Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Live Nude Presidents

Recently my wife and I spent 9 days in Russia, traveling to Moscow and St. Petersburg. During our time there we read every Russian newspaper we could get our hands on (at least the ones in English). We wanted to get a sense of the culture--political, economic, social.

Now see if you can guess which of these three stories dominated Russian news over the past few weeks:

1) The August 14th terrorist bombing of a Russian passenger train that left over 60 injured.
2) The MAKS airshow that represented Russia's desire to compete with the UK in the international arena, and a return to aircraft dominance.
3) A series of topless photographs taken of President Vladimir Putin.

If you guessed 1 or 2, you're a rational human being. If you guessed 3, you're correct.

To give some background, President Putin is required by Russian constitutional law to step down upon completing his second term in office after succeeding Boris Yeltsin in 2000. To date, Putin has shown every desire to do just that.

Yet the Kremlin, which controls major media in Russia, set up a photo op during Putin's August vacation in the Siberian mountains in which the Preisdent was photographed riding on horseback, walking beside a waterfall, and calling in orders on a cell phone. In every photo he was either completely topless or wearing a form-fitting tank top. Unlike the Falstaffian Yeltsin, Putin is a former major in the KGB and head of the FSB (which succeeded the KGB as Russia's secret police), as well as a black belt in judo. The dude has pretty good muscle tone for a man of 54.

Now why did these photos dominate political discussion in Russia? Because political analysts, observing that the photos were orchestrated by the Kremlin, saw it as an attempt by Putin to strengthen his appeal to the public, namely potential voters. Meaning he just might not be so eager to step down next year. Which means he might just try to change the Russian constitution to allow himself to stay in office.

(Russian conspiracy buffs claim the photos--taken while vacationing with Prince Albert of Monaco--offer a newfound acceptance for homosexuality in the country. Yes, Russian bloggers are well aware of "Brokeback Mountain")

So there you have it. The topless photos that could change a nation.

Oh yeah, you can see the photos here.


Blogger M. said...

Russia seems to be very antagonizing towards foreign people and media, as it seems to me, so how did you feel there, were there any unpleasant events?

11:15 AM  

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