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"Is Putin Dead?"

Moving the Overton Window in a not-so-subtle way

By Lana V LynxPublished about a month ago Updated 27 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - October 2023
By Russian Political Cartoonist Alesha Stupin

The Russian online public sphere has been buzzing with new rumors of Putin's death this week. On Tuesday, a rumor started to circulate that he had a heart attack and was in poor shape. And on Thursday (Oct.26, 2023) an anonymous "Russian Foreign Intelligence Service General" account on the Russian social media platform Telegram posted this:

"Attention! At this very moment, a state coup is unfolding in Russia! Russia's President Vladimir Putin has died this evening in his Valdai residence. At 8:42 pm Moscow time, the doctors stopped resuscitation and pronounced him dead. Currently, the doctors are locked in the room with Putin's corpse, being held there by the presidential security officers, on a personal order from Dmitry Kochnev, who is reporting to and receiving instructions from the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev. The president's doppelganger's security has been enforced. Active negotiations are taking place. Any attempt to pass the doppelganger as the president after Putin's death is a state coup."

The original Telegram posting about Putin's death in Russian

Everything is beautiful about this post: 1) the reference to Valdai, Putin's favorite highly secured residence with its own deep underground bunker; 2) the reference to doctors locked in the room with Putin's corpse is akin to the circumstances of Stalin's death; 3) the reference to Patrushev who until the Russian war on Ukraine was considered to be the most likely Putin's successor; 4) the reference to a doppelganger playing to the rumors that Putin has at least one double for public appearances; and 5) the reference to an unfolding coup-de-stat, which are abundant in Russia's history.

Ever since that posting, I've been googling "Is Putin Dead?" every 30 min to an hour in my waking time. I was hopeful that the rumors will get confirmed this time, in contrast to many other times when Putin's death gossip circulated and dissipated.

But alas, there will be no The Swan Lake performance on Russian State TV. It is another Russian tradition: in the Soviet times, when an octogenarian Communist Party leader died and his minions did not know how to break the news to the Soviet people, they'd just cancel all entertaining programs and fill the airtime with the ballet and classical music performances. Hence this cartoon below:

"No ballet performance until we receive hard evidence of death!"

The Kremlin officially stated that this week's rumors were not true. Moreover, at 7 am on Friday morning, the Russian state information agency RIAN posted the video of Putin conducting a video conference with his Security Council about illegal arms circulation in Russia:

The reference to the doppelganger in the death Telegram post is interesting for another reason: the rumors that Putin has at least one double have been circulating since about 2012 or even earlier and intensified during and after the pandemic. Putin is a notorious germaphobe who travels mostly by train; sits across a 30-foot-long table for negotiations with Macron and other foreign leaders; conducts meetings over zoom rather than in person; and has had the entire state hall cleared during the state funeral of Zhirinovsky so that he could stand next to the corpse alone for 30 seconds.

Putin's doppelganger, on the contrary, is fierce and fearless: he flies long distances and sometimes appears in crowd pleasing meetings in Siberia at the same time as the original Putin conducts a summit meeting in Moscow (that really happened), drives himself along the restored Crimea bridge, and goes in person to visit the Potemkin village (Google that up if you don't know what it means) in Mariupol - the Ukrainian city his carbon copy ordered to erase with insane rocket shelling and then to rebuild it. There are a lot of comparison pictures of the original Putin's face to the face and even ears of his double, which will convincingly tell you that Putin has at least one double. Hence this cartoon:

"So, who died, exactly?" by Russian Political cartoonist Yolkin

By now, Russians are so used to the idea that Putin has doubles that they just make tired jokes about it. But no one really asks what will happen when the real Putin dies: are they going to continue with this charade and let the double rule the country? There are a lot of people around Putin, all war criminal like him, who would want to keep the status quo and pretend that he is still in power.

And that might be the real reason for spreading the death rumors. I wouldn't be surprised if they are spread by the Kremlin spin doctors who are purposefully moving the Overton Window: if Putin's death rumors are so persistent that they reach the level of the absurd, when he finally really dies, there will be no national revolt. People will be so tired of rumors that the truth will not move them in any way. And Putin's oligarchs and inner circle will be able to figure out how to stay in power.

P.S. By request, I also wrote up a piece on Overton Window and how it works:

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About the Creator

Lana V Lynx

Avid reader and occasional writer of satire and dystopia under a pen name of my favorite wild cat.

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Comments (33)

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  • Paul Levinson7 days ago

    Thanks -- I very much enjoyed your story, if, alas, only as an alternate history :)

  • Justine Crowley27 days ago

    I think he did die of a heart attack, yet it is being kept under wraps. An entertaining read.

  • Lamar Wiggins30 days ago

    I got excited for a moment there. Too goo to be true! I loved the analysis of what will more than likely will happen when he does pass. Nice article!

  • Deep Homage30 days ago

    I can't say whether he's alive or dead, but in the spirit of Halloween, he might be undead:

  • Mona Yonusabout a month ago

    You seriously fucked with my mind! This was a great read!

  • Gerald Holmesabout a month ago

    Very interesting read. well done and congrats on Top Story.

  • Dave Wettlauferabout a month ago

    Shouldn’t get too excited about Putin's demise whether it’s roomers or not. Because in this world, there are more like him and, more after that standing in line. It is the crap war-like mentality that needs changing.

  • Сергеи Лоикоabout a month ago

    Great story! Thank you so much, Lana!

  • Leslie Writesabout a month ago

    Fascinating the lengths these oligarchs will go to to stay in power! If only we could have peaceful leaders who listen to the people.

  • Mariann Carrollabout a month ago

    Congratulations! If only it was really true. 👌

  • Bozhan Bozhkovabout a month ago

    It has been too long since the rumors started without Putin appearing in the media. So, it is possible that he is really dead, and the debates about who will be his replacement are still ongoing. Or he is ill, but not dead.

  • Naveedabout a month ago

    Congratulations on achieving top story status!

  • Kenny Pennabout a month ago

    Very informative, not to mention intriguing. Congrats on top story

  • Scott Christensonabout a month ago

    Nice article. At least this rumor is from russia sources. Over the last 20 years, Putin and Kim Jong-Un have had cancer about 50 times in the western media, and the news is almost always released by some tiny news agency located very close to Langley Virginia lol. but ppl buy it everytime.

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Never worked for Paul McCartney, so I am not sure it would work for him. Excellent work! And yes, you deserved the TS!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!!! Interesting and informative article!!! Love this!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    TRUE THAT! to your last paragraph. Nice piece!

  • Passionistaabout a month ago

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I found it very interesting and informative.

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    Interesting article. Congrats on the TS

  • Patrick M. Ohanaabout a month ago

    Indeed! One less disgusting dictator, but there are so many more, which our broken and "woken" democracies help to thrive.

  • Caroline Janeabout a month ago

    Thoroughly interesting. I love your insights and updates about Russia. So much I don't know! 👍

  • Dana Stewartabout a month ago

    This is a smart and relevant piece. Politics and chess moves, propaganda and oligarchs. Why free press is so important and exactly why Russia and China control the news - they can script the narrative. I had not considered Putin had standins- but am not surprised by the idea.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    Who knows what implications this will have throughout the world Not an easy transition I am sure Great article Congratulations

  • Celia in Underlandabout a month ago

    Congratulations- Great to see this fascinatingly informative piece here! 🤍

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