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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 13th May 2016 > RAZZ PUTIN


Political satire is thriving in Russia because many Russians aren’t


RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin’s annual “direct line” conversation with the nation was still going strong when the joking began on social media. “Question: ‘Everyone has had to make cuts to their household budgets recently. What have you cut spending on?’ Putin: ‘On you lot,’” wrote one Twitter user, in a parody of the president’s apparent lack of empathy with millions of ordinary Russians who are suffering as a result of the country’s tanking economy.

Others posted doctored photographs of a young woman from the Siberian city of Omsk, who called into April’s televised presidential Q&A session to quiz Putin on why the roads in her hometown were in such a pitiful condition. “She’s having a tough time right now,” went one Twitter meme, accompanied by a Photoshopped image of the woman being buried alive in hot asphalt.

Russians have always laughed at their leaders, from the luboks—the colorful satirical prints or etchings sold at markets from the late 17th century on—to the politically charged jokes whispered in kitchens across the Soviet Union. (Example: “Would it be possible to introduce Communism to the United States?” “Yes, but then where would we get our grain from?”) Political humor continued unabated in post-Soviet Russia under President Boris Yeltsin—only now, in the new spirit of openness, it was on prime-time TV.

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