Wednesday, October 01, 2014


The Power Vertical

Ksenia Sobchak Strikes Again

Ksenia Sobchak and TV celebrity Andrei Malakhov take part in the opening ceremony of the Millionaire Fair in Moscow in 2008.
Ksenia Sobchak and TV celebrity Andrei Malakhov take part in the opening ceremony of the Millionaire Fair in Moscow in 2008.
Ksenia Sobchak's timing was impeccable.
 
As more than 100,000 gathered in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium to pay homage to Vladimir Putin, the 30-year-old socialite-turned-social commentator posted a darkly satirical video on YouTube parodying the spate of faux -- and often forced -- demonstrations of fealty toward the once-and-future Russian president. 
 
Sobchak's video, which has attracted nearly 200,000 views (and counting), doesn't mention Putin by name. But it is an unmistakable parody of the series of celebrity "I'm Voting For Putin" clips the Kremlin spin doctors have been producing recently.
 
WATCH IT HERE:
 
In the video, Sobchak -- normally exquisitely groomed and hyperconfident -- appears pale, ragged, and frightened. Her eyes dart about and avoid the camera as she reads her script.
 
I have decided to vote for this candidate because the economy and standard of living in our country have become much better," she says. "He has always been responsive to any request. He has helped us all. And especially now, with the threat of an Orange Revolution like in Syria or Libya, we can't rock the boat. We must rally around one leader. This is why I made this difficult decision.
 
The camera then pans out to reveal Sobchak tied to a chair as a tough-looking guy in a leather jacket enters the frame. "Nice job," he says to Sobchak as he pats her on the head and tapes her mouth shut, muffling her desperate screams. Two masked police officers then carry her off.
 
"So was everything OK with the camera? Was the sound alright?" the man asks the film crew. "OK then, let's bring in Venediktov," he adds, referring to Ekho Moskvy's editor in chief, Aleksei Venediktov.
 
The slickly produced video is undeniably clever and funny. But it also has a dark and ominous subtext. It comes just weeks after the popular actress Chulpan Khamatova, who runs a charity for cancer-stricken children, was reportedly pressured into making a pro-Putin video.
 
WATCH IT HERE:
 
 
In a report in OpenSpace.ru, the journalist Svetlana Reiter quoted Khamatova's colleagues as saying the actress'  "arm was twisted" and she was threatened with having aid to her charity cut off and "her reputation destroyed" if she refused. One colleague said Khamatova wept about having to make the video.
 
Sobchak's satirical clip also comes amid widespread reports of public-sector workers being ordered to attend pro-Putin rallies like today's or risk being fired.
 
The video marks the latest episode in Sobchak's evolution from being a child of privilege, reality-show hostess, and socialite into her current incarnation as a major player in Russia's new media ecosystem who demands to be -- and deserves to be -- taken seriously.
 
As the daughter of the late Anatoly Sobchak -- the Perestroika-era democratic leader who served as St. Petersburg's mayor from 1991-96 and gave Putin his first job in government as his deputy -- she has always enjoyed a certain degree of immunity.
 
But unlike in her days as the youthful hostess of the steamy reality show "Dom-2," a more mature Sobchak is now using her protected status for more than just self-promotion. She has spoken out forcefully at opposition rallies and has a large following on Twitter, where she regularly opines about Russia's political situation.
 
And on her new show on Dozhd TV she has shown herself to be an exceptionally skilled interviewer with an uncanny ability to draw out her subjects' true personalities. (If you don't believe me, watch her own A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov here, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov here, and far-right leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky here. The latter is particularly impressive. I have never seen any journalist make the normally cocksure Zhirinovsky squirm like she did.)
 
She is not completely immune. Prior to signing on with Dozhd, her political talk show "GosDep" on Russian MTV was abruptly canceled, reportedly over her plan to have anticorruption blogger and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny on as a guest.
 
In many ways, Sobchak is emblematic of Russia's rising generation. Like Dozhd TV's 31-year-old editor in chief, Mikhail Zygar, and the 26-year-old rapper Noize MC, she is smart, socially conscious, tech-savvy, poised, and supremely confident.
 
If people like this represent Russia's future, the country should end up in fine shape.
 
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Vladimir Putin,2012 presidential election,Ksenia Sobchak

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 25, 2012 13:29
"If people like this represent Russia's future, the country should end up in fine shape." I can't help but wonder how Americans would react if you made a statement like that about Paris Hilton, who is a perfect analogue for Sobchak except that Hilton's family made their money honorably whlie Sobchak's stole theirs. Her father fled the country to avoid prosecution. This is not a serious person, it's a socialite, and what she is doing is neither accessible to nor resonating with the vast majority of the Russian population. Levada has just reported that Putin will win in a first-round landslide, yet you don't see fit to even mention that. Navalny has totally failed to achieve either his promise of larger and larger protests or his promise of new Duma elections, and in fact has failed miserably as to both. There still is no agreement among opposition "leaders" as to creation of a party, agenda or candidates. If the best Russia has to do battle with Putin is Sobchak, it is surely doomed.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 26, 2012 09:29
You are absolutely right: yesterday Navalni and a couple of friends staged a rally in St. Petersburg and all they managed to bring together were 5000 participants.
In Response

by: Frank
February 27, 2012 10:59
"Clever and funny" as used in the above blog post is put mildly quite open to debate.

