Russia's Communist party portrayed Vladimir Lenin, the iconic Communist leader, as a handsome young man wearing "American" jeans and holding a red laptop on their posters for 2016 parliamentary election leaving people at awe.
A few months before last week's parliamentary election, Russian citizens were struck by a young man that looked way too familiar staring at them from some posters hanging on their cities' streets. Vladimir Lenin, the iconic figure of the Communist Russia, got an unexpected makeover as a muscular young man clad in jeans, a T-shirt with a logo of the Russian Communist party and holding a red laptop - the image that is quite distant from the traditional historic portrayal of the famous Bolshevik leader.
Scandalous for many, this poster was part of the campaign of Russia's Communist Party to win over some young voters in this year's State Duma election. So they thought that portraying the leader of the Communist revolution in such a "refreshing" way would finally change the game for the unsuccessful party. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) is mostly known as the party of the older generation nostalgic of the faded Soviet past. And it is safe to say that this part of their electorate was not so impressed with the image of the "new Lenin".
“We need to speak in a language that the modern voter understands, to reflect the times we live in. The proletariat is no longer just someone with a hammer, it can also be a computer programmer,” Igor Petrygin-Rodionov, the artist of the posters, told the Wall Street Journal.
Petrygin-Rodionov has been working for the party since the Soviet times and claims to be the proponent of following the tradition of Soviet posters spreading propaganda to the "masses". The rejuvenated image of Lenin is the artist's latest project.
"I wanted to bring him [Lenin] back to life, wanted to show that he was a handsome and educated person. That is why he could achieve such a great success. He had charisma and energy, and the sexual energy, too. He portrays the youth, health and intellect. He is a very energetic figure, maybe even a sex-symbol," said Petrygin-Rodionov in an interview.
Vadim Soloviev, CPRF's secretary, said that the posters were mostly targeted at young Russians who are "not so familiar with the image of Lenin and who he was".
However, the party's poster propaganda did not stop there. Other campaign's posters portrayed Joseph Stalin smoking an e-cigarette instead of his famous pipe as well as Karl Marx in a leather jacket saying "I'll be back" in the Terminator's manner.
The Communists believed that this campaign would help them to connect with the young electorate and "create a positive emotion". However, it seems like not everyone found this idea so fascinating. Some heavily criticized the successor of the Soviet Union's Communist party dressing the iconic Bolshevik leader in "American jeans and sneakers" and said that the party would do anything to win the votes - even destroy the Mausoleum. But let's see how that worked out.
The opposition parties are getting pushed out of the Duma
Looking at the results of the last weekend's parliamentary election, it is clear that even young Lenin could not help CPRF to jump above its head.
CPRF, similar to all other opposition parties, is fighting for every vote they can get as the political system in Russia remains heavily controlled by Vladimir Putin and his party, the United Russia. In the past decade, the United Russia held the overwhelming majority of the seats in Russia's State Duma, the lower house of the country's parliament, while all other smaller parties, including the Communists, were largely underrepresented.
However, this year's election made it even worse for the smaller parties. According to the Central Election Commission of Russia, Putin's party, the United Russia, has dominated the election with 54.19% of votes and received 343 seats in the State Duma. CPRF has got the second-largest number of votes, 13.34%, and 42 seats, what shows the drastic difference in the political representation of forces in the parliament.
This year, Putin's party has managed to win the largest number of seats in the Duma in its history. With 343 out of the total of 450 seats, the United Russia has secured its dominant position stronger than ever. For CPRF, the number of seats in Duma, has declined by more than 50% since 2011: from 92 to 42 this year. Other smaller parties experienced similar trends.
Nevertheless, the number of people who actually showed up to vote this year has significantly decreased, as compared to 2011. About 4 million fewer Russians voted this time while the overall turnout rate fell from a little over 60% in 2011 to 47.8%. On top of that, the lowest turnout rates were measured in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the two largest cities and electorates of the country. Some experts say that the drop in electorate turnout in these cities was caused by the unsuccessful wave of protests following the parliamentary election of 2011.
The supporters of the opposition parties said that this election resulted in a "one-party parliament", reports Reuters.
"The result is a good one for the United Russia. At a time of difficulties, considerable uncertainty and risks, people naturally choose stability and trust the leading political force," said Putin upon the announcement of the election results.
The United Russia has significantly grown its presence in Duma from 238 seats in 2011 to 343 seats this year, further excluding the opposition parties.
Similar to 2011, external European observers have questioned the voting procedures, yet they could not point at any particular violations this time. Some witnesses mention seeing people voting more than once as well as manipulating the turnout numbers in some regions. The independent election monitoring association Golos said that this year's election was still "far from what could be called really free and fair" and complained about multiple violations.
The experts say that the crashing win of the United Russia in this parliamentary election paves the way to Putin's re-election as a president in 2018.