Vladimir Putin Celebrated as Hercules on His Birthday

Vladimir Putin Celebrated as Hercules on His Birthday

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cultivated an international image based heavily on his self-worship. He criticizes anyone who attempts to be exceptional or powerful, but he has no problem when people celebrate him. Mikhail Antonov, a political science graduate at Moscow University, collected paintings of Putin as Hercules in an art exhibit for the President’s 62nd birthday on Tuesday.

“We’re forming a different image of Putin because the western media constantly criticises him, and our media occasionally attacks him as well,” Antonov said. “But here we see him completing these heroic deeds. We see that the interpretation of these events is not so categorical.”

Antonov runs a Putin fan page on Facebook, and he claims the paintings came from anonymous users on the page. From The Guardian:

Opened for one night only in honour of Putin’s 62nd birthday on Tuesday, the exhibit reimagined his achievements as the 12 Labours of Hercules, beginning with the slaying of the Nemean lion – in this case, Putin strangling a bearded suicide bomber representing terrorism – and ending with the capture of the three-headed dog Cerberus, which symbolised the struggle with the United States and its “unipolar world.”

The most impressive painting, created in the gold-on-black style of ancient Greek pottery decorations, showed a muscular Putin lifting his shield against the poisonous breath of the Lernaean Hydra – or western sanctions against Russia. The US head of the hydra had been lopped off, reflecting the ban on food imports from the US, EU, Norway, Canada and Australia that Russia adopted in August, said the exhibit organiser, Mikhail Antonov.


The paintings focused mostly on current events such as a recent gas contract with China, the planned purchase of Mistral warships from France, and the eastern Ukraine ceasefire negotiated in Minsk. Antonov praised Putin’s government for standing up to the “junta” in Kiev, and in the paintings Russia’s annexation of Crimea is portrayed as the Herculean Putin capturing the Cretan bull.

Yes, there is even a jab at Ukraine. The conflict between the two countries reignited Cold War tensions between Russia and the West. In one picture, Putin holds a globe with only Russia, the Baltics, Ukraine, and Belarus. Apparently, it is meant to show that Putin backed peace in Ukraine, but there is one major problem with the painting: Crimea is in red, which means the painter included the Black Sea peninsula with Russia. The peninsula was annexed by Russia in March, but Ukraine and the West do not recognize the move. 

There is another picture featuring Crimea. Putin is riding an ox with the symbol of Crimea on its forehead. He is guiding the ox with a ribbon decorated with Russia’s colors.

The popup store with Putin merchandise opened again on Tuesday at the infamous GUM department store. The store is filled with merchandise that bears Putin’s face and his achievements. It first opened in June, and items flew off the shelves. It was opened again in August and was visited by American actor Mickey Rourke. He described Putin as a “real gentleman, very cool, a regular guy.”


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