Путин и мужик (Они пахали)
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«Граждани́н поэ́т» — проект продюсера Андрея Васильева, в котором заслуженный артист Российской Федерации Михаил Ефремов читает стихи на «злобу дня», написанные Дмитрием Быковым в жанре политической сатиры на манер известных писателей и поэтов. Вышло более 50 выпусков.
Undead poets’ society
by Yulia Ponomareva
The authors of the Citizen Poet videos that rocked ru.net last year refer to their political satire as nothing more than a punk project. The director of a film about Citizen Poet argues that the project is more than just of artistic significance – it fostered the protest movement in Russia.
Tuesday saw the premiere of “Citizen Poet: The Run-through of the Year,” a documentary about Citizen Poet, one of the main cultural projects of the past year.
Sponsored by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and produced by former head of Kommersant Andrei Vasilyev, Citizen Poet is a series of videos featuring famous actor Mikhail Yefremov (the Citizen) reciting satirical poems by award-winning author Dmitry Bykov (the Poet) written in classical Russian poets’ style.
Citizen Poet rose to fame a month after it launched in March 2011 when Dozhd TV took off the air the sixth weekly episode entitled “A tandem in Russia is more than a tandem,” deeming it as insulting the feelings of then- President Dmitry Medvedev.
The poem written in then- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s voice read, in part:
Here’s what troubles me
An old pal of mine won’t pay me a call
And even dares open his mouth
And even dares contradict me
Me who taught him how to ski and keep the Kuriles
When he wouldn’t have said anything impermissible
When he didn’t speak at all
The authors broke the contract with Dozhd and signed a new one with F5, where Citizen Poet was aired until the project was closed with an episode featuring Yefremov as Josef Stalin on the anniversary of his death, March 5, 2012, which the authors planned from the outset.
In an interview with RIA Novosti, Bykov explained: “On March 4 the historical span during which the project could have serious [effect] will be over. [After March 4] Russia will see either the reality of dictatorship or the reality of free Russia.”
A seasoned media manager, Vasilyev says he understood that the project would run out of steam sooner or later. “This became evident after there was a drop in views for the episode about the Julian Assange show on Russia Today,” he told journalists at the press screening of the film on Tuesday.
“It was getting harder to produce something new by every Monday, but we knew that the end was close and it was such a relief.”
In mid-March 2012 Bykov announced that the project could be re-launched but in a different format. “The political situation is still there, and an opportunity to react to it in an aesthetic manner would be of great value,” he told Kommersant.
The director of the documentary, Vera Krichevskaya, a founder of Dozhd who left the channel after the Citizen Poet scandal broke out, believes that the project will be restarted no later than in September.
The last episode of the film features a remark by Vasilyev who says that the project hasn’t earned him enough to buy a flat in London.
“While Andrei can cash in on protests, he’ll continue with that,” Krichevskaya says.
While Vasilyev sees Citizen Poet as a commercial project, Yefremov as a punk show and Bykov as a means of aesthetic self-expression, Krichevskaya points to the impact it has had on the protest movement.
Early this year Krichevskaya went with the Citizen Poet team on a tour around Russia to see what kind of response the show will receive in different cities.
“I was amazed with the people that came to their shows,” she said. “While I believe that we have entered a period of political winter, the film turned out very uplifting, and that’s mainly because of the people. This film is actually about awakening through satire.”
Many of the audience were public servants, according to Krichevskaya, who interviewed hundreds of those who came to see the Citizen Poet show.
She recalled one in Taganrog on February 23, when Citizen Poet performed right after a pro-Putin rally was held in the city.
“Town hall staff I talked to said they first went to a pro-Putin rally and then to our show,” Krichevskaya said. “And that was their way to express protest.”
Vasilyev is much more cynical about the protests’ significance. “When she said she’s making a film about the protest movement in Russia, I thought, “Oh, my God, it’ll be sheer crap.” But our project is so strong that the film turned out pretty good.”
“Bykov thinks that Russia has a future, while I believe that Russia has no future. Nor does it have the past or the present.”
Despite his cynicism, Vasilyev admits that he wouldn’t stand interference from sponsors and appreciated that Mikhail Prokhorov never interfered and never said he was insulted by Bykov’s verse, some of which was mockery of him.
