It is the very end of 2015. The Russian flag is proudly flying over the White House. Triumphant music blasts, music that is known for preceding the most important announcements by both the Soviet and modern-day Russian leaders. Then the viewer sees the Oval Office, oddly transformed. On the left-hand wall there is a famous painting, “Morning in the Pine-tree Forest” by the great Russian painter Ivan Shishkin. The opposite wall exhibits another masterpiece – this time by Ivan Aivazovsky. Gone are the portraits of American Presidents and the carpet with the proud American eagle.
Vladimir Putin is sitting at the President`s desk, two Russian flags behind him. On the background one can see the photographs dear to the heart of the new occupant of the Oval Office – his beloved dog Connie, Crimea’s landscape, domes of the Russian church and the like. Putin is delivering the New Year message to the ‘dear friends’ in the entire world.
“2015 was a hard year, but very important for Russia,” Mr. Putin says, “and now it is time to think again about how the ‘Poplar’ [referring to the ‘Topol-M’ ballistic missile] flew, how the ruble raised, how we value so much our new citizens [former Americans] and how we love them. We all believe that New Year’s Eve will bring us a miracle, and – as we know from the past year – they happen … We rely on ourselves first and on those who want to join us – in Europe and Asia, Africa and Australia,” he goes on. “Let’s change the world around us, make the world a little bit better – let’s replace soda with Russian kvass, fast-foods with tasty and healthy blintzes.”
The Kremlin Chimes are striking midnight. The Russian flag again is flying over the White House. New Year of 2016 is here with us.
This is the futuristic story of a 2-minute video, uploaded to YouTube on December 29 by the channel Putininfo. In its first 3 days, it had more than 600,000 views.
This cocky video represents a new warfare that has been waged by the hundreds of thousands of Putin Youths (only one of the organizations – Nashi (name stands for ‘Our Own’) – claims to have more than 100,000 members). They are educated, talented and fiercely nationalistic. And they hate their enemies from outside and within with all their hearts. The message of this video is directed not only to the Russians, but to the entire world because this ‘Putin’s speech’ is captioned in English. And the message is – in 2015 Russia is going to win.
They print Putin T-shirts and calendars, stage public performances, demonstrations, and happenings, and do not shy away from any form of public provocation. One of these provocations happened on December 26, when on the streets of Moscow passers-by were given free condoms with the portraits of the leaders of the anti-Putin opposition, reported Russian TV channel Vesti.
There were Santa-hat portraits of Alexey Navalny, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Andrei Makarevich, Boris Nemtsov and others who were blamed by the promoters of the action for spreading doomsday rumors on the fall of the Russian ruble. The organizers of the action said that thousands of the condoms were snapped up by Muscovites in just two hours, despite the heavy snowstorm falling in the Russian capital all day long. Some people were taking the condoms as free souvenirs,not paying attention whose portraits were on the package, others chose the condoms featuring pictures of their ‘favorites’.
“This is our socio-political protest against people who in the difficult time for our country spread the panic in the market and played against the fall of the ruble,” explained its promoter Ekaterina. “We chose such an ‘explosive’ form of agitation because our targeted audience is the young people.”
The idea of associating anti-Putin opposition with the ‘condoms’ started with Vladimir Putin himself. Three years ago, when asked about the ‘White Ribbon’—a symbol of the opposition—then Prime-Minister Putin said that he thought this was the “propaganda of the fight against AIDS, that these were contraceptives.” Obviously, the opposition’s attempt to put one more color on their ‘colored revolution’ received a powerful blow. Putin never used the word ‘condom’ but his young supporters wholeheartedly embraced it.
The word condom, with slightly different pronunciation, in Russia vulgar slang has a wide variety of meanings, but the most general is “unreliable SOB who will always let one down.” The officially used literal and polite form of the item in Russian language is not a condom but a preservative, the vulgar form is not accepted in cultured language.
While giving away free condoms, the organizers of the action were promoting their website. The name of the site could be translated from vulgar Russian slang as either “Here he is – the ‘condom!'” or “What a ‘condom!'”, depending on one’s linguistic preferences. The site gives people a chance to vote one’s favorite ‘condom’ among the opposition.
Topping the list so far is Alexey Navalny, the face of the opposition, because, according to the site, “he stole the money, provoked the prison term for fellow oppositionists, is a crook, always is lying.” Number 2 is Boris Nemtsov – former deputy Prime-Minister in Yeltsin’s government – for being a ‘co-author of the default of 1998, political turncoat, agent of the US State Department, follower of Ukrainian Maidan’ – i.e. sympathizer of the overthrow of the previous government in Ukraine. Number 3 is rock musician Andrei Makarevich – “bent to the changing world, performed at the concert for the Kiev junta, stole money from a charity concert.” Number 4 – former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky – “a thief and crook, was involved in the murder of a mayor of Siberian town in 1998,” declares the site.
Although keeping him on their hate-list, Young Putin backers are not worried by the possibility of seeing Khodorkovsly as a presidential rival to their idol (a possibility that has been cherished by a number of the Utopians in the West). Mr. Putin himself, when asked recently if he was afraid that Mr. Khodorkovsky would run for presidency in the next elections, just shrugged the idea off with his usual cynical sense of humor – “Who? For President? Of what country?”
There are 17 most hated ‘condoms’ on the website, members of the punk rock group Pussy Riot share the 7th position for “insulting the feelings of millions of believers, putting frozen chicken inside different holes of their bodies, being whores of the US State Department.”
Although it looks vulgar, cocky and insulting – this hip kind of propaganda is very effective among young generation of Russians. And it might be working. The latest opposition rally in Moscow this December had no more than 1,500 participants out of the capital’s population of more than 13 million. Exactly three years ago there were over 150,000 demonstrators on Moscow streets.
One has to admit that the leaders of anti-Putin opposition in Russia are depressingly old compared to those of the Putin supporters – the majority of them are well into their forties and fifties and there are no new young political stars between them. Their main slogan, “Russia without Putin!” is hardly going to find a lot of followers at a time when the president’s popularity fluctuates between 70% and 80%.
In the meantime, all but having sidelined the enemies of their idol, the Young Putinists have been working to help their country achieve another important goal put forward by Vladimir Putin—to expand today’s life expectancy in Russia from 71 years to 74 in the near future. Alcohol-free celebration on New Year’s Eve, promoted by them this year all around the country, was followed in all major cities the next day, on January 1, by “Russian scampers” running marathons under the slogan “Russians, forward!” with the goal to show their hangover-stricken compatriots on the streets that there is a way out of suffering other than one more half-bottle of vodka.
Mikhail Klikushin attended Novosibirsk State University, and received a graduate degree in Russian history before emigrating to the United States.