Russian metals mogul Alisher Usmanov wants Cheburashka to come home. And he’s willing to plop down $3 million to buy back the international rights for the creature “not known to science” from the US firm Films by Jove. Stating that “our heritage must be returned to Russia,” Usmanov, who is also a fan of Cheburashka, wants to give the 500 cartoons to a children’s television channel proposed by Putin. The problem is that Films by Jove is asking a $10 million. For Usmanov it should be that big of a problem. The guy is worth an estimated $2.6 billion.
Cheburashka was created in 1969 by cartoonist Eduard Uspensky. “One day, during the Bolshevik era, I saw this tiny girl,” Uspensky told RFE/RL.
And she was wearing a beaver coat, an enormous flappy thing. And this little girl took a step without any help, and she fell over. And when she fell her parents said, “Look, you’ve cheburakhnulas [fallen over]! You little ‘cheburashka’!” And I hadn’t heard the word before, it was a very rare word. And so that little girl, with this vast collar around her head, gave me the idea for the cartoon.
How did the lovable Cheburashka get into the hands of the American cultural imperialists? Apparently he was yet another victim of 1990s privatization. In 1992, the Russian Union of Animators sold the merchandising rights to the collection to Films by Jove for a pittance of its potential worth, $900,000. “There are lots of films in that collection — about 60 or 70 hours’ worth,” explained Ernest Rakhimov, the director of the Union of Animators’ archive. “The best are the old films — ‘The Humpbacked Horse,’ ‘The Scarlet Flower,’ ‘The Snow Queen.’ They’re sitting on a gold mine. It’s an early collection, early animations — those animations were done to the same standard as Disney films.” The Union is now disputing the deal arguing that Films by Jove took advantage of the lack of Russian laws regarding film rights and “managed to trick the previous animators’ administration, and they signed a contract that turned out to have taken away our freedom.”
If Cheburashka is really a victim of capitalist malfeasance, then will we soon witness the rise of his revolutionary alter-ego: Che-burashka!
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By Sean — 13 years ago
Two weeks ago readers of the Moscow Times were met with a rather chilling article on the front page. The headline: “Growing Number of Army Draftees Have HIV”. According to Major General Valery Kulikov the number of draftees rejected by the Russian army with HIV “skyrocketed by 27 percent over the past five years.” Last fall, 9000 were rejected for having HIV. Before 2000, only 300 were rejected. The military admits that this new figure is difficult to quantify because there aren’t reliable numbers of HIV/AIDS of the population as a whole to compare to, the extreme reluctance of the Russian armed forces to discuss the matter, the lack of equipment for reliable testing, plus recruits are not systematically tested. In many ways the military is a microcosm of the overall problem of HIV/AIDS in
The prognosis for Russian is not good. For 2004, UNAIDS estimates 420,000 to 1.4 million cases of HIV/AIDS, compared to the official Russian figure of 240,000. By 2020, they predict 5.3 million to 14.5 million cases, and 252,000 to 648,000 HIV/AIDS related deaths per year. For female sex workers, the estimates are staggering: 33.3% of female sex workers between 15-19 years old, 63.5% 20-24 years old, and 40% between 30-34 years old are infected with HIV. The numbers are shocking.
