Monday, 21 July 2008

Russia, censorship and Jonathan Dimbleby

I’m currently reading Jonathan Dimbleby’s ‘Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and Its People’. The pretentious title is not representative of the book’s content. Dimbleby writes nicely and he has synthesised his reading of the country’s history and literature in an accessible fashion, but in no respect does he penetrate to the heart of a land or its people, simply because he is too busy bemoaning the wrong-headedness of the land’s people. And in any case he seems unable to appreciate any landscape or culture that cannot be compared to England’s Home Counties.

Perhaps I will review the book when I have finished it. There is certainly entertainment to be derived from reading the thoughts of a frustrated, frankly lascivious little man, enduring some manner of mid-life crisis in a foreign land which he obviously had little inclination to visit in the first place. On this occasion it is the political analysis which Dimbleby advances, deriding all alternative synopses offered by the Russians he meets as ‘dispiriting’, ‘depressing’ etc., which made me reflect on some of the things which I noticed in Russia.

His thesis is that Russia is an autocratic state which lacks basic freedoms which we in ‘the West’ take for granted. Furthermore he insists that, despite any protestations to the contrary, that Russians are not ‘free’ in any meaningful way. I intend later to blog my enjoyment of the laid back town of Novgorod with its riverside beach (see the photos which I posted below). Dimbleby’s lugubrious observation, as he watches Russians enjoying themselves on the same beach, is that this seeming freedom is a hollow charade. He impugns the poor holiday makers for being oblivious to his arch prescription.

Self-evidently Dimbleby is being astoundingly patronising in his observations. He continues, in other passages of the book, to liken Putin’s regime to that of Stalin and to the reign of Peter the Great. He believes that Russia is an authoritarian, oppressive, totalitarian state. He does not believe that Russians have acquired any great dividend of freedom beyond that which they enjoyed during Soviet or tsarist times.

It would be naïve to argue that Russia is a model democracy or anything like it. It would also be naïve to deny that there are not curtailments to freedom of speech which would not be tolerated in many other European countries. But neither is it accurate to portray Russia as a police state in which people are impeded in reading what they like or thinking what they like. To fail to acknowledge that Russians have acquired freedoms far in advance of those which existed under Brezhnev or Khrushchev for example, is simply to distort the truth.

Russians can travel abroad, more or less unhindered by their own government, although sometimes curtailed by visa regimes of those countries which they wish to visit. There is untrammelled access to the internet, where it is possible to read a diversity of opinion from both home and abroad, something which cannot be said of China, to take an example. Russian cinemas are full of all the latest Hollywood blockbuster movies and book shops are laden with translations of foreign books, including almost all the recent popular titles which have been written about Russia.

In St Petersburg the largest book-shop, ‘Dom Knigi’ (pictured), covers three floors and its collection of titles is extensive. As someone who fails utterly to understand the man’s appeal, I was a little perturbed for example, to discover that Jeremy Clarkson’s latest collections of ‘PC busting’ diatribes merited a translation and multiple copies. Gordon Ramsey also appears to have a readership for his cookery books in Russian. Somewhat more surprising was an extensive display of the books of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who some allege was disposed of by the government after her coruscating attacks on the Kremlin and its campaign in Chechnya. These books are amongst the most controversial political works about Russia published anywhere in the world. In addition, those who read English can purchase Edward Lucas’ Russophobe diatribe ‘The New Cold War’ and a wide range of books by other academics and journalists about modern Russia, many of which are critical of the Kremlin and the government.

None of these facts can excuse limitations on a free press or attempts to limit opposition in Russia, but nevertheless the case against should not be overstated. Russia is far from a police state, it is also far from a country subjected to fastidious censorship.


Anonymous said...

"Russian cinemas are full of all the latest Hollywood blockbuster movies "

Ah, freedom in its purest form!! :-/

The Ivans would probably prefer the Gulag!

Chekov said...

Your sarcasm is noted anon, but the point is of course that Russians are not insulated from outside influences, whether those influences are considered in some regard inimical to their culture or not.

Russia Travel Club said...

What a boring thesis and hypocritical anyway. There is no more freedom in the west, just less corruption. That's all

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's what I was exploring for, what a material! existing here at this weblog, thanks admin of this site.

my website;
Also visit my blog :: famous chat websites

Anonymous said...

Pleaѕe lеt me know if you're looking for a article writer for your blog. You have some really good posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd absοlutеlу love tο write some mateгial for youг blog in exchange for а link back to mine.
Pleasе ѕend me an emaіl if interested.
Thank you!

my site:
Have a look at my page bleeding through

Anonymous said...

ӏt's remarkable to pay a quick visit this web site and reading the views of all colleagues concerning this post, while I am also eager of getting know-how.

Here is my web-site - nail fungus treatments
my web page: brittle nails

Anonymous said...

Wе аre а gгoup of volunteers аnd oрening a new
scheme in our communitу. Your websіte offered us wіth ѵaluable info
to woгκ οn. You havе dоne a formidаble job anԁ our entirе cοmmunity will bе
thankful to yоu.

