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July 23, 2014

Good manners and kittens may exempt bloggers from mass media law

Posting pictures of kittens and using polite tone of voice may exempt Russian bloggers from the new mass media law, which makes the posting of false information, expletives and extremist materials a criminal offence.

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Under the law, which comes into effect on 1 August, blogs with more than 3,000 unique visitors a day are counted as mass media and must register with media watchdog Roskomnadzor. 

In an announcement today, Roskomnadzor Deputy Director Maxim Ksenzov said: “If you post kitten pics, speak in a civilised manner and publish no classified information, you may never be required [to register], even if you have a daily audience of one million visitors.”

The law, passed as part of a ‘counter-terrorism’ legal package, was drafted in April following the bombings in Volgograd in 2013 and will subject law-breakers to fines of up to 500,000 roubles ($14,300). 

Source: The Moscow Times

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 23, 2014

Exhibition exploring decline of print media opens in St Petersburg

  • Exhibition exploring decline of print media opens in St Petersburg

    How Much Is Enough, Edgor Kraft (2014)

  • Exhibition exploring decline of print media opens in St Petersburg

    99, Anna & Aleksey Gan (2014)

  • Exhibition exploring decline of print media opens in St Petersburg

    Italics, Peter Thörneby (2011)

  • Exhibition exploring decline of print media opens in St Petersburg

    One Day, All This Will Be Yours, Peter Thörneby (2013)

An exhibition dedicated to exploring the decline of print and the growing dominance of online media will open in St Petersburg on 31 July, with artists presenting their take on how these changes can influence culture, creativity and identity. Printed Matter features Russian, American and European artists, whose mix of literal and abstract artworks includes explorations of anything from how history is remembered to the analysis of different media formats. 

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Housed in the Museum of Printing, the exhibition juxtaposes old and new, with most of the featured artists privileging the use of paper, cardboard and wood over more sophisticated materials in their exploration of online publishing and broadcasting.

Artist Serge Ogurtsov, whose work in the exhibition investigates the dominance of the image over text, told The Calvert Journal: “I don’t think it’s paper that’s in decline, but linear alphabetical writing that is being forgotten, with visual images taking its place. I’m more interested in language itself, its connection to text, its relation to visuality, its role in subjectivity.”

The work of German artist Alexandra Leykauf takes inspiration from Everybody’s Autobiography by Gertrude Stein, which uses mirrors and autobiography titles to explore the schism between individuals and how they choose to portray themselves.

She told The Calvert Journal: “The title of an autobiography can be seen as an ultimate statement about a person’s life, but at the same time it is a persona rather than an actual person. It’s important to realise that there is no direct view, no direct experience when we are dealing with text or images. The medium always plays a crucial role between what is being represented and our perceptions.”

Printed Matter is part of the parallel programme of Manifesta 10 and will run until 24 August.

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 22, 2014

Putin bans adverts on pay TV

President Vladimir Putin has amended Russia's advertising law to impose a ban on the broadcast of adverts on paid television channels from 1 January 2015. According to the revised law, which was published today, national public television channels, as well as those broadcast on terrestrial TV for free, will not be affected.

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The architect of the new law, Fair Russia party politician Igor Zotov, proposed the bill last month claiming that television channels that are broadcast to viewers for free "are at a disadvantage compared to TV channels whose distribution is based on payments and who show adverts paid for by the consumers’ monthly fee”.

According to a list collated by Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor, around 1,400 subscription channels currently broadcasting commercials will be prohibited from screening adverts from next year.

Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council has spoken out against the law, claiming that the amendment will monopolise the television advertising market and inevitably lead to an increase in subscription fees and the closure of numerous channels.

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 22, 2014

Managing editor of Afisha magazine Yury Saprykin resigns

Yury Saprykin

The managing editor of Russia’s popular Afisha magazine, Yury Saprykin, has resigned from his post, saying only that he now hopes to work “away from the world of Russian media”.

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Saprykin, an outspoken critic of censorship in the Russian media, announced his resignation on his Facebook page on Sunday adding that he didn’t wish to comment further on his decision. He wrote: “I will regularly be in touch with the editor to help (or hinder) with advise, and probably to do some writing, but for the most part I will be engaging in matters away from [Afisha’s offices].” 

