Lenin’s Law Applied to Dozhd TV
Published: January 5, 2014 (Issue # 1796)
The sensation was online coverage about events that took place 70 years ago: The siege of Leningrad during World War II. Dozhd TV asked their viewers to answer a question: “Should Leningrad have surrendered to the Nazis to save thousands of lives?” The survey was not even over before all hell broke loose. Through Twitter, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky wrote, “They are not human,” referring to the Dozhd journalists who thought up the poll.
The incident was discussed by the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, where the infamous opponent of liberalism and tolerance, deputy Vitaly Milonov, demonstrated his own intolerance. “I am astonished that 54 percent of the cretins who watch Dozhd TV said, ‘Yes, Leningrad should have surrendered.’ A pack of hyenas!” Milonov said.
Authorities admitted that Dozhd TV did not break any laws by running a controversial poll on the Leningrad blockade. But at the same time, they argue the station violated moral and ethical laws.
At the initiative of the Legislative Assembly, the St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office began to investigate whether the television station had demonstrated “extremism,” a crime that is punishable by a five-year jail term. In light of this serious threat, Dozhd TV managers sent out memos to the staff on how to behave during a search.
The siege of Leningrad is certainly one of the most painful events of World War II — and one with many unanswered questions to be sure. More civilians died during the siege — at least 630,000 — than British and French soldiers together died over the entire course of the war. Historians have also tried to understand why food supply lines to the city were organized so poorly, especially in comparison with the blockade of West Berlin from 1948 to 1949. The history of the siege cannot be told without the stories of heroism by the city’s defenders — or without horrible stories of vile human behavior, like the sumptuous feasts enjoyed by city party leadership.
Despite all of the noise around the Dozhd TV scandal, none of this is news. Even grade school textbooks ask children to discuss almost the exact same question posed by Dozhd TV. Satirist Viktor Shenderovich was right when he said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy: “The survey was just a pretext, of course. It was just a despicable pretext,” noting that the real reason for the scandal lies in Dozhd TV’s independent editorial policy.
Dozhd TV is unique in Russia. It is not broadcast over the air but is only available on the Internet or via satellite or cable providers. It is unique in another way. It is the only television station in Russia today without censorship and without a blacklist of people who cannot be invited into the studio. There are no forbidden topics either. The station gives much airtime to Russia’s human rights violations, provides balanced reporting on protests in Kiev and has not been afraid to report on corruption at the highest echelons of power.
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