Category Archives: Daria Sukharchuk

The Cut: a Biblical Western

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The Cut: a Biblical Western: a new film by Fatih Akin, the German film director and producer.

The poster of ‘The Cut’ looks like that of an old-school Western: a lonely figure of a man is walking down a deserted street of some small town. Presenting the film, Fatih Akin, the director, said that he was inspired by the Western genre. You can see the inspiration in the film: electric guitar playing in the background, plenty of long, panoramic views of deserts and roads, with the main character walking along the horizon. The choice of the story, though, is far from traditional: a young man sets out on a long journey. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will cross half the world before he reaches his destination.

This man, Nazaret, is an Armenian, who lived in a small village in Turkey, before he was summoned to work for the army in 1914. Soon after that, his family was killed in the genocide. As the civil war started in Turkey, he wandered south, into Syria, and learned that his two daughters had survived the genocide. He starts his search for them, and it will take him several years before he finds them.

This film is part of Akin’s trilogy about human nature: Love, Death, and Devil. This is Devil ‒ the concluding part ‒ the darkest and most dramatic story, showing people at their worst. The film is strewn with references to the Bible ‒ but this time, taken into the harsh reality of a civil war. A man sacrifices himself to save his family, but tragically they get killed soon after. He wanders through the desert on his own, loses his voice, but on his first day back with humans he has to kill a woman to end her suffering, because this is the only way he can help her. He can not offer any help to the people he meets during his journey, and has to steal and fight for food. His hope to ‘resurrect’ the daughters he thought were long dead dwindles, and the ending is far from happy.

The film meticulously reconstructs the details of the story: not only clothes and food, but languages, too: most characters speak their national languages ‒ Turkish, Arabic, Spanish, and only Armenian is substituted with English. The soundtrack is slow-paced, but dramatic, with the lyrics in Armenian or Berber.

One might believe that the director has tried to sweeten the bitter story by giving it an epic dimension: the main character crosses half the world on his own, escaping death in its different forms, now a marauder, desert, or hunger ‒ and remains himself, still fairly young and very good looking. Something you might expect of Odissey or Siegfrid, but not of a real person. But it was, probably, a good idea: in the end, the film feels more thought-provoking than depressing.

Written by Daria Sukharchuk

Photo copyright: http://thefilmstage.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/the_cut_poster.jpg 

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A walk through Soviet Moscow

Mosselprom

MOSCOW WAS ONCE dubbed, rather gruesomely, a ‘graveyard of ideas’. We will not spend time discussing whether this title is fair, but one can’t deny that every big idea that ever captivated Russia has left a visible imprint on Moscow.

While Kremlin and Bolshoi are must-see, they belong to a country that ceased to exist a hundred years ago. The time that came after it was characterised, first and foremost, with the reign of one big idea. For decades, from 1917 to early 50’s, hundreds of people were captivated with the idea of creating a new, entirely modern country. It involved not only constructing new buildings, but also building new, wide avenues that cut right through the old city. Pandeia took a walk through Soviet Moscow.

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Like many other old cities, Moscow grew from centre outwards in circles. Once in a while bigger radial and circular streets (called ‘rings’ by locals) were added. It has retained this structure until now ‒ so everybody walking in the city is either circling it, or following one of the radiuses.

Walking and viewing

We start from Moscow University (1). The main building, which used to be the highest in Europe until the 80’s, can be seen from many spots in Moscow, and makes a powerful impression. Its iconic silhouette is the emblem of the university, appearing on all the official documents and student ID’s issued by it. Take a walk around the building, and look up at the gigantic blue and gold clocks and barometers on top and statues by the entrance.

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Entering without a student ID can be problematic, unless you know a student or a member of staff or visit it on a day of graduation ceremony in the end of June. Inside it is not that impressive ‒ but still offers one of the best views on Moscow from its windows. If you can’t make it to the top, just walk through the campus to the observation platform by the river and enjoy the view from the highest hill in Moscow.

The University is wrapped in urban legends that change slightly with every generation of students. The most long-lived of these is the one about a gigantic statue of Stalin that was supposed to stand in front of the main entrance. However, the construction of the new campus was finished several years after Stalin’s death, and the statue was left to lie deep under the building in a secret vault. The last time I heard this story, the statue was told to be made of solid gold.

