The Secret American Subculture of Putin-Worshippers

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The Secret American Subculture of Putin-Worshippers
The Russian president has his fans here- who see him as the very epitome of macho manliness

National Journal

Marin Cogan

September 19, 2013

Two years ago, Gayne C. Young, a Texas-based writer and blogger for Outdoor Life , scored the interview of a lifetime. As a beat writer, Young had enjoyed the outdoor exploits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been documented shooting a gray whale with a crossbow, tranquilizing a tiger attacking a news crew, hunting shirtless, fishing shirtless, and riding horseback shirtless. On a personal level, Young liked the rugged brand of masculinity that seemed a throwback to Teddy Roosevelt. "Although you have Clinton shooting ducks, you never see it. Although Rick Perry says he enjoys hunting, you don't see it. They say they do, but they don't. Obama says he shoots skeet, but they only released one picture," Young says. "Here's a guy out there fishing, with no qualms. He's like, 'You don't like it? Tough.' Then he'd escalate and do more."

His posts on Putin brought in great traffic, so his editor kept encouraging him to escalate. Soon, Young was declaring his "man crush" on the Russian president. ("I hate to use that word, especially on a hunting website," he admits.) He called the Russian consulate, flirted with the right secretary, and went through "hoop after hoop after hoop" until, one Friday, a press attaché called and told him the president wanted his questions in the next 20 minutes.

Young scrambled and sent something over. Six weeks later, Putin replied with an almost unbelievable 8,000-word missive—covering everything from tiger conservation to his favorite works of Hemingway to the innate frailty of human life. He lectured on the similarities between Russians and Americans, and demurred from answering Young's friendliest questions. ("Are you the coolest man in politics?") "People really liked him, at least on our comments section on Outdoor Life, " Young says. "Given the demographics of the readership, most are die-hard Republicans," and when they saw Putin hunting, he says, "they were like, 'Obama wouldn't do that.' "

Putinphilia is not, of course, the predominant position of the conservative movement. But in certain corners of the Internet, adoration for the leader of America's No. 1 frenemy is unexceptional. They are not his countrymen, Russian expats, or any of the other regional allies you might expect to find allied with the Russian leader. Some, like Young and his readers, are earnest outdoorsy types who like Putin's Rough Rider sensibility. Others more cheekily admire Putin's cult of masculinity and claim relative indifference to the political stances—the anti-Americanism, the support for leaders like Bashar al-Assad, the oppression of minorities, gays, journalists, dissidents, independent-minded oligarchs—that drive most Americans mad. A few even arrive at their Putin admiration through a strange brew of antipathy to everything they think President Obama stands for, a reflexive distrust of what the government and media tells them, and political beliefs that go unrepresented by either of the main American political parties.

They utterly perplex many observers of the Russian-American relationship. "No clue as to what drives it, other than some form of illness," says Russian-born novelist Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan.

There are many faux Putin fans in America—those who mock the hero worship ironically or half-ironically. But plenty of his fans are serious. Three months ago, Americans for Putin, a Facebook group, sprang up "for Americans who admire many of the policies and the leadership style of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin" and think he "sounds better than the Republicrat establishment." The group has an eight-point policy platform calling for "a unified [American] national culture," a "firm stance against Israeli imperialism," and an opposition to the political correctness it says dominates Washington. Though that group is relatively small (167 likes as of Wednesday afternoon, ticking up every few hours), the Obama's-so-bad-Putin-almost-looks-good sentiment can be found on plenty of conservative message boards. Earlier this year, when Putin supposedly caught—and kissed—a 46-pound pike fish, posters on Free Republic, a major grassroots message board for the Right, were overwhelmingly pro-Putin:

"I wonder what photoup [sic] of his vacation will the Usurper show us? Maybe clipping his fingernails I suppose or maybe hanging some curtains. Yep manly. I can't believe I'm siding with Putin," one wrote. "I have President envy," another said. "Better than our metrosexual president," said a third. One riffed that a Putin-Sarah Palin ticket would lead to a more moral United States.

