Monday, October 29, 2007

The new comedy act

Some of us have been mourning the departure of Prime Minister Kaczynski from the political scene, which undermined the position of President Kaczynski as the leading comedian of Europe. Some people can be funny on their own and some need partners. Would Morecambe have survived without Wise and vice versa? What is Flanagan Flanders without Swann? Or Laurel without Hardy? Where would the second gentleman of Verona be without the first one? (Actually, somebody might like to answer that as I have never been able to get through the play.)

Then there are comedians like Jack Benny, who can keep an audience mesmerized or in stitches of laughter all on their own. (As for his performance in the part of “the great, great Polish actor Josef Tura” in the 1942 film “To Be or Not To Be”, well, all I can say is if you have not seen it, find a DVD instantly.)

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the new Jack Benny Show, as presented by none other but President Vladimir Putin, known to his friends and enemies alike as Vlad the Impaler. (So is Lenin, of course.)

His latest idea? Well, he is going to open a think-tank in one of the capitals of the European Union, possibly Brussels but, given the coolth between Russia and Britain, maybe in London that will study freedom and democracy in Europe.

Of course, there is quite a lot to study and, possibly, Mr Putin and his siloviki as well as the new oligarchs (all buddies of Vlad) are the answer to the well-known fiscal problems of the eurosceptic movement. (Sadly, I am unlikely to get any funds. The last time I tried to go to Moscow, I couldn’t even get a visa. But my colleague might be able to put his financial affairs in order with President Putin’s help.)

Then again, it does not look to me like Vlad’s henchmen are all that interested in details like the position of the European Council or the fact that the European Union will acquire a legal personality.

What bugs them is the number of NGOs who have opened offices in Russia and, even if they have not, show their temerity by criticizing Russia’s human rights record. I don’t know, whatever next? People will be saying that journalists who are critical of the government get shot in that country, as do people who try to clean up the corruption. The cheek of it.

The Russian think-tank, if it ever happens, will be financed solely by Russia, as they now have such a lot of money to throw around, in the way organizations were financed back in the days of the dear old Soviet Union, but more openly. Glasnost is everything comrades ladies and gentlemen.

Its aim will be monitoring “the situation regarding the rights of ethnic minorities, immigrants and the media in Europe”. I suppose, this means that in return they will finally let independent observers into Chechnya, Ingushetiya and Dagestan. Pigs will take to the skies in large numbers.

Or they will allow observers, in return for similar courtesy, to Russian prisons, prison camps, police stations and border control points. Presumably, there will be greater openness about children’s homes, especially those for disabled children. No? Well, well, what a shame.

Actually, what the think-tank will concentrate on is an old, old story.
Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected analyst, said one of the institute's priorities should be highlighting discrimination against ethnic Russians living in countries once part of the Soviet Union, like Estonia and Latvia.
So, what this comic act amounts to is another attempt to bully the Baltic republics. Interestingly enough, ethnic Russians in Baltic States (one wonders how they got there in the first place) appear not to be very anxious to rejoin their brothers and sisters in the great homeland. Far more of them have been using the freedom of movement aspect of the EU to make their way westward.

Perhaps the new think-tank will study this phenomenon, provide us with figures and analyze what those Russians do when they reach Germany, France or Britain. By the way, little piggies in Russian is porosyata.


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