Bo­tox, Harry Pot­ter in­spire Putin protests

Rus­sian leader tar­get of bit­ing hu­mor

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY ANNA MAL­PAS

WMOSCOW itty and mak­ing bold con­tem­po­rary ref­er­ences, the ban­ners that mocked Vladimir Putin in mass protests have al­ready coined new slo­gans and even be­come the sub­ject of a Moscow ex­hi­bi­tion.

Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from sub­jects as di­verse as the Harry Pot­ter nov­els and cos­metic surgery, the slo­gans brought a sense of fun to the protests and ripped apart taboos over crit­i­ciz­ing the Rus­sian strong­man in public.

Many pro­test­ers brought home­made ban­ners to a full-scale ex­hi­bi­tion at trendy Moscow arts cen­ter Art­play, which pro­vided a kind of ret­ro­spec­tive of the protests that started af­ter fraud­tainted Dec. 4 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

“We have three de­mands: fair elec­tions, free­dom of assem­bly and — let’s stick to two,” reads one ban­ner at the ex­hi­bi­tion, which is ti­tled “You don’t even rep­re­sent us.”

“If Rus­sia’s so United, why am I so alone?” reads a T-shirt slo­gan, re­fer­ring to the in­creas­ingly unloved rul­ing party United Rus­sia.

“No Putin, No Cry,” reads an­other much-quoted ban­ner.

Worlds away from the stilted lan­guage of old-style ac­tivists and Com­mu­nists, many of the ban­ners take digs at Rus­sian strong­man Putin, al­leg­ing he uses Bo­tox to pre­serve his looks, in a ru­mor sweep­ing the In­ter­net.

The Rus­sian word for Bo­tox has even be­come a hash­tag for Mr. Putin on Twit­ter so­cial net­work­ing site.

“Volodya, save your face!” one reads, us­ing the fa­mil­iar ver­sion of Mr. Putin’s first name.

“How much is the Bo­tox of the peo­ple?” says an­other, para­phras­ing Marx’s

fa­mous re­mark about re­li­gion be­ing the opium of the peo­ple.

At an op­po­si­tion protest the day af­ter the elec­tion, pro­test­ers in­stantly ad­justed their slo­gans to in­clude Mr. Putin’s un­ex­pected tears at a vic­tory rally af­ter March 4 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

“Moscow does not be­lieve in tears,” was the fa­vorite slo­gan, the ti­tle of a wellloved Soviet film drama along with “Moscow doesn’t be­lieve in crocodile tears” and “12 years of tears,” re­fer­ring to Mr. Putin’s pos­si­ble fu­ture two-term pres­i­dency.

Other slo­gans cite and twist Mr. Putin’s pithy say­ings, such as his boast that he works like a “gal­ley slave.”

“Putin, get out of the gal­ley. It’s al­ready on the rocks,” one says.

The head of the widely crit­i­cized cen­tral elec­toral com­mis­sion, Vladimir Churov, is also a tar­get, with his cud­dly beard and way with num­bers giv­ing him the nick­name of “the wizard.”

“Send Wizard Churov to Azk­a­ban” an­other says, re­fer­ring to a mag­i­cal prison in J.K. Rowl­ing’s Harry Pot­ter se­ries.

“There’s no room for a wizard in the Cen­tral Elec­toral Com­mis­sion,” reads a plac­ard at­tached to a bal­loon show­ing a Dis­ney fairy.

Cu­ra­tor Mikhail Rat­gauz of web­site, wrote in his in­tro­duc­tion to the ex­hi­bi­tion that what made the lat­est protests dif­fer­ent is that they are about in­di­vid­u­als putting for­ward their points of view, not a face­less crowd.

“A crowd can’t be witty. It’s al­ways a per­son who is witty,” he said.

An­thro­pol­o­gist Mikhail Alex­eyevsky con­trib­uted the plac­ard read­ing “There’s no room for a wizard in the Cen­tral Elec­toral Com­mis­sion,” which he took along to the first mass rally in Moscow in his first ex­pe­ri­ence of ac­tivism.

“I re­al­ized what to do: to carry bal­loons to the rally but stick posters on them,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s a peace­ful protest. On the other hand it’s an un­usual kind of vis­ual cam­paign­ing.”

“Peo­ple pho­tographed us all the time. A lot of peo­ple came up and said it was witty and laughed. In a word, the re­ac­tion was only pos­i­tive.”

“Ed­u­cated, suc­cess­ful, creative peo­ple come to these ral­lies, peo­ple who don’t like be­ing just part of a face­less crowd,” he said.

“They want to keep their in­di­vid­u­al­ity. They want to have the right to their own voice. And home­made posters turned out to be the ideal so­lu­tion.”


A ban­ner held at a rally on Satur­day reads “Moscow does not be­lieve in tears,” a ref­er­ence to a well-loved Soviet film drama. More than 20,000 pro­test­ers flocked to a cen­tral av­enue in Rus­sia’s cap­i­tal to de­mand Vladimir Putin’s res­ig­na­tion and protest elec­toral fraud.


Op­po­si­tion pro­test­ers carry a plac­ard show­ing Pres­i­dent-elect Vlad­mir Putin and the slo­gan “Twelve More Years? No Thanks!” dur­ing a rally in Moscow on Satur­day.

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