Daily Archives: March 7, 2008

March 7, 2008 — Contents

FRIDAY MARCH 7 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Paying the Piperski

(2) Annals of Russian Pseudo-Journalism

(3) Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda

(4) Annals of Russia’s Paranoid Neo-Soviet Crackdown

(5) Annals of Espionage

(6) Shteyngart: Russia is a Dead Country

NOTE: Oleg Kozlovsky has posted to his blog for the first time since December 20, 2007. He writes: “I’ve been demobilized. I am in Moscow. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at 8 pm on March 4th at the Biligve Club. The next day at 11:00 am I’m to go to the Izmailovsky military enlistment office to sign transfer papers for the reserves, and I invite all interested persons to attend, including jouranlists :-)” He also indicates he is meeting with journalists from Echo of Moscow radio and the New Times magazine. Publius Pundit has the details.

NOTE: Article XIX, the global campaign for freedom of expression, has released a scathing report on Russia in PDF. Click here to read it.

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EDITORIAL: Paying the Piperski

EDITORIAL

Paying the Piperski

The Kremlin’s own data admits that Russia has incurred 3.5 overall consumer price inflation in the first two months of this year, putting it on pace for 21% inflation by the end of the year.

These figures are horrifying by themselves, but we’ll mince no words in saying that we don’t believe them. The idea that the Kremlin would forthrightly tell the world if the figures were much worse is one that could only be accepted by an intellectual invalid. We assume Russia could easily be under-reporting this type of negative performance data by 50% or more.

And that’s not the end of it. Because, as we’ve said many times before, in an economy like Russia’s with such a vast hoard of desperately poor people (Russian men don’t live to see their 60th year on average), the overall inflation rate (which would include big-ticket items like cars and plasma TVs) is totally meaningless. The figure that’s important is the one that applies to the basket of goods and services normal Russian people can actually afford — and that figure is always much higher than the overall rate where Russia is concerned. Most recently, food prices have been shockingly burdensome, leading the Kremlin to take the breathtaking step of imposing Soviet-style price controls. Even if the Kremlin’s data is correct, the inflation rate on this basket of affordable items could easily be above 30%.

Meanwhile, Moody’s warned that “a gradually shrinking current account surplus coupled with the rising debt of state-controlled corporations pose challenges for Russia” and noted that Russia’s current account surplus fell nearly 20% in 2007 to $77 billion from a record $94 billion in 2006 “due to rapidly rising imports.” Moody’s observed: “Russia’s total external private sector debt amounts to $378 billion. Debt payments are becoming a larger and larger negative on the current account.”

What’s happening is simple: the income Russia is deriving from the spike in world oil prices is being used to drive up consumer prices within Russia generally and specifically to buy products from abroad that Russia can’t make itself. And, it’s being used to buy weapons, sow dissent and tumult in the Middle East (to further prop up oil prices) and provoke a new cold war, with an attendant arms race that will ultimately bankrupt the country.

What it’s not being used for is to deliver social services the people of Russia need, most especially investment in infrastructure and domestic manufacturing, so that Russians could buy their own products and create their own jobs rather than buying foreign products and creating foreign jobs.

Why, you may ask, should this be so. The reason is quite simple: Because if the Kremlin used Russia’s oil proceeds to support the population, that population would become stronger and more independent. Such a population would be harder to govern, more likely to challenge authority, more likely to demand a new form of government not tied to the failed totalitarian policies of the Soviet past. Such a population would be the very last thing the malignant little trolls who govern Russia would wish to have.

But this isn’t to say that this outrageous policy is mostly the fault of those in the Kremlin. It surely isn’t. The Russian people themselves are mostly to blame, because they’ve willingly empowered their regime and turned a blind eye both to its clear policy failures and its outrageous crackdown on civil society. They deserve to suffer.

