Putin Fan Clubs Get a Little Cultish in Armenia
Yet, as with any love story, skeptics abound.
There may generally be something creepy about political youth groups, but a youth cult for Russia's aspiring eternal leader, Vladimir Putin, sounds twice as eerie. And we are not even talking about something in Russia, but south of the Caucasus mountain range -- in Russia's ally, Armenia.
And not one group, but two.
The fact that Russia's March presidential elections are just around the corner, is, of course, a mere coincidence. This is a case of true love, plain and simple.
The first Putin pack is the brainchild of an outfit called the International Center of Young Armenians and a youth arm of the Russia-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States. It plans to talk all things Putin at its gatherings, show Putin films, read Putin books, promote Putin thoughts (about Armenia and otherwise) and, basically, instill love for the Russian prime minister and comeback presidential candidate among young Armenians.
Yet, as for any love story, skeptics abound. Armenia may top the Caucasus charts for ties to Russia, but the Putin love-in, coming amidst unprecedented Russian opposition to Putin, nonetheless has been ridiculed and deplored by many Armenians.
To put that scorn into action, several young people who deem Armenia's Putin clubs "abnormal" recently set up a mock Putin club of their own, complete with photos of a bare-chested Putin, RFE/RL reports (scroll down to see the video). Club #2 unites groups such as the Free Russophiles, The Dark Forces, One Elephant and the Union of Accountants of Kotai Region -- a coterie angrily described by Putin club #1 as a "bunch of obscure people and organizations."
It remains to be seen which take will prevail with young Armenians. Granted, though, political youth clubs have a long history in former Soviet republics like Armenia. If Putin club #1 comes up with a song, it may well sound like this.
[An earlier post reported that two Putin clubs exist in Armenia along with a mock Putin club. This post was corrected on February 2, 2012 after your tamada learned firsthand that media reports identifying club #2 as a sincere Putin fan club were incorrect.]
This article originally appeared at EurasiaNet.org, an Atlantic partner site.