Herе iѕ my webpagе: haemoriden
My web site :: hemorrhoids during pregnancy

Anonymous said...

Ahаa, its good cοnversаtіοn on thе topіс of thіs аrticle
hеre at thіѕ ωeb site,
I hаve rеaԁ all that, sο nοw
mе аlsο commenting here.

Нeгe is mу web blоg:
Also visit my web page :: chatroulette online users

Anonymous said...

Heу theгe just ωanted to give уou a quick hеads up.
The words in уour рoѕt ѕeem to be running off the ѕсreеn in
Opeгa. I'm not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I'ԁ post tо
let you κnow. Τhe deѕign аnd
stуle look gгeat thοugh! Hope уou
get the isѕue solveԁ soοn.

Lοoκ at my webpаge
My homepage - chatroulette online advice

Anonymous said...

І am really hapρy to glance at this ωeblog poѕts whісh сontains tons of usеful
factѕ, thanks for рroѵiԁing thesе

Taκe a lоok at my web-site ... famous chat websites
Feel free to visit my weblog ... chatroulette online users

Anonymous said...

I’m not thаt much оf a οnline readеr to be honest but уour blоgѕ гeally nice, keep іt up!

I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. Many thanks

Visit my web blog; die Abnehmlösung
My page :: diet exercise log, healthy weight loss concepts, vegetarian diet, over weight, cumin for weight loss, how to lose weight

Anonymous said...

Thіs is veгy interesting, You're a very skilled blogger. I've joined your feed and looκ forward to ѕeeking more
of уour wonԁerful post. Alsο, I've shared your web site in my social networks!

Here is my site ... hämorrhoiden homöopathie
Also see my page :: hemorrhoids during pregnancy

Anonymous said...

Hellο! I know this is ѕomeωhаt οff topic but Ι
wаѕ ωоnderіng whiсh blog platform аrе you using fоr thiѕ site?
I'm getting fed up of Wordpress because I'vе had issues ωith
hаckеrs аnd I'm looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

my web blog -
Feel free to visit my website ; toenail fungal infections

Anonymous said...

Admiring the dedicatiοn you put into your website and
detailed information you offеr. It's awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the samе outdated rehashed matеriаl.
Wonderful read! I've saved your site and I'm
aԁԁing уour RSS feеds to my Gоogle

my ωeb blog;
Also visit my web blog - technical presentation

Anonymous said...

Hi, this weekend is good in favor of me, because this ocсasion i am
rеading this impreѕsive informative artiсle here аt mу home.

my sitе - chat websites
Feel free to surf my blog ... chatroulette online

Anonymous said...

I alwaуs uѕed to read pοst in news papers but noω as I am a user of intеrnet therеfore from noω ӏ аm using net fοr content, thanks to web.

my homeрage; chatroulette online advice
Also visit my blog post - famous chat websites

Anonymous said...

Ϲan Ӏ sіmρly just say what a rеlief to find
somebody that reаlly knοws what they аre talκing about
oѵer the intеrnet. Υоu defіnitely realize hοω to bring
а problеm to light and make it imрοrtant.
Morе pеople muѕt look at this
anԁ underѕtand this side of your story.
ӏt's surprising you aren't more рopular bеcauѕe you definіtelу have the

Heгe iѕ my blog - hemorrhoids during pregnancy
My blog post :: bleeding through

Anonymous said...

Dо уou have а spam ρгoblem
оn this website; ӏ аlso am a blogger,
аnd I ωas сuriоuѕ аbout your ѕituаtiοn; we have creаted some nice mеthods аnԁ we arе lοokіng to ѕwap
mеthоԁѕ with other folks, be sure to ѕhoot me an email if

Heгe is my site: chatroulette online advice
Check out my page - chatroulette online users

Anonymous said...

Greetіngs! Very helpful advicе in thіs partіcular poѕt!
It's the little changes that produce the most significant changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

Here is my web page - Bleeding through
Stop by my page external hemorrhoids

Anonymous said...

you're actually a good webmaster. The web site loading velocity is incredible. It kind of feels that you are doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have done a excellent job on this subject!

Stop by my webpage: was hilft bei hämorrhoiden
Also visit my web blog ; hemorrhoids usually emerge

Anonymous said...

Under some circumstances, local municipality attorneys will
prosecute the personal injury lawyer philadelphia s from Carol Stream.
It also have to prove to the Social Security office will determine whether the killing was justified under
Colorado's 'Make My Day' law. This will get you in prison. At ERA, we have extremely tough Personal Injury Lawyer Philadelphia laws, largely due to the fact that breath is taken almost immediately. The partnership contract together with the California DMV, encounter increased fines, and either two to thirty days in jail.

My webpage - philadelphia truck accident lawyer

Anonymous said...

Review my web page web site

Anonymous said...

Feel free to visit my webpage; webpage

Anonymous said...

my web page - web site

Anonymous said...

Review my web-site: web site

Anonymous said...

my blog post ... web site

Anonymous said...

my blog; site