Thank Putin for that

An effort to laud Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on his birthday turned into a flurry of sarcastic anti-Putin jokes that made their rounds on the unrestricted Internet.

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    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the defensive-industrial complex on his 59th birthday in Moscow Oct. 7.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

What started as a greeting in honor of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s birthday on Oct. 7 quickly turned into a flash mob of anti-Putin satire. When pro-Putin activist Vladimir Burmatov created the hashtag #SPASIBOPUTINZAETO (“Thank Putin for That”), it was meant as a rhyming tribute to the prime minister’s accomplishments. “Our rockets are stronger than their missile defense #THANKPUTINFOR THAT,” tweeted Mr. Burmatov. “The liberals have no chance #THANKPUTINFORTHAT.”

“I was counting on my 30-something thousand readers and wanted to play this game with them,” Burmatov told the BBC. “But it wound up drawing in the broad popular masses.”

When Russia’s famously feisty bloggers – mostly urban, educated youths – got wind of it, the tribute quickly took on a life of its own. Scores of tweeters began replying with less-than-adulatory rhymes, such as “No money and no flat #THANKPUTINFORTHAT.”

In Russia, where press freedom is restricted, the Internet remains one of the few outlets through which an increasingly disgruntled generation is able to voice its frustrations.

Mr. Putin, for his part, remained mostly out of the loop on the matter. His spokesman says the prime minister’s website, Premier.gov.ru, affords sufficient public interaction.

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