'Ultimate' Putin Cartoon Goes Viral in Russia

Putin
The video depicts Putin enjoying some past times, including 'travelling' in Ukraine. YouTube

A short Norwegian cartoon depicting possible scenarios to explain the mysterious 11-day disappearance of Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this month, has gone viral, attracting over 900,000 views, almost all of which have come from the former Soviet Union.

The cartoon, which is just under a minute long and entitled Where Did Putin Go? imagines the president topless and donning a pair of mirrored sunglasses, as he enjoys various humorous holiday situations, most of which depict him putting the security of the world in danger, or showing off his strength and power.

In the first, he is portrayed travelling - reclining half naked on the back of a tank as it rolls through a derelict landscape with the Ukrainian flag flying in the background. Other scenarios see him supposedly ‘fishing’ - firing nuclear missiles from a submarine under the sea - and also pranking the U.S. president Barack Obama with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Putin is imagined practising yoga - balancing with his finger perilously close to a nuclear detonator, wrestling a bear, and single-handedly creating the solar eclipse, which cast parts of Europe into darkness last Friday.

Approximately 76% of those who viewed the video come from Russia, according to Norwegian media, with 8% from Ukraine and 4% from Kazakhstan. The video also sparked a furious online debate on YouTube about Russian activity in Ukraine, which Russia continues to deny. The comments below the video were mostly posted in Cyrillic script.

Many of the commentators assumed the video had been made in the U.S., altohugh it was in fact made by three Norwegian cartoonists, and broadcast originally on NRK, the Norwegian government-owned radio and television public broadcasting company - the largest media organisation in Norway.

“What amazed us was that all comments were written in Cyrillic,” said Claus Wiese, the editor responsible for the clips at NRK. “The clip launched a serious discussion.”

Arild Ørnholt, one of the video’s creators, along with Marius Stene and Jan-Petter Aarskog, said they had wanted to create “the ultimate Putin sketch”.

“It did not take long before strange theories appeared about where he had gone, so we thought we’d give people what they wanted,” he said.

Putin’s last public appearance before he temporarily disappeared was on March 5. He was then not seen in public for 10 days, sparking a flurry of media interest and speculation about his whereabouts. Possible theories involved a coup at the Kremlin and an internal power struggle, Putin undergoing plastic surgery, that he had flown to be at the side of a girlfriend as she gave birth in Switzerland, and even that he’d died.

When Putin finally reappeared last week, on Monday March 16, he dismissed the rumours and questions about his absence, simply noting that “life would be boring without gossip.” No official explanation for his absence was ever given, although the Russian independent news channel TV Rain said the Russian leader, 62, had suffered a bad case of flu and retreated to his secluded lakeside residence in Valdai.

The video’s light humour is in stark contrast to another video which went viral earlier this month, made by a Russian video blogger in Siberia. The aggressive video, called I, Russian Occupier, defends pro-Russian imperialism throughout history, and sends a warning message to other countries to stop criticising Russia. The video attracted millions of views and was even retweeted by Russia’s deputy prime minister.