Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Somebody is scared of this man

Alexei Navalny, briefly mentioned on this blog before but written about at some length even by our media (and yours truly on Taki's Magazine) is not an anti-Putin candidate. He is a blogger and a political activist who has become the face and voice of the opposition to the corruption and political authoritarianism of the Putin-Medvedev regime. (Remember the old joke of Medvedev being Putin's мишка, that is, teddy bear? Non-Russian speakers need to know that medved or медведь means bear.)

It seems that Mr Navalny is beginning to bother the Putin brigade. They have decided to smear him with the obvious accusation that he has been associating with Snowball, errm, I mean the ex-patriate oligarch Berezovsky, who is wanted on all sorts of charges in Russia but whom the British courts refuse to hand over on the reasonable assumption that he is unlikely to receive a fair trial (or, possibly, a trial at all). Berezovsky and the unspecified oligarchs have been blamed for everything that has been going wrong in Russia, particularly for all opposition to the Putin regime in the time-honoured Soviet way. Shall we see people being tried for left-wing Berezovskyite deviationism?

Anyway, the picture of Navalny and Berezovsky appeared in a hand-out newspaper (not a fake as some of the Putinites have been shouting), called Argumenti if Fakti of the Urals ["Аргументы и Факты. Урал"]. According to this blog, 80,000 copies were handed out in Ekaterinburg (definitely in the Urals) by pro-Putin youngsters. In it [scroll down] was the infamous photo of Navalny and Snowball Berezovsky with a headline that says: "Alexei Navalny has never bothered to conceal that he was given money for his struggle with Putin by  the oligarch Boris Berezovsky". Cute, eh?

Sadly, the picture is a photoshopped one. How this takes one back to the Soviet shenanigans with photographs, so fascinatingly documented by David King. Sometimes people were added as in the infamous picture of Stalin allegedly sitting next to Lenin in the latter's last years in Gori; sometimes they were taken away when they became unpersons.

Enough of this reminiscing. Let us turn to the present. Navalny has managed to produce the original of the photograph in which he is with another oligarch but not one so well known, Mikhail Prokhorov. He then decided to help the other side out. Why not make a few suggestions of various other people he could be getting finance from, such as Stalin, Lord Voldemort, Napoleon or Putin himself. If your follow the link above and scroll down you will see the pictures and the Russian text is minimal.

The story has gone world-wide and was picked up by the BBC, the Telegraph,  the Guardian and many others with the appropriate semi-literate pro-Putin trolls making their appearance here and there.

Someone asked me whether these people really thought anyone would believe them. Probably not (and, strictly speaking, we still don't know who took that idiotic decision) but they worked on the principle of "mud sticks" and when it comes to Russia and opponents of Putin, too many people, especially in the West are ready to believe the worst, particularly if they see the dreaded word "oligarchs". Those are the people who do not seem to realize that oligarchs are alive and well in Russia but these days they are all Friends of Vladimir. All the same, one can't help wondering why the Putinites should be so scared of a man who is, after all, merely an anti-corruption blogger.

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