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Help Spot The References: Viral Video Mocks Putin Era

A haunting animated time-lapse video by Russian artist/activist Egor Zhgun caught our attention this morning.

"12 Years In 2 Minutes" is a withering indictment of the Putin era in which a hunched character resembling Vladimir Putin gradually morphs into a pharaonic Mr. Burns (from "The Simpsons") as references pile up next to him of perceived excesses and blunders of the past dozen years.

Zhgun is no stranger to Putin detractors. His "Grandpa With The Condom Tattoo" borrowed imagery from the Stieg Larsson blockbuster "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" to poke fun at Putin and earn him a spot on our Tangled Web blog's recent rundown of "Russia's New Viral Dissident Art."

The video credits Noah Kalina and "The Simpsons" for the concept and Carly Comando for the apocalyptic music that seems intended to drive home the notion of choreographed precision that looks set to continue after this weekend's presidential election, which even the opposition expects Putin to win by a landslide.

Zhgun's video is a wonder to behold, chock full of sardonic imagery that is as frightening as it is funny.

Here's a partial list of what transpires, provided by colleague Pavel Butorin (@RusPoliceWatch), who has @MiriamElder to thank for spotting the video:

  • Boris Yeltsin ushers in an almost childlike, doe-eyed Putin
  • Putin transforms into a tsar and assumes Mr. Burns' "Excellent" posture; an oil bucket hangs on the wall
  • then-independent NTV reports the "Kursk" submarine tragedy
  • Putin goes on "Larry King Live," responds contritely, "It sank"
  • Kremlin takes over NTV
  • televised coverage of the "Nord Ost" hostage crisis; a "Wanted" poster appears of Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev
  • the TV is boarded up and shackled
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky emerges as a supporter of socialist and liberal ideas; Putin disapproves and a "Wanted" poster displays the Yukos billionaire; Khodorkovsky lands behind bars with a blood-stained knife in his hand
  • Chechnya's pro-Kremlin leader Akhmad Kadyrov is assassinated; son Ramzan shows up wearing a track suit and Muslim headwear, kneels before Putin, departs holding a bag
  • a rescue plan for Beslan school is signed by Putin, who then appears before a backdrop of children dressed like Kenny, the "South Park" character who has died a thousand deaths
  • Kadyrov picks up another bag of cash as the head of Basayev appears on the desk
  • a beheaded beast of terrorism in a "Wanted" poster sprouts three heads instead of one
  • a plaque from the Munich security conference, where Putin delivered a speech that spawned talk of a new Cold War, appears on the wall
  • Putin raises Medvedev from infancy
  • &Russia wins the Sochi Olympics bid
  • the slogan "Putin Clan -- Victory of Russia" appears on the wall
  • "Time" magazine portrays Putin as a devil; the picture rests comfortably over Putin's shoulder
  • Medvedev sheds his suit to display a Superman-like outfit, is crowned tsar; he plays with an iPad
  • the fledgling opposition appears as a blue bird in a cage
  • photos of Putin swimming and saving animals cover the aging poster of the three-headed terror monster
  • the blue bird in the cage swells into an "Angry Bird"
  • Medvedev plays with a toy police car, renaming militsia "police" with a "modernization" robot toy
  • Moscow is briefly shrouded in forest fire smog; Mayor Yury Luzhkov brings Putin a lollypop, but Putin takes away the influential Muscovite's famous hat, gives it to Medvedev
  • Medvedev gets an alarm clock, abolishes daylight savings time
  • United Russia party hands Putin a parliamentary election; Medvedev gets a hamster (parliament) that keels over on its wheel
  • Putin's face swells from Botox injections
  • the blue bird breaks out of its cage
  • Medvedev is a baby with a pacifier again, playing volleyball with Putin
  • Putin is again crowned tsar after a fade to black; all of Medvedev's reforms are ditched into a recycle bin
  • another fade to black; the oil bucket disappears; the wall and desk are mostly empty, except the same portrait of Putin as a young man; Putin boasts a Qaddafi-style hat, hairstyle, and sunglasses
  • Putin looks like a mummified pharaoh with an IV in his arm

Can you spot any symbolism that we've missed?

-- Andy Heil

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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