“I could accept money from anyone except from the state,” Vasilyev said. “That would result in the state’s dictatorship and there should be no dictatorship in the project except for my own.”
Krichevskaya believes that the film could be run only in Russia. “I showed it to foreigners that are familiar with the Russian context. They all said that it’s impossible to translate this satire,” she said.
Satire against cynicism
by Moritz Gathmann
The “Citizen Poet” project revived the Russian tradition of satirizing the powerful.
Russia was a different country when, a year ago, the first episode of “Citizen Poet” was broadcasted on the independent, mainly Internet-broadcast, channel “Dozhd” (Rain). There was the actor Mikhail Yefremov, arms crossed, dressed in 19th-century style and sporting a pince-nez, while in the background a crumpled poster of poet Nikolai Nekrasov, whom he was imitating, hung on the wall.
In witty rhyme, Yefremov intoned a hymn of praise to Natalia Vasilieva, press spokesperson for the Moscow court that had just sentenced Mikhail Khodorkovsky for the second time. The woman had declared in an interview that pressure had been brought to bear on the judge: “We guys have silly drunk away our honor and conscience / that Russian woman Natasha Vasilieva has said it all. She gives us hope.”
It was the birth of “Citizen Poet.” In just a few hours, the video became the most popular link on the Russian Internet. The program has three creators: 44-year-old Dmitri Bykov, writer and bitingly humorous columnist for the Moscow periodicals, writes the verses; they are recited by actor Mikhail Yefremov, 48, known in Moscow circles as an inveterate opposition figure and not one to back away from any scandal; and the producer is 54-year-old Andrei Vasiliev, long-time editor-in-chief of the independent daily Kommersant.
The three enjoyed almost universal approval of their program: Russians had been sorely deprived of satire about the Putin regime. For well-known journalist Yury Saprykin, “Citizen Poet” was the last refuge of the opposition. Emasculated by the ruling elite, the opposition could now make fun of them. Others saw in the program a continuation of the series “Kukly” (Puppets) which made fund of politicians and oligarchs from 1994 until it was cancelled in 2002.
Bykov, Yefremov and Vasiliev have remained faithful to their tried-and-true concept for 48 episodes. Yefremov has imitated poets from Kornei Chukovsky to Edgar Allan Poe. Bykov reworks current events into effervescent word acrobatics, whether it’s the ban on gherkin imports from the EU or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s refusal to take part in TV debates with the other presidential candidates.
However, Dozhd did not remain true to the format. Following the sixth episode – a Putin polemic against Medvedev – the views of artists and broadcasters parted on what satire should do. But the fight just made the program more popular. Radio station Ekho Moskvy and online portal F5 took over the project, and now each new episode is seen by hundreds of thousands each week.
After several performances in Moscow, the team went on a tour of the regions last fall and promptly came in for some harsh criticism when it became known that they were being sponsored by oligarch and presidential challenger Mikhail Prokhorov.
Bykov went on the offensive in a newspaper article: “Who gave the orders? Who pays you? Not the Kremlin by any chance?” He started hearing it everywhere. For him it was symptomatic of a sick society, one created by Putin’s regime. “Who gave you the right,” we’re asked. Our response: “No one. We didn’t ask!” And it was precisely to disrupt this ingrained mental attitude of passivity and cynicism that they set out through the country.
The end of Putin as icon
People aren’t really getting anything new from Yefremov and Bykov. The authors are only playing with facts that are already known to those who want to know them, whether it’s the illegal conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the differences of opinion between Putin and Medvedev or the possible spread of the Arab Spring to Russia.
“Citizen Poet” speaks more about what the man on the street currently feels. For 12 long years, the state media have presented Vladimir Putin to the people as an icon. Bykov’s poems are like an antidote to this. In episode after episode, they work towards undermining the sanctity of the regime, removing Putin from his throne, as well as President Dmitry Medvedev, intelligence agents, prosecutors and judges. “Citizen Poet” says that it is necessary to laugh about the most powerful figures in the country. With this in mind, Bykov, Yefremov and Vasiliev paved the way for the protests of recent months. From the Internet, radio and theaters, people are now bringing the message to the streets the message that no one is sacrosanct, not even Vladimir Putin.
“Citizen Poet” made its last appearance in Moscow on March 5 , one day after the presidential elections. “There’ll be another reality after that, one for which we’ll need a new project,” said Bykov, before the final performance.
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