And suffer they will. Because, remember, Russia is now riding a long period of growth, it is at the very apex of the business cycle, a cycle from which Russia is no more immune than any other country, regardless of the price of oil. When that cycle starts downward, the problems we see now will only be magnified and expanded to the point where they threaten the nation’s survival. Russia is totally lacking in the sort of basic economic fundamentals that could insulate it from the worst ravages of the business cycle.

And despite all this, there was no demand from the people of Russia for debate over economic policy in the presidential elections. No serious attempts were made to criticize Putin’s policy of pouring money into a new cold war, or indeed to question whether any economic policy he has followed (remember, he doesn’t have a single shred of legitimate economic credentials) was the correct one.

Do you dare to imagine what would happen to Russia if a natural downstroke in the national business cycle were to be accompanied by a drop in the price of crude oil, seriously depleting the Kremlin’s cash flow? Can you imagine the havoc that would be wrought on the Russian economy or the extent of the Stalinesque crackdown that would be required to keep the lid on popular dissent?

Sooner or later, and undoubtedly sooner rather than later, Russia will pay the piperski for the obscene and malignant tune to which is has been so recklessly dancing lo these many years. The immutable laws of economics decree that it is so, just as they tolled the bell for the USSR. Little time remains, and less opportunity, for the people of Russia to head themselves away from that abyss.

Annals of Russian Pseudo-Journalism

The Moscow Times reports on the sorry state of “journalism” in Russia:

When Vladimir Putin became president, NTV television was renowned for in-depth political analysis and hard-hitting coverage of breaking news stories such as the then-unfolding war in Chechnya. Now, as Putin prepares to step down, NTV’s standard fare might be best encapsulated in a recent teaser ad for “Profession: Reporter,” the channel’s prime-time investigative program. “Why play with dolls if you can have a living toy?” asked the teaser for an investigation into the lives of 6-year-old mothers. “Who provoked a children’s sexual revolution in Russia?”

The metamorphosis in NTV’s coverage is characteristic of what has happened to television channels and newspapers across the country over the past eight years. Once bristling with criticism of the government and one another, media outlets these days rarely delve beyond the Kremlin line. The authorities, meanwhile, have expanded their arsenal of measures to silence critical journalists to include detaining them as they travel to opposition events, expelling them as national security risks and even accusing them of using pirated software. “An overwhelming number of journalists have accepted the rules of the game to keep their jobs,” said Igor Yakovenko, general secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists. “They understand perfectly well what they need to do. Through the examples of NTV and other media outlets, they have seen what happens to those who don’t take the hint.”

NTV fell under state control after airing critical reports about the second war in Chechnya, undermining public support for efforts by then-acting President Putin to stamp out the insurgency there. After Putin won the 2000 presidential election, prosecutors charged NTV owner Vladimir Gusinsky with fraud, and he was briefly jailed. State energy giant Gazprom then began a bitter struggle to seize NTV over an outstanding debt, finally succeeding in early 2001 and prompting many reporters to resign. NTV’s coverage of Chechnya was severely restricted, and Gusinsky fled the country. As the NTV affair unfolded, the Kremlin set its sights on another television channel, ORT, and its de facto owner, Boris Berezovsky. The channel, now known as Channel One, had a brash anchor named Sergei Dorenko who sharply criticized the crackdown on NTV. Dorenko lost his show after he aired an emotionally charged report about the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000. “That report came out on Sept. 2, and the next program, on Sept. 9, didn’t go on the air,” Dorenko said in a recent interview.

