Public image of Vladimir Putin

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The public image of Vladimir Putin concerns the image of Vladimir Putin, current President of Russia, among residents of Russia and worldwide.

Ratings and polls

Putin's approval (blue) and disapproval (red) ratings during his eight-year presidency.
Putin's (red) and Medvedev's (blue) Endorsement Index.

According to public opinion surveys conducted by NGO Levada Center, Putin's approval rating was 81% in June 2007, and the highest of any leader in the world,[1] other than that of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who received a 93% public approval rating in September 1997.[2][3][4] Putin's popularity rose from 31% in August 1999 to 80% in November 1999, never dropping below 65% during his first presidency.[5] In January 2013, his approval rating fell to 62%, the lowest point since 2000 and a ten-point drop over two years.[6] Observers see Putin's high approval ratings as a consequence of the significant improvements in living standards and Russia's reassertion of itself on the world scene that occurred during his tenure as President.[7][8] One analysis attributed Putin's popularity, in part, to state-owned or state-controlled television.[9]

A joint poll by World Public Opinion in the US and Levada Center [10] in Russia around June–July 2006 stated that "neither the Russian nor the American publics are convinced Russia is headed in an anti-democratic direction" and "Russians generally support Putin's concentration of political power and strongly support the re-nationalization of Russia's oil and gas industry." Russians generally support the political course of Putin and his team.[11] A 2005 survey showed that three times as many Russians felt the country was "more democratic" under Putin than it was during the Yeltsin or Gorbachev years, and the same proportion thought human rights were better under Putin than Yeltsin.[9]

According to a Pew survey conducted from March to May 2015, negative views of Vladimir Putin were held by three-quarters or more of western Europeans, North Americans, and Australians (81%), and a majority in the Middle East, with the most negative responses found in Spain (92%), Poland (87%), France (85%) and Ukraine (84%).[12] Only three countries show over 50% of positive views of Putin: Russia (88%), Vietnam (70%) and China (54%).[12]


Putin was Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2007.[13] In April 2008, Putin was put on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list.[14]

On 4 December 2007, at Harvard University, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev credited Putin with having "pulled Russia out of chaos" and said he was "assured a place in history", despite Gorbachev's claim that the news media have been suppressed and that election rules run counter to the democratic ideals he has promoted".[15] In December 2011, amid the protests following the 2011 Russian elections Gorbachev criticized Putin for a decision to seek the third term in the presidential elections and advised Putin to leave politics.[16]

Criticism of Putin has been widespread especially over the Runet.[17] It is said that the Russian youth organisations finance a full "network" of pro-government bloggers.[18]

In the U.S. embassy cables, published by WikiLeaks in late 2010, Putin was called "alpha dog" and compared with Batman (while Dmitry Medvedev was compared with Batman's crime-fighting partner Robin). American diplomats said Putin's Russia had become "a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state."[19][20] Putin called it "slanderous".[21]

By western commentators and the Russian opposition, Putin has been described as a dictator.[22][23] Putin biographer Masha Gessen has stated that "Putin is a dictator," comparing him to Alexander Lukashenko.[24][25] Former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has described Putin as a "ruthless dictator" whose "days are numbered."[26] U.S. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Putin "a real threat to the stability and peace of the world."[27]

In the fall of 2011, the anti-Putin opposition movement in Russia became more visible, with street protests against allegedly falsified parliamentary elections (in favor of Putin's party, United Russia) cropping up across major Russian cities. Following Putin's re-election in March 2012, the movement struggled to redefine its new course of action.[28] In early September 2014 Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, linked Putin with the biblical figure Cain because Filaret believed that although Putin claimed to be their “brother” he was responsible for "shedding the brotherly blood" of Ukrainians during the War in Donbass.[29] Filaret believed "Satan went into him, as into Judas Iscariot".[29] The Dalai Lama criticized Putin's foreign policy practices, claiming it to be responsible for isolating Russia from the rest of the world.[30][31][32] The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named Putin as the 2014 Person of the Year, recognizing "the person who does the most to enable and promote organized criminal activity."[33][34]

