Putin is everywhere, so it seems. A living metonym for Russia, Putin has lately begun to inhabit the consciousness of the West itself, literally put-in there by a kind of force. It is tempting to attribute Putin’s ubiquity to Russia’s current, and quite likely temporary, geopolitical resurgence: Putin is (in) on our minds because Putin is in (on) the news. But the truth is that Putin has been in our heads for longer than he has been making headlines. Mitt Romney saw him at an election debate with Obama. More recently, thousands have seen his likeness in the viral photograph of young man with a camera looking at Ronald Reagan during his visit to Red Square.

Perhaps Putin has always been here among us. Indeed, for all his overt appeals to Russian conservatism, a glance at the ever growing album of Putin photo-shoots shows the remarkable Western thrust of his alter-egos: Putin as Marlboro Man, bareback; Putin as Tarzan in the weeds; as Teddy Roosevelt astride a shot wild animal; as Amelia Earhart impersonating a crane; as Rambo clutching a rifle, as James Bond in a suit with a gun; as a Hell’s Angel mounting a trike; as a balding Bruce Lee, eyes, epicanthically folded by Botox and fixed on a prostrate opponent; as Maverick Mitchell (alas, in a MiG); all the way back to Adonis, wading out of the water clutching urns.

The Marlboro man is dead; Earhart is lost; there are no more Roosevelts in the White House. Putin is everywhere because it is we who have changed, and he remains: a talisman of our pasts.

Images: John Lee, Aurora Andrews, Zaq Landsberg, and Derrick Dent

Text: Vadim Nikitin, nostalgia editor


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