‘Twas the second night of a long holiday to celebrate International Women’s Day, on March 8, and Moscow honored them the best way it knows how: by smearing them with glitter, taking their tops off, and having them bounce in honor of the country’s macho ubermensch Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

The resultant Putin Party seemed a throwback to the best of the golden days of Putin’s (official) rule, all bread and sparkly circuses. There were the outlandish gogo dancers and the sparkly eunuch working the tightrope. There was the acrobat in red tights splitting apart the clear plastic shell that spun her over the crowd with the sheer force of her split; the spinning, airborne bed on which a scantily clad pair reenacted the over-under coital acrobatics that go on in most happy homes. There was the obligatory show, with sequined candelabra-head aliens and cabaret girls with a banner that says, “It’s shitty without Vova,” using the casual version Putin’s first name. And, it goes without saying, that the décor was top-tier swanky: cheap plastic leanders and a giant snake head – and a lady rubbing her breasts atop a replica of Putin’s desk.

Putin would’ve been proud.

But everyone, especially the journalists covering the event, had a question: what did this all mean? Was this the first salvo in the prime minister’s campaign to retake the presidency, in March 2012? Had the event been organized by the nutters at the Kremlin youth group, Nashi? (The speech bubbles floating around the party with slogans like, “Vova, I’m with you!” were, after all red and white, the colors of Nashi. Plus, one of the bartenders said so.) And what of the weak outrage shown by Putin’s press secretary that the party had no relation to the Prime Minister, whose name was being used in vain? If he were really so outraged and so against the idea, surely one phone call could’ve shut the place down. Doesn’t that mean that Putin was actually behind it all?

These were interesting questions, ones we continued to discuss while fending off the other journalists with cameras. (“We’re also journalists,” we told each other. “You don’t need us.”) The rest of the public couldn’t have cared less about the politics or the non-politics or the simulacra politics covering the decoy politics. They were there to dance, or stare at boobies.

In reality, the answer is much more simple, and much more Russian. The Putin Party was held at Rai (“paradise”), a club that was once the hottest, most splashiest in Moscow but has now almost reached the final shore of washed up. The concept of the party came from someone else’s idea (of course), which had used ladies to celebrate another important Russian Federation holiday: Vladimir Putin’s 58th birthday, last October. To mark the occasion, one enterprising young journalism student at Moscow State University (“Russia’s Harvard”) decided to make a calendar for Putin. It would be of his fellow students in the journalism department, considered a bastion of liberal opposition to the Kremlin. These ladies, on the other hand, did not so much care. They were happy to get into fancy lingere and pose for the man with fun little slogans. “Vladimir Vladimirovich, they put out the forest fires, but I’m still burning,” said Miss March. “Vladimir Vladimirovich, how about a third go?” said Miss February, referring to a potential third term. “Vladimir Vladimirovich, I’d like to thank you in person. Call 8- 925-148-17-28,” said Ksenya Selezneva, Miss December. The calendar was a huge media success, and even Putin said he liked it, in public.

And so the owners of Rai, watching the media madness over the calendar and their own passing glory, decided to cash in. They summoned in the Moscow State calendar girls and threw a sexy Putin party, using the time-tested Russian knowledge that you don’t fix what ain’t broke. (In the promotional video for the party, Selezneva aka Miss December says, “Not only women love Putin. Men also adore Putin and they too want to dance at a party dedicated to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.”)

“Our goal was to attract attention to ourselves,” said Andreas Lobzhanidze, the organizer of the party and Rai’s promoter, when reached by phone the next day. He denied that the party had been organized by Nashi, the Kremlin youth group. “Our goal was to show that we want to be part of the Olympics and Formula-1” – both events, in 2014, that Putin brought to Russia using his star-power. There’s a lot of money to be made, and Rai wants in. “We’re ready to be partners, as event organizers and the like,” Lobzhanidze said. And, given all the uncertainty and guessing in the run-up to Putin’s decision, in March 2012, whether he or Dmitry Medvedev will be president, the party was sure to create a very lucrative splash.

Despite the Putin Party’s success, Lobzhanidze sounded very irritated. “I’m on a romantic date with a lady, celebrating March 8th,” he said. “I don’t have time to discuss this party.”

Defender of, um, Women [The Daily]

The Daily
Defender of, um, Women
03/9/2011