MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin marks his 60th birthday on October 7. There will be a VIP concert in Putin's native St. Petersburg and the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party is holding events throughout the country. Meanwhile, opposition activists have started a Facebook page titled "Help An Old Man Retire." I took to the streets in Moscow to ask residents of the Russian capital what kind of birthday present they would give their president.
Aysha Umbet, 13, is a school girl who sings in a choir in the Bolshoi theater:
"If I knew him, I would give him an enormous piece of chocolate because he always seems so sad. He probably wants something sweet. It seems to me that it is quite hard to run a country. Of course there was also President [Dmitry] Medvedev, but Putin has done a lot for the country and he is tired. That's probably why he's sad. That's why we need to make him happy so he smiles more."
Tamara, 67, is a pensioner who spoke to us on her way to buy theater tickets:
"[I would give him] patience. Not patience with us [the older generation]. We are already used to living in different circumstances in life. I wish him patience with the younger generation."
Irina Belova is a 29-year-old journalist:
"Vladimir Putin of course already has everything. A present for him therefore must be very unusual and from the heart. So it would have to be something I made myself. If I could draw well, I would draw him a picture."
Magomed Abdurakhman is a 45-year-old driver from Dagestan:
"What can you give as a present to someone like Putin? All you can do is wish him good health so he can continue to work."
Vitaly is an 18-year old student at the Moscow City Aviation College:
"I would like, with all respect, to wish Vladimir Vladimirovich an enormous piece of shit for his birthday. Of course, he has done some good things for Russia, but it's nothing in comparison with [the bad things] he has allowed to happen. And it's actually becoming funny what's happening at the moment. Look for instance at the law on protests and gatherings that was just passed."
Natalya Kuznetsova, a 60-year-old journalist, would bestow him with intellect:
"He has everything already. I would give him the intellect to rule the country. Not emotion, but the intellect with which to rule the country so that people live better. Politics is ambiguous. Life is not getting better for simple people. I'm not talking about the civil servants and the political elite. I'm talking about simple people."
Viktor is a 35-year-old accountant:
"The only thing that a normal person can wish him is good health. And also that his little daughters finally appear and we finally see their faces and know all the details. It's strange that in our country we don't know what the president's children look like."
Natalya is a 30-year-old schoolteacher:
"I would wish him good health. Birthdays should be separate from the place where you work and the status you have in society. In our country you usually wish them well."
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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