Memes from Medvedev: Our bitter reality or smear campaign? 

Memes from Medvedev: Our bitter reality or smear campaign?

Russian politicians are often blamed for insincerity and evasive answers to clearly formulated questions. They are truly proficient in wriggling, dodging, pointing fingers, and throwing dust in eyes. Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, is a notable exception, famous for his straightforwardness.

The best of Medvedev

In the past years, Dmitry Anatolyevich has become an inexhaustible source of utterances about the Russian life. His statements are disarmingly sincere, and at the same time – optimistic and full of faith in radiant future. Below are some most bright and straightforward phrases of the Prime Minister.

1. “It is better to live according to an anti-crisis plan rather than in normal situation (…) because you have a fixed amount of money and nothing else to rely upon”.

In his interview to Rossiiskaya Gazeta (The Russian Newspaper) of November 10, 2015, the Prime Minister was discussing economic perspectives of Russia. He stated straight that life is now easier because every citizen knows 100%: he has nobody to rely upon except for himself. 

2.    “Freedom is better than unfreedom”.

Being a candidate at the presidential elections, in his speech at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum in 2008, Medvedev has proclaimed this principle the basis for Russian policies.

3. “Always be well groomed and smiling – this is my philosophy”.

The most frank and typical  statement. No comments.

The Russians got used to the specific style of Medvedev and treated his new memes like funny pictures with cute cats: amusing, but forgotten in a minute. However, recently the Prime Minister has made a few statements that really angered our compatriots.  

Smear campaign against Medvedev

In May 2016 the official had a meeting with Crimean residents and, being asked of pensions increase perspectives, replied as follows: “It (indexation of pensions – the CrimeRussia) does not exist nowhere. We had never approved it. There is simply no money now. When we find money – we will make an indexation. You take care here! Wish you all the best and cheerful mind!”. The quotation has become viral and caused a public outcry. The saying: “There is no money, but you take care!” has become a catch phrase.

Video: Medvedev to Crimean pensioners: : “There is no money, but you take care!”

On August 2, 2016 Dmitry Anatolyevich was delivering a speech at the ‘Territory of Meanings on the Klyazma’ Forum. Being asked by a Dagestani businessmen about low salaries of teachers, Medvedev frankly responded in his traditional manner that teaching is a vocation and people become teachers not because of money. “If you want to earn money, there are plenty of nice places where you can make it faster and easier. For example, business,” – the Prime Minister said and added that a young and keen teacher can always find a way to make some extra cash. The official has modestly held up himself as a positive example.

Video: Medvedev: Why teachers’ salaries are low

As a result, on August 4, 2016 a petition to dismiss Medvedev appeared on Change.org; it has already been signed by more than 275 thousand people.

The public discontent with the official became so widespread that it was impossible to disregard it anymore. The Kremlin has provided a comment on the situation. According to RBC Information Systems, the public anger was part of a prepaid smear campaign against Dmitry Anatolyevich. Sources told RBC Information Systems that this campaign could be initiated either by political rivals of the Prime Minister, or “powers willing to reduce as much as possible the number of votes for Edinaya Rossia (the United Russia) Party at the upcoming elections”.

It is necessary to admit that there are some weird details and exaggerations in the current situation. Take, for example, the text of the petition. No constructive proposals, not the best Medvedev’s phrase is cited, pure emotions – should this really lead to the resignation of a top governmental official?

In addition, the petition against Medvedev and his memes are now being actively discussed in the West – although there are no apparent reasons for this. Yes, the document has been signed by almost 300 thousand people – but this is nothing even for Moscow with its 14 million residents, not to mention the whole population of Russia. Yes, the Prime Minister’s utterances have angered the Russian people and sounded like cruel jokes in these difficult times – but as said earlier, these were not the only questionable statements made by the politician and definitely not the most outrageous ones among the Russian political elite. The Internet is full of verbal bloopers from our officials, while speeches of some politicians (for instance, Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky) virtually consist of such pearls.

Some time ago Pavel Astakhov, the Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation, commented the petition against himself at Change.org as follows: “Change.org is registered in San Francisco; so should we now express our public opinion on American web-sites? It is full of electronic bots, no one should register there”. Perhaps, the pervasive hand of Washington or fifth column are behind the smear campaign against the Prime Minster? Who else could sponsor it?

Cui prodest?

Rumors that Aleksey Kudrin can replace Medvedev as the Prime Minister have been circulating for several years already. After the recent scandals with the current head of the government, these talks resound even louder. Speaking of the Western trace, it is necessary to mention a report produced by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP) where German political experts have outlined possible scenarios for Russia. The German specialists believe that the most probable option is replacement of Medvedev with Kudrin with further pivot to Europe. It is necessary to note that the report was published in the end of July 2016 – and as early as on August 4, 2016, a petition against Dmitry Anatolyevich has appeared on Change.org. Is it a coincidence? Possibly. But this is not the only coincidence. On April 26, 2016 Kurdin was elected Chairman of the Board of the ‘Center For Strategic Research’ Foundation, and four days later he became Deputy Chairman of the Economic Council under President Putin. On Monday, August 8, 2016 (4 days after the appearance of the petition) Aleksey Kudrin announced that he has started drafting a national development strategy that will be submitted to President Putin personally. When asked by media whether he is ready to became the head of the government, Kudrin responded evasively: “All decisions will be decisions of the President”.

