Botox inspires Russia protest slogans
Moscow - Witty and making bold contemporary references, the banners that mocked Vladimir Putin in mass protests have already coined famous new slogans and even become the subject of a Moscow exhibition.
Taking inspiration from subjects as diverse as the Harry Potter novels and cosmetic surgery, the slogans brought a sense of fun to the protests and ripped apart taboos over criticising the Russian strongman in public.
Many protesters brought homemade banners to a full-scale exhibition at trendy Moscow arts centre Artplay which provided a kind of retrospective of the protests that started after fraud-tainted December 4 parliamentary elections.
"We have three demands: Fair elections, freedom of assembly and - let's stick to two," reads one banner at the exhibition, which is titled You don't even represent us.
"If Russia's so United, why am I so alone?" reads a T-shirt slogan, referring to the increasingly unloved ruling party United Russia.
"No Putin, No Cry," reads another much-quoted banner.
Botox of the people
Worlds away from the stilted language of old-style activists and Communists, many of the banners take digs at Russian strongman Putin, alleging he uses Botox to preserve his looks, in a rumour sweeping the internet.
The Russian word for Botox has even become a hashtag for Putin on Twitter social networking site.
"Volodya, save your face!" one reads, using the familiar version of Putin's first name.
"How much is the Botox of the people?" says another, paraphrasing Marx's famous remark about religion being the opium of the people.
At an opposition protest the day after the election, protesters instantly adjusted their slogans to include Putin's unexpected tears at a victory rally after March 4 presidential elections.
"Moscow does not believe in tears," was the favourite slogan, the title of a well-loved Soviet film drama along with "Moscow doesn't believe in crocodile tears" and "12 years of tears", referring to Putin's possible future two term presidency.
Other slogans cite and twist Putin's pithy sayings, such as his boast that he works like a "galley slave".
"Putin, get out of the galley. It's already on the rocks," one says.
The head of the widely criticised central electoral commission, Vladimir Churov, is also a target, with his cuddly beard and way with numbers giving him the nickname of "the wizard".
"Send Wizard Churov to Azkaban" another says, referring to a magical prison in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.
"There's no room for a wizard in the Central Electoral Commission," reads a placard attached to a balloon showing a Disney fairy.
Curator Mikhail Ratgauz of Openspace.ru website, wrote in his introduction to the exhibition that what made the latest protests different is that they are about individuals putting forward their points of view, not a faceless crowd.
"A crowd can't be witty. It's always a person who is witty," he said.
Anthropologist Mikhail Alexeyevsky contributed the placard reading "There's no room for a wizard in the Central Electoral Commission," which he took along to the first mass rally in Moscow in his first experience of activism.
"I realised what to do: To carry balloons to the rally but stick posters on them," he said. "On the one hand, it's a peaceful protest. On the other hand it's an unusual kind of visual campaigning."
"People photographed us all the time. A lot of people came up and said it was witty and laughed. In a word, the reaction was only positive."
"Educated, successful, creative people come to these rallies, people who don't like being just part of a faceless crowd," he said.
"They want to keep their individuality. They want to have the right to their own voice. And homemade posters turned out to be the ideal solution."