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Friday, November 20, 2009

Putin Refers to Holodomor Memorial as ‘Someplace,’ Jokes About Yushchenko-Saakashvili Meeting

Two high-level/high-humor meetings took place in Ukraine on Thursday.

When Yushchenko met with Saakashvili in Kyiv, he spoke Ukrainian and misspelled Medvedev’s first name and patronymic as Анатолій Дмитрович (Anatoly Dmytrovych).

In Russian, that would be Анатолий Дмитриевич (Anatoly Dmitriyevich), an ass-backwards version of Дмитрий Анатольевич (Dmitry Anatolyevich).

Ukrainian President Yushchenko: Today, I made an appeal to the Russian President, Анатолій Дмитрович [Anatoly Dmytrovych]...uh...that they [gas agreements] be reviewed and canceled because their motive is not based on organizing symmetric market relations of two businesses regarding the issue at hand.

Spokeswoman Iryna Vannykova: Mr. President, you misspoke slightly. You said Анатолій Дмитрович [Anatoly Dmytrovych] when you should have said Дмитро Анатолійович [Dmytro Anatoliyovych]. I don’t know if it’s worth telling you...

Yushchenko: Oh...
Vannykova [to Yushchenko]: OK, let’s wrap it up then.

Vannykova [to reporters]: OK, colleagues, thank you! The press conference is over. Thanks!

For some reason, Yushchenko chose not to correct himself even after his whispering spokeswoman quickly approached him about it.

When Tymoshenko met with Putin in Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine, later in the day, the two spoke Russian.

Putin didn’t behave like a guest. He behaved like a czar. And Tymoshenko behaved like his sweetheart.

Asked about Yushchenko and Saakashvili — and their pilgrimage to the Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv — Putin paraded his sense of Berlusconi 2.0 humor.

Poking fun at Yushchenko’s support of Saakashvili in the Russia-Georgia of 2008, Putin built a cascade of jokes. One of them even had a Pushkin quote interpolated into it.

Putin’s joke about the danger that Saakashvili and his nervous tie-munching behavior could pose to Yushchenko elicited an outburst of laughter and admiration from Tymoshenko. See for yourself.

Russian PM Vladimir Putin: Uh...what our colleagues were doing, I have no idea, but I think that...uh...two presidents always have things to talk about: to discuss somethin', to go someplace* [smiles]: “The warriors recalled their days bygone, and all the battles they never won.”** Maybe that was that [audience explodes with laughter]. We...we’re going together to...we’re now going a colleague has invited’d say we’ll be talking about...about Chekhov. Well...that’s it, I guess. Oh yes, what else can I advise and recommend? Uh...the two presidents would better have their dinner — should they have dinner — with their ties off.*** Ties cost a lot now. Heaven know what I’m talking about [audience explodes with laughter].

Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko [gets excited, addresses Putin by patronymic]: Vladimirovich, I definitely can have dinner with my tie off!

Putin: Yep!
Tymoshenko: Hahaha!

Putin: Ha, lest the guests will...gobble up Yushchenko’s tie!

*Reflects on Yushchenko and Saakashvili visiting the Holodomor Memorial, an issue in the reporter's question [full video available here];

Quotes from Alexander Pushkin’s The Song of Oleg the Wise [verse translation mine];

Refers to Saakashvili’s tie-munching behavior.

Bravo! This comes as a sequel to the famous “mazurik” joke that Putin cracked about Yushchenko while meeting with Tymoshenko in Moscow in October 2008.

Putin and Tymoshenko should finally coin the term humor diplomacy.

Let's say Merkel goes to Russia and takes a pot shot at the Siege of Leningrad and the million of Russians who perished in the famine. Meanwhile, Hu goes to New York, Washington or Jerusalem and pokes fun at 9/11 and the Holocaust. How's that for a start?

Oh, by the way, Mr. Putin, thank you for your generosity! It’s a huge relief you won’t fine Ukraine based on those whorrible “we take, you pay” terms of the gas deal that you and Tymoshenko had signed last January.

You may now take off your tie and take your sweetheart to the finest restaurant in town.

Make yourself at home!

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Sandy said...

I did not understand what Tymoshenko meant when said that she will be with her tie off. Was she afraid that Putin could eat it? :D

Unknown said...

Well, I am a great supporter of good humour, because I think it can be a "weapon" to solve problems, but making nazi jokes, 9/11 jokes, some Jewsish jokes are not so suitable for politics or any kind of quality discussion.

In Hungary we have quite dark sense of humour so we have quite many Soviet jokes. have you heard about Soliman, the great (Ottoman Sultan)? I hope yes, otherwise you won't understand this example joke:

Stalin and Soliman met in the underwolrd. Stalin asked Soliman how they had been able to stay in Hungary for 150 years why they barely could for 40 years?