Officially, the program was put on hiatus for the fall and winter, but it never went back on the air. “Spring and summer just wouldn’t come,” Dorenko said. Dorenko accused the Kremlin of censorship. Putin summoned him five times from September 1999, when he was prime minister, until the cancellation of his program, and urged him to be a “member of the team,” Dorenko said at a news conference on Sept. 11, 2000. Dorenko said he had refused each time. ORT general director Konstantin Ernst denied Kremlin censorship and said Dorenko was being punished for disobeying orders to stop speculating that the Kremlin planned to oust Berezovsky from ORT. The state, which owned 51 percent of ORT, reasserted control over the channel five months later when Berezovsky sold his 49 percent stake to businessman Roman Abramovich, who in turn passed it to the Kremlin. Berezovsky has accused the Kremlin of forcing him out. A reshuffle also took place at the third major channel, state-owned RTR, which received a new director, Oleg Dobrodeyev, in January 2000. Dobrodeyev, an NTV veteran, tried to resign when Gazprom took over NTV, but Putin asked him to stay, and he agreed. RTR is now called Rossia.

The Kremlin quickly asserted a tight grip over Rossia, Channel One and NTV, as manifested in their lavish and praise-filled coverage of Putin’s meetings with his ministers and international leaders. A top media freedom activist, Oleg Panfilov, said television news reports began to resemble Soviet-era propaganda in 2005, and stations have increasing embraced the practice, peaking during election campaigns and tense international debates, such as the Kremlin’s fierce opposition to Kosovo’s independence. “Have you seen anyone offering a view that differed from the official position over Kosovo?” said Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. He said the television channels have failed to give opposition politicians any “significant” airtime to provide alternative viewpoints during election campaigns and allow voters to make a “conscious” choice. NTV spokeswoman Maria Bezborodova said her channel would not comment on its editorial policy for this article. Channel One and Rossia officials asked that questions be submitted in writing in mid-February. No responses had been received by Tuesday.

The Kremlin’s Stance

As testimony to the existence of free media, the government has pointed to the television coverage of the January 2005 protests over the monetization of Soviet-era benefits, which threatened to topple the Cabinet. A senior official at the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency conceded that there are problems with media freedom but insisted that the media is free. “To say that there’s no free speech is a lie about our media, society, country and the government,” said the official, Gennady Kudy. One problem is that many media outlets remain under the control of various levels of government, he said. But the number of independent regional newspapers is growing and has reached at least five in every region, he said.

Putin has put the burden on the media, saying journalists have to fight for freedom in any country. “A decent girl must resist, while a true man must keep insisting,” Putin said, describing relations between the media and the government at an annual news conference in December 2004. “In that sense, we are not better or worse than other countries.” But the problem in Russia, Putin said, is that the media do not make enough money to hold their ground against government pressure. “In my view, we have to make sure that mass media have an economic base for their independence,” he said. Putin made similar comments during a speech to an international newspaper conference in Moscow in June 2006.

The president has also shown contempt toward journalists. In his first public statement about the murder of reporter Anna Politkovskaya, he brushed off her investigations into brutalities in Chechnya as nonevents. “She had minimal influence on political life in Russia,” Putin said in October 2006 after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden, Germany. Perhaps coincidentally, on Sept. 9, 2000 — the same day that Dorenko’s show went off the air — Putin signed the Information Security Doctrine outlining the government’s new media policy. The lengthy document prohibits censorship and the monopolization of media by the state and calls for media freedom to be promoted. But it also seems to contradict these aims by invoking shadowy foreign and domestic enemies that must be fought through strict state control over the production and distribution of information. The Kremlin set up a satellite television channel in 2005 in an attempt to shape foreign perceptions of the country. The channel, Russia Today, offers reports in English and Arabic.

Pointing to media rollbacks under Putin, Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog, has called him “Predator of Press Freedoms” and lumped him together with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi. It ranked Russia between Yemen and Tunisia in its most recent media freedom list, saying its evaluation had been determined by Politkovskaya’s murder and a glaring lack of media diversity, especially in television. The group has ranked Russia near the bottom of its list for years.

The Fate of Newspapers

Although television wields more influence because it is the source of information for an estimated 70 percent of Russians, newspapers have also changed under Putin. Most national newspapers belong to businessmen who are on good terms with the Kremlin, while the regional press is under the control of local authorities with just a few exceptions, said Yakovenko, head of the Russian Union of Journalists. Few newspapers investigate Kremlin-sensitive issues like corruption, the difficulties of rebuilding Chechnya and relations with Belarus.