Putin enjoys high levels of support in Russia.[35][36]

According to Denis Volkov from Moscow Levada Center drawing any conclusions from Russian poll results or comparing them with Western polls is pointless as there's no real political competition in Russia. Unlike in democratic states the Russian voters aren't offered any "credible alternatives" and the public opinion is formed primarily with state-controlled media which promotes the ruling party and discredits any alternative candidates.[37] This kind of illusion of democracy, choice only between "A and A" is part of "Russian consciousness" according to a nationalist publicist Alexander Prokhanov who considers the "elections between A and B" to be part of a "liberal" mindset.[38]


Putin's name and image are widely used in advertisement and product branding.[39] Among the Putin-branded products are Putinka vodka, the PuTin brand of canned food, the Gorbusha Putina caviar and a collection of T-shirts with his image.[40] In October 2016, the luxury company Caviar produced a limited series of iPhone 7, called Supremo Putin Damascus and made from Damascus steel, with a golden basrelief portrait of Putin.[41]

Public image

Vladimir Putin in Tuva, fishing in 2007. Putin often presents a tough guy image in the media.

Putin tries to create an outdoor, sporty, tough guy public image, demonstrating his physical capabilities and taking part in unusual or dangerous acts, such as extreme sports and interaction with wild animals.[42] For example, in 2007, the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda published a huge photograph of a bare-chested Putin vacationing in the Siberian mountains under the headline: "Be Like Putin."[43] Such photo ops are part of a public relations approach that, according to Wired, "deliberately cultivates the macho, take-charge superhero image".[39] Some of the activities have been criticised for involving deception or being completely staged. Notable examples of Putin's macho adventures include:[44]

Putin driving a Formula 1 car, 2010 (see the video).

Singing and painting

Putin playing and then singing Blueberry Hill at a charity concert.

On 11 December 2010, at a concert organized for a children's charity in Saint Petersburg, Putin sang "Blueberry Hill" with Maceo Parker's jazz band and played a little piano of it and of the Russian patriotic song "С чего начинается Родина" from his favourite spy movie The Shield and the Sword. After that he took part in singing of a Russian song about cosmonauts, "Grass by the Home". The concert was attended by various Hollywood and European stars such as Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone, Alain Delon, and Gérard Depardieu.[60][61] Putin also played or sang "С чего начинается Родина" on a number of other occasions,[62] such as a meeting with the Russian spies deported from the U.S., including Anna Chapman.[63] Another melody which Putin is known to play on the piano is the Anthem of Saint Petersburg, his native city.[64]

Putin's painting "Узор на заиндевевшем окне" (A Pattern on a Hoarfrost-Encrusted Window), which he had painted during the Christmas Fair on 26 December 2008, became the top lot at the charity auction in Saint Petersburg and sold for 37 million rubles.[65] The picture was made for a series of other paintings by famous Russians. The painters were required to illustrate one of the letters of the Russian alphabet with a subject connected to Nikolay Gogol's novel Christmas Eve (the 200th anniversary from Gogol's birth was celebrated in 2008). Putin's picture depicted a hoarfrost pattern (Russian: Узор, illustrating the Cyrillic letter У) on a window with curtains sewn with traditional Ukrainian ornaments.[65] The creation of the painting coincided with the 2009 Russia–Ukraine gas dispute, which left a number of European states without Russian gas and amid January frosts.[66]

A scene from the Superputin comics

A Russian movie called A Kiss not for Press was premiered in 2008 on DVD. The movie is said to be based on biography of Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila.[67] Dobby, a house elf from Harry Potter film series, has been found to look like Putin,[68] and so was also Daniel Craig in his role of James Bond (he was the first blond actor to play James Bond).[69]

There are a large number of songs about Putin.[70] Some of the more popular include:

Putin also is a subject of Russian jokes and chastushki, such as the popular "[Before Putin] There Was No Orgasm" featured in the comedy film The Day of Elections.[76] There is a meta-joke that, since the coming of Putin to power, all the classic jokes about a smart yet rude boy called Вовочка (Vovochka, diminutive from Vladimir) have suddenly become political jokes.

