Translator Vova Khavkin offers a second column from Gazeta.ru's Natalia Gevorkan:
April 19, 2007
The Michael Moore-style next documentary about Russian President Putin is being spliced literally in front of our eyes. The past weekend will become one of its most vivid, ridiculous, and obscene scenes. Kremlin’s PR hacks should get circumcised—you know where to cut—simply for the scheduling conflict of their boss’ itinerary with that of the OMON [TN: the Kremlin's stormtroopers]. And also for the obvious disconnect between the event marked as the key on the president’s 14 April schedule on his Website—the “no-rules fight” in the company of Messrs Putin, Berlusconi, and Van Damme—and the reality in the country which [Mr.] Putin still presides over—a show of force, worthy of better application, against the peaceful public in the streets of Moscow and Piter. In one episode of the “March” [of the Dissenters] in Moscow posted on the Web an old man, a veteran, is speaking with a stormtrooper who is trying to push him back or pull him to the side: “What are you doing? Whom are you raising your hand against, boy? Get busy, go and catch robbers.” It couldn’t be better said.
You can do it yourself easily, and it doesn’t require Michael Moore’s skills—to splice end-to-end the pictures of happy [Mr.] Putin enjoying the show in the rink, and the stormtroopers beating people over the head with sticks. You can do what in a professional sense should be done for you by the TV people, unless of course they farted away their professionalism under the watchful guidance from the Kremlin. You can see for yourself on the Web all that was taking place at the same time that the president was having an adrenalin rush in the company of a less-than-honorable prime minister and a B-movie actor. And you will understand what it means to have superior force and still lose. On April 14 of this year Putin actually lost the country at the exact moment what he was under the impression that he just defeated America.
[Mr.] Putin said “screw it” to what was happening behind the walls, the generals said “screw” everything and everybody. The Western [TV] channels showed the violence in the streets of Moscow and Piter. Not everybody, thank God, had his head smashed like the Japanese reporter. This footage was shocking. It would have been shocking even had the captions at the bottom of the screen said “Minsk” rather than Moscow” or “Piter.” But this was video footage from Moscow and Piter, not from a rogue country but from the main cities of a G8 member-country. The question of why they were doing this, about the relatively disproportionate response of the law enforcement bodies, is what all my foreign colleagues asked when they called me: “Why are they letting foreign reporters record all this lawlessness, what do you think?”
Because I think they don’t give a damn, because they are tired of the fear of “orange revolutions” and they decided to show that nothing of the kind was even possible in their sovereign democracy. Because the West must finally realize that the people who occupy the seat of power today will stop for nothing in the name of maintaining their positions, whether you like it or not. Because the West must see with its own eyes that Russia is no Ukraine or Georgia, not to mention Kyrgyzstan. Because this is the last historical opportunity for the G-men who got the country all to themselves by default through fool’s luck, and they know for sure that they won’t be given another chance ever again. The KGB will end the day this government ends—it will go out with a bang, not a whimper, and therein is the problem. And lest there be any doubt—they do have what to defend. You can put a price tag on this power in dollars with relative accuracy. They will never surrender anything to any one. And the stormtroopers’ disproportionate zeal is a preview of the future, plain and simple, something that both the dissenters inside the country and democracy’s advocates in the West must keep in mind. There will be no repeat of 1991, when these guys were shaking in their boots behind the [KGB HQ] Lubyanka walls, having been given an order to fire for effect should any one try to storm the building, and watched full of anxiety, fear and loathing how the kids, young as they are today, were pulling down the Iron Felix TN: Felix Dzerzhinskiy, the KGB’s first chairman] from the pedestal. They have no intention to tremble, they are in no mood to yield to any one, they do not intend to go anywhere. Whatever the price. The line has been drawn! During the last weekend the Russian authorities stopped following the etiquette that is the norm in the civilized world.
Whether this was the result of desperate shamelessness or brought about by another foolish act by the PR hacks, but on Monday, of all days, The Guardian ran a story by Dmitriy Peskov, President Putin’s deputy press secretary. Who wrote that Russia had finally become an effective constitutional state [governed by rule of law]—different from what she was under Yeltsin—and that we had excellent economic growth and stability, and that our middle class was expanding and civic society growing stronger. At this point the bewildered western reader who had it explained to him so well by Mr. Peskov looks back at the front pages, and he is perplexed because there is a real dissonance in his western mentality. Because the front pages of all western papers of note without exception show—perfect timing with [Mr.] Peshkov—how the constitutional state is beating the civic society, together with a segment of the middle class, over the head with the nightstick in Moscow and Piter. Against this backdrop Mr. Peshkov’s narration about the bad Russian oligarch Berezovskiy who is fond of talking about the use of force in politics loses any sense at all because Mr. Peshkov represents that very government which—literally as we speak—has just applied selfsame force without uttering a word, or engaging in any live on-air debates for the sake of the same West. On the other hand, had the PR hacks servicing the Kremlin been smarter and had they published Mr. Peshkov’s article, e.g., today, it would have had to “compete” with information about the search on the InerNews NGO office in Moscow. And had they published this fabulous text, e.g., yesterday, it could have been run side by side with a story about how the achievements of Putin’s Russia were being strengthened by introducing censorship on the radio. I think that Mr. Peshkov would do better by not writing stories for western media outlets for the time being because selecting a right moment for their publication is becoming well-nigh impossible.
And what’s your word?