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From Russia, With Recipes

Readers of today’s Washington Post may have been surprised to find tucked behind Sports a new “Russia” section, which looks like part of the newspaper but which, upon closer inspection, is an “advertising supplement” paid for by the Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The Gazeta is a Russian government newspaper, which means one can look forward to reading the supplement with an eye for the unintentional hilarity of a corrupt authoritarian regime tailoring its propaganda towards the perceived interests of American consumers.

Of course, much of the effort must be spent shaking off the “corrupt, authoritarian” label, and its editors waste no time. Beside the pinup of a sexy young opera star, the front page features one article reassuring readers that Dmitry Medvedev’s inevitable presidency will not be a continuation of Putin’s, and another that claims the camaraderie of Time magazine in praising Putin for raising Russia’s global profile. The interior is devoted mostly to lauding the Russian economy, including an article entitled “Russia as a ‘Safe Haven’ for Global Investors” and “Russia’s Top Ten List,” which is less David Letterman than it is a debutante ball of Russian corporations for Western investors. For objectivity’s sake – this is a newspaper, right? – it features some criticism, like an article about inequality, but none of the pointedness of some of Putin’s fiercest critics. Such hiccups are forgivable as long as the economy is booming, right?

It even goes as far as to deny a pending energy crisis, which could destabilize Russia’s oil-rich economy. A piece entitled “Oil: Black Gold or Black Death?” is premised entirely on a single source, who asserts “there is no deficit of oil,” and blames contrary predictions on “Western analysts ... [who] want to see more investments into alternative energy sources.”

Elsewhere, there is plenty more accidental humor. I laughed at the perceived disagreement in the headline, “Russian Films Are Nominated for an Oscar,” until I realized that both films were nominated in the same category, and therefore that it was grammatically correct. Laughter was recovered elsewhere, thankfully: first, in the summary of a novel, where “Vladimir Putin converts to Taoism” and “George W. Bush prepares to send Marines to Russia[.]”; then, in a recipe for kholodets, advertised as “A Perfect Companion to Vodka” and whose first instruction is to “Thoroughly clean cow legs with brush.”  

--Ben Crair