Putin features in the colouring book for children Vova and Dima (presented on his 59th birthday),[77] where he and Dmitry Medvedev are drawn as good-behaving little boys, and in the Superputin online comics series, where Putin and Medvedev are portrayed first as superheroes,[39] and then as a troll and an orc in the World of Warcraft.[78]

Vladimir Putin was portrayed by internet personality Nice Peter in his YouTube series Epic Rap Battles of History, in Season 2's finale episode, "Rasputin vs. Stalin" (aired on April 22, 2013).[79]

In 2014, Putin earned a popular nickname of "dickhead" or "fuckface" ("хуйло" in Russian and Ukrainian) following the spread of the very popular chant of football hooligans in Ukraine. On 14 June 2014, Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia cited the chant in front of the cameras during an anti-Russian rally at Russia's Embassy in Kyiv [80]


Alluding to Rudyard Kipling's python Kaa, Putin addresses the Russian non-systemic opposition, who, according to him, work for foreign interests: Come to me, Bandar-logs![81]

Putin has produced a large number of popular aphorisms and catch-phrases, known as putinisms.[82] Many of them were first made during his annual Q&A conferences, where Putin answered questions from journalists and other people in the studio, as well as from Russians throughout the country, who either phoned in or spoke from studios and outdoor sites across Russia. Putin is known for his often tough and sharp language.[82] The examples of most popular putinisms include:[83]

Putin during one of his annual Q&A conferences, indicating with his pen.

