.
Aggressiveness is negatively correlated with IQ. Probably so is corruption.
Putin is undoubtedly more “aggressive” than the average Western politician, as humorously documented by numerous Internet memes like the one on the right. In his series of 1999 interviews documented in the book From the First Person, Putin admitted to being involved in street fights and consorting with riffraff in his schoolboy days (though this may have motivated by a strategy to project an “everyman” image). Even so, no conclusions can be made from this on his intelligence. That is because Russian politics and business is systemically more aggressive than in Western countries. That’s simply what you have to do to survive there.
For instance, take Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Thanks to a skilful and well-funded “rebranding” campaign and cultivation of ties with American neocons in the 2000s, he is primarily known in the West as a genteel Jewish intellectual of moderate social democratic views who got repressed by Putin for supporting corporate transparency and human rights. But in the long-forgotten 1990s, he had the reputation of a gangster who abused minority investors and had his business and political rivals whacked. And yet this very unscrupulous and possibly outright murderous man undoubtedly has a very high IQ.
And these examples can be extended almsot indefinitely so far as the Russian elites are concerned.
Ergo for corruption. Though it need hardly be said that everyone is still waiting for any evidence of his $70 billion offshore fortune.
One final observation is that Putin has studiously avoided debates with political rivals. Performance in debates correlates well with IQ, so if Putin’s was low, he might feel afraid to take on his political challengers so directly. But this has a perfectly rational explanation. In all Presidential elections to date, his poll ratings have massively outstripped those of the Communist, nationalist, and liberal candidates. He is not obligated to debate any of them by law. Doing so would only introduce the chance of him making some costly rhetorical blunder and suffering a big blow in the polls. As such, to participate in them at all would be a mistake.
While he has not participated in debates, he does field unrehearsed questions from journalists and citizens on a somewhat regular basis. My observation is that for the most part, his answers tend to be lucid, erudite, and witty. This is a fair but not great indicator of IQ.