06 August, 2007

Lenin is surely spinning in his grave

A conversation at lunch reminded me today that I wanted to talk a little bit about newspapers in Russia, and about one in particular.

There are a lot of newspapers in Kazan. I remember seeing:

  • Правда (Pravda, "The Truth", a daily, once a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, then, according to Wikipedia, shut down by Yeltsin, and resurrected, if I may use such a term, by its former employees, then sold, re-resurrected... I'm confused);
  • Известия (Izvestia, "Notices" or "News", a daily that was once the mouthpiece of the Soviet Government and now aspires to the role of a national newspaper);
  • Советская Россия (Sovyetskaya Rossiya, "Soviet Russia", not sure);
  • Завтра (Zavtra, "Tomorrow", subtitled "the newspaper of the Russian State", a weekly which, according to my wife, is highly critical of the state);
  • Восточний Экспресс (Vostochniy Ekspress, "The Eastern Express", a local newspaper, not sure if it's weekly or daily)
  • Вечерняя Казань (Vechernyaya Kazan, "Kazan of the Evening", daily); and my personal favorite,
  • Комсомольская ПравДА!, a daily, or KP for short.
Another well-known paper in Moscow, although not in Kazan I think, isThe Moscow Times, an English-language daily that has published blistering critiques of corruption in the Russian federal police—and today's headline is, Red Tape Reaching Its Soviet Heights: From inside the Kremlin's walls to everyday lives with endless paperwork, bureaucracy rules.

I'm most interested in Комсомольская ПравДА! The italics and the red coloring on the ДА! are essential to our story.

The name of the newspaper translates as "Komsomol's Truth", where "Komosomol" was the young adult's opportunity to participate in the Communist Party. However, да in Russian means yes, so the styling of those last two letters makes the banner look fresh and modern, as if to say:

Komsomol's Truth! YES!

I've been wondering when someone will notice that the first word ends with я, and emphasize that as well. That would give us КОМСОМОЛЬСКАЯ! ПРАВДА!. It would look as if the paper was all about

Komsomol's Truth:

This marketing in a capitalist environment would by itself likely make Lenin spin in his grave, but our tale grows more sordid.

The publication no longer publishes what one might call "hard news", but has morphed into something of a tabloid, notifying readers of updates in the lives of celebrities. Think of People magazine or US Weekly and you'd get the idea, except that it's in newsprint, and has more words and fewer pictures.

It gets better! They hold competitions for readers to send in their photos; and from the submissions they choose one for the back page. This past summer, my wife explained to me, the competition has been for people in their bathing suits, or topless. I thought she was kidding, but I happened to pick up my in-laws' paper one day and sure enough, the back page had a young woman in a bathing suit. I read beneath it, and they invited people to send in photos of themselves in bathing suits or "топлес". Wow, my wife was right.

I suggested to her that we send in a photo of her father working shirtless in the garden on a hot day. She smiled, and that's where the story ends, as well it should.

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