The best way to travel through Moscow is the metro. It is fast, cheap (check the city transportation website for public transport fares), and is itself the biggest site of the Soviet era left in Moscow. Universitet (University ) and Vorobievy Gory (Sparrow Hills) stations are closest to the University. Both are worth seeing: the former for its elegant marble decoration, letter‒ for the the beautiful view on the Moskva river (it is the only station located on a bridge in Moscow).

Head up to Park Kultury (2), and if you’re not in a hurry, get out and look around Frunsenskaya station, which is really dramatic and elegant with red marble panels and steel five-pointed stars.

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Park Kultury station has got its name after Moscow’s best and biggest park just across the river from the station. Now the park is one of the most popular spots for local people. Its huge gate, which resembles Brandenburg gate in Berlin, should not mislead you: it is, probably, the most welcoming spot in the city, full fairy lights and skaters in winter, and music, ice cream stalls and cafes in summer.

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This park was first opened in the 1920’s, and was the first public space of this type in the whole country, used both as recreational spot and showcase of USSR’s best technical achievements. It has fallen into decay in the 1990’s, but was recently reconstructed to resemble its 20’s image, with a few 21st century perks, such as free wifi and skateboarding grounds. Nowadays it hosts, among other things, Garage art centre (check their website for interesting events; and their book shop is worth a visit for those interested in modern art), Pioner summer cinema (one of the few in Moscow that shows films without dubbing and only with subtitles), and three social dancing spots. Such places were very popular in the 20’s and 40’s, and now are gaining back their popularity. They are easy to find ‒ just follow the music ‒ and are occupied almost constantly by different dancing fans. Salsa and hustle are most popular, but sometimes you might stumble upon history nerds reconstructing a 19th century ball, or Irish tap dancers. Feel free to join, or just gawk from a sidewalk, together with local dog walkers.

Centre

From this park, head into the metro, and ride to Kropotkinskaya station (red line). The station itself is the most elegant and simple one in Moscow. As all the other stations that were constructed in the 30’s, it was supposed to be filled with Communist symbols. The architect, however, found a very subtle way of doing it: look up at the ceiling, and you will see that every pillar sprouts a huge five-pointed star.

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As you exit the station, you will see Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the biggest church in Moscow. It was blown up in the 30’s, to make place for “Palace of Soviets” ‒ but the project was never realised, and the cathedral was rebuilt in the 90’s. Many older people don’t take it seriously: they still remember the swimming pool that occupied its place.

Walk past the cathedral, and enter the bridge. From it, you can see the chaotic mass of red bricks: the former Krasny Oktyabr’ (Red October) (3) chocolate factory, now transformed into Moscow’s most hip spot, full of galleries, showrooms and bars. It is worth a visit any time, beginning from lunch time (nobody here wakes up before that) and into the night.

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If you cross the river back to the cathedral and walk up the street towards Kremlin (easily visible in this part of city), you’ll hardly fail to notice the big white building with black columns ‒  the Russian State Library (former Lenin Library) (4). It makes a very stark contrast to the nearby Kremlin, and shows the Soviet idea of the country’s most important library: something gigantic, essentially constructivist, but reminiscent of the old imperial aesthetics. It’s worth to have a look inside (the entrance is free, but you’ll need to show your passport).

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When you turn your back to the library’s entrance, head up Vozdvizhenka street. On the left side, next to the library, you’ll see a bleak grey building of Architecture Museum. It hosts rather interesting exhibitions (if you go inside, don’t forget to see the ‘Ruin’ hall), and its bookshop offers the best selection of guidebooks to Moscow, along with a very good collection on Constructivism and surprisingly tasteful postcards (a great alternative to the usual eye watering rubbish sold in souvenir shops).

In about 10 minutes’ walk up Vozdvizhenka, you’ll reach a big junction, where two Arbat streets begin. Before going down those, cross the street to the right and have a closer look at a brightly painted Mosselprom building (5). Walk a little into the small alleyway next to it, and you will see the bright 20’s ads of sweets and tobacco painted on its wall.

Mosselprom
Old Arbat (6), on the left, is the most touristy street in Moscow. While it is filled to bursting with tacky ‘Russian souvenir’ shops and chain cafes, it still has a certain charm, provided by street musicians. The old small alleyways next to Arbat should be very interesting to those who like getting lost in unknown cities. If you want to test your mastering of Moscow geography (or the accuracy of your google maps), try and find Melnikov house ‒ a little masterpiece of Constructivist architecture now hidden in its own overgrown garden.

Once you’ve had enough of Arbat, turn right, cross the tangle of tiny old lanes and enter New Arbat (7) ‒ the major avenue lined with skyscrapers constructed in the 60’s.

