Land of the absurd

‘Ukraine bans its Eurovision entrant’. It’s the kind of line an absurdist novelist might come up with. But it’s actually the title of a story in today’s BBC News, and it’s an indication of how truth is sometimes more absurd than fiction. On Saturday, Ukrainian singer Maruv won the competition to represent her country at this year’s Eurovision song contest, but she was almost immediately stripped of her victory.  Maruv often sings in Russia, and was told that she would not be allowed to continuing do so. Even when she agreed to cancel her next tour there, discussions of her Eurovision contract collapsed due to other terms which Maruv considered amounted to ‘censorship’. She complained that, ‘I am not ready to address [people] with slogans, turning my participation into the promotion of our politicians. I am a musician, rather than a bat at the political stage.’ According to the BBC,

In a statement, the state-funded UA:PBC said: ‘The performer representing Ukraine … also has commmitments of becoming a cultural ambassador of Ukraine and delivering not only their music but also expressing the opinion of the Ukrainian society in the world.’ … The TV station was backed by politicians, with the Ukrainian Culture Ministry saying that ‘only patriots who are aware of their responsibility’ should be allowed to sing at Eurovision.

I had thought that Eurovision was a singing competition, but I stand corrected. During the TV show to choose Ukraine’s song at this year’s contest, singers were quizzed by the host on their political views concerning Russia. As a report by AP notes,

Maruv was grilled about her Russian shows during the national finals in Kiev over the weekend. Similarly, another entry, a duo of twins from Crimea, were put on the spot by the host and asked whether they consider Crimea to be part of Ukraine. ‘Depending on your answer, you can either bury your own career or that of your mother,’ the host said, referring to the women’s mother who is a judge in the Russian-controlled Crimea.

What a nauseating statement by the host. But all credit to the twins. As AP records, ‘One of the sisters was brought to tears and said she would always stand by her parents if she were forced to choose between them and her career.’ Don’t expect her to get the contract to replace Maruv.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has transferred its culture wars and censorship proclivities over here to Canada. The cinema chain Cineplex is planning to show the Russian blockbuster T-34 which, as the title suggests, is all about the Second World War and, if the trailer is anything to go by, shows a lot of heroic action as Soviet warriors smash up Nazis with their T-34 tank. It seems like a fairly boiler-plate war movie. But the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) is having none of it. According to the UCC website:

The T-34 tank was the weapon used by Soviet Communism to keep captive the peoples of Eastern Europe for four decades. Together with its Nazi German ally, at the beginning of WWII, the Soviet regime invaded and subjugated eastern Poland, the Baltic States and several other independent east European states. As Soviet forces rolled east on T-34 tanks in the second half of World War II, they systematically committed myriad war crimes, crimes against humanity, mass rape, extrajudicial murder and ethnic cleansing. … That the current Russian regime, which funded this film, seeks to pay homage to this murderous history, speaks only to its own embrace of imperialism, aggression, and belligerence.

A letter sent to Cineplex by the UCC elucidates further:

The film uses a narrative of World War II heroism to inspire a crusade of ‘true’ Russians against ‘fascist’ enemies. This is representative of the pro-Russian disinformation we see around the world … We call on Cineplex to review the film in question and to listen seriously to the concerns expressed about the film and its producers. Please do not allow your company to be used as a means to amplify Russian propaganda and reconsider the decision to screen T-34 at your theatres.

There are some common threads running through these stories. In the first place, what should be entirely cultural activities, or simply pure entertainment, has been politicised, and in a rather unpleasant way. Second, the reaction to unwanted messages is to resort to censorship. And third, this kind of stuff makes the would-be censors look like fools and tends to backfire. The Eurovision publicity will no doubt help sell lots of tickets for Maruv’s next Russian tour; and an attempt to block the showing of T-34 in San Francisco actually led to it being shown in a bigger cinema and even more people seeing it than would have done otherwise. T-34 doesn’t sound like my kind of movie. I hadn’t planned to go to it. But now I will. I’m guessing that the Nazis lose.