The tightening of screws started with the Segodnya newspaper and Itogi magazine, which went to Gazprom with the rest of Gusinsky’s media empire. Gazprom shut down Segodnya immediately, pointing out that it was loss-making. Most newspapers, however, were also loss-making at the time. Itogi, meanwhile, reinvented itself with a new staff, becoming friendlier to the Kremlin but losing Newsweek as its partner.

The liberal weekly Obshchaya Gazeta died quietly a year later: Its founder and editor, Yegor Yakovlev, sold it to a St. Petersburg businessman who turned around and closed the paper. Then came Noviye Izvestia and Izvestia, which changed hands and style, shifting to more entertaining and pro-Kremlin coverage. National Media Group, a holding controlled by Yury Kovalchuk, a businessman considered to be close to Putin, is now planning to buy Izvestia from Gazprom. Izvestia was sold to Gazprom after it published a harrowing front-page photo of the victims of the Beslan school attack in September 2004. Its editor, Raf Shakirov, was promptly fired after the publication. Komsomolskaya Pravda, the country’s most-read daily tabloid, was in December bought by Oleg Rudnov, who with Kovlachuk owns Bank Rossiya. Kovalchuk also controls Ren-TV, the only national channel in private hands. It occasionally shows interviews with opposition figures such as Eduard Limonov and Boris Nemtsov, but its share of viewers — and political influence — is dwarfed by that of the state-controlled channels.

Only three national newspapers are considered independent, Novaya Gazeta, Kommersant and Vedomosti, which is owned by the parent company of The Moscow Times, Independent Media Sanoma Magazines. But their circulation is negligible compared with the Kremlin-friendly news flow. “The authorities can afford to pay no attention to them,” Yakovenko said. “They are a ghetto for the lovers of pluralism.”

Journalists Under Fire

Despite the minimal impact that investigative reports have on the authorities, reporters remain the targets of attacks and apparent contract killings, as illustrated by Politkovskaya’s death. More recently, Kommersant reporter Ivan Safronov mysteriously fell to his death from the fifth floor of his apartment building in March 2007. Paul Klebnikov, a U.S. journalist of Russian descent, was shot on a Moscow street in July 2004.

Of those who died, it is unclear, how many were targeted over their reporting, with various organizations compiling sometimes conflicting information. The Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, for instance, does not list Klebnikov as a reporter killed for his work, saying only that the investigation into his death — which concluded that a Chechen separatist had ordered the killing over a 2004 book — left doubts. The center said the same about Safronov.

What is clear is that authorities have resorted to a wider choice of tools to silence the media. One of the latest trends ostensibly has nothing to do with free speech but is about copyright protection.

Novaya Gazeta’s office in Samara had to close last year after police seized all its computers over accusations that they ran on pirated software. The local edition’s editor, Sergei Kurt-Adzhiyev, insisted the software was legal and linked the police raid to the edition’s critical stories about the local authorities, United Russia and an opposition Dissenters’ March. Kurt-Adzhiyev’s daughter was an organizer of the march, one of several countrywide protests that are a brainchild of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov. It took place on the same day that Russia and the European Union held a summit near Samara. “I’ve been taken to court for libel about 20 times, but this is not in fashion any longer,” Kurt-Adzhiyev said by telephone from Samara. “It’s not possible to stop a newspaper with a libel investigation. So where do they hit? A newspaper can’t exist without computers.”

About 90 percent of the computers used by Russian newspapers run pirated software, but the police do not visit newspapers that are loyal to the government, Yakovenko said. “They are using a new type of censorship that never existed before,” he said. Kudy, the official from the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency, warned against classifying the piracy software investigations as an attack on media freedom. He said a court must rule on each case before any conclusions are drawn. The police, who have long detained reporters covering anti-government rallies, appear to have employed a new, preventive tactic under Putin. They detain reporters boarding planes and trains to cover protests and release them only after it is too late to arrive at the event on time.