has the undesirable distinction of having the highest rate of HIV infection in the industrialized world. Russia
Some might ask what the point of yet another article about the problem of HIV/AIDS in
. The issue is not new. There perhaps nothing new that one can say. Not to mention that nothing can top Michael Specter’s profound and chilling explication of the global AIDS pandemic in his series of articles in the New Yorker. (Unfortunately, Specter’s article “The Devastation” is not available online without paying. However, you can read an interview with him discussing the issue here. You can also get the article through Lexis-Nexus if you have access.) The issue might not be “new” and there might not be much more one can say about it. But the problem is real. All too real. It is also being consistently ignored by the Russian government and society. All one can do is scream. Scream so loud into the darkness of ignorance and denial in hopes that a ray of sense pierces through. Russia
Pointing out the dire situation that exists in
on the HIV/AIDS front has nothing to do with Orientalist pretensions. This is no East/West thing. This has nothing to do with our “superiority” and their “backwardness.” It is about life and death. It is about a preventable problem. It is about putting the breaks on a still emerging epidemic. In fact the Russian case is illustrative of the global problem. The Russian discourse on HIV/AIDS is reminiscent of how the American government dealt with the issue in the 1980s. Hell, much of it is so strikingly similar to the American discourse now. Russia
After I read Specter’s article I asked a young Russian friend of mine about what she knew about AIDS. At first, my questions were met with blank stares. The reality of AIDS in
just flew over her head. She did respond and her response was telling: “Well, this disease only afflicts drug users and homosexuals.” That’s right the dregs of society, the depraved, the “abnormal.” One can’t really blame her. Much of the official discussion is about these “high risk groups.” Since they continue to engage in these risky behaviors they will be more likely to get HIV. Behind such statements is an implicit: “They deserve it.” Specter noted similar in his piece. As an unnamed “prominent” Russian liberal told him in reference to drug addicts, “AIDS might be a good thing, in a way, because it is killing people who only destroy the country anyway.” However, behind such crude and social Darwinist statements is also its binary opposite: those who don’t engage in those practices are “safe.” Russia
My argument is not with the fact that HIV/AIDS infection is higher among these groups. My problem is about how the creation of the category of “risk group” suggests a “safe group.” You can see it in statements like the following from Mosnews.com:
“In those countries [
Southeast Asia, Indiaand ], HIV is creeping out of marginalized urban groups such as prostitutes and intravenous drug users and into the population mainstream. The latest research gives a strong statistical boost to those warnings.” China
“Urban groups” versus “population mainstream.” Our concern should not be with the former. We know what that code screams. It is the latter that is troubling. What is the “population mainstream”!? And if the AIDS is penetrating into the “population mainstream” means heterosexuals, non-drug users, and people who don’t go to prostitutes, then isn’t there something equally risky about their behavior? Shouldn’t they also be lumped in with the so-called risk groups? The point is that ultimately HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. It does not care about risk groups, urban groups or population mainstreams. The pandemic has gotten worse in the last 20 years not better, especially in Africa,
India, , and now Eastern Europe/Russia. Isn’t it time to stop speaking about “risk groups” and time to start talking about safe sex? China
It is here that the ideology of sex of in
Russiaand the converges. They both assume a hetero-normative position based on the ideal of monogamy. We know all too well, or we should know, that the Bush Administration has tied AIDS funding to abstinence education. The idea behind this is that no sex until marriage will cut down on unwanted pregnancy and STDs. Such a policy is starving organizations that urge condom as they find themselves more and more excluded from the money trough. Just read Helen Epstien’s excellent article “God and the Fight for AIDS” in the New York Review of Books. United States
The Russian case is different in this respect. There isn’t the brick wall of religion in the way. Denial has a different optic. Consider this statement from the article “Sex in Russia: Teeming with Unpleasant Surprises”: “On the other hand, an average Russian’s thoughts on safe sex include the following maxim: Having sex while wearing a condom is like smelling flowers while wearing a gas mask.” Yeah sure, and having sex without a condom could also be like inhaling nerve gas without a gas mask. The article continues that the risk/safe binary is so ingrained that:
“Many people doubt they can contract a disease simply because of their high social status – surely they and people they sleep with can’t possibly be infected. But STDs know no social boundaries, [urologist, Dr. Leonid] Spivak says: “Quite frequently, young women come in thinking they have cystitis [a urinary tract infection] that won’t go away, and we find gonorrhea. Of course, when you tell a young woman who’s well-off and professional and certain she’s clean that unfortunately, she has such a disease, she’s going to be rather shocked.”