 

 

46 thoughts on “Land of the absurd”

    1. Not such a fun matter. Some years back, I recall the North-American Ukrainian weekly TV show known as “Kontakt”, giving a favorable review of this movie concerning the OUN/UPA:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Undefeated_(2000_film)

      In the Daily Beast, a David Axe (who comes across as a bit of a hack) wrote a negative review of the T-34 movie in question, essentially characterizing it as nationalist tripe. I haven’t seen that movie or the aforementioned one on the OUN/UPA. I’m interested to see which of the two is more BS.

      As for Eurovision, let’s see if they’ve the yarbels (which based on the past, they lack) to take some kind of a punitive action against the Kiev regime. For openers, they could invite Maruv as an independent. The IOC does that regarding competent athletes who for whatever reason are unable to represent a given nation. After all, Murav qualified on merit.

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  1. Long and silly excerpt from Liddell Hart:

    https://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Hill-Grand-Strategy/dp/0330373242

    Talking more specifically of the Russian weapons Kleist
    said: “Their equipment was very good even in 1941, especially
    the tanks. Their artillery was excellent, and also most of the
    infantry weapons-their rifles were more modern than ours, and
    had a more rapid rate of fire. Their T.34 tank was the finest
    in the world.” In several discussions, Manteuffel emphasized
    the excellent basic qualities of Russian tank design, and parti-
    ularly the advantage they gained from the· fact that “their
    tracks are strong and broad, enabling the tanks to climb, wade
    and cross ditches without the tracks coming off.”

    Guderian said: “The Russians picked up their ideas for the
    design of their tanks in the U.S.A. The main tank of 1941 was
    the first Christie Russkij, a development of the U.S. Christie.
    and soon after the beginning of the campaign, the well-known
    T.34, which shows the forms of the Christie. The T.34 tank
    was first produced in 1941, and first appeared at the front in
    July, 1941, while the Stalin tank first appeared in 1944.

    “Thus the T.34 tank was superior to the German tanks in
    tracks, in motors, in armour and in gun, but inferior in optics
    and radio-and it had no turret for the tank commander with
    all-round sight. When-in 1943-the German Panther and
    Tiger tanks appeared on the battlefields, the superiority passed
    again to the Germans . but it applied only to the single tank,
    .and not to the quantity. The Russians produced their T.34
    tanks without modifications in great series. while Hitler could
    not be prevented from perpetually changing the types, thus
    causing repeated reductions of the series.
    “Therefore, anxious to learn from history, I give you the
    warning not to underrate the Russians. They, at least, are
    able to copy the ideas of others in a very short time.”
    Some further comments of interest came from Captain von
    Senger – son of a panzer corps commander-who after com-
    manding a tank unit in Russia. and losing an arm, was adjutant
    to the Inspector of Panzer Forces in the last part of the war.
    “The general design or the Russian tanks was good. while
    simple to the point of crudity. They did not provide comfort
    for the crews, as the German, British and American tanks did,
    and the exterior was as rough as the interior – not even painted.
    But the gun-mounting and other essentials were well designed.
    Prior to the summer of 1943 there was wireless only in the
    tanks of platoon commanders and above, but after that all
    tanks were fitted with wireless, beginning with the new T.34
    which then appeared, the crew being increased from four to five
    to provide for an operator.” (Manteuffel mentioned: “I met,
    on several occasions. women wireless operators in tanks-they
    were extremely brave, tough and fanatical.”)
    Senger emphasized: “The Russians had these principles-to
    pick up the best type of machine wherever they got it; to have
    only a very few type:.: to construct the type assimply as
    possible; and then to produce these types in large quantities.
    Our panzer division in ‘942 had twelve different types of
    armoured vehicle and twenty types of other vehicle. The
    Russian armoured corps then had mostly only one type of
    tank, the T.34. and one other vehicle, the Ford truck!

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    1. I’ve started watching ‘Trotsky’ on Netflix, but its distortions of history are so great I’m not sure I’m going to keep on going. For instance, the show has Stolypin order a false flag operation in St Petersburg in October 1905 to make it look like revolutionaries are shooting the police. But not only did Stolypin never do such a thing, but he wasn’t even in St Petersburg in October 1905. Arrghh…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t see Trotsky, but I watched The Fall of the Empire 2005. Trotsky is probably of the same genre, establishing a consistent anti-Bolshevik narrative. Соц-заказ. Like with any other narrative, historical accuracy is not part of the equation.

