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Here’s ‘Putler:’ The mash-up image of Putin and Hitler sweeping Ukraine

This March photo shows activists in Berlin holding placards depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as Adolf Hitler reading Putler and “hands off Ukraine” in front of the Ukrainian embassy.  (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Comparisons between Hitler and Putin are trending big time. Hillary Clinton first cooked it up in early March, referencing Crimea. “Now if this sounds familiar,” she said, “it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s. . . . Germans by ancestry were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, [and] Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people.”

Then the German finance minister said the Crimea absorption was analogous to Hitler’s 1938 seizure of Sudetenland. “We’ve seen this before in history,” Wolfgang Schäuble said, before quickly backing off the comment. “Hitler took over the Sudetenland with these types of tactics.”

Afterward, as reported by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, a prominent Russian thinker mulled the same. “One must distinguish between Hitler before 1939 and Hitler after 1939,” Andranik Migranyan said. “The thing is that Hitler collected [German] lands. If he had become famous only for uniting without a drop of blood Germany with Austria, Sudetenland and Memel, in fact completing what Bismarck failed to do, and if he had stopped there, then he would have remained a politician of the highest class.”

Since March, those comparisons have been manifested visually — and they’re sweeping not only Ukraine, but social media as well.

They call it “Putler.” And yes, it looks a little creepy.

In Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, where Putin isn’t exactly Mr. Popular, Putler has been slapped on signs, thrown up on 40-foot towers and beamed onto Twitter, where one Ukrainian has dispatched nearly 3,000 tweets under the moniker “PUTLER KAPUTT.” The PUTLER KAPUTT account, which isn’t shy about Photoshopping Putin’s head onto just about anything, has collected more than 1,000 followers.

“We call him ‘Putler,'” a Kiev local named Max told Mashable, which first reported Putler. “He is a total b—–d!”

“Our heroes are fighting Hitler again,” one woman told Mashable.

Perhaps symbolic of that notion’s traction in the public, Putler has now climbed the 40-foot Maidan yolka tower into a place of prominence.

Lots of people are compared with Hitler, which some say has made the reference meaningless.

But the current comparisons between Putin and Hitler resonate more than some others, particularly in Europe. Hitler framed his incursion into Czechoslovakia as protection for ethnic Germans — not as an invasion. Now compare that to this week’s statements out of Moscow:  “There has been a surge in appeals to Russia to save them,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, despite the fact that recent polls show 85 percent of ethnic Russians in Ukraine don’t feel threatened. “We are being put into an extremely complex position.”

A woman holds a placard displaying a caricature of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a rally against Russia on Kiev’s Independence square on March 2, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images)
Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice. He also writes about solutions to social problems.

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