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In the Spotlight: Esquire Magazine

This month’s Esquire published an article about the Russian stars who joined ruling party United Russia, and it irritated some powerful people by hanging a huge poster with the words, “Why do ballerinas and gays join United Russia?”

It irritated the powerful people enough that the poster, covering a whole facade on Ulitsa Obraztsova, was torn down the next day.

Russian Esquire is brilliant at this kind of witty, sideways look at politics. It once created a whole feature simply listing every public apology that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ever made, however trivial. Another issue juxtaposed photographs of Putin heartily shaking hands with dubious world leaders like North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.

United Russia is famous for nominating a host of sportsmen and singers as its Duma representatives: Former gymnast Alina Kabayeva and patriotic rock singer Nikolai Rastorguyev of Putin’s favorite band Lyube are among them. In its April issue, however, Esquire focused on celebrities who have joined United Russia but have not taken the plunge of becoming deputies.

The highlight is a bit of photographic trickery, in which the face of each famous United Russia member is slowly morphed into that of Putin. Oddly enough, Anastasia Volochkova, the former Bolshoi ballerina allegedly dismissed for being “fat,” seems to merge naturally into Putin’s rock-jawed face.

Volochkova has more than dabbled in politics, even trying to get the nomination to stand as mayor of the Black Sea resort Sochi last year.

“If a person has thoughts and, as they say, brains, then it’s a shame not to use them to benefit the country,” Volochkova said. But she got a bit lost when Esquire asked her to comment on Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov’s famous line that “the Duma isn’t a place for discussions.”

“If he said that, he probably had a reason. It’s hard for me to comment on this here, to be honest,” she says.

The “gay” crack in the advertising poster refers to Boris Moiseyev, the campy pop star who carries on his shoulders the burden of being Russia’s virtually only gay show business figure.

Surprisingly, given the party’s stuffy image, Moiseyev joined United Russia back in 2003. “I need a good bunker, a good protection,” he told Esquire, saying he joined UR “because it’s the ruling party.”

He said he applied to join off his own bat and was surprised to get the party card. “An actor only has a short life, and why spend it in persecutions and unpleasantness?” Moiseyev quipped, tongue-in-cheek as usual.

Actor Sergei Zhigunov, best known for playing a single dad in the popular sitcom “My Beautiful Nanny,” admitted that joining the party was not all it was cracked up to be. “You meet the president in the corridor … but then you realized you can’t ask him for anything,” he complained. “What do you ask the president? Not to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad?”

Zhigunov added rather sadly, “If I sang or danced, they probably would invite me to some kind of holiday celebration. But since I don’t …”

Kirill Andreyev, a 39-year-old singer in superannuated boy band Ivanushki International, said he wanted to join to promote healthy living. “I want to influence young people through song and my personal example,” he said. “We have a great president, a wonderful prime minister, and I like their policies very much. I like being in a strong party. Do you have any more questions?”

“No,” Esquire writes.

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