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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

Thursday, Dec. 25


Make this Christmas a slam-dunk and check out the Zenit St. Petersburg basketball club as they take on Nizhny Novgorod this evening at the Sibur Arena on Krestovsky Ostrov at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available on the club’s website for as little as 200 rubles ($3.30).


Spend your yuletide with Oleg Basilashvili this evening at the Concert Hall at 13/1 Arsenalnaya Naberezhnaya . The legendary film and stage actor will chat with fans, tell stories and share memories of an extensive career that has earned him acclaim throughout Russia.



Friday, Dec. 26


Celebrate Boxing Day by playing various tabletop games during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening tonight at 5 p.m. Spread the Christmas cheer and goodwill by making other people regret their decision to come and try to match their intellectual prowess against yours.



Saturday, Dec. 27


Indulge cultural and material needs simultaneously during the free classical music concert at the Galeria shopping mall in the heart of the city. Starting at 7 p.m., shoppers and mallwalkers will be able to hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky and Strauss softly lilt over the constant buzz of people bustling from store to store, trying to get their shopping done before New Year.



Sunday, Dec. 28


Prepare for the holidays at the Russian Winter New Year’s Fair on Moskovskaya Ploshchad, which concludes today after starting on Dec. 22. Games and attractions as well as numerous performances will be on offer for those looking to get into the spirit while numerous vendors will help make sure you have something for everyone on your list.



Monday, Dec. 29


Learn how the Swedes observe Christmas, or Jul, in their land of ice and snow, during aSwedish Christmas celebration at the Lermontov Children’s Library this afternoon at 4 p.m. Activities explaining and demonstrating Sweden’s cultural traditions will be accompanied by traditional dishes and sweets.



Tuesday, Dec. 30


Today is the final day of the Christmas Market at the Europolis shopping center on Polyustrovsky prospekt. Indulge your holiday sweet tooth by tucking into some gingerbread men, or attend one of the master classes that will teach you about how to make beautiful, festive decorations for your tree using only your hands.



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