References and notes

  1. Madslien, Jorn (4 July 2007). "Russia's economic might: spooky or soothing?". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  2. Blair is Mr 93%. Stephen Castle/Paul Routledge. The Independent (national newspaper). Published: 28 September 1997. Retrieved: 6 May 2014.
  3. Tony Blair's Style of Government: An Interim Assessment - Page 1. Political Issues in Britain Today. Editor: Bill Jones. Publisher: Manchester University Press. (5th edition). Published: 1999. Retrieved: 6 May 2014.
  4. It's the way they tell' em Total Politics. Simon Hoggart. Retrieved: 6 May 2014.
  5. "Putin's performance in office — Trends". 31 October 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  6. Arkhipov, Ilya (2013-01-24). "Putin Approval Rating Falls to Lowest Since 2000: Poll". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  7. "Quarter of Russians Think Living Standards Improved During Putin's Rule" (in Russian). Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  8. No wonder they like Putin by Norman Stone, 4 December 2007, The Times. Archived August 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. 1 2 Russia through the looking-glass openDemocracy. "...while only about half of Russian households have a telephone line at home, well over 90% have access to the First Channel and Rossiya. And for a vast majority of Russians, they are virtually the only source of information about political events. Given that typically well over half of their news broadcasts consist of sympathetic coverage of Vladimir Putin and members of the United Russia party, and oppositional figures are always presented in a negative or ironic light (if at all), it is unsurprising that the president is enjoying considerable popularity.". Retrieved 16 April 2008.
  10. "Levada-Center -Description". Archived from the original on September 24, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  11. Russians Support Putin's Re-Nationalization of Oil, Control of Media, But See Democratic Future – World Public
  12. 1 2 Stokes, Bruce (5 August 2015). "Russia, Putin Held in Low Regard around the World". Pew Research Center.
  13. Adi Ignatius. Person of the Year 2007, Time.
  14. Albright, Madeleine. "Vladimir Putin", Time. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  15. Struck, Doug. "Gorbachev Applauds Putin's Achievements", The Washington Post, 5 December 2007.
  16. "Gorbachev says Putin 'castrated' democracy in Russia". BBC News. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  17. "Das Internet prägt Russlands Wahlkampf" [The internet characterises Russia's campaign] (in German). RP online. 17 February 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  18. Smirnova, Julia (8 February 2012). "Wie die Putin-Jugend das Internet manipulierte" (in German). Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  19. David Leigh; Luke Harding (2011). WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy. PublicAffairs. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-61039-062-0.
  20. Marcel Van Herpen (25 January 2013). Putinism: The Slow Rise of a Radical Right Regime in Russia. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-137-28280-4.
  21. Parfitt, Tom. "WikiLeaks row: Putin labels US embassy cables 'slanderous'", The Guardian, 1 December 2010.
  22. Andrew Osborn (25 September 2011). "Fears Vladimir Putin will turn Russia into outright dictatorship". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  23. William J. Dobson (10 June 2012). "What, Me a Dictator?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  24. Stephen Romei (18 May 2012). "Putin the elected dictator is doomed, biographer claims". The Australian. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  25. Masha Gessen (21 May 2012). "The Dictator". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  26. "David Miliband: Vladimir Putin Is A 'Ruthless Dictator'". Huffington Post. 4 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  27. "Mitt Romney: Vladimir Putin 'a threat to global peace'". The Daily Telegraph. 23 December 2011.
  28. "Russia's Anti-Putin Opposition: One Year On". [RIA Novosti]. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  29. 1 2 Ukrainian Church leader likens Putin to Cain and says he is under the influence of Satan, The Independent (6 September 2014)
  30. Golding (September 7, 2014). "Dalai Lama: Putin wants to 'rebuild' the Berlin Wall". New York Post.
  31. "Putin is 'self-centred', Dalai Lama says". Times of India. September 7, 2014.
  32. Henderson (September 7, 2014). "Dalai Lama attacks 'self-centred' Vladimir Putin". The Telegraph.
  33. "Vladimir Putin Wins OCCRP's Person of Year for 2014". Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. 1 January 2015.
  34. "Investigative Journalists Name Putin Corruption's 'Person Of The Year'". RFERL. 1 January 2015.
  35. "Putin's approval rating hits new historic high of almost 90%". RT English. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  36. "'Western media behaving like propaganda machine to support government interests'". RT English. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  37. "Opinion: The truth about Putin's 86-percent approval rating. How people fail to understand survey data about support for the Kremlin". Meduza. Retrieved 2015-12-10. It's wrong to compare directly the ratings of Russian and foreign politicians. In democratic countries, politics is based on competition and the constant contestation between different candidates and platforms. The Russian political system, on the other hand, is based on the absence of a credible alternative. Accordingly, public approval doesn't indicate the country's assessment of concrete political decisions, but a general acceptance of the course chosen by those in power.
