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Friday, March 07, 2008

Annals of Russia's Neo-Soviet Propaganda

The Moscow Times reports:

Last year, weekly tabloid Express Gazeta held a competition for children to draw the Russian president. The winner depicted Vladimir Putin declaring his love to his wife with a single rose. She won a puppy, and not just any puppy, but a relative of Putin's black Labrador, Connie.

This year's competition is to draw the future president, and the winner, to be announced in May, will have to settle for a laptop, a cell phone and a teddy bear. Although the election hasn't taken place, the children taking part all chose the same subject for their drawings, which went on display at the Photo Center of the Union of Journalists this week.

"The children all drew [Dmitry] Medvedev," said Yekaterina Shumeiko, a spokeswoman for Express Gazeta. The contest started after Putin announced Medvedev as his preferred candidate in December.

Other candidates only appeared in one drawing, Shumeiko said. A child drew a scene involving Medvedev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, but she made it clear that Medvedev was the winner.

One thousand children aged 7 to 16 drew pictures of Medvedev in a variety of poses. The two most common themes were weightlifting and orphanage visits. The children who entered obviously picked up on his biography. In his university days, he liked weightlifting and rowing. One of his most noticeable characteristics, his diminutive height, does not come across in the drawings.
One drawing shows Medvedev weightlifting in a red singlet emblazoned with the word Russia. He holds a bar decorated with words including "peace," "sport," "school" and "children." A more ambitious picture shows him dressed in a leotard, lifting up a map of Russia. He is helped by Putin, who is wearing judo gear.

"Another interesting point is that the kids have drawn Medvedev and Putin together in many of the entries, so it's obvious that the children link Medvedev and Putin," Shumeiko said.

A drawing of them together shows two statuesque leaders walking side by side along a red carpet, with an airplane in the backround. It is called "Putin and Medvedev on a joint trip overseas."

Medvedev's visit to a maternity ward last year was also a popular source of inspiration, resulting in at least three drawings. One picture shows him holding a baby girl and baby boy in his arms. Behind him is a row of babies in pink and blue swaddling clothes.
While Shumeiko insisted that nothing was stage-managed, some of the drawings include messages asking parents to vote for Medvedev. One shows him standing under a banner with the slogan "Vote for Medvedev" and drawings of a syringe and a cigarette with red lines through them. In front of him, the members of the audience all cheerfully raise their hands to vote for him.

"One girl drew a picture. Her letter said, 'I want my parents to vote for Medvedev. If he is trusted by Putin, who is trusted by all of Russia, then we should trust him too,'" Shumeiko said.

Another popular theme is international affairs. One drawing shows Medvedev shaking hand with the German president. In another, he sits at a table with George W. Bush. And one shows people of different nationalities holding hands around a globe with the slogan "Our President is for Peace." Russia is the only country marked on the globe.

"People nowadays say our children are apolitical, that they grow up not caring about issues, but this competition goes to prove this is not the case," Shumeiko said.

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