Vladimir Putin is surely not going to like this image: cold eyes, a lifeless face, and his face taking a page out of Hitler’s fashion playbook.
And that’s exactly what “The Advocate,” America’s oldest gay magazine, chose for the cover of its person of the year issue, awarded to the Russian President, who has implemented some of the harshest anti-gay measures in the history of the world. Putin’s face with “person of the year” branded in the same spot as Hitler’s dubious mustache lied makes up the magazine’s front cover.
In the article, The Advocate connects Putin’s youth as a KGB officer to set the stage for his “strongman excesses” in Russia toward LGBT people. And he’s used Russia’s state-owned media to help his cause.
Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in his crusade against LGBT Russians. Since winning a third term in 2012, Putin has become ever more autocratic, and his antigay ideology ever more extreme. In June 2013, he signed the infamous antigay propaganda bill that criminalizes the “distribution of information…aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes,” with nontraditional meaning anything other than heterosexual. Individual violators are fined anywhere between $120 and $150, while NGOs and corporations can incur fines as high as $30,000. International outrage flared in the months before the Sochi Olympics, in response to which Putin reassured the gay and lesbian community they had nothing to fear as long as they left Russia’s children in peace.
Such incendiary rhetoric is a staple of Putin’s political playbook. And in Russia, where the majority of media are state-owned, there’s little public pushback. Tanya Cooper, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, argues that the average Russian is unlikely to seek diverse viewpoints. “When politicians, celebrities, and respectable journalists in Russia tell you repeatedly, either on television or in print, that gay people are perverts, sodomites, and pedophiles, you just believe it,” she says.
Putin is really cleaning up year-end award season so far. Of course, his perch on “The Advocate” is more dubious, but on Wednesday, he was named Forbes’ Most Powerful Person for 2014; his second consecutive year on top of that list.