  38. Kramer, Andrew E. (2014-11-02). "Rebel-Backed Elections to Cement Status Quo in Ukraine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-10.
  39. 1 2 3 4 Rawnsley, Adam (26 May 2011). "Pow! Zam! Nyet! 'Superputin' Battles Terrorists, Protesters in Online Comic". Wired. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  40. Как используется бренд "Путин": зажигалки, икра, футболки, консервированный перец Gazeta 30 November 2007.
  41. "Ко дню рождения Путина вышел смартфон с его барельефом" (in Russian). RIA Novosti. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  42. Bass, Sadie (2009-08-05). "Putin Bolsters Tough Guy Image With Shirtless Photos, Australian Broadcasting Corporation". Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  43. 1 2 3 "Putin gone wild: Russia abuzz over pics of shirtless leader.". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Associated Press. 22 August 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  44. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 7 Reasons Vladimir Putin Is the World's Craziest Badass
  45. В.В.Путин взял в понедельник однодневный отпуск и провел его в Тыве
  46. "Хабаровские охотоведы подтвердили: Путину тигрицу подложили из зоопарка". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  47. ""Тигрица Путина" жива". Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  48. Организаторы сафари для Путина объяснились по поводу "подставы с тигром": "Кому-то что-то показалось"
  49. Putin attaches satellite tag to tranquilized polar bear in Russia's Arctic Fox News Channel
  50. Using crossbow, Putin fires darts at whale MSNBC
  51. Vladimir Putin leads endangered cranes on migration route in hang glider The Guardian
  52. В.В.Путин, находящийся с рабочей поездкой в Сибирском федеральном округе, совершил спуск на глубоководном аппарате «Мир» на дно озера Байкал
  53. Polgueva, Ekaterina (27 July 2010). "Ангел Ада Абаддон". Sovetskaya Rossiya.
  54. "Finland accidentally bans Putin". 3 News NZ. April 11, 2013.
  55. "Премьер-гонка: Владимир Путин протестировал болид "Формулы-1"". 17 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  56. Путин погрузился с аквалангом на дно Таманского залива
  57. Vladimir Putin diving discovery was staged, spokesman admits, The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 March 2012
  58. "Russians smell something fishy in Putin's latest stunt". Reuters. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  59. "Putin's Big Fish Story Leaves Russians in Doubt". Bloomberg. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  60. "Russia's Got Talent: Extra video of Putin singing & playing piano for charity" a Russia Today TV youtube video, with commentary (retrieved December 14, 2015)
  61. "Владимир Путин сыграл на рояле "С чего начинается родина"". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  62. "Актеры, занятые в спектаклях столичного Театра наций, сегодня пили чай с Владимиром Путиным и просили у него денег. 1624". 15 September 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  63. WSJ: Путин поет вместе с депортированными агентами Vedomosti
  64. "Putin played the Anthem of Saint Petersburg on the piano". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  65. 1 2 Картина Путина стала самым дорогим лотом на аукционе в Петербурге RIAN
  66. Q&A: Russia-Ukraine gas row, BBC News (20 January 2009).
  67. Фильм о любви человека, похожего на Путина BBC
  68. Putin, Dobby And the Axis Of Weirdness The New York Times
  69. Daniel Craig: Quantum of Solace The Daily Telegraph
  70. @openspace_ru (14 March 2008). "Песни про Путина". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  71. "Такого, как Путин". YouTube. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  72. "Гороскоп (Путин, не ссы!)". YouTube. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  73. ВВП
  74. WATCH: No One In Russia Can Work Out If This Pro-Putin Dance-Pop Song Is Sincere — Or Satire
  75. "Maciej Maleńczuk Vladimir. Piosenka o Putinie i teledysk "
  76. "Частушки (Не было оргазма)". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  77. Вова и Дима
  78. "Superputin official site". Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  79. Epic Rap Battles of History Stalin vs. Rasputin.
  80. Guardian, 15 June 2014.
  81. "Come to me, blogger-logi!". 16 January 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  82. 1 2 3 4 Путинизмы – "продуманный личный эпатаж"? BBC (Russian)
  83. 1 2 3 4 20 высказываний Путина, ставших афоризмами RIAN
  84. Премьер-министр Владимир Путин: Их нужно выковырять со дна канализации Izvestia
  85. "Putin takes swipe at hungry America's 'Comrade Wolf'", Times Online, May 10, 2006
  86. "Почему Путин – краб, Ленин – гриб, Медведев – шмель?". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  87. "Россия и Латвия подписали договор о рубежах". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  88. "Блогозрение: Волшебная ручка Путина". Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  89. Putin: NSA whistleblower Snowden is in Moscow airport | World news. The Guardian. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  90. "Путин о Сноудене: Россия не та страна, которая выдает борцов за права человека" (retrieved January 16, 2015)
  91. "Putin asks why Obama doesn‘t get ‘a job in a court or something’", New York Post, May 23, 2014 (retrieved January 16, 2015)
  92. "Под хохот мощных канонад" (retrieved January 16, 2015)
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