Happy Birthday, Mr. Putin!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Putin! is an English title[1] of the erotic calendar, released by the Russian publishing house "Fakultet" for the 58th birthday of Vladimir Putin on October 7, 2010. The calendar features twelve semi-nude female students of journalism faculty at the Moscow State University (MSU), each for every month, with a short message. The print run consisted of 50,000 copies.[2]

The calendar caused a stir in the international media.[3] In a less than one day the images from the calendar have been reposted from its original web source by several thousands Russian users of LiveJournal.[4] MSU journalism student Yelena Sadikova (unrelated to calendar) died of acute myeloid leukemia after refusing to accept the money from calendar's sales, needed for her treatment.[5] A day after the calendar's release six other students of the same university made an internet version, critical of Putin, which received an online support. The calendar was followed by lampoon version with the heads of Russian politicians imposed on original female bodies. Other versions include that dedicated to the end of Valentina Matviyenko's gubernatorial tenure.[6] A calendar, inspired by the original version, was also made for the Mayor of Omsk.[7]

Original calendar[edit]

The student girls for the calendar were selected via social network by one of the producers. The shootings lasted for three days and from over 10,000 shots thirteen were chosen. The girls are dressed in lacy lingerie and each page contains a speech bubble with the girl's name. The images were originally published on the LiveJournal page of Kristina Potupchik, a press-secretary of Russian youth movement Nashi. The movement, however, denied any connection with the calendar.[8] According to calendar's producer Vladimir Tabak, the publishing house, which released the calendar, was established by the MSU students, who have never been the members of political youth organizations.[8]

Each speech bubble text begins with "Vladimir Vladimirovich..." The messages are the following, starting from January: "Every needs a man like you", ""How about a third go?" (referring to Putin's anticipated third presidential term), "“The forest fires have been put out, but I'm still burning!" (referring to 2010 Russian wildfires), "You are the best!", "I love you!", "Give me a ride on Kalina!", "Would you take me as a co-pilot?", "If not you, who?", "You only get better with the years", "You are my Premier", "I don't need rynda, I need you" (referring to Putin's reply to an internet user's request, known as Putin's rynda) and "I want to congratulate you personally. Call 8-925-159-17-28".[1]

The revenue from calendar's sales was planned to go for charity.[5]

Alternative version[edit]

The alternative oppositional version features female students dressed in black and with taped mouths in protest. The pages accommodate two months and bear critical questions. According to one of the students, Margarita Zhuravlyova, they "didn't have to think long to come up with questions; people ask these questions in their daily lives, at home, at work, in the streets and on public transportation".[2] The alternative version was advertised through LiveJournal and Twitter. The alternative version features the following questions: "When will they free Mikhail Khodorkovsky?", "OK with fools, but what about roads?" (referring to Russian saying "There are two troubles in Russia: the fools and the roads"), "How inflation will affect the bribes?", "Freedom of assembly always and everywhere?", "Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?" and "When the next terrorist incident occurs"?[9]

Reactions[edit]

The Moscow State University campus became divided into those supporting the alternative version and the other supporting the original calendar.[2] The head of MSU journalism faculty Yelena Vartanova commented: "I think the calendar is quite frivolous but I don’t see anything criminal in it. [...] It's a matter for their own conscience".[10]

Putin's attitude was reportedly "indifferent"; according to Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, "all these questions have a right to exist and people have a right to ask them".[2] Peskov also noted that "this situation tells us about natural pluralism of opinions in our society and that it is important to have an active position in life, and such things should be encouraged unless they interfere with studies".[2]

References[edit]