Russia: Kenyans at Pro-Putin Rally Identified As Moscow Circus Acrobats

Global Voices Online
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

A month ago, the video of a group of Kenyan men who allegedly participated in the pro-Putin rally at Luzhniki on Feb. 23 received much attention [ru] on the RuNet.

For opposition-minded netizens, the presence of the young Kenyans at the pro-Putin rally confirmed yet again that much of the support for the Russian PM was not genuine. It also provided them with something of a comic relief: "International conspiracy" was part of the title of activist Igor Drandin's video post [ru]; "Putin is a politician of intergalactic scale, even Kenya supports him," wrote [ru] LJ user cuduyc in a comment to Drandin's post; "the representatives of international Putinism are very impressive," wrote LJ user pier_luigi, commenting on LJ user panzicov's photo post [ru].

The state-controlled NTV channel included [ru; approx. 5:20-5:45] the footage of the Kenyans in its controversial film about the recent opposition protests, implying that their appearance at the pro-Putin rally had been arranged by the opposition to discredit the regime.

Despite all this publicity, the Kenyan men have remained anonymous, just like most other, less conspicuous participants of the various rallies that took place in the past few months. In a comment to Drandin's post, LJ user bereg_solnca expressed the general assumption as to their possible identity:

Poor African students working hard for 750 rubles [$25]?

However, one blogger - Alan Butaev (LJ user butanti), a circus clown performing with the Butanti Comic Company - recognized the Kenyan men in the Feb. 23 video as the acrobats who were brought to Moscow from Kenya in 2011 by the Russian circus authorities, to hone their skills and have them later perform here. Because of the sorry financial state of the Russian circus and the hardships that local Russian circus artists are facing, this was not seen as a welcome initiative [ru] by some in the Russian circus community. LJ user butanti wrote [ru] on Feb. 24:

Exactly a year ago, I wrote [a post, ru] on how the leadership of the RosGosTsirk company (the Russian State Circus) had bought a number of Africans so that they, with their [extra-hard work and superhuman endurance], brought the Russian circus from the state of crisis [...] at last.

Of course, replacing Russian artists for Africans is a brave innovation, modernization and reform, no doubt about it.

Needless to say, that [RosGosTsirk couldn't care less] about its own unemployed compatriots.


It hasn't even been a year since that blissful period when RosGosTsirk brought the Kenyans to Russia to teach them the circus craft, and today the enthusiastic bunch of these dashing African guys is out at the Feb. 23 rally in support of that one candidate for the post of the President of Russia. [...]

In a comment to his own post, Butaev wrote [ru]:

I think it's a totally idiotic initiative to gather the Kenyans for the rally that they have nothing to do with whatsoever.

It doesn't matter who and for which purpose had gathered the Kenyans: the authorities or the opposition. Either way, it's disgusting.

In the past, students of the circus college used to earn extra cash by acting in movies, taking part in various concerts and performances.

Now, alas... they are earning money by dragging around banners and posters at rallies and marches.

The Kenyan acrobats performing at the Moscow Circus on March 23, 2012. Photo by Veronica Khokhlova

Andrei Provotorov re-posted Butaev's text [ru] on his blog at the Radio Echo of Moscow site. User tereza2011 left this comment on Feb. 26:

Turns out that not only "our mental asylum is voting for Putin" - but also the Kenyan one. Though it is obvious that they wouldn't have managed to make the posters by themselves - [their Russian isn't that good].

At the forum, user Yahia wrote [...]:

The story of the Kenyans turned out to be very funny. They should have given this money [paid to the Kenyan acrobats] to those [Russian circus artists] who are unemployed, should have sent them on vacation to Kenya... They've got the most delicious coffee there.

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

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