RFE/RL caters to a certain slant that isn't particularly fair towards mainstream Russian and Serb views. To one degree or another, the same can be said of other outlets including The WaPo and Foreignpolicy.com.

Where're the journos appearing in these outlets to discuss such matter in a supportive way? They aren't evident because of the unoffical understanding of what is and isn't deemed acceptable for employment.

Russia at large isn't obligated to enthusiastically embarce views which from a Russian perspective aren't fair to that country.

Sobchak's antics appear to be that of a coddled brat. Russia benefits from having reasonable pro-Russian advocacy at the highest level of media, government and PR.

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Semyon Guzman, a prominent Ukrainian psychiatrist, says Vladimir Putin hasn't gone crazy -- he's just evil.

"Many really consider that he suffers from definite psychological illnesses,” Guzman wrote in a September 30 article (a big h/t to thei ndispensable Paul Goble for flagging this).  

"This is only a convenient explanation in the existing situation. Unfortunately, it is not correct.”

Putin's character traits, "ike those of a murderer, thief or other good for nothing, are not psychiatric phenomena but rather objects of the subjects of moral philosophy.” Guzman wrote. He added that Putin was "absolutely responsible" for his actions.

Karen Dawisha, who appeared on the Power Vertical Podcast back in April, dscusses her new book "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia"

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

BARROSO WARNS PUTIN OVER EU-UKRAINE TRADE DEAL

The head of the European Commission says an EU-Ukraine trade deal can only be changed by Brussels and Kyiv – not Moscow.

Jose Manuel Barroso made the remarks in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin released on October 1.

Ukraine's parliament ratified its agreement with the EU last month. 

However, the implementation of the trade part of the deal has been delayed until January 2016 to appease Russia, which says the pact will hurt its markets.

Moscow has called for more three-way negotiations to amend the deal and threatened to curtail Ukraine's access to Russian markets if Kyiv implements it.

In his letter, Barroso warned Putin not to impose new trade measures, saying it would threaten the agreement with Russia to delay the EU-Ukraine pact.

(With reporting by Reuters)

And for anybody interested, here's the full text of Barroso's letter:

"Mr. President,

Following your letter of 17 September, I would like to welcome the constructive engagement from all sides in the trilateral ministerial meeting on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area on 12 September.

The conclusions reached at that meeting were endorsed by all participants and set out in a joint ministerial statement.

On the EU side, we have informed our Member States of the outcome of the trilateral process, and we have now obtained their approval for the necessary legislative steps.

I should emphasize that the proposal to delay the provisional application of the DCFTA is linked to continuation of the CIS-FTA preferential regime, as agreed in the joint ministerial statement. In this context, we have strong concerns about the recent adoption of a decree by the Russian government proposing new trade barriers between Russia and Ukraine. We consider that the application of this decree would contravene the agreed joint conclusions and the decision to delay the provisional application of the trade related part of the Association Agreement.

The joint ministerial statement also foresees further consultations on how to address concerns raised by Russia. We are ready to continue engaging on how to tackle the perceived negative impacts to the Russian economy resulting from the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

I take however this opportunity to underline that the Association Agreement remains a bilateral agreement and that, in line with international law, any adaptations to it can only be made at the request of one of the parties and with the agreement of the other, according to the mechanisms foreseen in the text and the respective internal procedures of the parties.

I wish to recall that the joint conclusions reached at the Ministerial meeting state clearly that all these steps are part and parcel of a comprehensive peace process in Ukraine, respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as its right to decide on its destiny.

Consequently, while all parties should implement the conclusions as laid down in the joint ministerial statement in good faith, the statement does not and cannot limit in any way the sovereign prerogatives of Ukraine.

The European Commission remains fully committed to contribute to a peaceful solution. In this respect we hope that the recent positive steps embodied in the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the ensuing memorandum from 19 September will be fully implemented, including the monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian state border and its verification by the OSCE, and the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the Ukrainian territory.

We also expect that rapid and decisive progress can be achieved in the trilateral gas talks towards a mutually acceptable interim solution for the upcoming winter period, on the basis of the compromise elements set out by the European Commission. It is key that the resumption of energy deliveries to the citizens of Ukraine is ensured and that the fulfilment of all contractual obligations with customers in the EU is secured.

Yours faithfully,

José Manuel BARROSO"

 

And just when you though it couldn't get any weirder, Valery Zorkin destroys your illusions.

That's Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court. Zorkin penned an article last week in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" (that's the official Russian government newspaper, by the way), calling for -- wait for it -- a return to serfdom. A big h/t to Elena Holodny at Business Insider for flagging this.

Here's the money quote:

"Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: 'We were yours, and you — ours.'"

Zorkin also took a shot at Pyotr Stolypin, the 19th century reformist prime minister (and a hero of Vladimir Putin's), and his judicial reforms.

"Stolypin's reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival."

I wonder what that portends. Zorking also compared the abolotion of serfdom to the post-Soviet reforms of the 1990s.



 

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or