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Monday, April 27, 2009

Russian Pop Diva Helps Tymoshenko’s ‘Friend of Russia’ Image

Tymoshenko recalls dancing to Pugacheva’s songs. Pugacheva calls Tymoshenko a good politician, a smarty and a beauty.

In a smart public relations move, they’ve made good friends.

Alla Pugacheva is the Soviet pop legend of the ‘80s who recently celebrated her 60th anniversary. Yulia Tymoshenko is Ukraine’s PM who courts pro-Russian voters in this year’s presidential election.

Last Wednesday, Pugacheva threw a concert in Kyiv. Tymoshenko mounted the stage as a prominent guest, along with Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin, the foot-in-mouth man who routinely meddles in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

The song Pugacheva did with Tymoshenko was some sort of East-West balancing act.

Tymoshenko: I wanted to do “Million alyh roz,” (“A Million Scarlet Roses”) but then I thought that a million Ukrainian hearts that sincerely love Alla Pugacheva would be better. And I think that every time a family celebrates a birthday — they have a birthday cake, candles — and then, after all this beauty is rolled out, everyone in the family cordially sings “Happy Birthday.” And I want us now to cordially sing to Alla Borisovna, on a count of three: one, two, three! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, dear Alla! Happy Birthday to you!
Pugacheva: Now, in Russian! S Dnem Rozhedeniya menya! [Happy Birthday to me!]
S Dnem Rozhedeniya tebya! S Dnem Rozhdeniya, nasha Alla. S Dnem Rozhdeniya, tebya! [Happy birthday, our Alla! Happy Birthday to you!]

It’s an ode to happiness, an ode for a-l-l t-i-m-e-s! The ode of all odes! [giggles] I missed you. [kisses Chernomyrdin] How happy it is when goodness dwells with people and among people. You know, I have this boy — this smart boy, he’s 9 years old — and when asked about what makes a good politician (what can a 9-year-old kid say? who are they?), he responds: “Those are the big boys and girls who are doing everything to…keep people from q-u-a-r-r-e-l-i-n-g.


Pugacheva: From the lips of a child, the t-r-u-t-h s-p-e-a-k-e-t-h! Thank you for the love!

I have no quarrel with Pugacheva’s ‘80s songs. I actually like them. I even recall this famous perestroika joke: “Q: Who are the three most popular women in the country? A: Katya Lycheva, Alla Pugacheva and Raya Gorbacheva.”

However, when it comes to the “good politician” issue, Ambassador Chernomyrdin and his friends in Tymoshenko’s BYuT give that title a bad name.

When a big group of people tries to control a smaller group of people — using the help of a big girl within that smaller group — all you get is quarreling.



elmer said...

Actually, I think it's a small group of people - Putler and his siloviki - trying to control a much larger group of people - Rasha and Ukraine - that causes problems.

And in Ukraine, it's the same - a small group of people, namely the "political elite" - trying not so much to control a larger group of people, as trying to keep as much money as possible in their tight, corrupt little fists through abuse of government.

The last article you linked to on Ukrainian Pravda is, indeed, very telling, since it reports on the secret talks between the "boorthday" lady, Tymoshenko and her group, BYUT, and Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.

It opens up by recalling how Tymo, the boorsday girl, excoriated Yanukovych some time back for stealing 60 dollars a second (through his buddies Boyko and Rudkovsky in the energy and gas transport sectors). Now she's making nicey-nice with the same people.

The secret talks, ongoing since winter 2008, involve changes to the Ukrainian constitution based on dividing everything up between the BYUT bloc and the PoR bloc.

Prez, PM, everything.

Oh, and at one point it also involved a guarantee that Yanukovych gets to keep his mega-mansion-estate, "Mezhihirya," which has its own playgrounds and soccer field, and was obtained under rather "mysterious" circumstances.

All of this is just a bunch of corrupt thugs circling the wagons, trying to manipulate the Ukrainian constitution, in order to stay in power.

Speaker Lytvyn of the Ukrainian Parliament is against such a mega-coalition.

No consitutional convention here, just backroom deals between a few people.

They would need 300 votes in the Parliament in order to change the Constitution.

They are calling this a "technical" coalition.

"Technical" is another one of those cute terms in Ukraine which is used when you don't want to say it's crooked or corrupt.

And, in Ukraine, one quite often hears "it's complicated" (складне) when you don't want to answer a simple question, and, again, you want to cover up corruption.

Yushchenko has threatened to dissolve Parliament if the current coalition gives way to a "mega-coalition."

Ah, but the chess players/thugs in Parliament have anticipated that one, too - they simply declared, contrary to the Constitution, that October 25 will be the date of the next prez election.

