Completion and Campaigns

November 16, 2011

Well those four-day weekends are good for something! I have finished reading my first full novel in Russian – Master and Margarita. (I’ve also finished Austen’s Emma in Russian, but that is less exciting). For all who have yet to read it, I would highly recommend it. Tomorrow, I’m off to find A Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich and another new book – and, to be perfectly honest, buy a Harry Potter audiobook in Russian. Right now I listen to one in English when I’m on the metro, but it would be ideal to listen in Russian!

What a pair... (Behemoth is my favorite character)

The timing of finishing Master and Margarita roughly coincides with my visit to Bulgakov’s house (now a museum and theatre of sorts) on Saturday.

The infamous 302 bis... about 5 minutes from my apartment.

Although quite small, it was wonderful to see some of the artwork related to Bulgakov’s work and to learn a bit about his life. Bulgakov wrote about real places in his novel (which takes place in Moscow), so there is also a tour around Moscow of various apartments and locations from the book – I think I’ll do that one in the spring, since it’s really starting to get cold here. A version of Master and Margarita as a play premiered at МХТ within the last month, and although the first performances were sold out, I’m hoping to go see that in the next couple months.

With parliamentary elections quickly approaching, (December 4, presidential elections will occur in early January) posters and commercials for various parties are becoming more apparent. A month or so ago, there were posters on the street, on lampposts and the sides of bus stops, advertising the date of the upcoming elections and urging people to vote. Television ads proclaimed, that “The whole (big) country votes!” (Большая страна голосует!)  These posters and ads have morphed into ads for United Russia, Putin and Medvedev’s party. The line between voting at all and whom to vote for is quite hazy – the posters literally employ the same exact design. Although my friends certainly discuss different parties and the elections, I haven’t heard of specific plans to vote – the sentiment has long been that voting makes little difference. I have seen one large sign for the Yabloko Party, while United Russia (Единая Россия) has at least 25 signs per block along the main street.

Two within literally 5 feet of one another - they are every where.

Main news channels have started presenting profile stories on what Medvedev is doing to improve children’s homes in Russia and how Putin is helping small businesses – needless to say, these stories come across as thinly veiled campaigning. More importantly, as my host mother pointed out, no parties besides United Russia have that access (or influence, one might say) to main media channels. More to come on opinions and the word on the street as the elections grow closer…

Political campaigns in Russia are a welcome break from those in the US – posters and campaigning only a month before elections (two and half, for the presidential campaigns), and do not eclipse all other news. Sarah and Nate, what is the election buzz like in Yaroslavl and Irkutsk?

Until I’ve picked out some new books,



2 Responses to “Completion and Campaigns”

  1. nateinsiberia said

    Ha! Election buzz..Either people in Siberia have already assumed that Putin will be elected, or news of the elections has yet to make it past the Urals. The closest thing I’ve seen to pumped up campaigning is a series of official flyers adorned with Medvedev’s face in a garbage can. There is more of a Yabloko presence than what you’re seeing, I guess, in that it’s become common in the last month or so to find green posters in the minibuses with a guy who looks a bit like William Shatner proclaiming that “We will return hope” to Russia.

    The funny thing about United Russia: I can’t seem to find anyone who can tell me something about its platform. In fact, although I haven’t looked for myself in any active manner, it seems common knowledge that the party is a hodge-podge collection of cronies entirely void of any unified political stance or ideology. Also common knowldge: real or fabricated, they’ll win 60% of the vote in January.

    Also, we know that UR is really just Putin’s power-hungry fanclub. However—and I could be mistaken here—I believe that, since assuming the position of prime minister, he has actually not been officially linked to the party, which has remained in power exclusively through Medvedev and his appointments. Again, could be wrong, but even if I’m right, that’s only on paper.

  2. sarahinthegoldencircle said

    Between Galya’s morning news shows and riding the bus to and from the university every morning, I’ve seen quite a number of political adds leading up to the election. Of course, the news commercials are national, showing adds from pretty much all the parties. These will be (at least roughly) the same you guys see at home. Perhaps more pertinent, however, would be the автобус and тролейбус adds. These are primarily adds on the TV screen that some of our buses host. Even though I ride the bus pretty much every day of the week, I have only seen ЕР and ЛДПР adds, which tend to come off quite ethno-nationalist. I wish we saw some Яблока adds! It’s honestly occasionally a little uncomfortable as a foreigner to sit and watch those adds next all of the Russians on the bus–you start wondering, is this what you want? Is this really how YOU think Russia should be? So many of the people you talk to here seem quite indifferent to the election. It’s as Nate said: they’re just expecting Putin to win. The mentality, amongst both the youth and those on pension, seems to be, “Why bother?”

    I’ll keep you updated and let you know if any other adds start popping up. I’ve been away for a little bit, so maybe (and hopefully) I’ll be able to tell you more!

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