September 26, 2008

Our Cartoonist on CNN!

I just stumbled across this nice interview (July 07) of Victor Bogorad, who does the cartoons for our Survival Russian feature. Too bad the video is not archived online... [here is his blog, btw]

And here is his take on the current financial crisis (caption: "Normal citizens have nothing to fear from the financial crisis")


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a small apartment in St. Petersburg, political cartoonist Victor Bogorad projects his view of Russian life. And in his view, real politics in Russia has disappeared.

"I'm telling you, it just doesn't exist," he chuckles. "There are parties, but no politics."

As Victor takes pen to paper, he is in a world of black on white. Bogorad said he is free to draw what he likes, but editors of major of newspapers simply don't publish anything that might be considered controversial or offensive to pro-Kremlin politicians.

He depicted the situation in a drawing he made for us, asserting the press voluntarily position themselves as captives behind the security services and bureaucrats who run Russia today.

"I have no idea whether Putin has a thin or a thick skin," he says. "Under the system that he created, local administrators are trying to please him, trying to prevent any criticism. I think this is what you might call, 'local initiative'?"

"The result," he says, "is that Russia's media censors itself to remain in favor. It is not just the journalists who are held captive." In another quickly-penned impression, Victor Bogorad depicts Russia's situation like this.

The journalists, who are supposed to be doing the reporting, are in one cage. And their viewers, readers, or listeners are, as a result, in nothing less than a cage themselves.

"The majority of our population lived under the Soviet Union when everything was decided for them. They are used to this situation. From my point of view, we are going back to the Soviet Union. A lot of people are happy when things are decided for them, when they have a job and a stable salary."

For Bogorad, things were preferable in what he calls "the time of chaos," the Yeltsin years. His thousands of cartoons are a catalogue of the personalities and controversies that shape the new Russia.

If past is prologue, Bogorad says he doesn't need glasses to see what lies ahead. Timid newspaper editors will continue to watch their readership decline. The big television media will keep Kremlin critics off the air.

But as he depicts here, the younger generation is already turning to the Internet for news. It doesn't matter whether parents in the home or Putin up on the big screen want them to do otherwise. It is a fact they are powerless to change.

"I'm moderately optimistic," he chuckles, "why? Well, as they say, a pessimist is a well-informed optimist. In my case, I probably don't know a lot yet." Fortunately for Russia, what he knows he shares each time he puts pen to paper.

Jim Clancy, CNN, St. Petersburg.

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