Soliman answered: We didn't do 3 things: we never said we stay temporarily, we have never made Turkish language compulsory and we didn't make the battle of Mohács a national day.

(You should know about the battle of mohács as well, to get the joke. Ooops, I forgot that. Sorry.)

However I have rather positive opinion about Putin, but I like Medvedev more. On the other hand the mistake was quite inconvenient because even I knew his name correctly and I wouldn't consider myself a Russia expert.

Pawlina said...

I believe what is happening here is called "character assassination." And not just of Yushchenko.

Putin has seduced Yulia into behaving more like a royal trollop than a prime minister. Whether intentional or not, her behaviour is demoralizing Ukrainian voters, given she is (presumably) your best hope. Even worse, she has become something much less than an inspiring role model for Ukrainian women. When Vlad is done with her, she'll be just another discarded whore. Can't get much more demoralizing than that.

Very sad situation indeed. If only Yushchenko had a ruthless bone in his body …

briaxis said...

Thank you for this post, Taras! It renders the whole pallet of Vladimir Vladimirovich's arrogance and lack of respect.

I couldn't help feeling shocked when last thursday I threw a glance at Ukrayinska Pravda's homepage just to find all those Putin-related items from the previous few hours. For a while I was wondering if he was now running for President... of Ukraine.

But I guess it's much more serious than that, for it shows (as the infamous video by Medvedev last august did) that Russia's leaders attitude towards Ukraine and Ukrainians is still more of a visceral than a cerebral kind. Otherwise I can't figure out why all those deliberately hurting remarks – even if they could know by now they'll only damage their own image. But then again, who cares about image in a country proud of its nuclear weapons?

I don't usually approve historical comparisons, but I must admit I thought exactly the same when I read about Putin's comment on the Holodomor memorial. How disgusting. And the worst thing is that I'm sure we'll still see him or Medvedev or someone else fall even lower whenever they have the chance.


P. S.: A very sensible comment on the same issue I just read at Neeka's Backlog:

Taras said...


Next time, Putin should serenade her with “you can leave your tie on!”:)


By diplomatic standards, Putin’s joke was grossly inappropriate and derogatory.

A visiting prime minister who publicly ridicules the host country’s president and his guest, another president, defies diplomacy. That’s not to mention making a flippant reference to a memorial in the host country.

By contrast, the joke you mentioned pokes fun at Hungary’s enemies, not Hungary itself, right?


Once again, Putin showed his chauvinist attitude toward Ukraine. Once again, Tymoshenko showed her full acceptance of it.

I can ridicule Yushchenko a million times. I can ridicule Putin even more. But if I were President of Ukraine, I would never publicly ridicule Putin in his native land.

And as a citizen of Ukraine, I would never accept Putin publicly ridiculing Yushchenko in my native land.


Thank you for commenting!

As President, Yushchenko made his first foreign visit to Russia, despite the Kremlin’s support of Yanukovych.

Imagine Yushchenko coming to Russia and making fun of Putin’s premature congratulations of Yanukovych.

I think Neeka makes exactly the same point.

Anonymous said...

OMG, you guys are pathetic and definitely know nothing about irony - since you are, i'm sure, tom-and-jerry-slapstick-humor bound. Not surprising though, huh.... and yeah - continue to believe the US (yeah, we are a tricky nation, aren't we)-inspired -ukrainian-based stories... sure, might do you good... or not... that's not what you care about anyways....
wake up and start thinking - God gave you the brain for a reason , so, use it already.

Taras said...

Can you name any other leader who has indulged in that kind of irony on a state visit?

If a guest came to your house and started making unwelcome advances to, or jokes about, other guests, would you call that irony or ill manners?

Yes, you’re a tricky nation. You’re the nation that often thinks that the world revolves around you. You don’t have to tell me that once again.

But if you call the Holodomor a “US-inspired-Ukrainian-based story,” you can always go back to the USSR and Russia and find other stories. You can compare Soviet censuses (1926, 1939, 1989) to the Russian census 2002.

And if you’re brave enough, you can even add the Ukrainian census 2001.

See if you detect any patterns:

USSR (1926)
Russians in USSR: 77,791,124
Ukrainians in USSR: 31,194,976
Ukrainians in Ukraine: 23,218,860
Ukrainians in Russia: 7,873,000
Russians in Ukraine: 2,677,166

USSR (1939)
Russians in USSR: 99,591,520
Ukrainians in USSR: 28,111,007

USSR (1989)
Russians in USSR: 145,155,000
Ukrainians in USSR: 44,186,000

Ukraine (2001)
Ukrainians in Ukraine: 37,541,700
Russians in Ukraine: 8,334,100

Russia (2002)
Russians in Russia: 115,889,100
Ukrainians in Russia: 2,943,000