Politics’n’Babes: The Putin Titillation Continues

IT IS HARD to believe three years have passed since Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev hit the campaign trail in Russia, each boasting his own army of scantily clad young women to solidify wavering voter support; now — at the centre of an international trouble spot and an icy impasse with the West following the MH17 disaster — Putin has renewed the enterprise. The “Putinkini” is now a bona fide symbol of Russian nationalism.

It’s a funny old world, as Margaret used to say. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And if you’re Vladimir Putin, you need all the pleasant publicity you can get.

Readers know it’s been a fairly torrid week in politics, and there is still a great deal to discuss; indeed, I will be posting again this afternoon or early this evening on more serious matters.

But just as I did three years ago — when Putin and his seat-warming stooge, Dmitri Medvedev, faced off in a presidential election campaign with armies of pretty, scantily clad girls hitting the hustings on their behalf — I wanted to post something a little more light-hearted to kick the weekend conversation off with.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that something like this should emerge from the personality cult that Russian politics consists of nowadays; but I think it’s important that we keep…er, abreast…of what passes for debate in Russia.

Certainly a great deal of space has been occupied in this column where the serious side of the tragedy of the Malaysia Airlines disaster is concerned, replete as it is with the sinister undercurrent of growing, freezing tension between the West and Russia over Ukraine and the so-called “separatists” threatening to ignite a war there.

But if you’re an authoritarian tyrant, armed to the hilt with nuclear weapons and determined to reclaim superpower status for your country, you first need to win the hearts and minds of the folks at home — especially when, as a result of carefully crafted tactical moves and rhetoric that have sent relations with the West to Antarctic temperatures, you might find yourself at the epicentre of a war that could spiral dangerously out of control.

In this sense, there is nothing lighthearted about the latest incarnation of “Putin’s Army.”

Readers should check out this article from the British edition of the Daily Mail. Unlike the first appearance of “Putin’s Army” and the “Medvedev Girls” in 2011, there are no videos to accompany the hype this time.

I think it’s creepy (to say nothing of rather sinister) that social and political norms in Russia would dictate it as acceptable for young, attractive women to get around with pictures of Vladimir Putin printed on their bikini tops, not coincidentally I would suggest precisely where their breasts are.

Yet there you go: apparently this ensemble is called the “Putinkini,” and is the latest and most potent symbol of Russian nationalism a woman can don.

Apparently these women have resolved to “show a photograph of V.V. Putin as one of their attributes — on their breasts” in order to “not hide their patriotism,” and aim “to say with their swimwear” that they “fully support the political course of head of the state (sic) Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”

“Volodya (Putin), we are with you,” a statement for the “Putinkinis” says on the website of the event at which the bikinis were recently launched.

The obvious point to make — and yes, those in Australia who derive their satisfaction from arbitrarily banging on about misogyny will love this — is that the exploitation of reasonably pretty young girls in this manner, in the name of personality politics, is grotesque; to do so in favour of an ominously bellicose and increasingly belligerent dictatorial figure is particularly disturbing.

But the use of propaganda of this kind, whether officially commissioned and/or sanctioned or not, is especially sinister, given what could potentially be at stake in any conflagration between Russia and the West.

It conjures up the old wartime concept of keeping up morale on the home front as a distraction from the atrocities that take place (or may do so) in the theatres of any conflict that erupts; and the use of sex — something the Russians seem to be unperturbed by — could provide a pointer to the old Soviet strategy of dumbing down the population with material that appeals to it at its basest level.

Still, we can be thankful: just like the theme adopted by Diana of “Putin’s Army” three years ago to “whip ’em out” for Vladimir, this latest girl-based publicity stunt in Putin’s name (or, more correctly, in his image) doesn’t go as far as actually doing so despite the very clear allusion that attractive women, breasts, and (presumably) having sex with them are all pillars of the benevolent society Putin’s regime is working to create in Russia.

Unlike last time, there’s no free iPad to be won by ordinary girls seeking to emulate the “Putinkinis” by sending in pictures of themselves in the “branded” apparel being promoted.

Oh, those Russians…

Back to Australian Politics — and, again, to reality — a bit later in the day.




In the run-up to next year’s presidential elections, Russian politics is a study in bizarre electioneering stunts.

For something light-hearted to end the week with, this was just too crass to be ignored.

I remember watching the news one night on television, almost 20 years ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the election of Russia’s first democratic government.

As I watched, in horrified amusement, the news footage showed Deputies in Russia’s Duma (or in our lingo, members of parliament) throwing furniture and fisticuffs at each other in a wild, all-in parliamentary brawl; there was also plenty of bad language being thrown about, and one didn’t need to be a speaker of Russian to understand precisely what barbs and insults were being flung around the chamber.

The “government spokesman” interviewed for the piece, in good humour and with no trace of irony, cheerily explained that Russians understood that all of this was common in democracies and that ordinary Russians accepted that such expressions of democratic practice would occur from time to time.

Of course, since then there has been less to find amusing about Russia looking from the outside; the increasingly autocratic nature of governance in Russia, and the ominous nature of some of the messages that country sends to the West, is indicative of a country — and a regime — representing precious little to joke about.

It was somewhat refreshing, therefore, to see that grassroots politicking is indeed alive and well in Russia ahead of presidential elections due early in 2012.

Former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his desire to claim back the office of President; his protege — current President and suspected four-year seat warmer, Dmitri Medvedev — gives increasing indication of his reluctance to get out of the way so his old boss can stand again.

And the protagonists have unearthed an unlikely new weapon in the battle for the hearts and minds of Russians: girls in skimpy bikinis.

First off the mark was “Putin’s Army” represented in clips such as this one featuring a very pretty girl called Diana with…er, rather large breasts. Lots of camera shots down her top and other sexually suggestive behaviour ensues, with a promise to “whip em’ out” for the great man Vlad. At the end, she actually begins to do just that, but the clip ends before she can get that far, fortunately.

Oh, and girls? Post your own fleshy, flashy, trashy videos online in support of Vladimir. You’ll be joining Putin’s Army, and for your support, you could even win an iPad!

Not to be outdone, we now have the arrival of the “Medvedev Girls” with a wholesome public health message wrapped into their…er, titillating…campaign to boot.

For those out of the loop regarding Russian politics, or not up to scratch on the particulars of the local bottle shop, Medvedev recently legislated an initiative designating that BEER be classified as an alcoholic beverage rather than a food.

Seriously, the measure is aimed at curbing the common sight of Russians walking to work each morning drinking beer; wandering around in public at all hours of the day and night, drinking beer; and trying to tackle Russia’s problem with alcoholism by cracking down on — yes, you guessed it — drinking beer.

(I can’t wait to see what the Vodka campaign looks like).

Anyhow, back to Medvedev’s girls.

It may be unkind to describe them as a tit-for-tat response to the onslaught of Putin’s Army, but the apparent premise of the Medvedev Girls is to roam the streets of Moscow with an oversized bucket, approaching young males drinking beer, and encouraging them to tip the beer into the bucket. “Choose us or the beer!” They cry.

Apparently when the girls are satisfied the bucket is adequately full, they tear their clothes off to reveal themselves in — just like the girls in Putin’s Army — skimpy bikinis.

You can view the Medvedev Girls here.

Sexist, ridiculous? Some commentators think so.

I’m inclined to agree, but who are we to criticise the electoral machinations in Russia?

Boobs, bikinis, beer and iPads…what a way to fight an election…

All I can say is thank God our own debates on carbon taxes, mining taxes, refugees and so forth don’t employ the same tactics.

Oh, those Russians…

Back to something more serious — and to reality — tomorrow.