It's winter in Russia. At night, Muscovites crowd the clubs and request their karaoke favorite, "A Man Like Putin." I want a man like Putin, who's full of strength. I want a man like Putin, who doesn't drink. I want a man like Putin, who won't make me sad.
The techno-pop tune by the duo Singing Together first appeared mysteriously in 2002 and quickly topped the charts in Russia. It went on to become a Putin theme song, still played at his rallies. Catchy and ironic, this was a new kind of propaganda song. Reporter Alexis Bloom arrives in Moscow to investigate the making of the song, and how it was used in Putin's rise to power.
She meets the songwriter, Alexander Yelin, in a rehearsal studio with his all-girl heavy metal band. Yelin says he wrote "A Man Like Putin" on a $300 bet to see if he could create a hit. "All I needed was the right message," he says. "What can a girl sing about? She can't sing that Putin is great. That would be stupid and it wouldn't be funny. But she can sing that everything around her sucks, and she needs a man like Putin."
Yelin enlists his old friend, producer Nikolai Gastello, who was working in the Kremlin as head of the press department for the Russian federal courts. They recruit singer Yana Daneiko and dancer Irina Kozlova, who say Putin is not only their chosen leader, but also their ideal man. Once they find a Putin impersonator, Anatoly Gorbunov, to portray their president, the stage is set to create their music video.
Not all Russians find the song amusing. Sergei Buntman, the founder of Echo of Moscow Radio and an outspoken Putin critic, says the song plays into Putin's control of the media. "There's no TV station broadcasting to the whole country, where something serious might be said about politics," he says. "In this country there is no alternative thought."