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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

All the News Too Weird Not to Print

For some people, the key events of 2000 were Russias usual doom-and-gloom fare. For others, there were a hundred news stories that came much closer to capturing the Y2K mood: the weird, the wonderful, the humorous and frankly, the much more interesting.

The second and shortest Russian president hogged the countrys attention. Putinmania was everywhere. One Moscow Times columnist had not one but two erotic dreams about that firmest of jawlines. A young man in St. Petersburg had a portrait of the firm-jawed one tattooed on his arm. Another man walked 2,000 kilometers to show his support for Putins presidential bid.

Putinskaya vodka twinkled in kiosk windows, and a rash of baby Vladimir Vladimiroviches were brought into the world.

The Moscow Times was the first and so far only paper to comment on the striking similarity between said presidents surname and a certain French swear word. That story produced what can proudly be remembered as the papers feeblest joke of the year in French: "Linjure favorite des Chechens est lenfant de Putin," or "The Chechens favorite swearword is son of a Putin."

Le Soir and Lib?ration have yet to follow up.

When the Ostankino tower wasnt on fire, Russian television provided viewers with hours of truly inspired programming. Golaya Pravda, or "Naked Truth," a news/lingerie show, was among the most memorable, with an anchor who managed to coordinate a dextrous reading of the weeks events with the slinky removal of her clothing. ( See article.) Perhaps the shows strangest feature was the willingness of its guests among them politicians like Duma Deputy Anatoly Botkeyev to not only appear on the show but to strip off their own clothes as well.

Another TV host could be going naked as well. But few would notice, as he was a chimpanzee hosting the chat show "Natural Selection." ( See article.)

The legendary U.S. soap "Santa Barbara" returned to the small screen after angry crowds of picketing pensioners convinced RTR that life would not be worth living without the show. The Telespetsnaz program stayed rooted in reality, glorifying the daily struggle of special security forces as they rappelled down buildings and leapt into peoples private homes.

"Extreme TV," meanwhile, had its contestants jumping from planes at 1,000 meters, diving into frozen ponds and fighting blazing fires. ( See article.) Those hardy enough to withstand all that were forced to survive three minutes in the ring with a professional boxes all in order to win a car.

With shows like this, Russian children may have spent too much time in front the TV in 2000. According to a survey conducted on the occasion of Vladimir Lenins 100th birthday, many of the countrys youngest generation are somewhat confused as to the revolutionary leaders role in history. "Lenin was born in 1522," said one, while another said he was a great poet who "died in a duel." ( See article.)

Luckily, one publisher took the plight of these children to heart, producing Tolstoy Lite, a dramatically shorter version of "War and Peace" which, promoters boasted, had "much more peace" and "less war." ( See article.)

The arts and entertainment world did its best this year as well. One artist, Pyotr Bois, having had a bad experience with his Fiat, created an entire exhibition lambasting the auto manufacturer in sculpture, paintings and other artwork. ( See article.) He never did get a refund.

In proof that Moscows men in blue can give as well as take, one of the citys finest found himself stripping to his baggy boxers at the behest of martial arts king Jackie Chan. Chan, in town to promote his film "Shanghai Noon," is a determined collector of police uniforms. Upon hearing of his hobby, local cop and Mikhail Ripka was persuaded to hand over his uniform before a crowd of devout Chan fans. According to Ripkas wife, they had a spare at home.

Russia may soon have its own superhero, however, thanks to a recent innovation in forward-propulsion technology: Bashkir Boots. ( See article.) Developed at an Ufa aviation institute, the piston-powered boots allow human beings to run at speeds of up to 60 kilometers an hour. Unfortunately, our reporter wasnt allowed to try them for fear she might break her legs.

A less successful figure in the world of strange inventions was Vladimir Dovgan, who after losing his multimillion-dollar business and even the right to his own name, turned to a painful last resort: selling motivational tapes. ( See article.)

If anyone deserves an Entrepreneur of the Year award, its the Prosecutor Generals Office, which sent a Christmas wish list to the Rosvooruzheniye state weapons giant just before initiating an investigation of the company. ( See article.) Among the prosecutor generals holiday essentials were six Panasonic telephones, five Hewlett-Packard computers, four Hewlett-Packard monitors, three mobile telephones, one paper shredder and a partridge in a pear tree. The total bill including a GAZ-31029 car, complete with driver came to $22,500.

Other random awards go to erstwhile Moscow Times reader Robert Bridge for best letter and best taxi driver story of the year. ( See article.) Bridge retold the harrowing tale of how, while taking a cab, his driver pulled out a large handgun and waved it in his face for five minutes while chattering incomprehensibly. When the driver threw the gun into Bridges lap, he began to wonder whether it would be better to shoot the driver at that moment or wait until the next set of traffic lights. Finally the driver said, "So do you want to buy it or what?"

Best excuse of the year went to the Russian national football team, who said they lacked inspiration because they had no words to sing during the playing of national anthem. Not since Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claiming that his side had lost because they were wearing the wrong shirts has there been a better excuse for poor form.

Meanwhile, The Moscow Times unintentionally produced the finest April Fools joke of the year in a tiny brief from Lahore, Pakistan. That countrys worst mass murderer in history, Javed Iqubal, had just been sentenced to be strangled, chopped into small bits and dissolved in acid for his crime of killing 100 people. As a helpful guide to readers, the Times included a mug shot of Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy. A hasty correction appeared the next day, but apparently to no avail. Just six months later, the unsteady peace process in the Middle East collapsed.

Le Monde had its own fair share of mistakes, falling for Komsomolskaya Pravdas April 1 joke that former President Boris Yeltsin chose Putin as his successor after Putin shot a wild boar through the heart with a single shot. ( See article.)

One translator came a cropper translating Putin during a visit by the British prime minister. When an outraged Putin complained that the Chechens were calling Russians kozly an offensive term most people wouldnt use in front of their mothers, let alone Tony Blair, the translator simply gave the literal translation, "goats," to a crowd of mystified journalists. ( See article.) This was followed by the Russian side being told to murmurs of approval, we hear that Britain "shoots," rather than "fires," soldiers who malign other soldiers.

Other offenses committed by The Moscow Times in 2000 include spelling the name of Chechen Duma Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov four different ways in a single article; having the balls to spell "cojones" wrong; and claiming that "God Save the Tsar" was written in 1938. They may pale in comparison to the papers all-time classic, the headline "Chile Beats Chile," but the years ultimate insult may have been to the countrys Olympic athletes. In a curse-like prophecy, a Moscow Times page dedicated to potential gold medal contenders saw the majority of those athletes flop, and the only female athlete profiled by the paper for the Paralympics was sent home after failing a drug test. Her name was spelled wrong as well.