In another change under Putin, unwritten rules for regional newspapers now come down from the federal authorities, not local officials, Yakovenko said. “There used to be an enormous difference among the regions,” he said. “Now certain rules are set for the country as a whole.” Sometimes, the authorities use state security as a reason to prevent journalists from doing their jobs. Most recently, a foreign reporter for The New Times, a weekly magazine published in Moscow, was denied entry to Russia and sent home to Moldova on security grounds. The decision to expel Natalya Morar came shortly after New Times published her latest investigative report looking into purported money-laundering schemes used by Russian officials. Also, the State Duma has reclassified the libel of public officials as extremism, toughening the penalty for a conviction. The government is using the law in an attempt to punish a reporter in Perm for calling Putin “our good Hitler” in the headline of a story published in December. Other than the Perm case, the only effect the law has had on journalists is to force them to practice self-censorship when writing about the government, said Boris Timoshenko, a researcher at the Glasnost Defense Foundation.

Notably, under Putin Russia saw its first cases of journalists being granted political asylum in another country. Last month, Ukraine offered asylum to Alexander Kosvintsev after he said he had been harassed for reports in his hometown of Kemerovo. Fatima Tlisova, an editor at the North Caucasus bureau of the Regnum news agency, and Yury Bagrov, a Radio Liberty correspondent in the region, received political asylum in the United States last year after complaining of pressure from the authorities. Both were also stringers for The Associated Press.

Challenges Ahead

While advertising is soaring for television, revenues are much lower for newspapers, and many are struggling to get by. Putin’s call for economically self-reliant media is commendable, Yakovenko said, but the government appears to have made every effort to achieve the opposite. The dominance of state-controlled media has undermined the economic viability of independent news organizations by attracting the lion’s share of advertising budgets from businesses, he said. In another inequality, he noted, the government handed 2.6 billion rubles ($108 million) last year to its official Rossiiskaya Gazeta to expand its circulation. “No other publisher has a budget like this. How can you compete under these conditions?” Yakovenko said.

Kudy, the government media official, said the additional copies of Rossiiskaya Gazeta were sent free of charge to disadvantaged groups such as disabled people and World War II veterans and were meant to raise the quality of the news they get. “There’s no end to all kinds of printed rubbish, but there is a lack of quality press that has a balanced coverage of the events in the country and its regions,” he said. Panfilov said some newspapers have brought trouble on themselves, with owners who use them as political weapons. “Such a press doesn’t have a future,” he said. “These journalists are trying to make up for the lack of active politicians. This is bad for journalism as a profession.”

On the bright side, he said, some local newspapers have become major independent voices in their regions. He mentioned Altapress, a Siberian media group in Barnaul, as the best example. “They have learned to resist,” he said. “They have begun to learn the rules. They pay taxes and don’t do politics.” Another improvement in the media, Dorenko said, is that they no longer serve as weapons in the hands of warring businessmen. But with the loss of their belligerence, they also lost diversity, he said. “The press has turned into … a kind of a Kremlin press service,” he said. “When I was news editor at ORT, my only problem was that the news was reported at 6 p.m. because Gusinsky reported his news at 7 p.m.”

Berezovsky and Gusinsky had no chance of hushing up any news because they headed business clans with conflicting interests and would not coordinate their coverage, Dorenko said. “Luckily, there are no wars like that now, but there is no news either,” he said. “The disease was eradicated with the body.” Together with many reporters from NTV, Dorenko ended up as a host at Ekho Moskvy, a radio station that Gazprom swallowed up with the rest of Gusinsky’s media empire but has managed to maintain its editorial independence.

