Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin held his first televised question and answer session since returning to the presidency. A few days prior, television host Vladimir Posner had published a list of ten questions that he would like Putin to answer, including “what are the country’s three main priorities?” and “what is your personal understanding of democracy?” Others addressed controversial issues that have long been discussed in contemporary Russia, such as the legacy of Stalinism and the country’s dependence on oil profits. As Garry Kasparov notes in this latest op-ed, however, none of the questions of this eminent television personality touched on the most pressing political issues of the times – making both Vladimir Ps harder and harder to distinguish from one another.
The Doubling of VVP
By Garry Kasparov
April 24, 2013
The fate of a journalist often contains bizarre twists. Not long ago, renowned television veteran Vladimir V. Posner provided us with a clear example of the type of work that journalists do outside of journalism. And, just recently, his professional mastery shone bright when he posed ten questions to Vladimir V. Putin on the eve of another of his call-in shows.
They were, indeed, eternal Russian questions! Putin once morosely admitted to a group of foreign journalists: “There has been no one to talk to since Mahatma Gandhi died.” Now, it seems, life is looking up: the marathonergalley slave finally has a worthy conversation partner.
For some reason, this conversation partner never thought it necessary to come down from the mountainous heights of his own professionalism to address some crude, mundane questions – about the apartment bombings in 1999 or the deaths in the Kursk submarine sinking, about the relationship between Berezovsky and his billionaire friends on the Forbes list, about the evisceration of NTV and Yukos, about the Nord-Ost and Beslan tragedies, about the murders of Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, about mass electoral fraud, about the Magnitsky case and the anti-orphan “Law of Scoundrels,” about the cases against Pussy Riot, Navalny, Udaltsov, the political prisoners from the Bolotnaya Square protests, and about many, many more things that make up Putin’s Russia.
Andrei Piontkovsky has written about how the stars of Russian journalism are often born with a knack for mimicry: “Television star Vladimir Posner, who ascended the teleconference scene during Gorbachev’s era of perestroika and continued to confidently shine under Yeltsin, reached his apogee during the Putin period of stagnation… There is no doubt that in a free Russia we will see him on television asking Udaltsov or Navalny about the crimes of the bloody Putin regime with that same look of concentration, disaffectedly shaking his head: ‘So much that we didn’t know back then, son!’”
But for now, this top brass of broadcast demonstrates his freethinking in carefully-measured doses, sometimes allowing himself “gosdura”-type slip-ups and never forgetting to appeal to the higher authorities. I cannot help but remember the words of songwriter Igor Talkov: “Show me a country where tyrants are praised… where priests hide KGB epaulets beneath their cassocks…”
This is a state of cons and imitations. One VVP takes the role of president, while the other takes the role of a journalist. But if you look closely, they have the same contours.
It is a doubling of VVP.
Translation by Kasparov.com.