I’ve read and heard other, more outlandish beliefs about AIDS. Myths and folklore that produce a shock in me perhaps comparable to that of the HIV infected “well-off and professional” Russian woman. AIDS is a number of things here. Rarely these things are anything close to the truth. AIDS is a CIA conspiracy. AIDS can be contracted by a cough, kissing, even touching. Many don’t understand the basic complexity of the disease—that there is a time lag between infection and symptoms. That it is a blood born disease that has a short lifespan outside of a plasma environment. Education about AIDS is sorely lacking. But the Russians do not possess a monopoly on such thinking. A recent
Congressional report on sex education showed that many American teens think similarly. U.S.
It also doesn’t help when the disease itself is so infused with stigma. Because many associate HIV/AIDS with risk behavior, those who are actually brave enough to disclose their infection to family, partners or even doctors can sow suspicion, hatred, and disgust. According to a Human Rights Watch report, HIV-positive women are frequently berated by doctors and nurses, sometimes refusing them treatment. Natasha R, a HIV-positive woman in her thirties from
, told Human Rights Watch the following: St. Petersburg
“She and her friends have found one way to avoid the contemptuous glances and rude treatment at the clinic – they have stopped going there altogether. “We go to our own clinic,” she said, referring to the St. Petersburg AIDS center. In theory, the local clinics are supposed to treat all HIV-positive patients within the district for comprehensive medical care—gynecological, dental, surgery, etc. But since many of these local doctors refuse to treat HIV-positive patients—and many HIV-positive patients refuse to continue to go there—the AIDS center has to pick up the slack. The lines are often very long, says Natasha R., but it is worth it to be able to avoid her local clinic”
Lenin’s slogan “??? ????” (who beats who) is eternally caught in a historical echo chamber. Its meaning and context changes but its core rhetorical power haunts the Russian societal landscape. If
was flesh those two words would protrude from its surface as keloid scars. ??? ???? silently hovers over the problem of HIV/AIDS. The question remains as to whether Russia will be “???” or will be “????”. At the current pace Russia will be the object and not the subject of this phrase. Russia
Sadly, full acknowledgment of this issue remains elusive. The Putin Government has taken steps, albeit very small, toward recognizing that there is a problem.
’s Minister of Finance recently approved an addition $20 million to the global fund against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria for 2005-2008. Kudrin also reported on the particular threat AIDS poses to Aleksey Kudrin, Russia . Mikhail Zurabov, head of the Health and Social Development Ministry, has also complained that the current government funding for AIDS treatment is only adequate for treating 1000 people. Even the outgoing U.S. Ambassador Vershbow noted the necessity to engage the Russian media to “talk up particular issues where we see problems that need to be addressed, whether it is sensitive issues like the independence of the media or social problems that they’re not paying enough attention to, like HIV/AIDS.” Russia
Unfortunately, states have done miserably in combating the short but deadly life of AIDS in the late 20th Century. In star-fucker culture of
, it was the death of Rock Hudson and the infection of Magic Johnson that partially awoke a sleepwalking public. Some suggest that this is what America needs; one of their cultural icons to contract or die of AIDS to make the disease a mainstream reality. Russia
But also In America it wasn’t until homosexuals took up radical positions toward sex that anything was accomplished. True they didn’t alter much as to how the government concretely dealt with the issue. What the activism of ACT-Up did with their slogan “Silence = Death” was to throw AIDS into the face of the homosexual community. It became a zero tolerance issue. Perhaps this is also one possibility for
. If the state isn’t going to recognize the issue then it must come from society itself. There are, however, signs of this necessary radicalism developing. In the tradition of ACT-Up, the group FrontAIDS looks to turn silence into death. They protest and chain themselves to government health buildings. They scream and shout about the reality of AIDS. We can only hope that their efforts are not in vain; that their small numbers can help penetrate the morass of denial. For this we can only wait and see. And hope. And hope that the shocking quantitave particularies of HIV/AIDS do not become a horrific qualititive universal. Russia
By Sean — 5 years ago
There’s a new campaign in Moscow: “Two Thousand Russian Buildings.” The campaign seeks to paint two thousand buildings in the two capitals with patriotic graffiti. One such facade has already gone up in the Tagansk district of Moscow. Last week, the entire side of the Solzhenitsyn building was covered with large image of Crimea painted in the Russian tricolor. Next to it the artist emblazoned it with “Crimea and Russia together forever.” The graffiti was signed with the logo of the ruling party United Russia and the art collective LGZ-Art, or World’s Best City-Art. This graffiti is the latest example of the patriotic sentiment in Russia.