Dorenko said his main source of news now is the Internet, which remains largely untouched by the authorities. “I have an enormous variety of sources, and that is fabulous,” he said

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda

The Moscow Times reports:

Last year, weekly tabloid Express Gazeta held a competition for children to draw the Russian president. The winner depicted Vladimir Putin declaring his love to his wife with a single rose. She won a puppy, and not just any puppy, but a relative of Putin’s black Labrador, Connie.

This year’s competition is to draw the future president, and the winner, to be announced in May, will have to settle for a laptop, a cell phone and a teddy bear. Although the election hasn’t taken place, the children taking part all chose the same subject for their drawings, which went on display at the Photo Center of the Union of Journalists this week.

“The children all drew [Dmitry] Medvedev,” said Yekaterina Shumeiko, a spokeswoman for Express Gazeta. The contest started after Putin announced Medvedev as his preferred candidate in December.

Other candidates only appeared in one drawing, Shumeiko said. A child drew a scene involving Medvedev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, but she made it clear that Medvedev was the winner.

One thousand children aged 7 to 16 drew pictures of Medvedev in a variety of poses. The two most common themes were weightlifting and orphanage visits. The children who entered obviously picked up on his biography. In his university days, he liked weightlifting and rowing. One of his most noticeable characteristics, his diminutive height, does not come across in the drawings.
One drawing shows Medvedev weightlifting in a red singlet emblazoned with the word Russia. He holds a bar decorated with words including “peace,” “sport,” “school” and “children.” A more ambitious picture shows him dressed in a leotard, lifting up a map of Russia. He is helped by Putin, who is wearing judo gear.

“Another interesting point is that the kids have drawn Medvedev and Putin together in many of the entries, so it’s obvious that the children link Medvedev and Putin,” Shumeiko said.

A drawing of them together shows two statuesque leaders walking side by side along a red carpet, with an airplane in the backround. It is called “Putin and Medvedev on a joint trip overseas.”

Medvedev’s visit to a maternity ward last year was also a popular source of inspiration, resulting in at least three drawings. One picture shows him holding a baby girl and baby boy in his arms. Behind him is a row of babies in pink and blue swaddling clothes.
While Shumeiko insisted that nothing was stage-managed, some of the drawings include messages asking parents to vote for Medvedev. One shows him standing under a banner with the slogan “Vote for Medvedev” and drawings of a syringe and a cigarette with red lines through them. In front of him, the members of the audience all cheerfully raise their hands to vote for him.

“One girl drew a picture. Her letter said, ‘I want my parents to vote for Medvedev. If he is trusted by Putin, who is trusted by all of Russia, then we should trust him too,'” Shumeiko said.

Another popular theme is international affairs. One drawing shows Medvedev shaking hand with the German president. In another, he sits at a table with George W. Bush. And one shows people of different nationalities holding hands around a globe with the slogan “Our President is for Peace.” Russia is the only country marked on the globe.

“People nowadays say our children are apolitical, that they grow up not caring about issues, but this competition goes to prove this is not the case,” Shumeiko said.

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda

The Moscow Times reports:

Last year, weekly tabloid Express Gazeta held a competition for children to draw the Russian president. The winner depicted Vladimir Putin declaring his love to his wife with a single rose. She won a puppy, and not just any puppy, but a relative of Putin’s black Labrador, Connie.

This year’s competition is to draw the future president, and the winner, to be announced in May, will have to settle for a laptop, a cell phone and a teddy bear. Although the election hasn’t taken place, the children taking part all chose the same subject for their drawings, which went on display at the Photo Center of the Union of Journalists this week.

“The children all drew [Dmitry] Medvedev,” said Yekaterina Shumeiko, a spokeswoman for Express Gazeta. The contest started after Putin announced Medvedev as his preferred candidate in December.

Other candidates only appeared in one drawing, Shumeiko said. A child drew a scene involving Medvedev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, but she made it clear that Medvedev was the winner.

