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Russia’s Post-Soviet Calendar Boy, The Putin Phenomenon

Putin

Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s approval rating may be declining, but the lure of the now-famous Putin calendar, featuring the best of the president’s testosterone-filled shots--from tiger-tranquilizing and just being a normal fellow to random shirtless jaunts through the fields—is just more than growing numbers of consumers can resist in 2019. 

January may look like this, based on one option on eBay:

(Click to enlarge)

Soothing the sweet sensation in February with this:

(Click to enlarge)

Source: eBay

Or everyone’s favorite … that stifling August:

(Click to enlarge)

After scoring no less than eight times (per the Kremlin) against professional hockey players:

(Click to enlarge)

Source: eBay

Just a few years ago, Putin’s approval rating was around 70 percent or higher, thanks to his strong-man image. Things started to take a turn for the worse, though, with the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, which has led to international sanctions. That, coupled with slumping oil prices and his recently launched contentious pension reforms have brought his ratings to around 40 percent—give or take.

Following in the footsteps of Peter the Great, Lenin and Stalin, Putin is all about the cult of personality, and he knows this goes down well at home.

Over the past few years, calendars featuring photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin practicing judo, lifting weights, playing hockey, being pious and kissing dogs have become national bestsellers not only in Russia, but in a handful of other venues as well. Related: Venture Capitalists Spent A Record $130 Billion In 2018

Most of the calendars are sold on eBay and Amazon by online vendors based in Russia for $20 and under.

It’s a cult of personality that appears to be rather lucrative for those who have had enough entrepreneurial foresight to put Putin’s pictures to a calendar.

According to an article from the Department of Russian Language and Stylistics at the Ural Institute of Humanities, the pro-government media uses the specific nomination of “national leader” to describe Putin, emphasizing his “unique status”. They also build up his image as the “star of popular culture, balancing the ordinary and the unique”. Finally, they attempt to equalize Put and Russia; in other words, they are one and the same.

While some people have may have purchased a Putin calendar as a joke, or a cool gimmick to have on the wall, many buy them out of idol worship, and particularly in rural Russia, where Putin is a religious icon.

Even in Japan, Putin’s calendars are proving more popular than those of Japanese actor Kei Tanaka or reigning Olympic men’s figure skating champion (a national icon) Yuzuru Hanyu.

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Media reports in Japan suggested many of the people buying the calendars, including a large number of women, were drawn to Putin’s Orthodox yet very unorthodox leadership style and his shameless shows of testosterone.

But in Russia, his face is everywhere, and thanks to the digital revolution, it’s becoming a global phenomenon. Many the world over have seen images of him flying in a fighter jet over Chechnya or putting a tracker on a polar bear (presumably). Nor is it just calendars: the gimmick is widespread, from magnets to coffee cups, you name it.

Even if everything staged, no one seems to care. In 2011, Putin “discovered" fragments of two ancient Greek urns under the Black Sea and his spokesperson later said that they were planted weeks before for him to find it.

He might end up having to share a bit of his celebrity calendar throne with former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, whose calendars are suddenly back in demand despite his legacy of killing tens of millions of people.

By Charles Benavidez for Safehaven.com

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