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© Bela Doka

The Teenage Putin Fan Club

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© Bela Doka

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.

© Bela Doka

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.

© Bela Doka

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.”


© Bela Doka

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.”

© Bela Doka

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.”

© Bela Doka

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.”

© Bela Doka

Lyosha Sobolkov, 18: “In the 90-s nobody travelled much and now it's affordable. That's the president's achievement.”

© Bela Doka

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.”

© Bela Doka

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.”

© Bela Doka

To see Bela Doka’s most recent project, be sure to click here. And to purchase a limited edition of his book FC Putin (there are only 25 copies!), click here.

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iStock
China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall
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iStock

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
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YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!

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