Saprykin worked as editor-in-chief of listings magazine Afisha from 2003 to 2008 before becoming managing director of Afisha’s parent company Afisha-Rambler. 

Saprykin’s departure comes on the heels of two high-profile resignations last week — Pavel Sheremet from public TV channel OTR and Sara Firth from RT (Russian Today) — both of whom cited censorship concerns.

Recent months have seen Russia’s media landscape change dramatically, with dozens of journalists resigning from their jobs to protest a clampdown on independent journalism following the Ukraine crisis.

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 22, 2014

Billionaire to create Russian history theme park in Moscow

Fortress at Puy du Fou theme park in the Vendee region, France

Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev has unveiled plans to build the country’s first Russian history-themed amusement park in Moscow with the project estimated to cost around 18 million roubles ($514 million).

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Malofeev, founder of the Marshal Capital Partners investment fund, told news website Vedomosti that the new park should bring together “the richest cultural content” with “the most contemporary engineering and entertaining technology”. 

He added: “We want to create not so much an amusement park but rather a place where people can really immerse themselves in Russian history for hours through grandiose performances.”

Malofeev has enlisted the help of French theme park company Puy du Fou International, which oversaw the conception and construction of a similar project Puy du Fou in the Vendée region in western France. The French amusement park, which brings to life periods of history from the Middle Ages to the Second War War with recreations of Roman chariot races and large-scale reenactments of the region's history, brings in around 1.5 million visitors a year.

French politician Philllippe de Villiers who created Puy du Fou told Vedomosti: “Russia needs a large-scale tourism project which aims at developing the economy and glorifying the past.”

Although the exact location of the new park has yet to be announced, Malofeev said the project, which will use up to 300 hectares of land, will be built near the hotel and entertainment complex Hotel Tsargrad in Moscow which he owns. He added that the project should be completed within three years. 

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 21, 2014

Latvia blacklists three Russian singers for supporting Putin

Oleg Gazmanov

Three popular Russian singers have been blacklisted from entering Latvia for their support of President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine, Latvian news portal Delfi.lv has reported. Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgar Rinkevich blacklisted Oleg Gazmanov, Joseph Kobzon and Alla Perfilova, also known by her stage name Valeriya, for their “aggressive support” for the annexation of Crimea and “for repeatedly and publicly speaking disparagingly about the actions of Ukraine”.

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In March this year, Gazmanov, Kobzon and Perfilova added their names to an open letter in support of Putin’s policies on Ukraine. The 84 signatories included director Fedor Bondarchuk and musical maestro Valery Gergiev.

Both Gazmanov and Kobzon were due to star in New Wave, a six-day international pop music contest in the Latvian city of Jūrmala from the 22 to 27 July, while Valeriya was expected to sit on the jury. In March this year, Rinkevich banned a number of officials from the government of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich from entering Latvia. 

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 21, 2014

Russian pop star Alsou to break Guinness World Record for longest song

Russian pop singer Alsou is hoping to make it into the Guinness World Records by singing a 48-hour long cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The song is part of a 5775, a collaboration between Russian rock musician Igor Sander and Russia-based news website Jewish Eyes to commemorate Rosh Hashanah on 24 September. A total of 5,775 people from across the globe will sing the song to celebrate the year 5775 in the Hebrew calendar.

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Writing on her Instagram account, Alsou said: “It was a pleasure to participate in Igor Sander’s project, 5775. It is the longest song in the world with the highest number of participants.” The goal of the project is to set three Guinness world records based on the length of the song, the number of performers and their geographical spread. 

Cohen’s song was selected due to its numerous biblical references such as the story of Samson and his betrayal by Delilah. A statement on 5775’s website reads: “Hallelujah is a Hebrew word, an exclamation meaning ‘Praise the Lord’.” 

Alsou released her debut album in 1999 before shooting to fame for her song Solo, which won Russia second place at the Eurovision song contest in 2000. 

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 18, 2014

News round-up: this week in Russian culture

A journalist from news channel RT has resigned following “false” reporting of the Malaysian Airlines plane crash; a "new breed" of enormous vending machines is soon to hit Moscow; and a giant 100 metre-wide crater appeared in Russia’s isolated Yamal region this week. A look at some of this week's cultural stories. 