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      2. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/12/19/tele-n25.html

        Subject says it all:

        Russian television’s Trotsky serial: A degraded spectacle of historical falsification and anti-Semitism

        “To the extent that this Trotsky has any enduring significance, it is as a demonstration of the fear and hatred of the October Revolution held by the Russian regime and the oligarchical elite. A quarter century after the dissolution of the USSR, the Putin regime—which more or less openly promoted this film and welcomed its broadcast on Kanal Pervyi (the most prominent TV channel) as an official event—cannot allow anything approaching an objective and honest portrayal of the October Revolution.”

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      3. If you haven’t already done so, I take it you aren’t keen on seeing the Steve Buscemi involved film “The Death of Stalin”, which is influenced by a combo of NY raised folks, who like mob movies and whose understanding of Soviet history is limited to History Channel documentaries.

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      4. My very lame, pedantic reply to Mikhail:

        https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/03/09/stal-m09.html

        “Taken in and of themselves, there are amusing lines and moments, until one remembers the general context and the historical stakes, and the laughter freezes in one’s throat. All the actors are fine at doing what they are asked to do, but what they are asked to do is terribly off the mark.

        It is impossible to make sense of a film like The Death of Stalin except in the context of the disastrously low level of historical knowledge or interest that exists in the arts at present.”

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  2. Talking of historical inaccuracy, the Canadian Yukie organization statement quoted in the article takes some beating:

    The T-34 tank was the weapon used by Soviet Communism to keep captive the peoples of Eastern Europe for four decades. Together with its Nazi German ally, at the beginning of WWII, the Soviet regime invaded and subjugated eastern Poland, the Baltic States and several other independent east European states. As Soviet forces rolled east on T-34 tanks in the second half of World War II, they systematically committed myriad war crimes, crimes against humanity, mass rape, extrajudicial murder and ethnic cleansing. … That the current Russian regime, which funded this film, seeks to pay homage to this murderous history, speaks only to its own embrace of imperialism, aggression, and belligerence.

    Surely the Moskali beasts were rolling westwards?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Land of the Absurd”

    Even before I read the first sentence I knew that Professor decided to risk everything and start talking about the Ukraine 😉

    “The performer representing Ukraine … also has commmitments of becoming a cultural ambassador of Ukraine and delivering not only their music but also expressing the opinion of the Ukrainian society in the world.’”

    Hmmm… And what’s the underlying “message” of this year’s French performer?

    “In the first place, what should be entirely cultural activities, or simply pure entertainment, has been politicised, and in a rather unpleasant way.”

    Well, d’uh – everything is a propaganda!

    “And third, this kind of stuff makes the would-be censors look like fools and tends to backfire.”

    Nah, there are either Western or pro-Western. They’ll be fine, they are allowed to be hypocritical.

    Okay, and now – lifehack.

    1) Ukraine chooses as their singer the most щирый та справжнiй citizen, who’s, naturally, also a cyborg, veteran of the ATO, Maidan jumper and regular to зал УПА (Kyiv).

    2) He signs the Ukrainian anthem.

    3) After finishing, he’ll threaten both the audience and the judges, that those who won’t be voting for him are separs and agent of the Kremlin

    4) ???

    5) Ukraine wins – SUGS!

    Either this or that method:

    Both are totally in lieu with the current trends in the Ukraine.

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  4. Good blogpost, Professor! You might want to fix that one typo:
    “Ukrainian signer Maruv …” SINGER. Haha!

    In my own post on the matter, I came up with the perfect solution for the Borderlands. They must submit President Poroshenko as their singing contestant; and he must sing the same song as won the contest previously for ABBA:


    The history book on the shelf
    Is always repeating itself
    Waterloo
    I was defeated, you won the war
    Waterloo!

    heh heh!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, T-34 is indeed a rather bad movie from both historical accuracy and story content viewpoints. So you wouldn’t loose much by not seeing it.

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      1. Disagree, Fury do not have a scene of manly handshake between Brad Pitt and some brave and noble SS officer. So it gets a lot of points just for that.

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      2. >Instead it has entire “WTF?!” borderline mikhalkovschina final combat scene.

        Late-war SS were glorified folksturm so it was realistic enough, IMO.

