In a move that can only be described as strange, Russian President Vladimir Putin was spotted yesterday at a publicity stunt for Russian Students Day, clad in a pair of high-heeled shoes. The President, who stands at a mere 5ft 7in, was seen parading around Vorobyovy Gory among students, seemingly more concerned with his appearance than focusing on the serious issues facing the country.
Putin and his propaganda ministers have carefully maintained his public image as President – though observers soon spotted him adding an extra inch with raised shoes.
The American historian Timothy Snyder said that Vladimir Putin was ‘seen as the closest match’ to fictional Soviet hero Stierlitz in polls, a national favourite and sort-of Russian James Bond, during his rise in the late-1990s.
Putin has since been careful to curate his macho image, being photographed riding horses and carrying rifles topless.
In 2015, the Express reported that a Kremlin insider said nobody could be taller than the president in official photos.
The source told the newspaper: ‘That’s why his bodyguards are always shorter than he is, to give the impression Putin is a tall person.’
The Economist explained in 2020 : ‘In politics, height matters.’
The magazine reported research that taller politicians outperformed their rivals in the polls, on average.
This was attributed to taller people enjoying higher self esteem, on average, and being perceived as healthier, more intelligent and authoritative.
Russia has been careful to censor negative representations of the President.
According to The Guardian, Russian lawyers reportedly planned a lawsuit against Warner Bros over apparent similarities between Putin and Harry Potter’s Dobby the Elf.
54% of children, responding to a poll on the CBBC website, said they agreed that Putin and Dobby had ‘probably’ been separated at birth.
In 2017, the Russian President also made it illegal to share a meme of him presented as a ‘gay clown’.
The banned image, below, was called ‘extremist propaganda’.
Those caught retweeting the image could be fined 3,000 rubles (then $53) or spend 15 days in jail.
Alexander Tsvetkov was charged with incitement of hatred or enmity for sharing several images on his social media account.
The court said the image, according to Tsvetkov, hinted at ‘an allegedly non-standard sexual orientation of the Russian president.’
Tsvetkov was committed to a psychiatric institution for the misdemeanour.
Campaigners for LGBT rights used the meme in media to protest the lack of protections afforded to the community in Russia.
The Russian justice ministry has outlawed more than 4,000 images, which also included anti-semitic and racist content – and painting Putin as a Nazi.
Russia also banned a popular image that showed him next to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in full makeup holding flowers.