Module 5. Discussion Board

For Discussion Forum 5, please address any of the questions below. As always: you are required to make a minimum of THREE (3) posts per module. At least one of your three posts should be your own original comment; at least one – should be a response to or comment on something another classmate has posted; the third post can be either your own original post or a comment on a classmate’s post. Keep in mind that your response should NOT simply be a summary of the assigned reading. A higher grade will be awarded to posts that demonstrate student’s ability to provide an original interpretation of the topic while also applying relevant concepts, issues, and theories covered in the module.

1. It appears that Mikhail Khodorkovsky has quite a number of images in Russian cultural discourse. He is the oligarch who “stole money from the Russians.” He is also a martyr and “a prisoner of conscience” who suffered from Putin’s regime. And yet again, he is the opposition leader trying to rally his Russian compatriots in the blogosphere. Based on this module’s readings and videos, explain how these (and perhaps other?) images co-exist as part of Russia’s collective perception of Khodorkovsky. Do you feel that the director of the film Khodorkovsky takes a particular stance towards this former oligarch?

2. The film Khodorkovsky begins with a group of young people stating that they either don’t know who Khodorkovsky is or explaining that he is the person who stole lots of money from Russia. Khodorkovsky himself admits that in the 1990s he was far from being “saintly,” yet claims that – at the time – he was simply playing by the rules of his society. The sentiment that Khodorkovsky (and other oligarchs) are basically corrupt tycoons with criminal associations, who promoted their private interests against their country’s well-being, is quite common in today’s Russia. Based on your readings and video materials, discuss why Russians might feel this way towards Khodorkovsky.

3. Discuss how patterns and functions of advertisement in Russia changed from Soviet to post-Soviet times. What new ads appeared in the Putin era? From what you have read and studied so far, how is Soviet and today’s Russian advertisement different from what a Western consumer is used to? Discuss any one of the advertisement campaigns that Birgit Beumers desccribes in her essay “Consumer Culture”: how is this specific ad similar to or different from what a Western consumer sees?

4. Here’s a question meant for the economics / business majors among us. How do you think Bolris Yeltsin’s economic policies of the early 1990’s (especially the economic shock therapy) allow for the emergence of Russia’s oligarchs? Give specific examples from the readings and video materials of the course.

5. From what you have understood from this module (and other readings in this course), what is the nature of the relationship between the economy and politics in Russia? What was the significance of oligarchs in Russia of Boris Yeltsin? Has this significance changed under Vladimir Putin’s presidency?

6. What particularly surprised you in this module’s readings and viewings? What new insights did you gain into the world of contemporary Russia and Russians? Give specific examples from the readings / viewings.

two peer review I choose:

“I believe the Russians had a lot of strong feelings towards Khodorkovsky because he opposed everything they had ever been used to and even the current situations. He was so far out of the ordinary(because of his vast power and wealth) that even if he hadn’t committed several crimes, I think people still would have been skeptical and disliked him. He had several felonies against him, tax evasion, embezzlement, etc, that eventually lead him to jail. To elaborate, he was the richest man in Russia and the second richest man under 40 in the world; this is extremely substantial, especially at the time in Russia, so his crimes were on a much larger scale and a lot more public, leading more people to dislike him. Because of the communist system that was in Russia previously, having people this much richer than others just wasn’t possible, so once it was possible, it was a large shock because he was the first major one. Khodorkovsky being the first obscenely rich man made his corruption and everyone’s reactions to it even worse because it wasn’t a common thing like in the USA today. This made the Russian citizens’ views on rich oligarchs horrible because Khodorkovsky was an extreme case.

More so during Khodorkovsky’s time but even now, the Russian systems(politics, economy, society, etc) are changing, and the citizens are looking to the government and its leaders for guidance. At the beginning of the “Twilight of the Oligarchs,” it explains that Putin and Khodorkovsky had a “showdown.” This is evident with Khodorkovsky going to jail and Putin’s other actions towards him and his power/money. Putin is well favored in Russia, and the Russian citizens are still looking up to him and waiting for guidance, so when seeing Putin fight Khodorkovsky, they are obviously going to be lead to believe that Khodorkovsky is bad because their leader and government are agreeing to that. Beyond this, citizens know that Khodorkovsky has repeatedly committed tax fraud, which ultimately turns around to hurt the government and the citizens when people don’t pay their taxes(clearly making citizens dislike Khodorkovsky and his corruption). Khodorkovsky also spent a lot of time and money into influencing political parties, which citizens have viewed as corruption(up to $100 million as the reading said). This is a very common way for rich people and organizations to push their own beliefs onto the nation. It happened in Russia a lot during that time, but it has and very much still does happen in most countries, like in the US. There is likely extra aggression towards Khodorkovsky because of this political corruption because he was the first one of his era(and the richest). Khodorkovsky had a large variety of corruption(and a large amount because of his wealth and power), which has lead citizens to view his actions as extremely corrupt, most of which were. It was also intensified all by how much the nation was and is changing. “

“Question #3:

The world of advertising has gone through many changes throughout Russia’s past and to the present. During Soviet times advertising was used more as political propaganda or education rather than for selling products. Once the USSR collapsed though and the free market was introduced advertising took a very different turn. Overnight Russia was forced into a consumer culture. Suddenly there were Western ads for Western products flooding Russia, but Russia had no idea what to do with them. The ads were made for Western audiences and not a Russian one thus the ads were not quite a success and sometimes were joked about. What is important in one culture does not mean it is important in another, and the lack of resonance with the Russian people demonstrates that clearly. Now during the Putin era new ads surfaced, and they were ads more directed at the Russian audience that saw them. In Russia there is still a sense of longing for the old party and system that is no more, the old Soviet ideals, and even pre-Revolutionary idyllic life, for the simplicity of their time, and the ads now more reach towards these thoughts. Ads have been more historical in context and look back towards the old Soviet ways for advertising. This is one of the ways that Russian advertising differs from Western, there is not a sense of tradition or memories of the past mentioned in the Consumer Culture article. One of the campaigns mentioned was one for Savinov sweets. There was a common occurrence in renaming places after the Soviet Union collapsed, and they made an advertising campaign based around this relatable concept. They renamed a fictional village from Gorkoye (Bitter) to Savinovo (which I can only imagine means sweet or savory), and gave it a positive spin. Now this specific concept on renaming things in the Soviet context is for sure lost to Western consumers, and things relating to being reminiscent about the past are too, but the Western consumer probably would still understand that turning something bitter into something sweet is simple enough to understand.”