The annual summer Seliger youth camp – organized by pro-Kremlin movements like Nashi – adoringly hosted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on its last day, proving, as gazeta.ru declared, that the former president is “in his personal capacity, the object of affection for youth.” The paper quipped this after Putin dodged a question at the camp whether he will come to Seliger next year and in what capacity. “Do you enjoy sitting and talking to me?” Putin replied. “Do you care which capacity I do it in? There is your answer.”
Some 7000 young Russians, mostly 20-somethings, descended on Lake Seliger in Tver region this summer. As usual, there were posters of the country’s leaders plastered around the picturesque pine grove (along with surveillance cameras). And, as usual, the Prime Minister arrived 90 minutes late, which meant that groups of active participants planted along his projected route through the camp had to keep doing what they were doing slightly longer than expected. “Work it, work it!” yelled a supervisor at the camp’s climbing wall as Putin’s escort approached it from afar. “My arms hurt!” wailed a girl from her position four meters above ground. Putin himself scrambled about two meters up the climbing wall. “Without safety devices! So awesome!” one young man said under his breath as photographers competed for the best vantage point.
President Dmitry Medvedev stopped by Seliger last year, but it is Putin who drives the camp’s aesthetic: his persona is the one seen throughout graffiti murals and in the quotes hung around the camp as slogans. “Well, he is the national leader,” said a man at the small compound beneath a large sign, “Vladimir Putin’s Fight Club.” The group’s social networking page on VKontakte (vkontakte.ru/club3806643) suggests that the group is actually more of an army than a club, boasting over 11 thousand members.
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