REVIEW / A fledgling democracy wakes up to bad eggs (CORRECTED)
Friday 06 May 1994
IN A PORTRAIT of democracy, British- style, Margaret Thatcher (Con) awaits the count in her constituency. Sitting alongside her is Lord Buckethead (Ind), a man with a large bucket on his head and not a cat's chance in a kennel of winning. In a portrait of democracy, Russian-style, there is a muddle of candidates (some Ind, some Con, most just cons), none of whom needs silly headgear to advertise their absurdity but many of whom wear it anyway to guard against the harsh winters.
You would have taken away several questions from Moscow Central (C 4), which followed the capital's candidates through last December's hustings. For example, do you like your politicians raw or cooked? Here they're boiled to a homogenised, media-friendly mush. In Russia, where democracy is several aeons in arrears, you can still tell the difference between one buckethead and the next. One extorts and exchanges money illegally, another wears a flak jacket and edits a muck-raking newspaper, another on the run from a corruption charge sits on a pile of money in Mayfair, and another 'owns' a satellite television station. Would you put your X next to any of them, or next to the Communist devil you know?
The only thing each candidate agreed on is that he alone is the true saviour of Russia. For a moment, as we watched once more the cinematic strafing of the parliament building, it looked as though this film would turn in an apocalyptic, slow- motion homage to Yuris Podnieks. The message, after all, of the late Latvian's documentaries, apart from the fact that the nascent babble of voices makes this the place to film the effects of social change on individuals, was that here is a country that definitely needs saving. But then we started hanging out with the candidates and the film rapidly opted out of the Future of Mother Russia debate to zoom in on the saviours: Frolov (Comm), Minkin (Hack), Tarasov (Emig), Krasnov (Maf) and Vostrikov (Mad).
From all of them emanated a whiff of sulphur - apart, that is, from Vostrikov (Mad), the founder, presenter, and on- screen engineer of Liberty TV (and, incidentally, the only candidate who had secured a certificate of sanity - God knows how he pulled that one). You met him and rejoiced, for the Dostoyevskian holy fool is alive and well and filming his own election campaign. He ended up with a none- too-whopping one per cent of the vote, but he was at the core of Clive Gordon's wonderfully edited episodic narrative. As he adjusted the feedback from incoming calls on his phone-in show, it was as if you could hear the mewling and puking of democracy. 'Can I make a criticism?' asked one caller. 'Of course you can]' 'I don't think an incompetent like you should go into politics.' 'Well, what do you suggest?' 'Well, your programmes are rubbish. Those Indian films are terrible.' There speaks the truly trivial voice of democracy.
You hunted in vain for similarities with our own electoral practices. Activists handed out manifesto leaflets and everyone on the street grabbed one: was this the thirst for new ideas, or just proof that now even toilet paper is expensive? Before a press conference, journalists were entertained by cello and piano accompaniment, a typically Russian affirmation that high culture elevates even low vultures. An opponent cancelled the press call of Minkin (Hack) for him. Frolov (Comm) claimed the election would be rigged, and he should know, 'because we have great experience of falsifying elections'. Only in Russia.
The winner was Tarasov (Emig), which suggests that metropolitan Muscovites most admire exiled millionaires who are fleeing from the State. His main television exposure was on Vostrikov's show, after a screening of his own six-hour documentary, but Vostrikov shut the phone-in down after losing his temper. The police twiddled their thumbs as they waited for Tarasov to show for his interview. He's now back in Mayfair. Russia has been saved from at least one of her saviours.
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results, study finds
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
MOBO Awards 2014: Jess Glynne hits back at 'ridiculous' criticism of nominated white artists
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth fired in double elimination
MOBO Awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with double elimination
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters