Saturday, April 19, 2014


Russia

Tweeting Putin: The State Of The Union, In 140 Characters Or Less

President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address to the Federal Assembly in the Grand Kremlin palace in Moscow on December 12.
President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address to the Federal Assembly in the Grand Kremlin palace in Moscow on December 12.
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By Daisy Sindelar
"Life does not stand still," Russian President Vladimir Putin noted at the start of his state of the union address. But for many of the Russian Twitterati sitting through this year's speech, life did appear to stand still -- for exactly an hour and 10 minutes.

"So boring," said a tweeter called A.Sh. "They could at least follow North Korea's example and arrest someone during the speech.

A growing cadre of Russian journalists and other observers are increasingly using Twitter as a way to critique the president in real time -- and dissect some of his lengthier dissertations into bite-sized, digestible morsels.

Many of them were expecting that Putin would use his annual December 12 Constitution Day speech to announce controversial changes to Russia's still relatively democratic mayoral elections.

But the speech came and went without major provocation, prompting some chagrined observers to claim they'd been duped into watching:

(TRANSLATION: Great, they got everyone all excited about canceling elections and then made everyone read and listen to a lot of tiresome banalities.)

Many people turned instead to news coverage of the speech for their entertainment, particularly the enthusiastic bulletins churned out by ITAR-TASS:

(TRANSLATION: POLITICS: PRESIDENT-SPEECH-APPLAUSE -- TASS continues to delight with its headlines)

Others enjoyed interpreting the selective use of cutaways to the audience, as when Putin blamed an "amoral international slush" and "brazen migrants from certain southern regions of Russia" for a rise in interethnic tensions: 
(TRANSLATION: When Putin was talking about the "amoral international," the first person they showed was [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov.)

Putin paid respects to the Russian Constitution, which today marked its 20th anniversary, saying the document’s framework must be "stable." But several Twitter commentators shivered when the president went on to suggest that certain "pinpoint adjustments" might be necessary:
(TRANSLATION: Putin: The constitutional carcass must be stable. It’s the constitutional fat we'll change.)

Others took issue with Putin’s defense of "traditional values," when he cited Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev as saying that conservatism does not prevent society from moving "forward and upward," but prevents it from falling "backwards and downward" into chaos:
(TRANSLATION: Forward and upward, back and down -- Putin was citing the Kama Sutra)

Many Putin-watchers enjoy deconstructing the lofty vocabulary and convoluted phrasing that the president brings out for all important speeches. Putin’s lofty reference to "dukhovniye skrepi," or "spiritual bonds," gained meme-like status when he used it in his 2012 address.

It even got a few callbacks this year when he called for improving the quality of life for people in Russia's isolated rural regions -- a suggestion that some observers interpreted as an implicit wish for country folk to stay on the farm, as it were:
(TRANSLATION: So that's why they needed those bonds -- to keep people tied to their villages!)

A doctored photograph of Putin's state of the union address tweeted by Uborshchitsa "Lenta.ru" shows the Kremlin elite in Orthodox vestments -- and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who at times appeared to be asleep -- wearing bunny ears.
A doctored photograph of Putin's state of the union address tweeted by Uborshchitsa "Lenta.ru" shows the Kremlin elite in Orthodox vestments -- and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who at times appeared to be asleep -- wearing bunny ears.

​Putin wrapped up his speech with a final tribute to the Russian Constitution, calling on the Russian public to honor it by heeding the call "in each of us" to help the country grow stronger.

His alter ego on Twitter, the mock presidential account @KermlinRussia, put it a different way:
(TRANSLATION: On Constitution Day, for some reason, we're in the habit of listening to the person who violates it most, Vladimir Putin.)

Dorogaya Redaktsiya (Dear Editorial Board), the irreverent arm of Russia’s Lenta.ru news site, finished with a flourish:
(TRANSLATION: Dear Editorial Board, which spent Putin's speech in a state of the wildest tension, now looks approximately like this) 

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