Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New Moscow TV Series -- ‘Salam Maskva,’ -- Shows What ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ Looks Like in Russia Today

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 5 – A new First Channel series, “Salam Maskva,” filmed three years ago but released only now on that outlet’s paid portion, provides a bleak but brutally honest picture of Moscow and of what “friendship of the peoples” looks like in Russia today, according to Yegor Moskvitin.

            The 16-part series, available online at kino.1tv.ru/serials/salam-maskva, he says, offers viewers documentary-style stories about police corruption, clans among the non-Russians, Russian flight from Central Asia, religious extremism, alcoholism, armed guards, and “a whole lot about xenophobia” among Russians and non-Russians alike (snob.ru/selected/entry/110473).

            The three main characters whose interrelationships hold the story together, the reviewer says, are an Avar from Daghestan, who comes to Moscow where he rapidly falls under the protection and influence of a businessman criminal, a Russian who fought in the North Caucasus and whose wife was killed, and a provincial Russian girl who is involved with the drug trade.

            Their interaction, in the hands of the series’ director Pavel Bardin who attracted notice earlier for his “Russia-88,” constitutes “an expedition into the world of ethnic communities and criminal brotherhoods” familiar to viewers of movies like those starring Al Pacino, but the streets of Moscow are meaner than the streets of his films.

            The one shortcoming of the series, the Slon commentator says, is that “the rapid rhythm and mock-documentary style do not allow for the development and revelation of the character of the second-level heroes.”  Moreover, he says, the revelation of those guilty of the crime that sparks its plot is offered far too early.

            But the series draws viewers in as the best television should and so “Salam Maskva” is likely to be a hit, especially because in it, “the life of marginal groups suddenly turns out to be a reflection of the life of the entire society, and that means, these groups are de-marginalized as a result.”

            Indeed, Moskvitin concludes, “the enormous strength of the series … is in its unexpected humanism which arises in inhumane conditions,” leaving his readers and the viewers of this new television serial with the anthing but rhetorical question, “well, where else would one expect to find it?”

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