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Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is planning to install around 60 enormous "new-breed" vending machines in the Russian capital over the next two months, which will sell goods including mobile phones, tickets for public transport and food.

President Vladimir Putin has called for a Russia-Argentina bilateral year of culture next year, in a bid to foster closer diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Russian high-school students will have to demonstrate their patriotism and respect for “traditional values" in order to graduate from school, according to a new decree from the Ministry of Education and Science.

57% of bars, restaurants and shops in Moscow are at risk of losing the liquor licenses by the end of the year, if they don’t submit documents indicating their alcohol turnover to the Federal Service for Alcohol Market Regulation by the end of December.  

A London-based journalist from Kremlin-funded news channel Russia Today resigned in protest at the coverage of the Malaysian Airlines plane crash. She described the channel’s reporting of yesterday’s fatal crash as “shockingly obvious misinformation”.

And... a giant 100 metre-wide crater mysteriously appeared in Russia’s isolated Yamal region this week, with the cause still unknown.  

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 18, 2014

Mikhail Khodorkovsky to launch new media portal

Former political prisoner and one-time oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is set to launch a new media portal this autumn, news website Gazeta.ru has reported. Although Khodorkovsky’s press secretary Olga Pispanen has refused to confirm or deny claims, the website has already been dubbed the “the new Lenta.ru” after the formerly independent news outlet. 

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More than 60 of Lenta.ru’s employees resigned in March after the unexpected dismissal of the publication’s editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, who was replaced by Kremlin sympathiser Alexei Goreslavsky. According to Gazeta.ru, Khodorkovsky’s new editorial team will be based in Latvia and will include a number of former Lenta.ru journalists. 

Khodorkovsky, who spent ten years in prison after being charged with fraud and tax evasion, is said to be planning to become more involved in opposition politics. Media analyst Alexei Makarkin told Gazeta.ru: “Khodorkovsky has engaged in philanthropy but he clearly wants to head into politics. To do this, he needs a platform, and one that would attract the attention of his target audience — people who vote for the opposition and attend rallies.”

In April, prominent blogger and journalist Anton Nossik announced plans to launch a raft of media outlets after a slew of editorial reshuffles and cuts in funding to independent news organisations seemed to signal growing state censorship. 

  • Text: Nadia Beard
July 17, 2014

Top journalist quits Russian public service TV channel over Ukraine crisis

The OTR studio

Prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet has resigned from his post at public television channel OTR in protest against the Russian government’s policies on Ukraine. Sheremet announced his resignation on his Facebook page, where he accused the Kremlin of “hounding journalists who talk about events in Ukraine and the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict in a way that differs from the Kremlin’s unfettered propaganda”. 

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In his statement, Sheremet, a native of Belarus, slammed both the Kremlin and pro-Russian militants for threatening independent journalists such as those at radio station Echo of Moscow and for labelling them a “fifth column”.

He wrote: “I consider the annexation of Crimea and the support of separatists in the east of Ukraine to be bloody adventurism and a fatal mistake in Russian policy that will lead the country to disaster if not stopped right now.”

He further claimed that Alexander Zinchenko, a leader in the anti-Maidan protests wrote to Anatoly Lysenko, the general director of OTR, and Vsevolod Bogdanov, the chairman of Russia’s Union of Journalists, urging them to investigate “that Russophobe Sheremet, who conducts detestable interviews with Ukrainian executioners”. Sheremet added that the Kremlin repeatedly complained to OTR management about the critical tone of his coverage.

Lysenko told Itar-Tass that Sheremet’s contract was due to expire on 3 August but that the channel would still hope to work with him in the future.

Sheremet’s move is one in a long line of resignations by Russian journalists protesting the government’s tightening grip on independent media in Russia following the crisis in Ukraine including the annexation of Crimea. 

In March this year, over 60 journalists from independent news website Lenta.ru resigned after their editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, was unexpectedly fired and replaced by Kremlin appointee Alexei Goreslavsky.

Known for his outspoken journalism, Sheremet has had a number of brushes with the law. In 1997 he was imprisoned in Belarus after he and a colleague revealed the ineffectiveness of the country’s anti-smuggling campaign by filming themselves illegally crossing the border from Lithuania. In 1999 he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award from US organisation the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

  • Text: Nadia Beard