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#10 - JRL 7060
Moscow News
February 12-18, 2002
President Ubiquitous
Vladimir Putin's likenesses. On a chiming watch, at 1,680 rubles. On a Safronov canvas, at 18,000
By Mikhail Gokhman

Inside the Federation Council building on Bolshaya Molchanovka there is a kiosk offering a "patriot's kit" for officials of varying degrees of affluence. Russian flags, small and big, velvet squares with the national emblem, and of course the President's portraits - a staggering selection thereof. Nikas Safronov's masterpiece comes in two varieties, a printer's reproduction in a plain glass-topped frame, at 3,500 rubles, and on canvas in a fancy arty frame, at 18,000. The salesgirls assure me that the oil painting is a copy by the author. Maybe so, but the quality is altogether atrocious. The same salesgirls insist, though, that senators buy a lot more of the one in oils. For a reasonably well-off individual it is not the done thing to possess this country's main portrait at less than $500. However, there are other items, too, smaller in size and in price. In the glass-topped case there is a row of pocket watches. Their lids sport enameled tricolors, two-headed eagles, Russian landscapes, a likeness of Marshal Zhukov... Ah, here's a watch with the face of our Number One. True, he is not very recognizable, but a closer look will leave you in no doubt as to the person's identity. This watch costs 200 rubles more than the others. And that timepiece over there, a whole 400 rubles more.

"Could you show me the more expensive watch?"

"You want Putin with chimes?" asks the salesgirl.

The lid clicks open and the mechanical entrails of the watch issue forth a series of squeaks vaguely reminiscent of the national anthem. Putin with chimes goes at 1,680 rubles, and at 1,400 without. According to the traders, the goods are exclusive, to be found only in the Federation Council building: gold-imitation titanium nitride coating, a chain, all nice and proper. Manufactured by the Chelyabinsk watch factory. However, they were no pioneers. A State Duma kiosk sells wrist watches made in Chistopol with the countenances of Putin, Zyuganov, etc. on their faces - take your pick. Admittedly, those watches cannot squeak the anthem.

As a point of interest, when a genuine patriot who has not grudged $50 opens his timepiece in public, should everyone around stand up?

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