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Feature Story April 22, 2004
Lord of the Swine
Censorship in Russia: Revenge of the Disenfranchised By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 4 of 7
"'You know, it's so strange: I don't have a single drop of Jewish blood in me. But when I stood there, on the Mount of Olives across from the Golden gate -- you remember, the oldest Jewish cemetery there? -- I felt it in my bones: this is the place where I would like to be buried.'

"I had never confided this to anyone. Because in words it sounds stupid and pafosno [!]. But Chubais listened and understood, like no other person had ever listened or could possibly have understood me then."

Then there is her friend Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the mysterious oligarch who heads Sistema, whom she meets in Bavaria, and later dines with at Scandinavia. Yevtushenkov becomes, she tells us, her "emotional psychiatrist," driving her around town in his elitny car. Even Tregubova's elitny friend Sonya approves of her relationship with Yevtushenkov, and Sonya, well, normally Sonya doesn't like oligarchs. So her approval means something.

"I told Yevtushenkov with a laugh the compliment he earned from my friend. Yevtushenkov didn't believe me. 'Yes,'re just trying to set me at ease. All I've ever said is a lot of stupid stuff,' he modestly commented."

Nowhere do we learn how this man, Luzhkov's appointed oligarch, earned his billions; all we know is that he's a prince on a white horse (ie., an oligarch in a black Merc) who spends a lot of time making Tregubova feel good about herself, and much more is left implied, including their trip together to Rome, where, we can assume, she visited the Via Nationale again.

Her most interesting elitny friend, however, has to be former Kremlin administration chief Alexander Voloshin. One would have thought that the architect of the very authoritarianism which Tregubova claims to be a victim of would be the central villain of her book. However, he talks to her; he gives her access. Therefore, he's an all right guy. And an interesting character, one I wish we had more of.

As the Kremlin press secretary succeeds more and more in denying Tregubova access -- either because she's not malleable or because she works for Berezovsky, it's never quite clear which -- she complains to Voloshin why censorship is wrong, using the old primitivny argument: " 'There isn't a civilized country in the world that treats its press this way,' I tried to explain. [...] 'Neither in Germany, nor in France, nor in the USA could a press secretary ban someone from the press pool from asking the head of state a question.'"

H'm. Someone should tell that to Helen Thomas.

Voloshin listens. He's funny. He answers the bimbo exactly like a grade school teacher: "'Really?! It's so easy for you to say! And who would you have us hire as press secretary instead? Well, how about you for example, should we make you the president's press secretary? Huh? What? Will you do it? I'm serious!' Stalyevich suggested. [Stalyevich is Voloshin's patronymic -- Ed.]

"'Why would I want that!' I whispered in horror.

"'Aha! Of course! Here you all go around criticizing, but no one wants that job!' Voloshin laughed.

"Two hours after our conversation Voloshin called me back and without any pafos said, 'Listen, Len, you asked me to figure out what kinds of problems arose between you and the press secretary...I solved it. You're accredited on tomorrow's trip with Putin.'"

Ah, what glorious power! Voloshin is wonderful, playing with Tregubova "like a bunny rabbit" to use one of his expressions. In the end, she judges the architect of her demise positively, precisely because he flatters her with attention, unlike the meanies in the press secretary's office: "I'll admit it: after several months of non-stop personal meetings with Voloshin, I, in spite of my own willpower, felt respect towards him. I very soon felt a distinct resonance between us -- first and foremost because he is not a man of exterior but rather a man of the interior [...] And like all strong personalities, Voloshin always attracted other strong people..." You get the elitny point.

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