One thousand children aged 7 to 16 drew pictures of Medvedev in a variety of poses. The two most common themes were weightlifting and orphanage visits. The children who entered obviously picked up on his biography. In his university days, he liked weightlifting and rowing. One of his most noticeable characteristics, his diminutive height, does not come across in the drawings.
One drawing shows Medvedev weightlifting in a red singlet emblazoned with the word Russia. He holds a bar decorated with words including “peace,” “sport,” “school” and “children.” A more ambitious picture shows him dressed in a leotard, lifting up a map of Russia. He is helped by Putin, who is wearing judo gear.

“Another interesting point is that the kids have drawn Medvedev and Putin together in many of the entries, so it’s obvious that the children link Medvedev and Putin,” Shumeiko said.

A drawing of them together shows two statuesque leaders walking side by side along a red carpet, with an airplane in the backround. It is called “Putin and Medvedev on a joint trip overseas.”

Medvedev’s visit to a maternity ward last year was also a popular source of inspiration, resulting in at least three drawings. One picture shows him holding a baby girl and baby boy in his arms. Behind him is a row of babies in pink and blue swaddling clothes.
While Shumeiko insisted that nothing was stage-managed, some of the drawings include messages asking parents to vote for Medvedev. One shows him standing under a banner with the slogan “Vote for Medvedev” and drawings of a syringe and a cigarette with red lines through them. In front of him, the members of the audience all cheerfully raise their hands to vote for him.

“One girl drew a picture. Her letter said, ‘I want my parents to vote for Medvedev. If he is trusted by Putin, who is trusted by all of Russia, then we should trust him too,'” Shumeiko said.

Another popular theme is international affairs. One drawing shows Medvedev shaking hand with the German president. In another, he sits at a table with George W. Bush. And one shows people of different nationalities holding hands around a globe with the slogan “Our President is for Peace.” Russia is the only country marked on the globe.

“People nowadays say our children are apolitical, that they grow up not caring about issues, but this competition goes to prove this is not the case,” Shumeiko said.

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda

The Moscow Times reports:

Last year, weekly tabloid Express Gazeta held a competition for children to draw the Russian president. The winner depicted Vladimir Putin declaring his love to his wife with a single rose. She won a puppy, and not just any puppy, but a relative of Putin’s black Labrador, Connie.

This year’s competition is to draw the future president, and the winner, to be announced in May, will have to settle for a laptop, a cell phone and a teddy bear. Although the election hasn’t taken place, the children taking part all chose the same subject for their drawings, which went on display at the Photo Center of the Union of Journalists this week.

“The children all drew [Dmitry] Medvedev,” said Yekaterina Shumeiko, a spokeswoman for Express Gazeta. The contest started after Putin announced Medvedev as his preferred candidate in December.

Other candidates only appeared in one drawing, Shumeiko said. A child drew a scene involving Medvedev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, but she made it clear that Medvedev was the winner.

One thousand children aged 7 to 16 drew pictures of Medvedev in a variety of poses. The two most common themes were weightlifting and orphanage visits. The children who entered obviously picked up on his biography. In his university days, he liked weightlifting and rowing. One of his most noticeable characteristics, his diminutive height, does not come across in the drawings.
One drawing shows Medvedev weightlifting in a red singlet emblazoned with the word Russia. He holds a bar decorated with words including “peace,” “sport,” “school” and “children.” A more ambitious picture shows him dressed in a leotard, lifting up a map of Russia. He is helped by Putin, who is wearing judo gear.

“Another interesting point is that the kids have drawn Medvedev and Putin together in many of the entries, so it’s obvious that the children link Medvedev and Putin,” Shumeiko said.

A drawing of them together shows two statuesque leaders walking side by side along a red carpet, with an airplane in the backround. It is called “Putin and Medvedev on a joint trip overseas.”

