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Nov. 14 2009 - 9:51 am | 183 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Vladimir Putin, hip hop, and the ‘battle for respect’

OK, this is priceless. Vladimir Putin showed up at a “Battle for Respect” event, which appears to be a sort of Russian hip-hop contest, to talk about how hip hop promotes a healthy lifestyle. Watching him sway, barely perceptibly, as the kids around him wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care, is enough to make you feel sorry for the man.

Russia Today has the video:

Here are his thoughts on hip hop: “These youngsters who work in this art in our country – they bring unique Russian charm. Street rap may be a little bit rough, but it contains social meaning – raising social problems. Graffiti becomes a real elegant art. Break dance is something special. It is really a promotion of a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard to imagine break dance being combined with alcohol or drugs. When people perform with acrobatic elements, it really calls for respect.”

Well, it’s hard to argue with any of that. And as uncomfortable and out of place as he looks here, I think we have to give him some credit for being game. Can you imagine a US president doing that?

And when you think about it, hip hop’s fixation on “respect” and exaggerating perceived slights — well, it’s actually pretty appropriate for Russia today.


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    I'm a freelance writer in Washington, D.C., and a regular contributor to Slate, EurasiaNet and U.S. News and World Report. But before that I was a high school teacher in Bulgaria, an illegal day laborer in Tel Aviv, a wire service reporter in South Dakota, a war correspondent in Iraq and a Pentagon hack. And as often as I can, I try to get myself on a bus or train in a new country, looking out the window and trying to figure out what it all means. (See more at www.joshuakucera.net. And follow me on Twitter.)

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