Why? Well, under the constitution, the Prez cannot disband Parliament in the 6 months prior to prez elections.

Why bother with a constitution, or changes to it?

The constitution is simply ignored.

Ah, but in Ukraine, if you are in the "political elite," you want to be able to say that you stole everything fair and square.

Hence, the charade of constitutional changes.

Taras said...

You're right, Elmer!

Domestically, it's a small group of people trying to control the rest.

You should read the latest Foreign Policy article on Tymoshenko. (HT: Roxolanus, John Kalitka at Twitter)

So much for Containing Russia, her 2007 ghostwritten Foreign Affairs masterpiece.

elmer said...

Yes, I saw that piece in Foreign Affairs, Taras.

Here's the thing: Ukrainian Pravda reported on how the gliterati of Ukraine all showed up for the Alla and Yulia boorsday show. That included the so-called "political elite". Even Nestor Shufrych (Нестор Скаргописець - Ukrainians will know what that means) showed up.

Now, I understand that Alla may have been popular at one time in the sovok union. Personally, I like Sofia Rotaru.

But not all are so enthralled with Alla as Tymoshenko. The Kyiv Post has an article entitle "Radio La La," in which the writer bemoans the loss of Radio One, and its replacement by - radio by Alla.

Through my unfiltered eyes, I see 2 things.

1) A big fat Russian cow trying, like many old ladies do, to look like she's 16 again, with all the make-up, and trying to hide her weight with tent dresses.

2) sovoks - sovoks all over the place. Tymo the sovok buddying up to the former glory of her fellow sovok, Radio Alla.

And it's disgusting.

By contrast, Pinchuk, another sovok, bought himself Paul McCartney. But before McCartney sang in Kyiv, Pinchuk put his father-in-law Kuchma on the big screen to prattle on and on about how wonderful his memories of the Beatles were.

I wonder what Kuchma's memories of Georgiy Gongadze are.

The best thing was the young people in the audience, raising their hands, and extending their middle finger while Kuchma was prattling on about the Beatles.

So Yulia buddies up to a Russian over-the-hill sovok cow, and Pinchuk buddies up to an over-the-hill Beatle.

Politicians all over the world buddy up to singers and movie stars for political purposes.

But in Ukraine, one sovok goes to sovok Rasha for the reflected faded glory, and another sovok goes to London, where he and his wife have a mansion, to do so.

In the meantime, people in Ukraine have a sovoks-gone-wild oligarchy.

Not a representative democracy.

I wish Ukraine would finally get rid of the sovoks, and the sovok legacy, so that life for the non- "political elite" would get better.

No more hot water cut-offs.

No more potholes in the road.

No more "we have the cure for swine flu, but we can't tell you what it is" announcements.

No more gas cut-offs.

No more corrupt judges.

No more blanket immunity for members of Parliament.

No more corrupt judges, beholden to oligarchs and one "political force" or other.

No more party lists, and buying one's way on to party lists.

No more Chernovetsky and his butt-boy, Dovhy.

No more Radio La La.

And, above all, no more sovok pigs showing up to admire each others' wonderful sovok porkiness.

Taras said...

You made many good points, but there are some points I don’t agree with.

I consider Alla Pugacheva a highly talented performer, Sofia Rotaru being no less talented.

I’d rather apply the term pig to people based on their behavioral patterns, not physical traits. People who mess up the environment do deserve to be called pigs, while people who experience weight problems due to aging clearly do not. That’s how I see things.

We should distinguish Soviet-born Ukrainians from sovoks. It’s the same as distinguishing rednecks or limo liberals from Americans.

As a Soviet-born Ukrainian (b. 1980), I have a good memory of that era’s music, movies and cartoons. Does recollecting my childhood make me a sovok? I don’t think so.

Just because somebody attended Pugacheva’s concert doesn’t automatically make them sovoks, even though the term does apply to some. By “some” I mean the target audience.

And that’s where I agree with you.

The Tymoshenko-Pugacheva duo seeks both to entertain the audience and to exploit the sovok mentality. I’d call it a soft-sell publicity stunt in the Tymoshenko presidential campaign.

Basically, it marries Pugacheva fans’ “good memories” of the ‘80s to the image of Tymoshenko as a “good politician”/“friend of Russia.” Now, of course, the act may reinforce Tymoshenko’s positive image in the target audience. But it can hardly improve my view of Tymoshenko.

Mixing music with politics and Russian expansionism has been done before in post-Soviet Ukraine.

In 2004, a squad of Russian and Ukrainian stars toured Ukraine, campaigning for Yanukovych. Some of those hard-sell stars jeered Orange Ukrainians. “Why are you waving those rusty flags? Take them and go back to your America!” Russian singer Nikolai Baskov, the darling of Kuchma, would say.

