Five years ago, Paul Klebnikov was murdered as he left his office in Moscow. Shot nine times. See the Russia Today video above for the details of the case. Since Klebnikov’s murder in 2004, the number of journalists killed in Russia ranges from tens to 44 depending on how you categorize them. The number of journalists attacked is even higher. According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation, since 2004 the number of journalists who’ve been attacked because of their work is in the hundreds. Sadly, the frequency in which reporters are attacked and killed in Russia makes Klebnikov’s death a grim statistic.
I was fortunate enough to meet the Klebnikov family last November when Paul’s widow, Musa, invited me to speak at their annual event to honor Mikhail Fishman, the recipient for the Paul Klebnikov Prize for Excellence in Journalism. Musa, and Paul’s brothers Peter and Michael were very gracious. And they have created a wonderful community of friends, family, and colleagues to commemorate Klebnikov’s work. It was an honor to be invited and to meet them. My thoughts go out to them this day.
It is also thanks to them that Klebnikov’s death is not simply a grim statistic. His memory is constantly evoked thanks to their tenacity in putting pressure on American and Russian officials to find Klebnikov’s killers. One can only hope that the announcement that officials from the US Justice Department will join the case will bear fruit.
His memory is also kept alive by his colleagues at Forbes, who have published a special report “Remembering Paul Klebnikov” to commemorate the five years since his death.
There isn’t much more to say. The dangers of exposing the malfeasance of rich and powerful in Russia are well known. Too well known.
All I can say is, fight on Musa, fight on . . .
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- By Sean — 12 years ago
The Russian elite’s control over the Russian media marches on. The NY Times is reporting that media executives who are Kremlin allies are instituting a “50 percent” rule on news reporting. The bosses at the Russian News Service have told their journalists that “at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.” What is the difference between “positive” and “negative”? As one editor told the Times on the condition of anonymity, “When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive. If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.” The journalists also claim that they’ve been instructed not to mention opposition leaders and the US must be portrayed as an enemy. Nice. To think I thought Fox News was bad. Wait, this is exactly what Fox News does!
Most will charge that the increasing media control in Russia is directly coming from the Kremlin. I don’t think so. And neither does the Times. Something else far more sinister is at work. Namely, an the elite is using its financial and political power to ensure their continued existence. Control the message and you control minds. Thus, says the Times, “the tactic has been to impose state ownership on media companies and replace editors with those who are supporters of Mr. Putin — or offer a generally more upbeat report on developments in Russia these days.” Oligarchs who have connections with the Kremlin essentially buy up major media outlets and directing them at their ideological whim. This is what has happened with the Russian News Service.
The Russian News Service is owned by businesses loyal to the Kremlin, including Lukoil, though its exact ownership structure is not public. The owners had not meddled in editorial matters before, said Mikhail G. Baklanov, the former news editor, in a telephone interview.
The service provides news updates for a network of music-formatted radio stations, called Russian Radio, with seven million listeners, according to TNS Gallup, a ratings company.
Two weeks ago, the shareholders asked for the resignation of Mr. Baklanov. They appointed two new managers, Aleksandr Y. Shkolnik, director of children’s programming on state-owned Channel One, and Svevolod V. Neroznak, an announcer on Channel One. Both retained their positions at state television.
Mr. Shkolnik articulated the rule that 50 percent of the news must be positive, regardless of what cataclysm might befall Russia on any given day, according to the editor who was present at the April 10 meeting.
When in doubt about the positive or negative quality of a development, the editor said, “we should ask the new leadership.”
Yes ask. I’m sure whatever answer you get will be in the “leadership’s” own interest and no one else’s. After all, that is one aspect of the elite that you can always count on.