Medvedev’s visit to a maternity ward last year was also a popular source of inspiration, resulting in at least three drawings. One picture shows him holding a baby girl and baby boy in his arms. Behind him is a row of babies in pink and blue swaddling clothes.
While Shumeiko insisted that nothing was stage-managed, some of the drawings include messages asking parents to vote for Medvedev. One shows him standing under a banner with the slogan “Vote for Medvedev” and drawings of a syringe and a cigarette with red lines through them. In front of him, the members of the audience all cheerfully raise their hands to vote for him.

“One girl drew a picture. Her letter said, ‘I want my parents to vote for Medvedev. If he is trusted by Putin, who is trusted by all of Russia, then we should trust him too,'” Shumeiko said.

Another popular theme is international affairs. One drawing shows Medvedev shaking hand with the German president. In another, he sits at a table with George W. Bush. And one shows people of different nationalities holding hands around a globe with the slogan “Our President is for Peace.” Russia is the only country marked on the globe.

“People nowadays say our children are apolitical, that they grow up not caring about issues, but this competition goes to prove this is not the case,” Shumeiko said.

Annals of Russia’s Neo-Soviet Propaganda

The Moscow Times reports:

Last year, weekly tabloid Express Gazeta held a competition for children to draw the Russian president. The winner depicted Vladimir Putin declaring his love to his wife with a single rose. She won a puppy, and not just any puppy, but a relative of Putin’s black Labrador, Connie.

This year’s competition is to draw the future president, and the winner, to be announced in May, will have to settle for a laptop, a cell phone and a teddy bear. Although the election hasn’t taken place, the children taking part all chose the same subject for their drawings, which went on display at the Photo Center of the Union of Journalists this week.

“The children all drew [Dmitry] Medvedev,” said Yekaterina Shumeiko, a spokeswoman for Express Gazeta. The contest started after Putin announced Medvedev as his preferred candidate in December.

Other candidates only appeared in one drawing, Shumeiko said. A child drew a scene involving Medvedev, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, but she made it clear that Medvedev was the winner.

One thousand children aged 7 to 16 drew pictures of Medvedev in a variety of poses. The two most common themes were weightlifting and orphanage visits. The children who entered obviously picked up on his biography. In his university days, he liked weightlifting and rowing. One of his most noticeable characteristics, his diminutive height, does not come across in the drawings.
One drawing shows Medvedev weightlifting in a red singlet emblazoned with the word Russia. He holds a bar decorated with words including “peace,” “sport,” “school” and “children.” A more ambitious picture shows him dressed in a leotard, lifting up a map of Russia. He is helped by Putin, who is wearing judo gear.

“Another interesting point is that the kids have drawn Medvedev and Putin together in many of the entries, so it’s obvious that the children link Medvedev and Putin,” Shumeiko said.

A drawing of them together shows two statuesque leaders walking side by side along a red carpet, with an airplane in the backround. It is called “Putin and Medvedev on a joint trip overseas.”

Medvedev’s visit to a maternity ward last year was also a popular source of inspiration, resulting in at least three drawings. One picture shows him holding a baby girl and baby boy in his arms. Behind him is a row of babies in pink and blue swaddling clothes.
While Shumeiko insisted that nothing was stage-managed, some of the drawings include messages asking parents to vote for Medvedev. One shows him standing under a banner with the slogan “Vote for Medvedev” and drawings of a syringe and a cigarette with red lines through them. In front of him, the members of the audience all cheerfully raise their hands to vote for him.

“One girl drew a picture. Her letter said, ‘I want my parents to vote for Medvedev. If he is trusted by Putin, who is trusted by all of Russia, then we should trust him too,'” Shumeiko said.

Another popular theme is international affairs. One drawing shows Medvedev shaking hand with the German president. In another, he sits at a table with George W. Bush. And one shows people of different nationalities holding hands around a globe with the slogan “Our President is for Peace.” Russia is the only country marked on the globe.

“People nowadays say our children are apolitical, that they grow up not caring about issues, but this competition goes to prove this is not the case,” Shumeiko said.