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As Pope Resigns, Russians Resigned to Putin

If every community views global events though a lens of its choosing, then for the Russian Internet community the lens of choice is domestic politics. It comes as no surprise, then, that the news that Pope Benedict XIV resigned from his post was interpreted from this angle by Russian bloggers. It also comes as no surprise that most of these interpretations were in the form of jokes — after all, even religious Russians don't really have a dog in this fight. Without any real interest in the repercussions of Benedict's resignation for the Catholic faith or what it means in light of ever more visible priest molestation scandals, the RuNet defaulted to its favorite pastime, humor.

Blogger and journalist Ivan Davydov took a social welfare angle [ru]:

В России из каждой третьей семьи папа ушел. И ничего, не шумит никто в прессе.

In Russia a third of the families have been abandoned by fathers [the Russian "papa" means both father and Pope]. And nothing, no one is making noise in the press.

RuNet's pro-government bad boy Politrash exploited [ru] growing tensions in the North Caucasus:

Бенедикт XVI: “Руководство футбольного клуба “Анжи” сделало мне предложение, от которого я не мог отказаться”.

Benedict XVI: “The leadership of the football [soccer] club “Anzhi” made me an offer I could not refuse.

FC Anzhi is based in Makhachkala, the Republic of Dagestan, and is owned by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, who since 2011 has been spending reams of cash to poach good players from European clubs like FC Milan.

While Benedict XVI is retiring, President Putin still has some juice left. Pope Benedict in Poland, October 17, 2010. © Kancelaria Prezydenta RP. GNU Licence. Vladimir Putin in Tuva, August 13, 2007. © www.kremlin.ru

While Benedict XVI is retiring, President Putin still has some juice left. Pope Benedict in Poland, October 17, 2010. © Kancelaria Prezydenta RP. GNU Licence. Vladimir Putin in Tuva, August 13, 2007. © www.kremlin.ru CC 3.0

Most bloggers, however, went with the transparent Vladimir Putin parallel. There is some symmetry in comparing the authoritarian Putin to the Pope. Both run organizations defined by “power verticals”, although it was a different Russian leader [ru] who is said to have famously queried “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”

Ksenia Sobchak summed up the general sentiment in a tweet [ru], hinting at the dubious constitutionality of Putin's third term:

Даже папа ушел.Сам.В теократическом гос-ве Ватикан принцип сменяемости власти работает лучше чем в стране “суверенной демократии”…

Even the pope left. On his own. In the theocratic nation of Vatican the principle of transition of power works better than in the country of “sovereign democracy” …

The fake Twitter account of Rossneft president Igor Sechin implied [ru] that the Pope may have had ulterior motives in resigning:

Папа Римский Бенедикт XVI весело троллит Путина

The Roman Pope Benedict XVI is cheerfully trolling Putin

The fake Twitter account of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded [ru] to the presumed “hint” from Benedict for Putin to bow out, with a fake quote from Putin's press-secretary:

“Не дождетесь!” – кратко прокомментировал Дмитрий Песков последние новости из Ватикана.

“Not a chance!” – Dmitry Peskov tersely commented on the latest news from Vatican.

The anonymous jokester KermlinRussia couldn't pass an opportunity by, mysteriously tweeting [ru]:

П. отрекся от престола.

P. abdicated.

While this tongue-in-cheek announcement was retweeted 146 times, it didn't beat the 254 retweets for user @fuckdaoutlaws, who brought it all home in a tweet [ru] that single-handedly managed to poke fun of current Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu's versatility (he has also governed a federal region and ran the paramilitary Ministry of Emergency Situations), while expressing doubt about the future of Russian leadership (Shoigu, who has somewhat of a personality cult, especially among his former MChS troops, is often shortlisted as a possible Putin successor):

временно исполняющим обязанности Папы Римского назначен Сергей Шойгу

Sergei Shoigu, has for the time being, been appointed the acting Pope

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