 

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If you follow Novinskiy Boulevard, another major street that crosses New Arbat, you will reach Narkomfin building (8) ‒ one of the first ‘communal houses’ built in Moscow. It was designed with the idea of a new, communal lifestyle: small flats with no kitchens, and big communal areas for eating, working and socialising. Its inhabitants were not supposed to spend much time alone, dedicating all their time to the community. Traditional families were deemed outdated: in the new world imagined by the Constructivists, children would be brought up in kindergartens, women would be ‘liberated from the kitchen slavery’, and would spend most of their time in the community, just like men. With such a lifestyle, people would never much personal space ‒ they’ll need their privacy only when sleeping and washing.

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The nearest metro station is Smolenskaya. Form it, ride a few stations to the centre, and get out at Ploschad Revolutsii (Revolution Square). This is one of the most impressive, and definitely the most dramatic station in Moscow. Decorated with dark red stone, it is filled with statues of war heroes that crouch around its heavy pillars. If the urban legend is true, ‘Metro-2’ ‒ a secret metro line from Kremlin to the southern part of Moscow, built to evacuate the government in case of a serious threat, should start somewhere here.

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As you exit the station, you will see Tverskaya (9)‒ Moscow’s main street. Unlike New Arbat, it was built in the same place before the Revolution ‒ but was considerably widened to accommodate the annual military parades that would go down this street and straight onto Red Square. If you happen to be in Moscow on the first week of May, you might see parade rehearsal.

For the last leg of this city trip, get on the Teatralnaya (Theatre) metro station, and head north to Mayakovskaya, named after Russia’s most prominent Futurist poet, Mayakovsky.  Don’t forget to look up at the exquisite mosaics decorating the ceiling ‒ and maybe run a coin up one of the metallic ribs.

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Eating

The area around Mayakovskaya (10) is a good place to eat ‒ feel free to explore small streets nearby, heading away from Kremlin, and pop into one of the many cafes, put up your tired feet and enjoy a coffee. Eating in Moscow is a good chance to explore not only traditional Russian cuisine, but Ukrainian, Caucasian and Central Asian, too. If you’re on a tight budget, we would suggest Karavayev Brothers and Prime chains (another good thing about those is that they keep their products in open display, like supermarkets ‒ so you won’t have any language problems). Some of the bars in Krasny Oktyabr’ also have good day menus.

Practical:

Don’t trust the stereotype of Russians being grim and unfriendly. Keeping a smile on one’s face in public is indeed not that common — but once you start talking, you’ll be surprised with the change. Learning a few Russian words, like ‘Hi’ or ‘Thank you’ will make things even easier.

The best time to visit Moscow is between May and September. Winter can be good, too  — but March and November best be avoided — unless you want to feel wet, cold and miserable.

Public transport in Moscow is far from perfect — with the only exception of metro, that is fast and reliable — altough crowded at rush hours. Buying a multi-ride transport card is a good idea. Checking this public transport website beforehand is a good idea, since cashiers don’t normally speak English.

 

By Daria Sukharchuk

Image Credit:

Map:  Anastasiya Shentseva

Photos: Daria Sukharchuk, WikiMedia , https://www.flickr.com/photos/crlsblnc/ , https://www.flickr.com/photos/gromozzzeka/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/chaoticmind75/

Students worldwide in fight for sustainability

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When mentioning the worldwide economic crisis, the crash of Wall street or the housing bubble spring to mind. However, some people believe that economic problems have much deeper roots: it all starts with teaching economy.

“It is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes the societies we live in” –  reads the opening paragraph of Rethinking Economy manifesto. Rethinking Economics is a student movement established at the beginning of this year, who stand for a change in economic curricula.

What makes it different from many other student movements is it’s international focus. Yuan Yang, an economics student from Britain, started a network to unify existing student societies with similar goals and realized that that the same concerns occurred in many different countries. Post-Crash Economic society already existed in Manchester, where material for provocative reposts in the Guardian and Washington Post was provided.

About six months ago, Nova Agora and Rethinking Economics Italia (REI) expanded their actions to Brazil and Italy. REI began as a radio programme on the LUISS University in Rome, where it’s founder, Nicolo Fraccaroli, hosted a series of interviews with non-mainstream economists. The initiative received a very warm welcome from students and teachers from all over Italy. Similar groups will be created in several other universities in Italy.

