Dmitri Medvedev is not just President of Russia. Nor is he simply a rising global interlocutor. He, or really his visage, is also the subject to the whims of the marketplace. According to Kommersant Vlast,
People are even trying to sell the portrait of the President of Russia using spam. Evidently, the reason for the crisis of production which has arisen in the market of portraits of Russian government leaders, is because sellers overestimated buyers demand for portraits of Dmitri Medvedev. On the internet several internet shops exists that sell the portrait of the President and between them there is a genuine trading war.
One site, www.portrets.ru, is allowing you to download creepy portraits of Medvedev and Putin for free!
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By Sean — 4 years ago
My column for Russia Magazine, “Palaces in Sochi on Monday,”
Until recently, Sochi was mostly viewed in the context of Russia’s anti-homosexuality laws. No more. Stories of corruption and rights abuses in the preparation of the Olympics are all the rage. Joshua Yaffa’s recent article in Business Week is a must read on the subject. The BBC has also produced an hour long audio documentary, the “Putin Project,” surveying corruption, housing demolition, labor abuses and international affairs in the context of Sochi. There are numerous of other treatments pushing the subject to saturation. Given the coverage, it’s a legitimate question whether another expose on Sochi is necessary. Enter Putin’s Games, an hour long documentary directed by Aleksandr Gentelev and produced by Simone Baumann. It’s a comprehensive film that covers similar ground as Yaffa and the BBC. Its value is less in the information and more in giving a visual sense of the monstrosity of Sochi and its various heroes and villains. What’s more, the film has gotten some extra unsolicited exposure. Baumann was approached three times and offered 600,000 euros to can the film.
Why is this film so dangerous? It’s hard to say. In many ways it’s a standard expose of corruption in Russia. But then again, it’s about Sochi, Putin’s personal megaproject. Putin’s Games makes this personal touch clear by treating Russia’s Olympic bid as the president’s personal mission. Apparently, however, the idea didn’t originate with him. Having the Olympics in Sochi was first floated by former ski champion and Russian Olympic Committee chief Leonid Tyagachev while he and Putin were skiing at Krasnaya Polyana.Post Views: 139
By Sean — 10 years ago
The people want to know is the eXile‘s demise the result of a government inspection or money? Well, you see, the two can’t be untangled. Already in dire financial straights, the impromptu inspection scared the paper’s investors away, leaving it in debt and flat broke. Searching for whether it was the chicken or the egg doesn’t say much here. I think for the eXile, government attention simply nudged it off the financial cliff. As Yasha Levine explained on the eXile blog, “News of the [polite chinovniks’] visit had our investors fleeing instantly.” Now broke, the eXile is now begging for money to keep its website’s server up.
Why the eXile has finally attracted the government eye is easy to explain. Limonov, it’s offensive articles, and its love of pissing in the face of anything and everyone. The big question everyone is asking is why now? After all, wasn’t Medvedev supposed to bring a thaw to Putin’s free speech freeze out? There is no easy answer to why the eXile got inspected at this moment. Was it the recent articles on the clan war? Was it Ames writing of the new President, “Don’t you just want to pick Medvedev up and hug him and squeeze him? Or zip him up in a squirrel costume and put him in a habittrail, then just watch him run around, gnawing on a salt lick or rolling around in wood chips? We do. And we’re not afraid to say it either.” I doubt it. They’ve said a lot worse in the last 11 years.
I don’t think asking why now is as important as asking from where. The answer from the latter is sure to shed light on the former. I doubt the order to inspect the eXile came directly from the Kremlin mount. Russia’s chinovniki are so obsequious to those above that I wouldn’t doubt one of them is make a little campaign to with hopes please the new boss. That or Russia’s middle management haven’t got the message to back off the media. Are they not getting Medvedev’s hints that he plans to “protect the media” and even going so far as to shoot down the proposed amendment to the media law?
Or did the order come one of Russia’s board of directors embroiled in a clan war. Ames has published a few articles on the matter. Did they finally prick the ears of the wrong silovik? Then of course there are the alleged complaints by some Russian citizens that they were offended by the eXile. At least this is what the chinovniki told Ames in their meeting. Could it be that the Federal Service for Mass Media, Telecommunications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage works like America’s FCC, which goes after “indecency” on radio and TV based on consumer complaints? Is the eXile Recession Penis merely the Russian equivalent to Janet Jackson’s nipple? Perhaps but unlikely.
