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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

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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