The cult of Putin in America probably has its strongest hold on the readers of ostensibly apolitical humor sites that target young men, such as Cracked and theChive. Cracked 's post on why Putin is "The World's Craziest Badass" drew more than 1 million views. TheChive 's slide show naming Putin "The Real Life Most Interesting Man in the World" inspired several hundred comments—only a few from Putin-haters distressed to see that he had such a following.

Putin is hardly the first—or the worst—antihero to enjoy the devotion of a small segment of Americans. Nor is he the first to benefit from a deep, reflexive distrust of public institutions like the government or media. The most recent and disconcerting example is the hero worship of Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has a cult following online. Many doubt law enforcement's assertion of his guilt; others create Tumblr pages worshipping him like the latest teenage pop star.

As for Young, recent years have tested the man-crush. He still thinks the guy he interviewed would make a great fishing partner, but he dislikes the "saber rattling" he sees between Putin and Obama. "A lot of people in the outdoors world will say to me, 'Hey look what your boy Putin is doing now. I always respond: 'It's Vlad, and I'm not sure that's the real one,' " Young says. "It's really hard for me right now, with what all is going on, to say which Putin he really is. I would like to say he's the one who answered my questions."

Americans who give Russia a head nod are not as far gone as the Chinese who blubber on about the integrity and prosperity of America. They are an interesting sort of xenophile in that they have little interest in Russian culture or history, but admire it as an opponent of Obama in particular and DC in general, and applaud it's stands against faggotry, London, Israel, Islam, multiculturalism, feminism, etc.

Bob Dylan Roof

In general, no modern politician deserves adulation, but it should be a wake up call to western politicians when the leader of the Second World garners more positive attention than any pretender in the First.

President Camacho , is this a sign of the impending return to populism? The electorates of the First World increasingly appear more interested in politics and simultaneously appear almost less informed than the previous generations.


Have I been put on an NSA surveillance list for watching RT online? :eek:

President Camacho
Well, "populism" in the 19th century and early 20th century sense-- as a mass movement based on political theories and concepts, relying on electoral success-- is gone for good. I strongly disagree that there is "more interest" in politics now as compared to before. But I do think that the future will bring a form of populism that is not based on intellectual programs or set of ideals, but on the personalities of great individual leaders. The nation approves of his mandate not by voting but by voluntarily surrendering to his will. Putin is most definitely a sign of this shift-- support for him (among both Americans and Russians) is not rational, but intuitive; his following is not rooted in the "program" he espouses but in his actions, in the living example that he sets.
We can already see the beginning signs of this in, for example, the bizarre personality cults around figures like Palin and Obama, in self-styled "mavericks" like McCain, and in multi-millionaires who increasingly utilize their fortunes to steer the political destiny of the world (George Soros, Glenn Beck, Erik Prince, etc) via extra-constitutional means. Sheldon Adelson basically bankrolled Newt Gingrich's presidential ticket personally, and during the "bailouts" around 5 years ago, the Treasury Secretary found it necessary to fly out to Nebraska in order to secure Warren Buffet's personal blessing--and financial support-- for the plan.

If it was ever possible to have a "government of laws, not of men", then that idealistic age is most certainly coming to a close. The coming decades will see larger and larger private fortunes thrust into the arena, more and more "maverick politicians" who shatter the two-party format, and the continuation of Congress' inability to organize anything whatsoever.

From the other side, the birth-pangs of Caesarism are visible in the abdication of the public from any meaningful participation in democracy, as the pitiful voter turnout rates in every Western country demonstrates. Among those who do still vote, the great political questions of the day are and will remain basically incomprehensible to their public-schooled and MSM-schooled intelligences. So you see the spectacle of self-styled "conservatives" worshiping radical liberals like Thomas Paine, or "liberals" supporting the use of state power to suppress individual speech. For the electorate, voting decisions based on rational calculations will be supplanted by primitive impulses and emotions as politics dissolves into formlessness. Finally, when Caesarism is established victorious, the public completely abdicates from political life, and (as it was in the pre-Democratic age) politics reverts back to the domain of private estates.

