The Teenage Putin Fan Club
Back in 2007, Hungarian photographer Bela Doka stumbled into a fascinating Russian subculture: teenagers so obsessed with Vladimir Putin that they formed a fan club. As someone looking at Russia from the outside in, I’ve always been curious how stories about Putin play within the country: he saves people from tigers, tracks polar bears, hunts shirtless, discovers ancient Greek vases while diving and relieves billionaire team owners of their brand new Super Bowl rings.
But when you read quotes from the Fan Club, it isn’t those superhuman storylines that fuel their passion: in between the hopes that they’ll marry a man like Putin or grow to be as strong a leader as he is, they talk about how Russia was treated like the world’s door mat before he entered the scene, how people now respect the country’s development, and how their lives feel so much more stable since his ascendency. It’s also interesting to hear how they clash with their parents—who don’t believe the kids understand politics. I’m fascinated by Doka’s beautiful photos partially because it sheds light on a youth subculture I never knew existed. I’m also hoping Doka will re-up on the project to track down his subjects and see both if and how their opinions (and wardrobes!) have changed in the 8 years since.
Some quotes from the club’s members (which don't correspond with the images):
Vika Matorina, 17: “He is like God to me… In the fan club we don't just sit around and look at his pictures, we participate in marches and exchange information about him. I wear a t-shirt with his portrait to school – I want everyone to know that I'm his fan.”
Alina, 19: “I have a Russian flag with Putin hanging on the wall above my desk in my room. Every day I look for publications in the press, in the internet, I learn from newspapers about what is going on in his political and personal life.”
Yulia Minazhetdinova, 17: “My parents are against my hobby, they say I don't understand politics but I don't think so. Putin is my hero, he inspires me, adds science to my actions.”
Tanya Skoropistseva, 20: “At first he left me unimpressed… If Putin hadn't changed Russian politics we'd still be a cheap labor force. He said that Russia is a country to be taken into account and it can't be a door mat.”
Lyosha Sobolkov, 18: “In the 90-s nobody travelled much and now it's affordable. That's the president's achievement.”
Tanya Arkhipova, 18: “Life is more stable, the pensions and allowances are rising, there's development… I want to go to the university and study municipal management…. to help young people grow, support them, found youth groups and organizations where everyone can find jobs.”
Yulya Pipilova,18: “I have five different t-shirts with Putin's portrait, several kinds of postcards with VV [Putin’s nickname] on them. We design them and print them for everyone.”