What a rich day in Russia!
Following Navalny’s debate with United Russia Fedorov, British The Guardian published an article about Navalny, calling him a “Russia’s chief whistleblower” and a “one-man Wikileaks”. As Navalny said on his blog, the feedback he received from friends after this article was published, can be divided in two types:
(1) “Where are the millions?”, a reaction to the incorrect claim made by The Guardian that Navalny has collected 1.8 million pounds (85 million rubles) in Internet donations, whereas in reality he has so far collected just under 5 million rubles. (The incorrect information has already been removed from the article.)
(2) “Haha. What a vest!”, a reaction to Navalny’s style:
The funnier, and definitely more “brutal” thing that happened today in Russia is the backlash after the controversial installment of Anna Chapman’s show on Russian TV.
In case you’ve never heard of her, Anna Chapman is the “sexy redhead spy” who was deported from the United States in summer 2010 along with 9 other people charged with being Russian spies. The spies were largely laughed at in the American media, suggesting that they were unsuccessful and useless, but they were greeted with great respect in Russia, including Prime Minister Putin singing patriotic songs with them. Now Chapman (or, as we lovingly call her among friends, Anya), who became much more famous than all other spies due to her looks, is the leader of some kind of a youth movement, a major bank consultant, and a TV host. (Not bad, huh?) Her show is called Secrets of the World with Anna Chapman, and it airs on REN-TV.
Not surprisingly from her appearance and history of risky behavior, Anya’s hosting style is questionable and laughable. The first time I ever saw an episode of her show was today after I came across headlines that Chapman Offends “Miracle Baby” from Dagestan, on Whose Body Appear Koran Verses. It appears that the phenomenon of the 2-year-old Dagestani baby, Ali Yakubov, on whose skin periodically appear verses from Koran, is more or less real. However, Chapman’s show about it, which aired on February 21st, is a laughing stock.
Actually, calling it “Chapman’s show” is probably giving her too much credit – it looks like Anya is only there to read the text off of the teleprompter and to sport high heels in a Muslim church in Dagestan (although I am impressed that she actually made the journey to the unstable region).
The premise of this episode is that the entire “miracle baby” story is a fake and that the mysterious appearance of Koran verses on the baby’s skin is likely to be the work of somebody close to the baby, made possible either by a rare skin disorder or just a common coloring agent. While this is a perfectly plausible explanation, the way it was presented in the show made me laugh.
Chapman herself is definitely not a natural TV host. Her voice is way too sinister – although this is a common feature of the Russian TV nowadays. She constantly utters sentences that should at best make viewers smile, like “The Yakubovs hadn’t let anybody into their home for a while, but I arranged for it”, or, closer to the end of the episode – “Now I understand almost everything!” (imagine the sinister tone accompanying every sentence). Not to mention Anya’s looks, which completely contradict the show’s idea of respectable investigative journalism. However, her looks is not the only thing ruining the premise of bona fide investigative journalism. The “science” guy on the show, another sinister-looking person, sported a dyed blond hairdo and a very suspicious mustache; although he first appears in the episode as a science expert – talking, seemingly knowingly, about coloring agents – he spends most of the second part of the episode trying to color his hands using different vegetables to achieve the results close to those on Ali’s skin; to make it worse, his efforts are accompanied by Anya’s brilliant line: “Now Aleksey has tried almost every vegetable he had”.
Aside from making me laugh, this episode offended the Yakubovs, who, understandably, don’t agree that Koran verses on Ali’s skin are fake, and weren’t thrilled to see the weird-looking Aleksey and sinister-sounding Chapman denigrate what they think is a miracle. The New York Times picked up the story: In an interview in the driveway to Ali’s home, as chickens scurried about, the grandmother, Zulikhata Yakubova, said, “Our family was chosen by God,” rebutting suggestions raised on Ms. Chapman’s show that the mysterious writing was a ruse. “We vowed never to show Ali to a journalist again.” How tragic.
So, if you’re not part of Ali Yakubov’s family and just want to have a The Room-like experience from Russian TV, Anna Chapman’s show is for you. Enjoy!