Speed Reads

Putin on the Ritz

Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday is honored in the most Putin-esque way

Tuesday is Vladimir Putin's 62 birthday. And what, you might ask, do you get the ever immodest Russian premier who has everything?

Why, a dedicated art exhibit comparing him to the Greek mythical hero Hercules, of course.

The art show, which opened Monday in Moscow, is called The 12 Labors of Putin and it was held by members of a pro-Putin Facebook group. In the portraits the president — drawn with rippling muscles and washboard abs — battles stallions, wild boars, multi-headed serpents, and single-handedly shoots down American jets with a bow and arrow.

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It may be the ultimate present for a leader who appears in candid photographs to moonlight as the shirtless star of his own romance novels. And though Kremlin officials insist Putin doesn't care for ostentatious celebrations, his supporters go above and beyond year after year.

Here, a ranking of Putin's most recent and extravagant birthday presents:

5. In honor of Putin's 58th birthday in 2010, a group of Russian journalism students decided the smartest thing they could do was strip down and photograph themselves for a not-so business casual calendar. Each month featured a partially-clad young woman alongside captions like, "You put out the forest fires, but I'm still burning," and "You only get better with years."

4. For Putin's 61st birthday, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sang an intimate, guitar-accompanied acoustic version of "Happy Birthday" in front of the Russian head of state and of several international leaders.

3. Surprisingly not the most ostentatious present, this year's manly-man art show The 12 Labors of Putin fits comfortably in the middle of this ranking.

2. In celebration of Putin's 60th birthday, 10 mountaineers scaled a 13,000-foot ridge in the southern republic of North Ossetia-Alania and erected a 13-by-20-foot portrait of the president. Local officials there even lodged a request to rename the spot Peak Putin.

1. It was Putin's 56th birthday present that outranks the scantily clad women and the referential art. In 2008, an unknown supporter gave the president a rare Ussuri tiger. It weighed only 20 pounds and slept adorably in a wicker basket in the president's Moscow residence. Putin, however, promised the cub would eventually be moved to a more suitable home in a zoo or wildlife preserve.