From posters to games – Russian culture works with leaders’ images

Car wash in support of Putin, RT image
Russian Internet and conventional media reports on the numerous occasions in which the name and likeness of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have been used.

­One of the latest developments is the “Like Putin” online game which was released on Thursday. The game allows the user to complete a sort of a quest with a small character based on Vladimir Putin. It dwells heavily on Putin’s most memorable quotes and PR stunts, and eventually leads the user to the web-site for the Popular Front – the latest creation of Putin as the leader of the United Russia political party.

Given the nearing parliamentary and presidential elections, the game could be a well-made (if not slightly unimaginative) PR-stunt, but its creators are strongly denying any connections with politics, saying that they only wanted self-promotion.  “We were very interested in the reaction we would get, worried even.  We were afraid of getting a bad reaction, but I think that we made a good game,” said Aleksandr Kabakov, the head of an advertising company that had created the Like Putin game. He added that they wanted to make a bright event to promote their company, so they immediately got to using Putin’s image. It took his company about one month to make the game, and the financial expenses were minimal, the businessman also said.

At the same time, with the release of the online game featuring Putin, a real life event in Moscow was held in support of President Medvedev and the recently introduced anti-alcohol law. Three girls promised to take off one piece of clothing each time someone agreed to throw away his beer. The event attracted the attention of about a dozen reporters, and two of the girls stripped down to swimsuits, as they collected about ten liters of beer in the process. The group called themselves “Girls for Medvedev”, and denied any connections to official state and political organizations.

The stunt looked like a reply to another event that took place in late July, when a small group of girls marched in central Moscow in t-shirts with slogans in support of Putin, as one of the girls ostensibly ripped her t-shirt “for Putin”. In yet another stunt, a group of bikini-clad girls were washing Russian-made cars in support of Putin, among other events of a similar nature.

Every time, the presidential administration and the government said that the events were neither organized nor authorized by them. When the organizers chose to go public, they always repeat that they only thought of the publicity they’d get by using the well known images of Russia’s most popular politicians.

But the most curious occasion was probably the poster released and displayed by an artist who disguises himself under the nickname Monolog. Monolog’s poster was based on the promo for the Captain America movie, but featured Dmitry Medvedev dressed as a superhero, bearing the title “The First Ruler”.  Monolog spoke to the Russian media and said that this was a reply to yet another poster parody that portrayed Putin as James Bond, but as he gave no details about himself, this could hardly be seen as an act of self-promotion, but rather a form of modern art.

A Russian political expert and head of the Political Technologies Center think-tank, Aleksei Makarkin, has said that the recent events could be spontaneous. “I am not sure that the processes bearing Putin’s likeness are initiated by him or his entourage. It is possible that he has started to exist separately from himself,” the expert told the BFM radio.
It should be noted that Putin’s name is sometimes used in purely commercial projects, as in the case of Putinka vodka that was first released by the Moscow Kristall distillery in 2003, or the Glory to Putin! Meat loaf made by a meat factory in South Russia’s Lipetsk in 2004.