Expert: the success of Navalny’s film can be compared to the effect of the publication of the Gulag Archipelago

#57- Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago: How Literature Can Save Us

Navalny's investigation film &# 171; Putin's Palace has over 40 million views on YouTube

The number of views on Alexei Navalny's YouTube video "Putin's Palace" is growing by about one million per hour. Thus, the investigation film has already gained more than 40 million views, and it has every chance of becoming one of the most successful projects of Navalny..

Recall that the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Alexei Navalny, published a two-hour video on the so-called palace of President Vladimir Putin near Gelendzhik and a number of other objects, which, according to him, belong to the head of state, but are decorated with dummies. … The press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov predictably called the provided information untrue.

A new investigation by FBK was published a day after the court in Khimki sent FBK founder Alexei Navalny to jail for 30 days after his return to Russia from Germany..

The investigation was carried out before Navalny was detained, and the result was a documentary film in which Alexei Navalny himself participates, and a text with visualization.

The so-called "Putin's Palace", aka "Residence on Cape Idokopas", was built in 2005-2010 on the Black Sea coast near Gelendzhik.

The businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who then participated in the financing of the construction, estimated the cost of the project at $ 1 billion..

According to the video and documentary evidence presented in the film, in addition to the main palace designed by the Italian architect, with an area of ​​more than 17 sq. km, the complex includes an underground ice palace, vineyards and wineries, a church and an 80-meter bridge "to approach the teahouse." There is also a tunnel to descend from the palace to the sea.

According to the investigation, the area of ​​the site under the palace complex is 68 hectares, but it is surrounded by a "buffer zone" with an area of ​​7,000 hectares, owned and guarded by the FSB. A no-fly zone has been introduced over the territory, and a forbidden zone of 2 km in the adjacent water area.

The project was financed through transfers of the largest Russian companies – Rosneft, Gazprom, the Bank of Russia and others – to the accounts of shell companies for fictitious services. The film once again reminds that these concerns are headed by persons whom the media since the time of Vladimir Putin's service in the KGB and the St. Petersburg mayor's office call him his closest associates – Igor Sechin, Alexey Miller and Yuri Kovalchuk.

Sergei Lukashevsky: "Everyone in Russia understands perfectly well that the authorities live in complete isolation from the people and reality"

Director of the Sakharov Center Sergei Lukashevsky believes that the popularity of the FBK film cannot be viewed in isolation from Navalny's return and arrest. At the same time, in his opinion, people who watch the film are driven by several motives..

“It seems to me that everyone in Russia understands perfectly well that the authorities live in complete isolation from the people and reality, that this is a completely different world,” he stated in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America. – But still, very few people fully imagine the real scale of the abyss. In part, the success of the film can be compared with the effect of the publication of "The Gulag Archipelago" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. After all, even before that, people knew that there were massive political repressions, but the novel shows the true scale of the tragedy. Here, on a completely different level and on a different topic, about the same situation ".

Of course, people are always interested in looking behind the screen that separates them from the life of those in power, believes Sergei Lukashevsky. And the film, in his opinion, allows you to do this, it even provides some juicy details of everyday life that can shock the average Russian who lives solely on one salary or pension..

In particular, the investigation claims that Putin's residence is furnished with exclusive furniture made to order from premium Italian factories. According to the catalog, all items cost several million rubles. The film also talks about holders for toilet paper for 92 thousand rubles (in terms of euros) each and toilet brushes for 62 thousand rubles, which were equipped with booths at a winery that produces wine for the president and his guests. The average pension in Russia is about 15 thousand rubles.

“In general, it seems to me that neither this film, nor the extremely courageous act of Alexei Navalny will radically change the situation in the country right now,” he added. “This is all part of a long struggle that Alexei and his supporters have entered into. We will see its results at best in a few years. So far we are seeing not so much the strengthening of civil society or opposition public opinion as the strengthening of the government itself, which openly relies on control and repression. ".

But "mole of history" digs unnoticed, summed up the director of the Sakharov Center.

Maria Snegovaya: Navalny is escalating, raising the stakes

Maria Snegovaya, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a political scientist and researcher at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, believes that the publication by Alexei Navalny of an investigation into Putin's Palace is a very bold, but at the same time extremely dangerous step for a Russian anti-corruption fighter..

“He is now in prison and is completely under the control of the Kremlin, in a situation where the same Kremlin, as we understand, already tried to kill him in August. In fact, Navalny is escalating and raising the stakes. This is audacious and bold, but also dangerous, since the Russian regime has become much tougher and more repressive over the past six months, and the measures of containment – neither internal resistance nor Western sanctions – are so far unable to influence it. On the whole, this is a very bright step that requires outstanding courage, "notes Maria Snegovaya in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America..

