Friday, June 15, 2018

On Russian TV, the British Embassy in Moscow Vanishes – and is Replaced by a Church

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – In a measure of both the progress video technology has made and the regress Russia has under Vladimir Putin, Moscow’s First Channel at the time of its broadcast of the opening of the World Cup photoshopped a clip so that the British embassy in the Russian capital was replaced by a Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

            Viewers and some independent news agencies immediately noticed the deception on the television broadcast and when it was posted on the YouTube channel of the Russian network (, and

            It was quickly taken down, but it remains cached in various places, including on the Znak site, because on the Internet nothing is ever completely lost. 

            This incident immediately brings to mind David King’s classic 1996 study, The Commissar Vanishes, in which he described and showed the ways in which political opponents of the Soviet regime where removed from photographs with those Soviet leaders still in good odor.

            But in fact, in the Internet age, this Putin-era outrage recalls more the case in which subscribers to the second edition of the Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopedia were advised in 1953 to cut out pages containing the biography of disgraced and then murdered secret police chief Lavrenty Beria and insert in their place pages devoted to the Bering Strait.

            Of course, only the most subservient of Soviet citizens or their Western counterparts did what they were told. Most kept the Beria pages as an increasingly valuable souvenir of their lives and times.

            In one sense, however, Putin’s people have gone Stalin’s one better: they have sought to eliminate not just disgraced individuals but a large building in the middle of Moscow that still exists and that millions of Russians are familiar with because it has often appeared in television programs and films about the Kremlin. 

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