It appears that after years to clearly cultivating a cult of personality with action-hero photo ops and staged acts, Putin is still uncomfortable with kisses from his subjects . . . well at least on the hand. Putin seemed truly alarmed when a Russian Orthodox priest tried to kiss his hand while visiting a 14th century monastery on Russia’s northern Valaam Island. It was a particularly telling moment after Putin created an alliance with the Church to support his authoritarian government. Putin has particularly pleased the Church leaders after his government continued a widely condemned prosecution of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot after they carried out a brief demonstration in a church.
Putin is notoriously cold and aloof, even with his personal relationships. Even an adoring kiss from the Church appears to have freaked out the man. It is clear Putin likes his adoration fawning but platonic.
On February 21, 2012, the group took its protests against Putin to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. The Church has been crucial in buttressing the power of Putin in the crackdown on dissidents and free speech. They tried to perform a song and were removed within one minute. The song asked for the Virgin Mary to “chase Putin away.” Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were later charged with “hooliganism”. and the group was hit with an indictment that is 2,800 pages long . . . for an attempted song of less than a minute. Putin’s government has refused to drop the charges despite an international outcry and is seeking three years in jail. They remain behind bars.
That background helps put the kiss in perspective. The Church has made another alliance with a Russian strongman, who has made no secret of his desire to be worshipped. Russian police have charged protesters for simply spitting on his picture as if it were a Russian icon. Russian police continue to round up Putin critics and charge them with an array of different crimes.
The priest’s desire to kiss Putin’s hand captures perfectly the relationship between Putin and the Church. The Russians will be given a heavy dose of old-time religion and authoritarianism as a substitute for lost liberties. For its part, the Church is content with expanding its authority and state-supported restoration and building projects even as he strips their members of basic rights. It is the return to old habits for the Church which once supported the Tsars and opposed the most basic rights for the poor, women, and other groups. What the priest failed to understand is that Putin is not looking for a kiss. He has a more formal relationship in mind with the church as shown left.
To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe:
A kiss on the hand may be quite continental
But diamonds are a
girl’sdictator’s best friend
A kiss may be grand… but it won’t pay the rental on your humble flat
Or help you
at the automat[the autocrat]
Men grow cold as girls grow old
And we all lose our charms in the end
But square cut or pear shape these rocks don’t lose their shape
Diamonds are a
girl’sdictator’s best friend