MOSCOW — Kremlin officials like to insist President Vladimir Putin does not care for big birthday bashes and that he was to spend his 60th on Sunday quietly celebrating.
However, the president’s supporters don’t appear to have received the memo, and so the day saw an unprecedented exhibition of Putin idolatry reminiscent of some of the world’s oddest cults of personality.
Much of it, like it the fawning, up-close-and-personal profile on Kremlin-friendly television channel NTV, looked like propaganda. Some of the praise was so extreme as to appear almost like a subtle form of satire on Putin’s heroic representations in state media.
The pro-government Mestniye youth movement held a sports contest in a central Moscow square under the slogan ‘‘Do Your Best for Putin.’’ Organizers said the slogan symbolizes their gratitude for Putin’s efforts to boost the popularity of sports. Putin, a black-belt judo practitioner, has over the years been shown horse riding, swimming, scuba-diving, playing ice hockey, and indulging in outdoor hunting.
NTV broadcast a documentary purporting to describe the details of Putin’s working life. The program shows his daily routine, which includes swimming and weight-lifting exercises, a breakfast of porridge, the drive to work, and the late-night working sessions at the office.
An art exhibition titled “Putin: The Most Kind-Hearted Man in the World” opened in Moscow. The show features around a dozen paintings closely modeled on photos of some of the president’s most memorable moments: riding a horse bare-chested, weeping at a celebration rally after his 2012 election victory, and leading cranes in flight on a motorized hang-glider.