Parfyonov vs. Putin, the Smackdown
One of the most remarkable events in Russian history occurred in November 2010, but you can be forgiven if you missed it. State-sponsored Russian television did not think it worthy of mentioning.
The event was an acceptance speech by Leonid Parfyonov to a black-tie audience at a ceremony where was presented with the first Listyev Prize from state-sponsored Channel One television, in honour of Vladislav Listyev, a Russian journalist who was murdered in 1995 in Moscow. Thankfully, it survives on YouTube, with subtitles. Parfyonov blogs in Russian on LiveJournal.
Little did the Kremlin realize what it was in for when it authorized Parfyonov to receive this award!
The speech concluded:
Media stories, and with them all of life, now fall into two immutable categories: those that can be broadcast on television and that cannot. I speak with bitterness, having worked for Russian television full-time or freelance for 24 years. I have no right to blame any of my colleagues: Not being a hero myself, I cannot demand heroic deeds from others. But the least we can do is call a spade a spade.
Not even Channel One itself reported on Parfyonov’s speech.
Parfyonov is one of Russia’s best-known and most senior journalists, and was the editor-in-chief of the Russian version of Newsweek. As such, the speech was truly earth-shaking for neo-Soviet Russia
There’s one point on which we would take issue with Parfyonov. He stated: “The rating of the acting president and prime minister is at about 75 percent. On federal television broadcasts, no critical, skeptical or ironic judgments are heard about them, hushing up a quarter of the spectrum of public opinion.” Parfyonov’s conclusion that only 25% of Russians are critical of Putin is obviously wrong. If most of the country is denied critical information about Putin, then nobody knows what the real attitude of the population would be if they did. It could well be that Putin would lose the support of the vast majority of the population. What’s more, everyone knows, and Russians themselves have documented, that Russia’s elections and public-opinion polls are shamelessly rigged. If Putin’s support was real, he would not be so afraid of publishing information like the contents of Parfyonov’s speech.
We applaud this patriotic Russian hero’s fierce love of country which enabled him to speak truth to power. We condemn the craven manner in which the cowards of the Kremlin suppressed his speech, helping their nation down the road once again to absolute collapse. We call on the sheep-like denizens (they do not deserve the world “citizens”) of Russia to stand up and demand that Parfyonov be allowed to speak publicly about the state of Russian journalism and its impact on the nation’s future. If they do not do so, then they will richly deserve the horror that will be visited upon them as their nation sinks once again into the blackness of totalitarian despair.