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      3. “Late-war SS were glorified folksturm so it was realistic enough, IMO.”

        You misremember. Only those few teens in the beginning of the movie were of the folksturm kind. The final battle scene was against unrealistically clean bettalion strong force with a crapton of panzerfausts (which they failed to use rationally anyway), machineguns, several snipers, oh, and several armoured personell carries to boot. In April 1945. Yeah…

        And don’t even get me started on the Murikan defense tactics… And that last scene with the young SS trooper and a flashlight… Like I said – borderline mikhalkovschina.

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    1. > Like I said – borderline mikhalkovschina.

      Not really. Panzerfausts? Well, it is not like commander of this unit was at liberty to waste all his reserves of AT weapons on a lone tank. So he did what he must. Literally, there is nothing wrong with this scene other than that it is not very flattering to the Germans. But honestly, wanking on German war machine became tiresome a long time ago.

      People like Alexey Isaev and Dmitri Shein consider this scene good enough for the movie industry standard. And I do not see any reason to split hairs over it because, oh horror. SS members wern’t portrayed competent enough.

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      1. “But honestly, wanking on German war machine became tiresome a long time ago”

        Good – because I’m not. Take yor strawman back to wherewher you are keeping it for the flamewars. I’m pointing oit American incompetence, especially in light that this episode has a basis in reality (“all in accordance to secret documents”, year…), just it happened in 3rd, not 2nd Armored Division. The solution of the real life American surviovor of that battle was brilliant – he just closed himself inside a tank. And this might even have worked here, because, as you write:

        “Well, it is not like commander of this unit was at liberty to waste all his reserves of AT weapons on a lone tank. “

        The scene shows the Nazis had literally crates full of them. The number PzF used effectively? One (1). So instead we are treated with “слабоумие vs отвага” of German zerg rush vs Murikan PATHOS and PREVAILING. Even Shia Labeouf. Well, tries, anyway.

        “People like Alexey Isaev and Dmitri Shein consider this scene good enough for the movie industry standard”

        Where and when?

        “…oh horror. SS members wern’t portrayed competent enough.”

        Everyone was portrayed in half-assed manner.

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  6. You’re missing a main point that performing in, and gaining a high profile in Russia is essential for most, nearly all, main Ukrainian performers and music groups in order to make a living.

    There is no such thing as a Ukrainian pop-star who isn’t famous in Russia, and vice-versa.

    on T-34 – Stalingrad did very well in Ukrainian cinemas a few years back. If allowed a wide-release in Ukraine, and in a make-believe world were there was no pressure or threats of violence – the film , T-34, would be undoubtedly one of the highest grossing films of the year in Ukraine

    All this fuss is counterproductive to those in Ukraine supporting the “Ukraine is moving away from Russia” thesis. If anything, relatively trivial pop-culture incidents like these highlight how interconnected and interdependent the two countries are than, or the same as, ever.

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  7. The Eurovision Song Contest is always political. Funny how Greece always give Cyprus 12 points and vice versa. Countries vote for their neighbours and never for historical enemies. What has happened recently is the syndrome of diaspora voting, hence the larger than expected votes for Armenia or the high German votes for Turkey or Albania. “Neutral”countries such Ireland in the 1990’s do well. Larger countries do worse. Countries subject to vilification such as Russia post 2014 do worse. The booing of the Russian entry in 2014 sung by 16 year old twin girls was pretty unpleasant. Britain who has pissed off virtually every country in Europe has done spectacularly badly.

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      1. This is has changed a bit and some of the voting is a bit schizophrenic. For instance Serbia and Croatia regularly give each other high scores as do the other Yugoslav states despite recent conflicts. There other cases which are asymmetrical e.g Russia gives Ukraine high scores (diaspora?) but gets lower votes from the Ukrops. I am sure somebody did a phd on this

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      2. ” For instance Serbia and Croatia regularly give each other high scores as do the other Yugoslav states despite recent conflicts”

        Seriously? I actually got this from my Balkan friends, that they hate all those with a common border, and positively love (brothers!) all the rest.

        But maybe Eurovision is different. Watched mostly by yuts, and then with Serbs and Croats the common language probably plays a role.

