Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rabbits, Beware of Wolves

It turns out that the mayor of the Siberian town of Leninsk-Kuznetsky has been held on criminal charges three times. Well, what of it? Hundreds of mayors and governors of similar cities and regions of Russia have never once been charged with a crime, but their style and the results of their activities don't differ at all from those of the Siberian mayor.

The bribery and rackets on the side for any occasion, the personal successes in privatization schemes and reprisals against competitors: Isn't that the way the majority of the authorities in Russia live? The legislative authorities are no exception. State Duma Deputy and human rights defender Sergei Kovalyov had been convicted (for "anti-Soviet" agitation), and here you have the geopolitician Vladimir Zhirinovsky who has never once been brought to trial, although theoretically he could at the very least be made to answer for hooliganism, if you recall his infamous escapades. But he enjoys immunity.

Is the judicial branch a law and order body? In a recent column, I introduced a word-by-word episode from a television show, on which the singer Iosif Kobzon (now a Duma deputy) said both police officials and criminal bosses sat around the same table in his home. In any, as they say, civilized country, such a confession would have brought about an investigation of those "officials" who simply hang out with their bandit friends. As for Russia, I am sure that it didn't even cross anyone's mind in the prosecutor's office or in the Federal Security Service to do so. This is because it is the way life is.

The so-called fourth estate is no better. Articles that are planted in the press, bribes and advertising machinations on television are all the same kind of petty crimes and felonies. And with time, the slaying of television journalist Vladimir Listyev will only become murkier. Whoever is in power in Russia, there will always be those who find themselves in symbiosis with the criminal world. Can crime be combatted in Russia? Of course it can: From each according to his conscience, and to everybody a killer. Can this fight be won? Try to guess on the first try. (There may not be a second.)


There is another worrying current topic: the recently signed law supposedly on freedom of conscience. I was baptized, but I am not a religious person. I can therefore discuss the issue without preconceived notions. I am told that Catholics (Poles, Lithuanians, a part of Ukrainians and Belarussians) and Protestants (Germans, Latvians, Estonians and Karelians) are no less numerous in Russia than Buddhists and religious Jews. Why, then, do these confessions fall among those that are unfavored. "Totalitarian sects" are one thing, world religions are another. The question of sects is also far from simple. If it is a matter of fanatic eunuchs or the maniacal Aum Shinri Kyo, then their activities should be regulated according to the constitution of the country and criminal laws. As for the Hare Krishnas, they wouldn't hurt a fly. And in general, how can you divide the spiritual aspirations of people into "first-rate" and "second-rate" faiths? I fear that the law has nothing to do with either freedom or conscience and is a cover for politics and money. There were 70 years of ideological dictatorship. Now there is spiritual protectionism. To paraphrase a one-liner from the poet Vladimir Vishnevsky, "I may be an agnostic, but I am worried."


And now I'd like to say something about my personal, almost family, life. We at Playboy magazine initiated a humanitarian campaign: Declare Sept. 30, right before the hunting season, a Day of Defense of Rabbits, the well known mascot of the publication. Just like us, rabbits suffer from crimes (poaching), the predatoriness of insolent higher-ups (I have in mind not wolves but various "tsarist hunts") and from the environment, which is to say neglect. They are also inhabitants of Russia, like you and I, and, if you believe the famous song by the late clown Yury Nikulin, share the basic life principle of a large part of the human population of the country: "It's all the same to us!"

But for some of us, it's not all the same; we decided to defend the rabbits and wrote the country's leaders (the real wolves that is) a letter with the proposal to institute the Day in Defense of Rabbits and all animals, including the bear. Since the higher-ups are far from without sin in this affair and love holidays, I think that there is a chance for a new holiday. But hardly for the defense of the animals. So if there is a hunt, use your intellect and defend yourselves.