Everything has paid off for Putin since he kissed that little boy's belly. I know what I need to do.

Stars Down To Earth
One-on-One With Vladimir Putin

Outdoor Life

Gayne C. Young

Perhaps no other political 
figure since American President Theodore Roosevelt has been more visible in experiencing the outdoors than Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. His time in the field has been witnessed, admired and, yes, even criticized the world over, thanks to a wealth of media exposure. His adventures, ranging from fishing to horseback riding to “hunting” animals with a tranquilizer rifle for scientific research, are lead stories in many news markets.

For the first time ever, Prime Minister Putin talks about his deeply held love for the outdoors in an exclusive interview with Outdoor Life.

Outdoor Life: A great deal of your popularity, both in Russia and in the United States, stems from your involvement in and enjoyment of the outdoors. At what point in your life did you first become interested in the outdoors? And how has your affection and appreciation for the outdoors grown since then?

Vladimir Putin: I know there are a lot of enthusiasts in the United States who share my love for the outdoors, but I hope it’s not the only thing that attracts their attention. What is important for me is how people evaluate my work and whether Russia’s international policy is clear and understandable to them.

With respect to your question, I would say that my fondness for the outdoors, like that of many other people, has its roots in my youth and, particularly, in the books I’ve read. I have always loved and avidly read the novels of Jack London, Jules Verne and Ernest Hemingway. The characters depicted in their books, who are brave and resourceful people embarking on exciting adventures, definitely shaped my inner self and nourished my love for the outdoors.

Besides, youth summer camps have long been popular both in Russia and in the United States. Young folk who go there simply cannot stay away from their community’s life, which abounds with numerous sports events, outdoor games and competitions. In fact, if a person has been happy enough to meet a good tutor during his early years, he or she will keep a lifelong habit of spending his or her time in an effective and useful manner.

In this respect, I was lucky enough. I had an interesting childhood strongly connected with sports. I also had very good teachers. Probably thanks to this fact, I have not changed my attitude toward outdoor activities. Maybe it has become even more profound and deliberate. I increasingly appreciate what I have achieved because of sports. In other words, a habit for a healthy lifestyle and an opportunity to be outdoors.

I would also like to add that recently my passion for adventures, journeys and outdoor activities has got a new dimension. In 2009, our oldest non-governmental organization, the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), suggested that I should head its Tutorial Council, and, of course, I agreed.

I might now start describing the RGS’s longstanding and really legendary history, its great contribution to developing new lands, including the Arctic, the Far North, Siberia and the Far East, as well as to studying ethnography, geography and a range of other scientific disciplines, and developing Russia’s environmental activities and statistics. However, it would take this Outdoor Life issue and a few ones to follow. Moreover, you may find everything connected with the RGS on its website ( I will only define its key objectives.

The majority of them are geared to raising public interest in accurately exploring national geography and our historical and cultural heritage, involving our citizens in environmental activities and stimulating scientific work.

The very mission of the RGS reaches out to my heart, namely to inspire people to love Russia. This phrase contains a desire to open up Russia’s beauty, diversity and identity to our society and to the whole world, to present its authentic image. And I am happy to get an opportunity to take a personal part in the RGS’s work and help to realize its outstanding and substantive projects.


Much of what you say is relevant to Chesterton's musings on 'individual great leaders'. However, he disagrees that Caesarism is something to be welcomed; it is a phenomenon which is a product of degraded circumstances, a last resort for when no other is worthy of ruling. As such, it is not so much a criticism of Caesarism itself but rather a criticism of the base societal conditions which allow it to take hold:

Chesterton is primarily against Caesarism because he sees democracy rather as an entire nation of Caesar's; each man as great and terrible as his nature allows him to be: