Sunday, February 02, 2014

Russian TV channel under fire over Leningrad siege question

Soviet propaganda lives on

Someone at Dozhd TV, a popular independent television channel, thought that the eve of the 70th anniversary this week of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad would be a good time to get its viewers' opinions on a simple question: "Should Leningrad have been surrendered to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people?"

Wrong question.

World War II is a sacred subject in Russia, where it is known as the Great Patriotic War. It's not a topic that invites examination or scepticism. The facts, as understood in Russia, are that the Soviet people, through tremendous and heroic sacrifice, saved their country and the rest of the world from the Nazis. The story of Leningrad - today's St Petersburg - is part of that understanding.

Moving beyond those facts, which are largely correct, is not welcome.

Leningrad endured a siege by the German army that lasted 900 days, from 1941 to 1944. As many as 900,000 people died - 1000 per day - most from starvation and exposure. The siege left the city a shambles.

Outrage, much of it calculated, has poured down upon Dozhd since Sunday.  Irina Yarovaya, a member of parliament from the ruling United Russia party, called the survey an "attempt to rehabilitate Nazism," the Interfax news agency reported.  Other politicians accused the station of extremism, a crime in Russia.

Cable operators are dropping Dozhd from their packages. The Russian agency in charge of mass communications plans to issue a formal warning.

As if on cue, the St. Petersburg prosecutor's office, which called the question "blasphemous," said it "is carrying out an inquiry concerning possible violations - whether or not the TV channel overstepped the border of what is acceptable ahead of the memorable date of the breakthrough of the Siege of Leningrad."

Russian official history doesn't care to dwell on the more horrifying aspects of the siege: cannibalism, families abandoning children, children abandoning parents. It isn't appropriate here to wonder whether Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who never liked the city, was trying to punish it by not doing more to lift the siege.

Maybe these were questions Dozhd had in mind, but the survey was quickly pulled from the website, and editor-in-chief Mikhail Zygar apologised. The station says it won't fire anyone over the survey. A few stalwart members of the opposition have come to its defence, on the grounds that simply asking such a question cannot be a legal offence, even in Russia.

"Closing the channel would demonstrate a profound contempt for those who want to compare different sources of information," wrote former politician Irina Khakamada on the Dozhd website.



Anonymous said...

Putin's Russia is not really much different from Lenin's. Just a change in puppet masters.

Anonymous said...

I think Orwell said it best in 'Animal Farm' which was specifically aimed at Russia after the revolution. Now they have another "revolution" after the Soviets, but with Putin as the new Stalinist Czar.

Anonymous said...

Russians have been and still are far more barbaric to their fellow Russians than anyone else has ever been. Stalin hated Leningrad and let the Germans destroy what he considered the remnants of “white” Russia.


Anonymous said...

Stalin was a Georgian, though Georgia didn't fair will under Uncle Joe either.