Vladimir Putin’s enthusiasm for having himself photographed in kitschy macho poses has been discussed for years, as has the less “LOL” issue of his having turned the Russian government and economy into a tool for securing personal power and wealth through theft and oppression. These trends seem to have converged in the recent series of over-the-top birthday celebrations for the 62-year-old leader, documented in this piece on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website. Those celebrations featured:
- Pro-Putin street murals in seven cities
- A slick YouTube video featuring a children’s choir singing Putin a birthday song
- An exhibition called “The Twelve Labors of Putin” near the Kremlin modeled on the myth of Hercules
- The launch of a clothing line dedicated to Putin called “Motherland”
BuzzFeed’s Max Seddon, in addition to chronicling the above, catalogs a number of groveling social media tributes to Putin posted by Russian celebrities and public figures.
Despite the efforts of Putin and his affiliated propagandists, the all-time best example of egomaniacal dictator idiocy remains Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov renaming the month of April and the word for bread after his own mother. (She probably still got on his case because he didn’t call enough, right? Ha ha, moms. Niyazov’s regime was infamous for maintaining power through torture and repression.)
Update, Oct. 7, 2014: A reader who’s spent time in Turkmenistan writes that, while he heard rumors that Niyazov had tried to institute the bread-mother word switch, it doesn’t seem to have caught on, an account echoed by this Paul Theroux piece. Said reader does confirm that the renaming of April was real: “If you tried to say ‘April’ as Aprel on live TV, you were gently corrected (first) and then kind of shamed (second).”