Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Buzz-Cut Crowd Says Lebed's Just 'Cool'

Alexander Lebed is the latest word in chic.


The rugged ex-general, who won the minds of the electorate on a stern mixture of law and order and machismo, is also spawning a whole new genre of tough-guy Lebed accessories, songs and camp followers.


Moscow's military shops, purveyors of camouflage kagouls, calf-length bovver-boy boots and army-surplus bomber jackets, have led the way with a range of Lebedwear, which is proving popular with the capital's shorter-haired menfolk.


"New Model: Lebed Boots" says a sign at the Voyenny Magazin near Smolenskaya Ploshchad, advertising a pair of glossy 'Afghan-kicker' paratrooper boots prominently displayed on the counter.


"Yes, I think many of the kids who come in here admire Lebed," said Leonid Nazarov, one of the shop's proprietors. "We did it as a kind of joke, but we hope that military wear will start to catch on now that Lebed is so popular."


"Lebed is krutoi!" enthused Volodya, a 19-year-old "loafer" who used the epithet Lebed has made his own, roughly translatable as "cool," "hard-assed" or "tough."


"I think it won't be long before we get some Lebed T-shirts in," said Pasha, whose stall on the Old Arbat stocks a wide range of "McLenin's," "1917-1991: The Party's Over" and "I'm a KGB Agent" shirts.


"We've had a lot of people asking about them," he said. "Maybe they'll do Lebed as the Terminator." The general's puppet on the satirical television show "Kukly" has been portrayed as the Terminator ever since he waltzed into the Kremlin just weeks ago and caused the sackings of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, a host of high-ranking generals and much of the Kremlin's so-called "Party of War."


The Lebed phenomenon is also gaining ground in rock music. "Kombat," a new song by Lyube, a rock group named after the band's hometown o young rock fans near the graffiti-covered Viktor Tsoi wall on the Old Arbat said the song's message was an unequivocal roar of approval for Alexander Ivanovich.


"They don't say who they're singing about ... but in my opinion, there's only one 'commander' in Russia right now," said Sasha Rostovsky, 18, an underfed young man in a Public Enemy shirt.


Even Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose nationalistic posing was conclusively eclipsed by Lebed's meteoric rise, said in a Duma press conference Friday that the subject of the song is "undoubtedly" Lebed.


The cover of the album, also entitled "Kombat," is emblazoned with a military badge in the shape of a red star with a hammer and sickle at its center, with a picture of a 9 mm pistol round inside the foldout. The lyrics of many of the songs, which have titles such as "Young Eagles," "Forward, March!" and "Two Comrades Served," are unashamedly militaristic and nationalistic. That formula has sent the album shooting up the charts. The band's lead singer, Nikolai Rastorguyev, was even the guest last week on NTV's popular "Hero of the Day" talk show.


But while Lebed is undoubtedly popular among the "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" element of the male population, how does the female half of the electorate feel about the square-jawed man of few words, who has so spectacularly monopolized political debate in recent weeks?


"Yuk!" was 17-year-old Masha Tanskaya's reaction. "He's so primitive and uncultured. I don't think he's attractive at all. He looks like an ape."


"Brutal," chimed in her companion, Yevgenia. "All military types look so piggish."


But the older generation, though less outspoken about their preferences, seemed to have a softer spot for the strong, silent Lebed's craggy looks and manly build.


"Of course he's good-looking," said Lyudmila Borisovna, who wouldn't give her age but looked on the senior side of 50. "He's strong and brave, and isn't a con man like the other [politicians]. He's a real man."