Calling Ukraine’s oligarchs sovoks makes sense insofar as it underscores the historical transition from crony communism to crony capitalism. Economically, however, oligarchs belong at the top of the food chain while sovoks belong at the bottom.

In the Soviet Union, there was no such thing as oligarchs. Agreed, some Politburo members had foreign bank accounts. (Ditto some KGB officers, some foreign trade officials and, during the late stages of perestroika, some mafia and joint-stock company bosses.) Nevertheless, people convicted of grand theft faced stiff penalties. According to Soviet republics' penal codes, “theft of extraordinarily large amounts” carried the death penalty.

In Ukraine, theft of billions of dollars is not a crime. It’s a sport.

elmer said...

Every one of those sovok jerks, who clawed their way up the party line, had dachas, access to Western goods, the ability to travel freely, and all sorts of other privileges - kept hidden from public view.

Brezhnev used to demand Mercedes-Benz's from Germany on state visits, as tokens of "friendship."

That was in addtion to the soviet girls that he demanded and got for "personal use."

All of those commie party folks were sharks who learned to fence (as in sword fencing) on the edge of a razor.

Those are the same jerks who, in every former sovok republic, quickly found out that they no longer had to report to headquarters (Maskva) and became sovoks-gone-wild.

No need to hide anything any more.

But they still relied on sovok tactics - intimidation, insults, deception, denial, threats, and even killing.

And on sovok "stars."

And on their inside positions as sovoks to suddenly become - "capitalists."

Crony communism to destructive crony capitalism was an easy transition.

Look at the putrid party list system in Ukraine. What did almost every party or bloc do? Put assorted singers or actors or other celebrities on their party list in order to attract attention and votes.

The sooner Ukraine gets rid of that sovok legacy, the sooner people stand up for themselves, the better off Ukraine will be.

Oligarchs don't belong at the top of anything.

All they do is cause is a distortion of capitalism.

Recollecting your childhood is one thing.

Trying to re-live the sovok past, as with the Alla "boorsday party," and with all the people coming out with sovok medals literally covering their entire front, is quite another.

And trying to feed off the sovok past, as the "political elite" did, to see and be seen, to feel "elite" and important at the Alla "boorsday party" (see the pictures at Ukrainian Pravda) doesn't help.

Taras said...

Crony capitalism and crony communism differ in many aspects but share the same roots.

In the 1930s-1950s, the Stalin regime mobilized labor via genocide, collectivization, industrialization, wars, gulags and propaganda to lay the foundation of crony communism. In the 1990s-2010s, the Kravchuk-Kuchma-Yanukovych-Yushchenko-Tymoshenko regimes employed corruption, grabitization, cheap labor, the commodity-cursed economy and, again, propaganda to lay the foundation of crony capitalism.

Has the transition from crony communism to crony capitalism improved the overall living standards in Ukraine? Has it led to economic innovation?

The answer is no.

Crony capitalism has merely re-sliced the pie without making it bigger and better. Crony capitalism owes its obsolete economy to crony communism.

It has not improved Ukraine’s overall living standards. Nor has it produced the innovation that the country needs in order to improve those standards. I call it in-no-way-tion: the oligarchs’ resistance to change.

What has changed is Ukraine’s resource allocation and income distribution. Crony capitalism has replaced the voracious Soviet military-industrial complex and nomenlatura with the yet-more-voracious oligarch clans and their patrons in government.

Under crony communism, the Soviet elite earned well above the average, did their shopping in specialty stores and lived in government dachas. Under crony capitalism, the Ukrainian elite have embezzled property/funds unheard of during Soviet times, have privatized the dachas and have helped the oligarchs prosper. With metals and chemicals in demand outside Ukraine, the oligarchs would line their pockets with billions of dollars of easy money, calling this social contract stabilnist.

Meanwhile, the country’s population has declined from 52.09 million in 1991 to 46.16 million in January 2009.

That’s no accident in a country whose industrial output is nowhere near its 1990 levels; whose health care is in a shambles; whose government is corrupt to the bone, and whose housing is out of reach for ordinary people. Today, metals and chemicals no longer sell and stabilnist looks a bit shaky.

Meanwhile, with the notable exception of Kyiv and its overblown costs of living/housing market, Ukraine lags behind Europe on just about every economic index. On the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, Ukraine ranks among the war-ravaged “failed states” of Africa.

To build “capitalism with a human face,” our yet-to-be-born middle class needs a major facelift while our oligarchy needs a major liposuction.

Ukraine has a choice to make: deoligarchization or depopulation.