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Looking Back at Russia's Divided New Year Celebration

Putin's New Year address cat-bombed. Anonymous image distributed online.

Putin's New Year address cat-bombed. Anonymous image distributed online.

As Russia finishes celebrating the Old New Year (a tradition that comes from calendar confusion in the early 20th century), we take a look back at how some Russian netizens reacted on December 31, 2013 when President Putin added a twist to his customary New Year's Eve address. Putin recorded two addresses — one that ran in Russia's Far East [ru], which celebrated the New Year eleven hours ahead of western Russia, where the second address [ru] ran.

The first address made no mention of the terrorists attacks which took place only days earlier and killed 31 people in Volgograd [Global Voices report]. However, Putin also failed to mention last year's destructive floods in the Far East. These omissions provoked netizens, who thought that perhaps this was in bad taste. This tweet, for example, got 157 retweets:

в новогоднем поздравлении Путина ни слова про Волгоград, в котором у него 4 марта 2012 г было 63,41% голосов.

— Brigita Grohman (@BrigitaGrohman) December 31, 2013

In Putin’s New Year address, there was no mention of Volgograd, where on March 4, 2012 he got 63.41% of the vote.

A commenter on the Echo Moskvy article on the first speech wrote [ru]:

Вот подонок, как будто не было череды терактов. Только и говорит, как в этом году Россия(ОН САМ) стала богаче.

The lowlife, as if there wasn't a string of terrorist attacks. All he's saying is how Russia (HIMSELF) got richer this year.

Not everyone was as unchartable however. LiveJournal user old_den pointed out [ru] that the address was likely recorded well ahead of the New Year:

Все плюются и негодуют, потому что он не вспомнил о терактах. …Обращение было записано около месяца назад.

Everyone is spitting and being indignant because he didn't mention the terrorist attacks. …The address was recorded about a month ago.

Even though some people doubted that the New Year address would be changed, soon came reports of a second address, recorded in Khabarovsk, Siberia. This address, covered blasts in Volgograd and floods in the Far East. Later it became known that Putin flew to Khabarovsk [ru] with the family of Bair Banzaraksaev, the only man who died during the flooding, in order to celebrate the New Year with victims of the flood.

Stanislav Belkovsky commented on the double addresses [ru] on TV-Rain:

Если раньше был тандем Путин-Медведев, то сегодня есть тандем Путин-Путин. Один Путин озвучивает одно обращение, другой Путин – другое. Это свидетельствует о мощном переходе власти в … систему двойников.

If before we had the pair of Putin-Medvedev, now there is another pair — Putin and Putin. One Putin makes one address, anther Putin a different one. This speaks to a forceful move by the government to a system of doubles.

Still, Other Russia's Eduard Limonov wondered [ru] why Putin chose Khabarovsk instead of Volgograd:

Зачем было ехать в Хабаровск, ВВП, где тяжёлое время уже миновало? Ошибка. Нужно было высадиться в Волгограде. И обнимать родственников погибших.

Why go to Khabarovsk, V(ladimir)V(ladimirovich)P(utin), where the difficult times are in the past? A mistake. Should have landed in Volgograd. And hugged the relatives of the victims.

Other bloggers criticized Putin for the expense of flying around the country, presumably to improve his public image:

Интересно, во сколько обошлось налогоплательщикам России это однодневное путешествие Президента из Москвы в Хабаровск? Одного керосина сожгли тонн 30….

I wonder how much Russian President’s day-trip from Moscow to Khabarovsk cost the taxpayers? They burned 30 tons of fuel alone…

As 2013 approached its end, some bloggers waited in vain [ru] for a third address from Putin, hoping he would take a page out of Boris Yeltsin's book:

Ждем третьего обращения с заветным: “Я устал, я ухожу…”

We are waiting for a third address with the coveted “I'm tired, I'm leaving…”

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