Rethinking Economics Italia’s home university, LUISS, went even developed a new course for economy students that will focus on alternative views on the subject ‒ a definite success in comparison to the upfront refusal that the Post-Crash Economic Society in Manchester has been facing. But Nicolo is modest about his achievement: “I was just lucky, because one of my teachers mentioned other schools of economic thought during his lectures.”

Lost paradise
Meanwhile in Brazil, a group on economics students in Mato Grosso do Sul has established Nova Agora. “When I was traveling with my friends, we came across this tiny village in the jungle. From the point of view of the economy we learned, it was not an optimistic picture: there was no growth, no industry there ‒ but still, people were happy. They worked on their own farms, and nobody was hungry, nobody was dying in the streets, or using drugs,” ‒ remembers Gustavo Bernardino, who co-founded Nova Agora.

A comparison of this ‘lost paradise’ to the country’s bustling economic capital Sao Paulo, where drug abuse and extreme poverty are undeniable, triggered Gustavo and his friends to re-think the economics they were taught  and to promote this way of thinking to their fellow students.

Real Changes
Nova Agora was founded as an organisation dedicated not so much to changing the study curricula, as to the way economy is applied to real life. Therefore, their first project is about microloan funding for poor people in rural areas.

While Nova Agora and Rethinking Economics Italia have different approaches (one more practical, the other rather theoretical) they both relate to Rethinking Economics. After all, their aim is to fundamentally change the economy. Changing the way people think about economics and the way it is applied can have a very significant impact on our everyday lives. And thus, the students fight to make a change.

By Daria Sukharchuk

Russia, Ukraine and The West: Social Media Reactions to the Mounting Crisis

Sasha Maksymenko

What started as a ‘people’s revolution’ in Kyiv has spread to ‘foreign invasion’ in Crimea, as the future of the Ukraine hangs in the balance. Pandeia’s Jamie Timson, Daria Sukharchuk,  and Rebecca Thorning Wine look at the reaction to the crisis across social media in Russia and the UK.

Since Saturday evening, when President Putin  officially declared his intent to deploy the Russian army in Crimea, both countries have been living in a state of constant anxiety, eager for more news. Major media outlets worked all night, providing fresh news of the crisis. Countless editorials appeared, speculating about the consequences of the situation and reasons behind this decision, and ‒ most importantly  ‒ the possible economic sanctions facing Russia.

An hour after the Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament) had ratified Putin’s decision, the first unrest spread across  social media and small scale protests could be seen in Moscow from Saturday.

 

On Sunday, 2nd of March, hundreds of people in Moscow and St. Petersburg went to demonstrations for and against military action in Crimea . All of them proclaimed peace in Ukraine as their ultimate goal ‒ but disagreed upon the actions that should be taken.

In Crimea meanwhile, the tension quickly escalated as the Russians took control of the Navy base in Simferopol and as this video shows, wasted no time in marking their territory:

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// Not all of the social media reaction from the region was completely negative, with some Crimeans beginning to take photos with the Soldiers.

This reaction to the presence of Russian soldiers may say more about the predominance of ethnic Russians who live in the area than the supposed civility of the impending conflict.

In Moscow, intervention supporters  marched around the ring of boulevards in the centre. Most of them were Putin supporters, and members of ationalistic, Orthodox Christian and communist organisations, with slogans emphasising unity of Russia and Ukraine.

Anti-war protests took place on Manezhnaya square, next to the Kremlin wall in Moscow, and at Isaakievskaya  square in St. Petersburg.

“I see some 300 people…”

At least 200 people were arrested (the number differs across sources).

Arresting the demonstrators in St. Petersburg: people began screaming “Shame!” and “Berkut” (the name of infamous Ukrainian military police that fought with activists on Maidan in Kiev).

Задержания. Люди кричали беркут, позор. #нетвойне #спб pic.twitter.com/ebwzjMVrEV

UK Reaction

The BBC were quick to get their former US ambassador Christopher Meyer’s viewpoint:

While The Sun helpfully came up with this graphic laden image to explain the conflict:

Protests weren’t confined solely to affected region, as demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square in Westminster:

The Telegraph led with a story which suggests Angela Merkel has questioned whether Putin is in touch with reality:

Meanwhile The Guardian produced a graphic to show the military imbalance between Ukraine and Russia:

 

* European Updates to Follow*

 

Sochi 2014 – After the lights go out

Johnny Shaw

Johnny Shaw

In the second part of our Sochi special, Daria Sukharchuk looks at the Russian media perspective on the games following its opening and in its aftermath.

