Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Televisual Rape in the CIS

The presidential election campaigns in Abkhazia and Ukraine have laid bare the peculiarity and ambiguity of President Vladimir Putin's attitude toward Russian "democracy."

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

What do I mean by "Russian democrats?" They are a politically active and vocal minority who love their people, but whose love is not reciprocated. Whenever they have been in power, they have expressed their love through televisual rape of the Russian people, so to speak.

The entire "democratic" period of modern Russian history (1992-99) was one long war waged on television by the "democrats" against the people, with the aim of forcing decisions upon them that they were categorically opposed to. Victory in this war was generally achieved by resorting to the use of "administrative resources." To put it another way, a physical act approximating sex took place publicly, while actual fertilization was performed in a test tube in a secluded laboratory. This is one of the key lessons to be learned from Russia's "democratic" era.

Putin only half learned the lesson. Convinced of the manipulative power of television, he keeps the television media under tight control and actively uses it to further his interests. But his popularity -- and not only in Russia, but also in the CIS -- has clearly gone to his head, resulting in him underestimating the significance of the second half of the lesson of Russian "democracy" mentioned above.

Flouting fundamental "democratic norms" has worked in Russian elections to date. However, things do not work so well when the president tries to export his popularity to foreign markets.

In Abkhazia, for example, the overwhelming majority of the population dreams of one day becoming part of Russia. Moscow's crude propaganda campaign in support of one particular candidate backfired, in the absence of control over Abkhaz polling stations. And the process of determining the winner in the election rapidly descended into farce.

The situation vis-a-vis the election in Ukraine is similar. My colleagues from Kiev, moderate nationalists, were sympathetic to Viktor Yushchenko, but considered him too weak to be presidential material. If not for Moscow's interference, they might have refrained from voting altogether. Now, they are solidly behind Yushchenko.

My friends from cosmopolitan Odessa also voted for Yushchenko. Kiev is far away for them, while Moscow is near -- they only watch Russian television. They would welcome dual citizenship and Russian being accorded the status of a state language in Ukraine, but they cannot abide interference and pressure from Moscow.

But that is not the most important point. After all, the party of power's subjugation of Ukrainian television, the massive intervention by Moscow on the side of its favored candidate and the falsification of election results in "democratic" Ukraine are certainly nothing new. I remember the press secretary of the Rukh nationalist movement explaining to me in detail the mechanisms used to rig the results of the December 1991 referendum on Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union.

In the Kiliisky district of the Odessa region, for example, 112 percent of voters supported independence from the Soviet Union. However, at the only polling station in the city of Odessa where local journalists monitored the vote, independence lost.

In the recent round of elections, the experience acquired by journalists in Odessa in 1991 was employed on a much larger scale. This devalued "administrative resources" and, as a result, the whole Moscow propaganda effort flopped. Even if Viktor Yanukovych wins the runoff, he will have to announce an energetic program of "anti-Russian" measures just in order to purge himself of the reputation of being Moscow's creature. It's high time Putin abandoned what remains of his democratic instincts. Why rape people with television, when they would happily give themselves up for love?

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals. [www.sreda-mag.ru]