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  8. politics dictating on art…. it has never worked, and this is a classic example of boneheadedness from the usual suspects…

    eric – good point… here in canada, if an artist wants to reach a larger audience, they have to go to the usa… it is a good thing we speak the same language or freeland would probably be working here magic in this dept as well, lol…

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  9. Ukraine has now withdrawn from Eurovision after the other contestants refused to take up the vacant slot. The broadcaster complained: ‘The song contest is an opportunity for every country to announce itself in the international arena, and for each performer to act as an ambassador, But the national selection 2019 revealed… a systemic problem in Ukraine’s music industry: The connection of artists to the territory of the aggressor state.’ https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-47394371

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    1. Kudos to the second and third place finishers to Maruv, who declined to go.

      The svidomites (derisive term for Ukrainian nationalists with an anti-Russian slant) have essentially been given the finger – further proof that not everyone in Kiev regime controlled Ukraine thinks like them.

      There’s hope for a better future.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thread

    Professor, last I heard, you were still friendly, mutually handshakable and on talking terms with the sci-fi/fantasy writer Marc Galeotti (who’s still on your blogroll – unlike the others). Do you think it’s appropriate to use the word “dirty” when talking about different ethnicities?

    Like

    1. Galeotti carries on like a troll with an academic label. Here’s a sampling:

      This is the article he took issue with in a very un-academic like manner:

      https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/09/deconstructing-establishment-kremlinology/

      Similarly related:

      http://www.eurasiareview.com/13012015-enigmatic-russia-detractors-analysis/

      Dare I say that the above linked piece is far more academic than his churlish reply to it on Twitter.

      So much for some of the JRL court appointed establishment types out there. In certain instances, there’s an especially good reason to be wary of some of the sources regularly getting propped, as some comparatively competent others are regularly muted.

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      1. What’s your issue with JRL? To my mind, David Johnson does an excellent job assembling articles from across the spectrum of opinions.

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      2. Over the course of time, he has a behind the scene manipulating, which has unfairly sought to screw over some valid input.

        Related:

        http://exiledonline.com/quaker-cuts-off-our-johnson/

        That Ames/eXile was eventually okayed for JRL doesn’t deny that such muting goes on regarding other input.

        Rather pathetic when JRL ran a criticism of it from Anders Aslund, when a more accurate criticism of JRL (from a different slant) got muted. Numerous other examples to boot.

        It’s demagogically disingenuous to do behind the the scene lecturing on civility, when seeing some of the content which JRL has propped.

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    2. Hmm… Professor, if you can spare a time for a pointless question about some commenter’s beef with JRL (spoiler alert – they banned Averko), then surely you can answer even in the “Yes/No” (e.g.- “Yes, I, Paul Robinson, think that Galeotti is a mensch and Russians should be called dirty”) way my own question.

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      1. Nothing “pointless” in what I communicated, as it relates to an ongoing, phony, crony baloney syndrome, that in part explains how the likes of Gaelotti and Ioffe get kid gloves treatment when compared to some others.

        “They banned Averko”, while regularly featuring an anonymous blogger “Yalensis”, who in one JRL promoted post called Natasha Bertrand a “whore”, while in another trumped a Putin critic’s Belarusian Jewish background – which some might take as a kind of “Jews on the brain” paranoia.

        There’re numerous other such examples.

        So much for the pious BS of righteously seeking civility, in conjunction with the bogus image of providing the very best cross section of views regarding Russia related matters.

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  11. If any Russian lit majors here, you might be interested:

    Just finished posting the third and final part of my review of the Met Opera “La Fille du Régiment”
    Marie’s story reminded me of a story told by Nadezhda Durova in her autobiography of the Napoleonic campaign “The Cavalry Maiden”, in which a little French orphan girl is rescued by a Cossack officer.

    Donizetti’s opera is set in Napoleonic times, but the Met production inexplicably re-stages it in WWI times. One of my pet peeves: Don’t change the eras! Grrrr! In previous productions, they set Tristan on a WWII minesweeper; and Rigoletto in 1950’s Las Vegas, only to mention a couple of the most egregious caprices of directorial “genius”.
    Don’t even get me started on the “Prince Igor” also set in WWI. What is it about WWI? Oh, I think I get it: They have a lot of spare costumes…

    Like

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