Tatar Media Abuzz Over Obama Catchphrase

They seem like an unlikely couple. One is a rising star of the U.S. Democratic Party, and the other is a former Soviet official who has ruled his republic of Russia since 1991.

But U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama and Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev have something in common.

In an apparent coincidence that has Tatar media outlets abuzz, the Obama slogan "Yes, We Can!" has the same meaning as Shaimiyev's favorite catchphrase, which in Tatar is "Bez Buldyrabyz!"

The two slogans are "identical," Karim Kamal, a journalist for the Tatar-language service of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, said by telephone.

"I'm sure they don't know each other," Kamal added with a laugh.

Tatar media noticed the coincidence after seeing the "Yes, We Can" music video made by supporters of the U.S. Democratic senator from Illinois, Kamal said. The video has gotten more than 3 million views on YouTube since being posted earlier this month.

The Internet portal E-Kazan.ru alleged that Obama had borrowed Shaimiyev's slogan and boasted about the prowess of Tatar political campaigning.

"Obama's borrowing of our slogan proves once again that we are fully in step with the times, and on some issues we are even ahead of the Americans," the web site wrote. "Our PR tactics are up-to-date, competitive and are even 'rented' by leading politicians."

The slogan "Bez Buldyrabyz!" is ubiquitous in Tatarstan. Among other things, it has been the name of the official party newspaper of the Tatar branch of United Russia and the title of a 2006 essay contest for 11th-graders.

The slogan gained popularity two or three years ago after Shaimiyev began using it in his speeches, Kamal said.

A spokesman for Shaimiyev declined to comment about the similarity of the slogans, though he said he was aware of it and that, in his opinion, it was simply a coincidence. The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

The slogan has appeared elsewhere as well. A Spanish version, "Si Se Puede," was used by Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers union in the 1970s, and "Yes We Can" is also the advertising tagline of a Kansas-based trucking company.

After capturing primary victories Tuesday in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Obama for the first time overtook rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in the delegate race for the Democratic nomination.

But it remains unclear whether the slogan will help Obama achieve the same stellar election results as Shaimiyev, who got more than 90 percent of the vote during his first re-election bid in 1996 -- a race in which he had no opponents -- and 79.6 percent during his last bid for re-election in 2001.

"I don't think American voters will support someone simply because of a good slogan," Kamal said. "Surely there are other factors that play a role too."