After the Olympics had officially opened, the attention as naturally shifted to sport ‒ and to the opening ceremony itself (the infamous defunct snowflake in the centre of public attention). The main State-owned broadcaster, Channel One Russia,  chose to ignore the incident, and replaced the original image with a piece of footage from the ceremony rehearsal with all five rings in place.

After that, most of the news from the Olympics was about the sport itself. The first piece of big news ‒ even a sensational one ‒ was the story of Yulia Lipnitskaya, the 15-year old figure skater who, together with 30 year old

@guskenworthy

@guskenworthy

Plushenko ensured Russian team’s first gold in the discipline. No long articles about Yulia appeared online, but her victory was the second most discussed topic on Twitter for two days. Three days after Yulia’s victory the Internet had another darling to tweet about ‒ American Slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy with the  four stray puppies he planned to take home. Together with exclamations of overwhelming cuteness, this story triggered some gloomy jokes about the famous law forbidding foreign parents’ adoption of Russian orphans: “Should we expect the Mad Printer to forbid adoption of Russian animals by foreign citizens?”

As the national pride grew with each new medal, the media began sounding more patriotic. A few articles about gold medalists that have only recently acquired Russian citizenship ‒ Viktor Ahn (South korea), Tatiana Volosozhar (Ukraine) and Vick Wilde (USA) ‒ appeared in the media. Most of them focused on Ahn: his story was most dramatic, and, what’s even more rare, portrayed Russian sports management in a very flattering light. The author of ‘Why we should count Viktor Ahn as one of us’ begins with a stereotypical image of some corrupt officials who “buy” a greedy foreigner to win a gold medal and save their seats ‒ and proves it wrong. He then tells how Ahn, after sustaining a serious injury, dropped out of Korean team before 2010 Olympics and could have given up on his career as a sportsman ‒ if not for a meeting with Russian speed skating managers. They offered him treatment, support, a chance to take part in the Olympic game in Sochi ‒ so he gave up his Korean passport (Korean men are not allowed to have a double citizenship) and moved to Russia.

The first ten days of Olympics saw no active criticism or scandalous news from Sochi ‒ most of the opposition leaders and journalists’ attention was focused on Kiev. However, one of the top Russian bloggers and a known opposition supporter ‒ Ilya Varlamov ‒ spent a couple of days in Sochi before flying to Kiev for live blogging. His photo reports from Sochi have no pictures of sportsmen and competitions  ‒ but focus on small details of city life: sometimes positive, like better public transport and clean streets, and sometimes very negative ‒ like badly constructed roads, aggressive taxi drivers and cheap beer stalls at the main seaside walk. Some of the funnier ones included guards that shun foreigners because they don’t speak enough English, an autograph board for everyone wishing to leave a memory of themselves in Sochi with Putin’s autograph covered with a piece of protection film, and Russian team supporters chanting “Russia!” during a Canada vs Austria hockey match.

 

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Ilya Varlamov

The mood of national euphoria was broken by one incident: a new performance by Pussy Riot interrupted by cossacks with horsewhips, both Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were arrested but quickly let out. The news spread fast, and soon enough the media were quoting well-known journalists and bloggers. Most of them were very emotional:  “I have never seen anything as disgusting”, “Oh, those so-called men hitting girls with horsewhips are adorable! What jerks. Are they real men?”. Someone pointed out that nobody, even Piotr Versilov who is married to one of the girls, tried to stop the beating, and quite a few wrote that Pussi Riot’s main goal was to win some publicity. The most radical comment came from Federal Youth agency : “Pussy Riot are provocateurs living off Western money. The cossacks are not beating helpless girls ‒ they are stopping another provocation”.  (all these comments are collected in an article by Snob magazine:  ). However, even this piece of news was not discussed long: Russian team was making it’s way to the top and protests in Kiev were getting more violent.

On the 23d of February the Olympics finished with a spectacular ceremony featuring another unopened ring (this time formed by dancers), Konstantin Ernst, member of the team that directed both ceremonies, came to a press conference wearing this T-shirt, which made the day’s news itself.

Finally, this Wednesday, Putin officially declared that “he thinks that the Western media did not succeed in their plan to use this Olympics for propaganda against Russia”. What Russian media are discussing now is what awaits us after the Olympics. What Sochi will look like in the coming years? What will State’s policies will be now, when the international media’s attention has turned away from Russia?

 The first part of our Sochi Special can be found here.

