Russians Still Get News from TV But Trust It Far Less than They Did, Gudkov Says

February 21, 2016
Photo by Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

Designer of Lenin’s Mausoleum was Orthodox Christian, Architectural Historian Says

Staunton, VA, February 21, 2016 — In what may constitute a last-ditch defense of keeping Lenin in the mausoleum on Red Square, a Russian architectural historian points out that the man who designed that building was an Orthodox Christian who before the revolution had served as chief architect of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Elena Ovsyannikova, a professor of architectural history at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, notes that Aleksey Shchusev infused his design with numerous Christian elements and thus laid the foundation for the quasi-religious cult of Lenin and then of Stalin in Soviet times.
But at the same time, she says that his design reflected many other influences as well, including the European art deco movement and funerary practices extending back to the Egyptian pyramids. At the same time, however, she dismisses as an absurdity the notion that Lenin’s mausoleum has anything in common with the Babylonian ziggurat, as many think.
Of course, Ovsyannikova continues, “in formally plastic terms, the Mausoleum of Lenin doesn’t resemble a church.” Rather it was “an innovative composition” fully in the spirit of the Russian and European avant-garde “which Shchusev knew well” and in which he had worked. “But Shchusev also had built a multitude of churches, many of them glorious.”
Consequently, she says, “the memorial character of the building and the sarcophagus of Lenin turns us to religious forms. This is the Orthodox and general Christian tradition of respect for remains and their inclusion in a sarcophagus. In a certain sense, the mummies of the pharaohs also are remains.”
And “therefore with all its architectural innovation, the history of the Lenin Mausoleum goes back into the depths of history.”
The Soviet leadership, the architectural historian notes, put restrictions on Shchusev: he could build the mausoleum only with stone mined in the USSR. And it also modified his design: he wanted the building to have many anterooms, but the authorities decided to keep it smaller and simpler than he had planned.
Five Lessons the Kremlin is Sending Russians with the Vologzheninova Case
Staunton, VA, February 24, 2016 – The sentencing of Ekaterina Vologzheninova for reposting materials against Russian aggression in Ukraine to 320 hours of labor is not only horrific given the reason for her prosecution and the way it was carried out but underscores five lessons the Kremlin is sending by its actions, according to Kseniya Kirillova.

In a commentary for, the US-based Russian writer lists them, although she suggests there are many other important lessons to be drawn from the Ekaterinburg trial. The most important lessons the trial offers are some the authorities may like and some they may very much fear:
1. “Criticism of the authorities in Russia is officially a crime.”  In the original list of charges, the authorities noted that Vologzheninova had displayed “a negative attitude ‘to the authorities in Russia, to the political course of contemporary Russia and to the president of Russia as the first person and embodiment of power in Russia.’” Kirillova does note that “the court excluded the accusations concerning Vladimir Putin personally from its sentence.”
2. “Promoting dialogue, the exchange of opinions, is a no less terrible crime.”Seeking to convince others of your own point of view is a crime, unless your point of view is the same as that of the regime.
3. “All citizens of Russia or at a minimum Muscovites are in the opinion of the FSB occupiers.” The logic of the FSB specialist on the language of Vologzheninova’s posts leads one to conclude that in the opinion of the authorities, the Russian-language speakers of the DNR and LNR are a separate nation and are occupiers, which are “synonyms in the eyes of law enforcement.”
4. “The entire proceeding shows that the authorities are entirely supporting and defending militants and terrorists” in the Donbass and will do whatever it takes to defend them from criticism as well as promoting their aims.
5. “The case shows that one can forget about justice from the Russian criminal justice system.” 

Despite these messages from the authorities, this case, Kirillova points out, provided some good news about Russia by showing “the unprecedented courage of the most ordinary Russians who have taken the risk of challenging the repressive system and openly speaking out against war directly in the halls of a court.”

“In truth,” she continues, that does more than could be achieved by any Peace March or meeting or picketing.  It shows that “besides the ‘official’ Russia, which is false, harsh and illegal, there exist another Russia; sincere, noble and prepared for sacrifice.” The possibility that Russia will triumph is suggested by the heroism of Vologzheninova and her supporters. 

Russians Still Get News From TV But Trust It Far Less Than They Did, Gudkov Says
Staunton, VA, February 21, 2016 — More than eight out of ten Russians still get their news from television, but the share of them trusting that source has fallen from 79 percent in 2008 to only 41 percent now, a trend that is leading ever more of them to rely on family members and close friends as they did in the late Soviet period, according to Lev Gudkov

In an excerpt from an article that will appear in the next issue of “Russian Politics and Law,” the director of the Levada Center polling agency, says that the falloff in trust in government-influenced or controlled media is likely to continue well into the future thus reducing the ability of the powers that be to shift the country’s direction.
As a result of regime actions, he continues, the public media have become in the “strongest” way “sterilized,” with “the possibilities of presenting group interests, exchanging opinions and the rationalization of what is taking place becoming ever more limited and society driven into the state of artificial unanimity.
This deficit is being filled, Gudkov continues, by “’kitchen’ conversations or ‘discussions over a cigarette.” According to polls, “friends, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues” now “stand in second place after television” as a source for information, far exceeding the Internet and social networks.
“This phenomenon,” the sociologist argues, “can be considered as a sign of a return to the forms of late-Soviet interpersonal informal communication” and thus is “a symptom of the radical reduction of the role and significance of expert and specialized knowledge in the formation of public opinion.”
Gudkov also points out that the growing diversity of the Russian media scene is deceptive. Today, Russians can get 69 channels on their home television as opposed to only ten in 2009, but in reality, “the population watches only 12 or 13 of these; and 70 percent of them simply rebroadcast” what is on the main government channels.
The same thing is true, he says, of the Internet. There are thousands of sites, but Russians turn to only three to seven sites on a regular basis; and only 0.5 percent to two percent of the adult population “turns to foreign sources of information.”
Approximately half of the population (45-55 percent) have mixed feelings about both government and non-government outlets, ranging from “almost narcotic dependence” on outlets with Russians watching more than four hours of TV a day to doubts about the reliability of information provided by this source.
“Only 9-11 percent of Russians express complete trust in Russian television,” Gudkov says, although he notes that during the anti-Western media campaign, “this indicator rose to 35 percent.” But those who completely distrust television are fewer, only five to eight percent of the population and consisting of the more educated segment of the population.
In other comments, Gutkov says that in recent years Russians are reading fewer newspapers with only 13 percent doing so now compared to 37 percent earlier and journals – two percent now compared to eight percent earlier. The main reason, he suggests, is the decline in incomes and the picture of reality television imposes.