Unlikely first and foremost because nothing in Russia seems to ever happen by chance or according to the rules. Conspiracy is always in the air and be sure there is always a Russian boyar plotting and pulling the strings. Given the long list of harassment and threats the eXile have gotten over the years, it’s hard to think that they recent salvo against has anything to do with chance.
Plus it’s not like the eXile is alone here. Over the last month, a number of media outlets have come under fire in what appears to be a larger campaign. In late May, the Novosibirsk nationalist newspaper Otchezna was closed by local authorities for extremism. Also in Novoskibirsk a TV show set in WWII called “Jeeps against Tanks” has been suspected of extremism. The fear is that the show’s popularity might inspire youth to wear swastikas. A little over a week ago, the largest Russian radio company, Russian Media Group, was raided by tax police. A week before that, the Moscow liberal paper Nezavisimaya gazeta got an eviction notice from the Moscow city government. Konstantin Remchukov, NG’s editor/owner, said the notice was retaliation for running articles critical of Moscow boss Yuri Luzhkov. Ingushetia authorities also moved to close down the opposition site Ingushetiya.ru for extremism. The site is still alive but only because its server is outside Russia. The Bashkir government adopted the “On the Working Against Extremist Activities” law. Finally, the Kursk Provincial Duma is seeking to “sharply strengthen” the extremist law.
It appears that alongside Medvedev’s anti-corruption campaign there is an anti-extremism campaign in the making. Just yesterday, Medvedev gave a speech calling for the media to help curtail extremism. “We will fight with these problems with all available means,” he said. These means include the security organs, the justice system, and the Russian press. I would assume that the 53 hate crime arrests the Russian authorities have made so far this year is part of this campaign. True enough Russia has a big problem with skinheads, nationalism, and racial violence. There are real extremists out there. But the extremism law is so elastic that anyone can be labeled as such if some lowly chinovnik desired it.
The crackdown on Russia media is a well worn story. The NY Times revisited the issue of media (self-)censorship again this weekend. Surprisingly the English language press which is always ready to point out the next tiptoe to Russian autocracy, authoritarianism, fascism, Stalinism or whatever is the political flavor the week, have been virtually silent about the eXile‘s travails. No outcry from the NY Times. No snarky editorials from WaPo. The London Independent, which two years called the eXile “a breath of fresh air” amid “tightly controlled and increasingly cowed Moscow media,” hasn’t made a peep.
Besides the Moscow Times, the Daily Georgian Times, and something called the Foreign Policy Passport, the English Language media either doesn’t know about the story (unlikely), doesn’t care (likely), and is in fact happy (most likely). In fact, the whole incident seems to have thrown people’s political conscious into contradiction with their emotions. As the Moscow Times reported, one American victim of eXile pranks would only speak to them “on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be quoted saying negative things about the newspaper as it was being shut down.” The anon-moron said, “[The eXile] never really called anyone to ask questions, and they made 90 percent of it up.” Translated: “I’m glad those fucks finally got what they deserve, but it’s not politically correct to say so.” I guess eleven years of farting in everyone’s face doesn’t exactly ingratiate you to the establishment. So there are no crocodile tears for the poor eXile. Oh well, I doubt Ames and the gang are expecting any.
Given the context, perhaps there is an answer, or should a say a theory, of why the eXile now. It is part of the overarching campaignism of Medvedev so he could establish his footing as boss. This is not to say that the eXile is more significant than any other Russian press organ. Their appearance on the radar is far more modest. The eXile as the sole English language forum for Limonov coupled with its own brand of uncompromising bile made it an easy target for the chinovnik looking to fulfill signals from above. Since the usual outcry from the English speaking Mandarins is unlikely to come (perhaps if they were some thieving oligarch they would get more sympathy), an irascible English language bi-weekly already teetering on financial collapse is an easy gnat to crush.Post Views: 121
By Sean — 5 years ago
Last weekend’s sudden death of Boris Berezovsky generated a slew of questions. How did he die? Murder, heart failure, or suicide? Why? What’s the significance? It’s increasingly clear that Berezovsky committed suicide thanks to a mixture of financial ruin and depression. But perhaps the strangest mystery was the bomb Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov dropped when asked about the kingmaker’s death.
“Some time ago Berezovsky gave his own letter to Putin where he recognized that he had made many mistakes and begged pardon for his mistakes. Berezovsky also asked Putin for allowing the oligarch to return home.”