- By Sean — 11 years ago
Russian sports is glaringly absent from this blog. Though I’m a big fan of sports my interest is solely on American professional sports, specifically basketball and baseball. I’ve been tempted to comment on a few Russian sports related stories, especially Andrei Kirilenko’s threats to dump the NBA and his lucrative $63 million contract with the Utah Jazz to return to CSKA Moscow. Kirilenko apparently fell back in love with European ball when he helped Russia win the European tournament and was named MVP this summer. There is no doubt that AK-47 can dominate far more in Europe than he can in the States. Kirilenko’s possible move also seems to be spurred by a bit of nationalist calling. “I would like to be where I am needed and right now I feel that my country needs me,” Kirilenko told Sport Express.
Alas, basketball is not the sport in Russia. It’s football. This is why I’m happy to post this article that Ger Clancy, aka the Irishman sent me about Russia’s upcoming showdown against England. According to Kommersant, tickets for the October 17th match went in a matter of hours. Ten thousand people stood in the rain to snatch up one of the 6,800 tickets on sale at Luzhniki stadium. 570,000 people applied directly to the Russian Football Union for one of the 74,000 available seats.
What is more is that where there are victories in sport, politics is never too far behind. In an attempt to capitalize on Russia’s success on the football field, United Russia has made sure that some of its high profile members will be seated in Luzhniki’s VIP box seats looking to bask in any television camera rays. How Russia’s political parties utilize sport is an interesting topic in and of itself.
But putting that issue aside for now, let’s turn to the real matter at hand: the upcoming match itself.
Last Chance Saloon for Russia at Luzhniki
By Ger Clancy, the Irishman
The Head Coach of the Russian national football team, Guus Hiddink, is a man under pressure. After overcoming a shaky start to his first campaign in charge, including two draws with table-toppers Croatia and a good victory in Skopje, Hiddink is now facing a must-win situation against England in Moscow. Russia’s collapse last month at Wembley has left them two points behind England and anything less than three points for the Russians at Luzhniki Stadium will almost certainly lead to elimination from Euro 2008. Hiddink was hired as Russia coach in the summer of 2006, following a solid performance as boss of Australia in the World Cup, as well a semi-final run with South Korea, in 2002, and Holland (his native country) in 1998. His appointment was high-profile and is widely believed to have been for a six-figure sum. Hiddink’s brief was very simple; drag the Russian national team out of second-world football status. The main reason for his appointment was his ability to make do with limited player resources, as he has done with both Korea and Australia. Although Hiddink has four year contract with the Russian Football Union, ostensibly aimed at preparing the Sbornaya for a crack at a World Cup quarter-final in 2010, failure to reach the European Championships will be more than a disappointment. The disaster at Wembley was a trip down recent memory lane for them and their poorest performance since their 7-1 dismantling in Lisbon under Georgy Yartsev in 2004. But Hiddink can only work miracles with the willing and the believers. The question is can Russia find a resilience and consistency that no Sbornaya has shown since the late 1980s?
Soviet, and later Russian football, has never fully recovered from defeat at the hands of Holland in the final of Euro ’88. At the time the team was loaded with superstars including Vasily Rats, Igor Belanov, Anatoli Demianenko, Renat Dasaeyev, Sergei Alyenikov, Alexander Zavarov and Oleg Protasov. Belanov scored four goals at Mexico ’86 and was crowned European Footballer of the Year six months later. Dasaeyev was widely considered the best goalkeeper in the world at the time. The rest of the team was renowned and feared across Europe. At the height of their powers in 1985, on the way to the World Cup in Mexico, they beat England 2-0 at Wembley in one of the best away performances of the whole decade, and they routed Hungary 6-0 at Irapuato at the finals. Their counter-attacking style was awe-inspiring. The team routinely conceded control of midfield to the opposition and defended using a high-back line a few yards from their box, with a sweeper behind. The Soviets could play percentages with the opposition for two main reasons: the presence of Dasaeyev in goal and Khidiatullin at sweeper, neither of who were easily beaten, and their own potency in attack. They scored countless goals by dispossessing the opposition near the Soviet eighteen-yard line, followed by a lightning break-out up the field of only two or three pin-point, long range passes and a clinical finish at the other end. This was the last golden age in Soviet football.