According to political expert Aleksey Mukhin, not only Kudrin, but also Andrei Belousov, an Aide to the President, and Sergey Glazyev, an Adviser to the President, are currently developing their own economic programs. Therefore, the very fact that Kudrin is writing a large document does not necessarily mean a political rise of the former Minister of Finance. Speaking of potential candidates to replace Medvedev, Aleksey Mukhin stated that Igor Shuvalov, his First Deputy, could perform Medvedev’s duties with no compromise in quality. Could Shuvalov be the sponsor of the smear campaign against his boss? Actually, unlikely because some unpleasant facts about Shuvalov have recently surfaced. Various details related to his assets, including a huge apartment on Kotelnicheskaya quay, personal airplane used by his wife to transport her corgi pets to international dog shows, etc., are going public. Not long time ago, Igor Ivanovich himself has made a nice statement a la Marie Antoinette. After viewing a low-cost apartment in Tatarstan, the First Deputy Prime Minister said with a soft smile: “Today we have seen apartments as small as 20 square meters. It might seem funny, but people buy such properties”. Apparently, the owner of a luxury 6-bedroom apartment in London was not aware that people buy such properties only because they can’t afford anything better.

Video: Shuvalov: Apartments as small as 20 square meters. It might seem funny…

Sergey Glazyev and Dmitry Rogozin are also named among contenders to the premier’s throne. Selection of any of them would mean a complete political turnaround: breaking links with the West, growth of the governmental control over the economy – which means increasing influence of law enforcement authorities on small and large businesses. Sergei Glazyev is well-known for his ideas of total nationalization – from the Central Bank to key industries, while Rogozin – for his patriotic rhetoric and focus on defense industry development. Many experts believe, however, that appointment of such a Premier Minister would be a significant setback from the economic policy implemented in the last years, and therefore, these persons do not have real chances.

According to some media, the smear campaign targets not Prime Minister Medvedev – but Medvedev as the leader of Edinaya Rossia (the United Russia) Party. Demonstrating on the eve of the elections the weakness of a party leader – means demonstration of the weakness of the whole party. In particular, the Deputy Dmitry Gudkov believes that the attack is aimed not at the Prime Minister. In his blog, the parliamentary states that as long as the President personally supports the head of the government, positions of Medvedev are rock-solid.

According to a CrimeRussia source, there is no purposive campaign against Medvedev because it is simply impossible to remove such a high-ranked politician from his post for a few lame statements. The source notes that there is another issue: Medvedev is an experienced lawyer and efficient executive, who was suddenly taken from his normal departmental environment and became a media personality. Medvedev just began getting electoral experience that other politicians gain for long years – and he had to start his career in public politics from the top step – presidential elections. Therefore, the silly statements of the current Prime Minister are a typical reaction of a non-public person who has suddenly found himself in the public eye. No doubt, it is necessary to study the public speeches skill, which includes nuances of speaking with different social groups, but why Medvedev is not being trained in this sophisticated subject – this is a separate issue.

Political expert Stanislav Belkovsky has provided another opinion. In his interview to Radio France Internationale, he said that the petition against Medvedev is beneficial, primarily… for Medvedev himself. According to Belkovsky, the Prime Minister believes firmly: the President would never remove a subordinate from his position due to exterior pressure. The expert fully agrees with Dmitry Gudkov that the President is totally satisfied with Medvedev as the head of the government.

Our
notes

There are several known examples of smear campaigns secretly initiated by people against themselves. For example, Vladimir Yakunin, former President of Russian Railways, had used such tricks. Since the second half of his presidential term, media started publishing announcements of his upcoming termination once or twice a year. According to the Crime Russia source, several such campaigns had been initiated by Yakunin himself. By refuting such news again and again, the Kremlin was confirming his powers and solidity of his positions. This had continued until 2015, when another intimidation attempt has failed: when Yakunin threatened to resign, the President allegedly responded: “Go away then”. Of course, the Kremlin has refuted the fact of such a conversation, and the true reasons behind that dismissal remain unknown.

So far, the situation with the prepaid smear campaign remains very confusing. From one side, the response from the Kremlin looks like an amateurish attempt to turn the public anger away from the lame statements of the Prime Minister. From the other side, the public outcry seems really excessive: the Russians used to hear much worse things from politicians, plus Medvedev’s words have been slightly edited. For instance, in his above-mentioned response at the Territory of Meanings on the Klyazma Forum, Dmitry Anatolyevich had specifically emphasized one aspect that was later removed from many videos: “Of course, we do not abandon our decisions to raise salaries for employees of universities”. In other words, in addition to valuable advice from his own experience, the Prime Minister has recognized his responsibility for low remuneration for teachers – but most media did not mention this. We will continue monitoring the situation and waiting for new memes from the most frank politician of our time.

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