Posts are going to be light over the next two weeks as I concentrate on finishing my dissertation chapter on the legacy of the Russian Civil War in the Komsomol. Just thought I make an announcement in case anyone is wondering about the lack of posting.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
It seems so. The film’s distributors decided not to release the film in Russian theaters based on objections from Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography, or Goskino. The film was to released in 300 theaters beginning on November 30. Iurii Vasiuchkov , the head of state film registration said, “We consider that the film contains material that is derogatory to several nationalities and religions.” Most likely he means Jews and Kazakhs. The Kazakh government had been lobbying the Russian government to not release the film out of respect for the neighboring country. Twentieth Century Fox’s Gemini Marketing plans to take the case to Russian court to obtain a release license.
So much for a sense of humor.
No worry. The ban is sure to increase interest in the film. And I’m sure many Muscovites are already scooping up illegal DVD copies on sale at Gorbushka.
Update: Back in the US, it seems that Borat is running into some legal trouble. The three drunken frat boys featured in the film are now suing 20th Century Fox because the it ”made [the] plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community.” But, um, they are frat boys. This would’ve happened to them anyway.
And now, enter the real Borat, Mahir Cagri, a Turkish man who developed his own cult of personality on the internet in 1999. Cagri, 44, claims that he was the inspiration for “Borat.” If you (see) this, what you think about me?” he said. “Mahir is a very bad comedian, Mahir is a homosexual, Mahir may be say the bad things about Jewish people? This is very bad.” He now plans to make his own film to show the world the “real Mahir.”
Oh, boy. Who said there was a difference between comedy and drama?
By Sean — 13 years ago
Twenty years ago the nuclear plant Chernobyl exploded. The Guardian did an excellent article on the event and its lingering effects. There is no official count on how many died as a result. The number is probably in the tens of thousands, and its effects will continue to be felt in the region for several decades more. In a UN report released last September that was supported by Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine estimates 4,000 deaths. The World Health Organization altered the estimate to 9,000. Greenpeace estimates up to 100,000 deaths as a direct or indirect result of the nuclear meltdown.
Chernobyl’s historical significance goes beyond environmental catastrophe. As Pyotr Romanov argues in a comment on RIV Novosti that Chernobyl was a major blow to the Soviet Union and should be included as one of the factors in its collapse. It completely undercut the moral and political authority of the Perestroika reformers.
There is one more consequence of the Chernobyl disaster, which is rarely mentioned. I think it was Chernobyl that exploded the U.S.S.R. Needless to say, the reasons for the disintegration of such a colossus were bound to be multiple. Some people say with good reason that the founders of Marxism programmed the elements of self-destruction into the Soviet Union’s policy and economy. Others justifiably quote the arms race or Afghanistan, which also undermined the Soviet might. Still others blame the then leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus for signing a document in secret from President Gorbachev in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. They believe, not without a reason, that this document finished the U.S.S.R off.
However, I still think that Chernobyl was one of the major factors behind the Soviet collapse. The tragedy was not just about radioactive contamination. It produced a huge pack of lies, which shocked the Soviet people. The authorities concealed from them the truth for several days. In blissful ignorance, children and adults were walking under the genial spring rain in Kiev and Minsk, eating fruit, fishing, going to Ukrainian and Byelorussian resorts. If they had known the truth, they would have been running away. When rumors finally got through, people panicked. They rushed to railroad stations and drug stores. Only the first semi-truthful official reports outlined the enormous scale of the catastrophe.
Importantly, the liars were the Party reformers whom many people had trusted when they said that the Soviet system could be reformed. After this lie there was nobody to believe. So, when a report on the Soviet Union’s demise came from Belovezhskaya Pushcha, nobody tried to resuscitate it. The lie proved to be as deadly as radiation.
In addition, what is more disconcerting is that the lesson of Chernobyl and the dangers of nuclear power have fallen on deaf ears. Nuclear power is considered acceptable again, not only in Russia, but the US, and of course in Iran. Unfortunately, nuclear power, whether it be fore energy or in its weaponized form is still with us.
For more news on Chernobyl, I point readers to Wally Shedd’s entry at his blog Accidental Russophile. He has provided a number of useful links to news stories debating, commemorating, and shedding historical light on the event.
By Sean — 12 years ago
Here’s a kicker. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev is visited the United States this Friday. While having his government run ads in response to the sure to be hilarious movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev is getting the royal treatment by the Bush Administration. On Friday, Bush had the audacity to say that Kazakhstan is a “free nation”. What an idiot. Even the conservative National Review called Bush’s embracing of Nazarbayev as such:
But like too many visitors to the White House these days, Nazarbayev is an autocrat. He is not democratically elected, he allows little leeway for his opponents, and he is working to keep political power centralized in the hands of his own family. For Nazarbayev, who visited the Clinton White House twice but has not met Bush in Washington, D.C. since December 2001, the invitation is a victory. He will use the Bush White House to confirm that his autocracy has substantial U.S. support. This couldn’t come at a worse time, as a predominately Muslim Kazakhstan teeters on the brink of turning into another Saudi Arabia: corrupt at the top, with ample cause for discontent at the bottom.
But I guess that according to Bush’s definition of “free”, Kazakhstan is probably a shining beacon. I also think that we can translate “free” as geopolitically vital to US interests. If you are willing to make deals with the US, like Nazarbayev is, then you are placed in the ideological clear no matter what you do to your citizens.
As a LA Times editorial put it,
[T]here are few nations more strategically important to the United States than Kazakhstan. Its mineral resources are vast; by 2015, it is expected to account for nearly as much oil production as Iran. It is a stable U.S. ally in a region marked by shaky friends, rivals and foes, such as Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It is a majority-Muslim country that sent troops to Iraq and opened its airspace to U.S. flights during the invasion of Afghanistan. It is a model for nuclear disarmament, having agreed to destroy the missiles it inherited from the former Soviet Union.
. . .
Yet Kazakhstan is too important to ignore or keep at a distance — and the reasons go far beyond its oil wealth. If Bush confines himself to meeting only with leaders who have perfect democratic records, he’ll have to rule out the heads of most countries in the developing world.
True enough. The US has to deal with these countries but it can certainly do so without such silly hyperbole. Such statements are just embarrassing and further undermine the little credibility Bush has left.
Nazarbayev’s visit was of course overshadowed by Borat and the genius publicity campaign for the upcoming movie. Borat attempted to crash the White House meeting, only to be turned away by the Secret Service.
I just hope the movie is still in theaters when I get back to the States in late November.