According to the Village, LGZ Art was registered in early March under the company Antikupon, a Russian version of Groupon. Dmitry Tsvetkov, a representative from Antikupon, the painting in Tagansk is part of a larger campaign to paint murals about the uniting of Crimea to Russia and other patriotic scenes “to nurture patriotic feelings in urbanities with the help of a wide spectrum of themes.”
How did this mural go up so fast for a project that was just legal registered a few weeks ago? Especially since getting permit for such a mural is a “long and difficult process”? It helps to be connected to Putin’s government. Aleksandr Dyagilev, the general director of Antikupon and the “Two Thousand Buildings” campaign’s face, has those connections. He’s a graduate of the Russian Academy of State Service under the President of the Russian Federation and a former participant in several pro-Kremlin youth groups: a coordinator with Walking Together, a Nashi commissar and a Molodaia gvardiia district leader in Moscow’s East Biriulevo district. Since 2009, Dyagilev also served as an election commissioner in several local and national elections. As for the permission to paint the mural, Dyagilev told the Village that everything was handled legally with the permission of the local administration and “local residents.” However, sources tell the Village that the “patriotic graffiti” didn’t get any administrative permission, but rather was initiated “from above,” presumably from United Russia’s leadership, since the painting carries its logo. According to Dyagilev, two million rubles has been allocated for the project.
As of today, another mural has gone up on the side of an apartment building in the district of Marino. Again there’s a Russian tri-colored Crimea decorated with the slogan “Enough lounging around at home, go vacation in Crimea.” Again the United Russia and LGZ-Art logo appears. About this mural, the Russian photojournalist Ilya Varlamov wrote, “This building is familiar to many reporters as the place where the apartment of Alexei Navalny, who is under house arrest, is located. It seems they decided to play an April Fool’s joke on Alexei.”
LGZ-Art murals aren’t the only Crimea inspired graffiti art to spring up. In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, the art group “Crimea’s Future” painted a mural influenced by the Michelangelo’s’ Sistine Ceiling, showing Putin with an outstretched arm saving the people of the peninsula. The painting includes the slogan, “You are with us, we are with you.” According to a “Crimea’s Future” press release, the mural “reflects the support which the Russian president extends to the residents of Crimea and also symbolizes that Putin is now personally creating the history of the peninsula.”
The art group has also created as series of posters in support for Putin. One features a leather jacket wearing Putin with “Order” across the top. Another shows Putin riding a bicycle with the Crimean coat of arms with “Ready or not here were come!” on it. A final poster shows Putin with third eye and the slogan “He knows better.”
Though some of these posters seem ironic, they’re not.
When asked about “Crimea’s Future’s” position on Crimea unification with Russia, Andrei Evseenko, a participant in the art group, told Ridus,
“We think that the new Ukrainian authorities completely discredited themselves before Crimea. When we declared our desire to conduct the referendum in which we ourselves wanted to determine the fate of the region, the nationalists who came to power took unprecedented measures to beak us. This [came in the form of] financial isolation and a transportation blockade. In this situation the vaunted western democracies did not come to our aid, but Vladimir Putin who has promised that Crimea would get all possible assistance. This is why we are so grateful to him and want to connect ourselves with Russia. This view is held by hundreds of thousands of people all over the Crimea, and they have already written us in support of our work and are grateful that we are not afraid to openly express our approval of Putin.”
By Sean — 2 years ago