Moscow, Russia – Last week, Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia for the 3rd time. The world’s eyes have been on the former Soviet world capital for the last few months as general discontent in Russia with Putin’s corrupt government came to a head over rigged elections in December 2011. Russia in 2012 has been marked by high-profile protests, such as one on February 26 where 20,000 protesters encircled Moscow. What is most remarkable about this new wave of protests, however, is the demographic behind them: 40-60 year-old women.
The reason for this swell in interest is thought to be linked to a product recently marketed: a calendar featuring Putin in varying shirtless poses. The calendar, inspired by photographs of Putin as the consummate Russian outdoorsman on his 2009 Siberian vacation, has sold over 7 million copies in the last 3 months. The majority of the consumer base is middle-aged Russian women.
So what exactly is it about Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, former FSB head and political juggernaut, that makes internal body temperatures skyrocket for women of the land of fur caps and arctic tundra? Tiger Magazine went to the streets, asking ordinary Russian women for their take on Mr. Putin. Women consider his “flaxen hair and ice-blue eyes,” in the words of one female resident of Yekaterinburg, “a major turn-on.” Said Muscovite Svetlana Aliyeva: “He’s the whole package—brain, brawn and chiseled features that rival those of Anne Vyalitsyna. When I see him gazing at me from the portrait frame, I feel as though he knows every intimate detail about me – like he knows my whole life story.” Perhaps the most telltale sign of Putin’s unparalleled sex appeal is that the women enthusiastically praising his physical attributes did so even without being inebriated with vodka.
Along with the rest of their countrymen, the middle-aged women of Russia are looking for things to change. They feel the tides of change in the world, and they are tired of tolerating Putin’s heavy-handed leadership. “There are lots of ugly people who could be oppressive dictators. It’s time for someone else to take over and let Putin devote his time to modeling,” said one angry protester.
Protesters hope that the pressure from the public and international community will induce him to leave office and devote his retirement to modeling. Their confidence is such that some are already looking to the trajectory of his modeling career. Many are of the opinion that, without heavy media scrutiny, Putin will feel comfortable enough to embrace his modeling talent and take more creative risks (corresponding, giggled one babushka, to increasing states of undress). “It’s bad enough that it’s always below zero here and we have to swaddle ourselves in eight layers of clothing. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to enjoy Vlad without his overcoat?”
The calendars, and the huge fan base they’ve spawned, have become more than just a fad. In most of the Russian homes to which Tiger Magazine was invited for some pickled herring and red-beet soup, a picture of Putin swimming in a river has replaced icons of Stalin, Lenin and a fully clad Putin. “That picture where he is swimming the butterfly – if it weren’t blasphemy I would say he looks like a sea god majestically rising out of the depths of the river,” gushed one St. Petersburg fan. One woman, who asked to remain nameless, made her point quite clearly: “Although I have the greatest respect for Stalin’s magnificent, impeccably groomed moustache, I really don’t care to look at the fat man wearing it.”
-Meredith Moran ’15