Three years after Kyrgyzstan slapped Vladimir Putin’s name on a mountain, some intrepid local businessmen are aiming to cash in on the name of Russia’s strongman president—recently found to be the most popular politician among Kyrgyzstanis.
Since early this month a black billboard promising a “Putin Pub” coming “soon” has loomed over the intersection of two central thoroughfares in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Cast in white, the Russian leader’s visage emerges out of the darkness in a style reminiscent of Marlon Brando on “The Godfather” film posters.
The backers of the “pub/sports bar/karaoke” joint are shrouded in mystery. That is not uncommon in Bishkek, where locals spend hours debating which parliamentarian owns what. But Artem Kolosov, who has been promoting the bar actively on social media, confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that the billboard is no hoax.
Thailand-based Kolosov, who describes himself as the pub’s “PR Director and Art Director” wrote to EurasiaNet.org in English: “I am sorry I cannot say where and when it will open. In mid-September opening [sic]. That's all I can say.”
As with Bishkek’s popular Obama Bar, with which Putin will soon compete, few in Bishkek seem concerned about naming rights. There is already the Guinness Pub, Kyrgyz Fried Chicken, Burger Kiиg and a number of other rip-offs.
But one commenter writing on the website of Kyrgyz news service AKIpress thought differently, musing: “Maybe Putin is opening the bar himself? Now that [Western] sanctions have hit Russia, his profits have fallen. So, he has decided to open a pub in a friendly country to create a new stream of income.”
Asked if Kolosov knows who is the pub's ultimate beneficiary, he simply replied: “Good night Chris. Yes of course I know :)”
That Kyrgyzstan is broadly Putin-friendly is not in doubt. In February 2012, President Almazbek Atambayev spoke of the special “love” his countrymen have for Russia’s president. That statement is backed by a recent poll showing nine out of ten Kyrgyzstanis have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in Putin as a leader. By comparison, only about 26 percent expressed confidence in Putin’s geopolitical (and now, gastronomic) rival, Barack Obama.
This is not the first billboard to cause a splash in Bishkek. Two years ago bishkekchane were baffled by one, close to the city’s central square, wishing Chechnya’s brutal strongman Ramzan Kadyrov a happy 36th birthday.