Hundreds of Russian speakers on Facebook shared a poster showing a painting of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin depicted in various patriotic and religious incarnations.
First shared on December 11, the poster looks like an authentic advertisement by the Ministry of Culture and Nationality Policies of the Republic of Mordovia in eastern Russia.
It announces an art exhibit dubbed “Oh, Russian Land!” presenting the works of the Russian People’s Artist Vasili Nesterenko, held April 1 – May 30, 2021, in Mordovia’s Republican Art Museum.
The poster features the artist’s alleged painting in which 16th-century prince and military leader Dmitry Pozharsky, credited with winning the Polish-Muscovite War and ending the Polish occupation of Moscow, is painted with the face of Vladimir Putin.
Behind Pozharsky there is an icon of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. Only the Virgin Mary also has Putin’s face.
While some expressed doubt about the poster’s authenticity, hundreds shared and commented on the post believing the painting was genuine.
That assumption is false.
Polygraph.info established that the poster and the painting it features had been digitally altered.
The exhibit did take place in Mordovia with a live broadcast of its opening ceremony via the website of the Russian Ministry of Culture.
The painting of Pozharsky with the icon of the Virgin Mary in the background is also real, but in the original, they don’t have Putin’s face.
There is, however, a reason why only a few Facebook users questioned the authenticity of the poster and the painting.
That reason is the artist himself and the type of art he is creating.
Russian People’s Artist Vasili Nesterenko is a contemporary painter whose rise to fame coincided with Putin’s coming to the Kremlin.
Today, Nesterenko’s artworks decorate the walls of Russia’s most prestigious museums and Putin’s office in the Kremlin, and his numerous residences elsewhere in Russia.
They portray Putin, other Russian top government officials, and the Russian military with a nimbus of holy warriors.
For example, a series of such paintings presented the Russian holy warriors saving Syrian civilians during the Russian military intervention in that country’s civil war. In another series, those Russian holy warriors bravely defend Mother Russia from the Ukrainian “Nazis” in Kyiv.
The truth is – the Russian army stands accused of war crimes committed in both Syria and Ukraine. The “Nazi” Kyiv is an invention of the Kremlin’s propaganda. And it is Russia that attacked Ukraine.
Nesterenko’s paintings illustrate the pages of the Russian history textbooks for schools and universities, including those in the occupied Ukraine where the children are taught to hate Ukraine and to believe in a revisionist history in which Russia is the messianic holy land of heroes.
Among Nesterenko’s artworks are the frescoes of the ostentatious Russian Army Cathedral built by the order and under the patronage of the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu glorifies Russia’s military might and historic victories, including the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Shoigu himself is immortalized on its ceiling next to Vladimir Putin.
Nesterenko’s art has earned him an Order of Honor and an Order of Friendship from the Kremlin, at least two distinguished service awards from the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, and numerous honors from the Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church for “his great contribution” to the “development of the mass media and patriotic education of the Russian citizens.”