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The Witch-Hunt is on for Russia's Cultural Elite Again

Published: September 2, 2014 (Issue # 1826)



  • Russian writer Dmitry Bykov, labeled by state media as "anti-patriot," talking about one of his books in 2008.
    Photo: Maxim Stulov / Vedomosti

With Russia's political opposition either sidelined or splintered over Russian policy in Ukraine, dissenting cultural figures have become the new focus of pro-Kremlin witch hunts, with state media treating them as a political force and accusing them of treachery.

The practice has echoes of Soviet times, when cultural figures perceived as a threat to the regime, such as Nobel Prize winners Boris Pasternak and Joseph Brodsky, were subjected to vicious smear campaigns.

On Sunday, the Gazprom-owned NTV national television channel broadcast an episode of its "Profession: Reporter" news show portraying an array of Russian writers, musicians, journalists and entrepreneurs as belonging to a "fifth column" of subversives bankrolled from abroad.

Sunday's show was called "17 Friends of the Junta," a reference to how Russian state-run media describes the Ukrainian government following a regime change prompted by mass street protests there earlier this year. The Kiev authorities are also frequently referred to as a "fascist regime" installed following an unconstitutional coup that ousted legally elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Together with "13 Friends of the Junta" the first episode of the series aired a week earlier the program targeted prominent Russian artists such as writer and poet Dmitry Bykov, veteran rock singer Andrei Makarevich and hip-hop artist Noize MC.

NTV is well known as a vehicle for smear campaigns targeting dissenting individuals and organizations, having previously aired scandalous reports about prominent opposition members such as Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Ponomaryov and accused the Golos election monitoring NGO of being on the CIA's payroll.

"Profession: Reporter" was NTV's most popular program in the week of Aug. 18-24, when the first episode was shown, according to the TNS Russia media research firm. The data for the last week was not available at the time of publication. The NTV channel itself is consistently ranked among Russia's top three federal television channels. The program's authors and producers were not listed.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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