Book celebrates Vladimir Putin as 'global cultural phenomenon'
Pro-Kremlin website compiles book of pop culture depictions of president and says it will send him a copy for his birthday
What can you get the man who has everything? In the case of Vladimir Putin, a pro-Kremlin website has decided the appropriate gift is a book of pop culture depictions of the Russian president, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Friday, reports Guardian.
The book, In the Lead Role: Putin in Contemporary Culture, is 288 glossy pages of Putin in magazines and books, television and film, graffiti, sculpture, music and consumer goods. There are numerous photographs of public stunts in support of Putin, such as Russians holding letters reading "Happy birthday Vladimir", and the "I Will Rip It for Putin" rally at which young women tore off sleeveless undershirts with the president’s face pictured in pink.
Viktor Levanov, editor of the pro-Kremlin news site Gosindex, told journalists at a photo studio in downtown Moscow that the birthday book was meant to look at how Putin had "stepped outside the boundaries of personality and became a worldwide cultural phenomenon".
"The use of his image in art, literature and journalism can’t not be noticed. Even the presidential campaign in the United States has recently been unfoldingaround how candidates relate to Vladimir Putin," he said.
Levanov, who made his name as a LiveJournal blogger, said the book had not received state funding and the profits would go to an Amur tiger centre started by Putin. He said it was not a political statement and denied that a cult of personality was forming around Putin.
But he admitted the authors had gathered material from pro-Kremlin youth movements backed by the state and said he liked the fact that such groups had "done a lot to promote Putin’s image". Levanov said he would send a copy of the book to the president.
The book features examples of the western media’s supposed distortion of Putin’s image. The New Tsar, a book by the New York Times correspondent Steven Lee Myers, "is supposed to be complete and truthful; however, already from the cover it’s clear that the author was not able to avoid stereotypes," the authors write. On another page, an issue of Der Spiegel depicting Putin standing above David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Barack Obama is called a "classic of European demonisation".
Among those attending the presentation was the head of the Putin Facebook fan club, Mikhail Antonov, who had helped with the book. For Putin’s 62nd birthday, in 2014, he organised an exhibition of paintings reimagining the president’s achievements as the 12 Labours of Hercules.
"As we say, a spoon is good before lunch. It’s our president’s birthday, and we want to bring people together who are interested in Putin," Antonov said.