Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Meet the Russian Censors Medinsky Says Don’t Exist

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 22 – Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s culture minister, says that “there is no censorship of any kind in Russia,” an Orwellian claim, Russian commentator Igor Yakovenko writes in a Kasparov.ru commentary, that equals his earlier assertion that in Russia “there is no drunkenness either.

            In fact, the Russian commentator says, “the gallery of censors in Putin’s Russia” is now so large that it should be an object of “anthropological and sociological” attention.  Such a survey shows that Russian censors today are both similar and different from their Soviet and tsarist predecessors (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5833E7746A82C).

            “The chief censor of Russia today, Yakovenko says, is Aleksandr Zharov, the head of the Federal Service for Supervision of the Media, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor).  His group blocks sites and works to close down media the authorities don’t like.

            What kind of a person is Zharov? The Kasparov commentator asks rhetorically. “If one glances at his official biography, it is easy to be convinced that Aleksandr Zharov is a thief, who stole 52 of the 145 pages of his dissertation.”  In that, he is like Medinsky who also stole most of his dissertation as well. 

            Both men are full of ambition, “creative impotence,” and isolation from society, “a cocktail” which has given birth, Yakovenko says, to “a desire to take revenge on their more talented colleagues by occupying a key administrative post. That is the way it was 50 and 100 and 200 years ago as well.”

            Two centuries ago, Russian censors banned Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” in the name of defending the Russian people. Now, the commentator says, they want to ban the tales of Hans Christian Anderson for the same reason and with the same lack of understanding of what they are reading and what they should do.

            But there is a clear difference between the times of Paul I and the times of Putin, and it can be seen “with the unaided eye.” First, Paul’s censors “personally read all the literature he banned” and took full responsibility for doing so. Putin’s censors, in contrast, “as a rule are faceless” and don’t even both to read what they prohibit.

            The second distinction is even more important: “the number of censorship offices in the Russian Empire was an order less than in Putin’s Russia;” and in contrast to tsarist times, in Putin’s times, those who do this work are intellectually undistinguished and unworthy of personal attention.

             “Good censorship cannot exist by definition,” Yakovenko continues. “But there is bad censorship, very bad censorship and unbearably awful censorship.” In tsarist times, it was bad but some of the censors were nonetheless thoughtful people; in Putin’s times, there is only very bad and unbearably bad because they are in no case that.

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