The Soviets waltzed to the final of Euro ’88, thumping Holland, England and Italy on the way. However, a Gullit-Van Basten inspired Holland were reborn in the final and beat them 2-0, ushering in a new superpower in European football. From there onwards the decline began. The Soviets qualified for Italia ’90 but were unceremoniously dumped out in the first round out by Romania and Argentina. The defeat to Romania in particular had huge effects on the European landscape. Not only did it signal the end of the road for the USSR as a football power, it shifted the balance of soccer dominance in Eastern Europe from Moscow and Kiev to Bucharest and to a lesser extent Sofia, Belgrade and Zagreb. A re-built Soviet team qualified impressively for Euro ’92 in Sweden (playing there as the CIS) only to tamely bow out at the hands of an already-eliminated Scotland. By this time the Soviet nation had collapsed and at start of the 92/93 season, for the first time ever, a Russian national team was attempting to qualify for a tournament, World Cup USA ’94.
The tale of woe since the birth of the Russian national team has been almost unrelenting. Russia have qualified for four tournaments in the period 1992-2006, and failed miserably on all of the occasions to get out of the first round. Almost always rumors of trouble within the camp surfaced in newspaper articles. This was especially true of 1994, when a players’ spat with coach Pavel Sadyrin soured morale in the team. Both reigns of Oleg Romantsev ended in scandal and recrimination over favouritism to Spartak players and dire performances on the pitch. Their exit from the World Cup in Korea-Japan in 2002 was especially shambolic. The defeat to Japan (which may or may not have helped ignite a drunken riot in Moscow) and the astounding collapse against Belgium brought Russian football to new lows. The incidences where they failed to qualify for tournaments at all were even worse. A last-minute goalkeeping disaster against Ukraine in 1999 not only dumped Russia out of Euro 2000, it gave four points out of six to their bitter rivals. It should also be noted that Russia failed to qualify for France ’98, meaning they went six years without reaching a major tournament – an unheard-of situation for fans of the old USSR in the 1980s.
Russia’s poor showings in the last 15 years are down to a number of factors. In 1992, it was widely thought that the backbone of the Soviet/CIS teams had been Ukrainian and hence any Russia team would struggle without stars from Dynamo Kiev. But this has not been borne out by results. Not only have Russia been awful, Ukraine have been too. Ukraine qualified for nothing until Germany 2006 and even then was one of the poorest teams at the tournament. Their second-round match with Switzerland was probably the single worst finals match ever played. Also, in 1990-1992, the Soviet team disintegrated – there were almost none of the eighties superstars left at that stage. Poor coaching of the national team, in particular a failure to either control strong personalities in the dressing-room or inspire players on the field, has certainly contributed. It is also plain that Russia has been without world-class footballers in key positions for a long time (in particular on the left) and this will hinder any coach. But the chief protagonists in this long dark period are the players themselves. With the possible exceptions of Victor Anopko, Alexei Yevseev and Alexander Mostovoi , no Russian player has performed consistently well through the course of a whole qualifying tournament and finals. It is time the players themselves stood up and firmly took responsibility for their own performances on the field. Through 15 years of dark times, coaches, tactics and all types of variables have changed, but poor showings from the players have remained the same. The match at Wembley was a nightmare from Russia’s past. However, England are already missing players through injury for the rematch in Moscow including Emile Heskey, who tormented the Russians last month. A draw will not be a disaster but realistically Russia need to win if they wish to progress. Both Arshavin and Sychov are dangerous forwards and if the Berezutskiis and Malafeev can hold it together at the back, Russia may just get the three points they need. If the Russian players themselves can get their act together, Hiddink, as wily a coach as one could find, can lead them at last into a new future.
Russia vs England, 17th October 2007 Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow [19:00] MSK.
- By Sean — 9 years ago
One year ago, an assassin in a ski masked shot anti-fascist lawyer Stanislav Markelov in the back in the head near Kropotkinskaya metro. The killer then shot Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova as she went after him. She died in a hospital shortly thereafter. Both were well known antifascists. The memory of these two figures, however, not only reminds us of the plight of human rights activists and journalists in Russia, but also the specter of Russian fascist violence.