We do know that he wanted to return to Russia. He said as much in an “off the record” interview with Forbes Russia the Friday before his death.
F-R: Do you miss Russia?
B: Return to Russia… I want nothing more than to go back to Russia. Even after a criminal case was opened, I wanted to go back to Russia. Even after a criminal case was opened! I only stayed on the advice of Elena Bonner [the late widow of Russian physicist and exile Andrei Sakharov]. The main thing I underestimated was that Russia was too dear to me, that I couldn’t be an immigrant.
I have changed many of my past assessments. Including of myself. My views, as to what’s Russia and what’s the West. I absolutely idealistically imagined the possibility of building a democratic Russia. I idealistically imagined what a democracy in the heart of Europe would be. I underestimated the inertia of Russia and greatly overestimated the West. And this was happening gradually. I changed my view about Russia’s future. I shouldn’t have left Russia.
F-R: If you would have stayed in Russia, you’d be in jail. Is this what you want?
B: Now, looking back at how I spent those years in London…
Berezovsky looked ahead, then put his hand to his chest. His hand was shaking. He turned to me and looked me in the eye for a while. Finally he said:
B: I don’t have the answer to this question. [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky [Russian political prisoner, once the country’s richest man] saved himself.
Berezovsky looked at his feet, then quickly glanced at me and began to speak quickly as if trying to justify himself.
B: This doesn’t mean that I have lost myself. But I’ve lived through a lot more of my own revaluations and disappointments than Khodorkovsky. I lost the meaning.
F-R: Of life?
B: The meaning of life. I don’t want to engage in politics now.
Still, a letter to Putin asking for forgiveness and to return to Russia? No way. Few believed it could be true, including myself. I assumed it was one last dig at Russia’s mortal foe. It was a rare moment when I agreed with Masha Gessen:
Berezovsky would have appreciated Peskov’s apparent bit of fancy: It was a page out of his own playbook. Berezovsky was a master of political intrigue and manipulation. He never lost his taste for it, even when the consequences of a poorly played hand forced him into exile and, eventually, into near-bankruptcy.
Despite my skepticism, I admit I sure hoped Berezovsky’s letter was true. It would be karma coming full circle.
Unsurprisingly, speculation swirled around the purported Berezovsky letter. Russia Today editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan quoted an alleged passage on air, “I made many mistakes. I understand how hard it is for me to ask, but I become unraveled and I implore you [Putin] for forgiveness.” Moskovskii komsomolets editor, Pavel Gusev (who of late is no stranger to scandal), said that he didn’t doubt Berezovsky wrote the it, adding that it was written in the former oligarch’s style.
Reporters badgered Peskov. What was Putin’s reaction? How did Berezovsky send it? Would the Kremlin publish it? The answers were: Don’t know. Through private channels. No, it was personal.
So did Berezovsky fall on his sword before Putin or not? It turns out he did, or at least, so says Katerina Sabirova, a close Berezovsky confidant, in an interview with The New Times.
What do you know about Berezovsky’s letter to Vladimir Putin?
Yes, I came to London in October and he met me at the airport. We went to his home. He told me that he thought that the only way he could return to Russia was to “make a move”–to apologize to Putin. He talked about it like it was his last chance.
For what in particular did he want to apologize to Putin?
He said that he didn’t see another way except to go to [Putin] on all fours. I think that it was Boris’ and his [ex-]wife’s idea. He discussed it with her for a long time on the telephone. They talked about it for hours. I was never present at their conversations. Boris left and I understood that they talked about the possibility of such a letter. He didn’t conceal that they talked about this letter. I didn’t believe that this letter would help. He said that it was all the same to him and he would see it as necessary to return [to Russia]. Elena [Berezovsky’s ex-girlfriend] convinced him to go back and make peace (with Putin.) Even his mother, Anna Aleksandrovna. I heard her say, “Borya, maybe you can make peace?”
Was there a letter?
Yes, I saw the handwritten text. He read it to me. He asked forgiveness and asked about the possibility of returning. It was such a whipping. He asked me what I thought about the letter. I said that they will publish it and you will look bad. And that it won’t help. He responded that it was all the same to him, that everyone will hang every last sin on him, and that this was his only chance.
So there you have it. And keep in mind, this isn’t coming from the Kremlin. But from one of the most liberal, anti-Putin publications in Russia.
Photo: ReutersPost Views: 133