Politicians’ portraits are a special genre in Ukraine –going  back to the time when the country was a part of the Soviet Union. As a kid I saw portraits of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin at every street corner. They were in school classrooms, in textbooks, in books for children, in offices, on windshields of trucks, etc, etc. When a competition for the Best Picture was announced in primary school I went to, I (being overwhelmed with love for the leaders of the “world proletariat”) drew a picture of Lenin according to the best of my skill and understanding and committed it to the consideration of the panel. I was praised for my effort but, for obvious reasons, the picture was not exhibited.
I thought of this when I was returning to Kyiv after the New Year spent in Kirovohrad. Practically, after every 10-15 km of the 300 km I travelled there was a billboard with the President’s portrait and his New Year wishes to the Ukrainian people.  On approach to Kyiv the billboards started being even more frequent: the familiar face of the President, who “will hear everybody”, came as often as two or three times for every kilometer of the highway.
Last summer State Forest Resources Agency made all 300 forestry divisions in Ukraine buy 15 million hryvnya worth of presidential portraits and state emblems.  One forest warden complained that he had to buy 70 Yanukovych portraits for 12,000 hryvnya. “What am I supposed to do with 70 portraits of the president, when we only have 20 rooms? Hang them in the toilet?” he complained.
Unsurprisingly, “tissue rejection” followed. In early January there were reports that  Yanukovych billboards had been defaced with splotches of paint in several parts of Ukraine. The authorities threaten to imprison the culprits, who, so far, remain unknown.  I ask myself: which of the public figures could have been so popular that s/he wouldn’t have to be afraid their billboard images all over the country might be smeared with paint or otherwise? I know only one: Yuri Gagarin. Do our political leaders think they are enjoying the Gagarin popularity?


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