According to the political scientist, Navalny's investigation will further weaken support for the regime, but it is unlikely that it will lead to its downfall. Nevertheless, it can be expected that the popularity and trust in the Russian oppositionist among Russians will grow – both as a result of his return to his homeland and the investigation..

“According to various polls, we see that the trust rating for Navalny has grown somewhere from 1-2% to 3-4% at the federal level. This is almost a doubling of the rating, however, everything is still close to the static error, "- notes Snegovaya, adding that it is quite difficult to predict how this investigation will affect the growth of support for Alexei Navalny..

“So far over the past 6 months, the mobilization of society in Russia has been very weak. There were no large-scale protests after Alexei's poisoning, a couple of thousand people came to meet him at Vnukovo – fewer than expected by the authorities, and at the pre-trial detention center where he is being held, at different times there were no more than 50-100 people. This is partly due to the weather. But it also seems that against the backdrop of the pandemic and the related bans on protests imposed by the government, the crisis and the endless rule of Putin, Russians have plunged into some kind of apathy. Alexei usually feels a public demand, and perhaps he is right that this bright film will be able to wake up society, says the political scientist. – Such things are very difficult to predict, as a rule, they happen suddenly. However, I do not have the feeling that the Russians are ripe at the moment for a sharp mobilization. The protest will surely be massive, but we are unlikely to see a repeat of 2011-12 ".

The expert adds that one should hardly expect a reaction from the West to the investigation itself, but it will follow if Alexei Navalny is convicted for a longer term. In this case, the introduction of new sanctions by both the United States and the European Union is not excluded..

“However, there is a more global problem that these measures do not work. We see that they do little to restrain the regime against escalation, it continues to kill people outside and inside Russia, "Snegovaya concludes..

Expert: the success of Navalny's film can be compared to the effect of the publication of the GULAG Archipelago

Boris Kagarlitsky: "If someone created a stir around the film, then these are people from the presidential administration"

In turn, the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, Boris Kagarlitsky, is convinced that the FBK investigation does not so much affect the state of Russian public opinion as it reflects it. Moreover, according to him, 80 percent of the video contains already known facts..

"The only thing is that new financing schemes have been added for the entire venture with the construction of the palace," said the interlocutor of the "Russian Service" of the Voice of America. " “But, probably, it is of more interest for the trial, which may take place in the future, than for the mass audience”.

At the same time, the sociologist asks the question why, then, the film became so successful? It seems to him that the matter is not in Putin's "palace", but in the political situation in the country. “Firstly, everyone is pretty tired of the authorities, they discredited themselves and every day continues to aggravate their situation,” he stressed. – Secondly, this is due to the poisoning of Navalny, his return to Russia and his subsequent arrest. All this sharply raised interest in the politician, as well as confidence in himself and his investigations. Therefore, if someone created a stir around the film, it was people from the presidential administration who made such an amazing and at the same time outrageous decision (in relation to the oppositionist) ".

Boris Kagarlitsky is sure that Russia has accumulated materials for dozens and hundreds of scandalous large-scale criminal trials against the current representatives of the government and the oligarchy. But the case can only reach the courts if there are political changes in the country, he concluded..

John Herbst: this investigation will strengthen support for Navalny, but not much

Former US ambassador to Ukraine and head of the Eurasian Center at the Washington Atlantic Council, John Herbst (Atlantic Council) believes that Navalny's investigation will slightly increase his support among Russians, but will not have any significant impact on Russian society..

“For a certain part of the population, at least for several million people, and maybe more, this investigation will be additional evidence that the Putin regime is corrupt. I think many people believe that the government in Russia is corrupt and this latest investigation provides clear evidence of this. But I do not expect that now the Russian people will say that Putin should leave, although this investigation, of course, undermines the authority of President Putin and the legitimacy of this regime, ”John Herbst tells the Russian Voice of America.

The former ambassador also notes that FBK had previously strong investigations, which at first "create a sensation, but then everything subsides.".

“I think it will be so in this case,” he said. – Navalny's investigations are really impressive. They provide interesting and important information, but they have not been able to help him completely break free from the isolation that the Kremlin has placed him in. ".

As for the Western countries, they realize that the Russian authorities are a kleptocratic regime, but this investigation is unlikely to cause any concrete steps from the West..

  • Victor Vladimirov

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  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economic

Expert: the success of Navalny's film can be compared to the effect of the publication of the GULAG Archipelago