Sochi 2014 – A Russian Perspective

KOREA.NET

In the first of our two-part series on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Daria Sukharchuk examines the Russian media’s perception in the run-up to the most expensive Winter Games in history.

The biggest news one week before the Olympics in the Russian media was a number: 0% of Russians were planning to go to Sochi to see the games. Although this number obviously contrasts with the fact that most of the fans in the Olympics are from Russia, it reflects, in a certain way, the general pessimistic atmosphere that surrounded Sochi Olympics before the opening. Many months before the start of the games the most frequent reports were of it’s cost and the low quality of construction ‒ coupled with rumours of the wild corruption surrounding it.

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Ten days after Russian President Vladimir Putin officially denied  “any big corruption issues in Sochi”, the Anti-Corruption Foundation ‒ a public initiative led by Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexei Navanly, released a website dedicated to the issue ‒  “Corruption Race”. The first page, featuring  pictures of Russia’s five most prominent politicians  and businessmen in the Olympic rings (Putin in the centre) invites the reader to look at “the most distinguished money-siphoners in five different sports: classic embezzlement, verbal freestyle, ecological multi-sport, pair’s contracting and skating the figures”. In the tone of bitter sarcasm, characteristic for Navalny, it tells biographies of the “champions” and stories of money-siphoning, ecological disasters and false promises surrounding Sochi.

Anti-Corruption Foundation 2014

Anti-Corruption Foundation 2014

State-owned broadcasters ‒ such as the news agency RIA ‒ focused on reporting Olympic venues building progress. While the Russian Gazette, the main mouthpiece of the government, published a very optimistic report from the government meeting, quoting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “in terms of results, everything works”.

The article also emphasised the fact that “the audit carried out by the Accounts Chamber of Russian Federation has not revealed any improper use of funds” ‒ a statement hardly any Russian can ever believe.

The Russian Reporter  — a rather popular weekly magazine mostly focusing on human interest stories ‒ published a special issue dedicated to Sochi in November 2013. The issue featured, among others, an article called “A Parable of Russia” that gives a  very detailed description of all the ambitious construction projects that have changed Sochi so much: not only the new sports venues, but 365 km of new roads, new high-speed railway, the international airport and hundreds of meters of pipelines. The article compares Sochi construction works to major infrastructure projects of the 1930’s and especially emphasises the many challenges the construction workers had to face: for example the storms in the summer and a large flood in September 2013 — all of which were ignored by state-owned broadcasters — however, the end of the story is glum:

“The Olympics have given job not only to construction workers in Sochi, but […] to contractors from all around the country […]. Of course, many people have got some cuts. But still, the companies have got orders, workers have got work […]. But if our country stagnates again, this regional project would be more about more about vanity than regional development”.

Probably, the most positive stories before the Olympics were those about volunteers: several media outlets published articles about volunteers. Regardless of the media outlets’ political orientation, the overall tone of those articles was rather similar: they emphasized the youth of Sochi volunteers (88% of them are younger than 30) and their optimistic attitude towards the Olympics.

Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

Almost all of such articles included a small interview with a volunteer talking about “the opportunity to improve my English and to make friends from all over the country”  their eagerness to make a good impression on the foreigners coming to the Olympics.

Finally, the night before the Olympic opening ceremony, “Kommersant”, a newspaper known for it’s critical attitude towards modern day Russia, published on it’s website an article named “The Olympics are loading… please, wait” — a first impression from the Kommersant team that has arrived to cover the games. It opens with a paragraph:

“Today, it is impossible to ignore the Olympics if you are in Sochi. It is a city of names. To get a bus to the Olympic park, one needs to walk 50 minutes on Figurnaya (Figure) street, and, before crossing the Champions avenue turn into the Triumfalnaya (Triumph) street. The signs one sees on the way can predict Russian team’s chances to win the Olympics. I think of our hockey team when I see the “50-50” cafe, […] and of someone else when I see the infamous “Stumbler” bar in Adler (but let us not think of those painful matters).”

The article then goes on describing how the Olympics that have not yet started have changed the life of Sochi, and quotes several Canadian and American journalists that have arrived to cover the games. They appear to be cheerful and ironic at the same time, reassured that no major terrorist attacks or broken toilets would spoil the games.

This last piece reflects the general feeling of middle-class Russians about the Olympics before they started: the overall attitude was critical, and many flaws can’t be ignored. The expectations were low, and hardly any Russian trusted the government’s statements denying corruption in Sochi.