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Have you Heard?

Russians ho-hum on U.S. Election

Controversial remarks by President Vladimir Putin in late October to the effect that a Kerry victory would be a victory for terrorists may have given a misleading impression as to the level of public interest in Russia over the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. But as the race came down to the wire, Russia and other countries were rushing to poll their citizens about their opinions of the candidates. Despite the impact the outcome of this yearís elections could have on world affairs, it seems that this fall Russiaís otherwise well-informed citizens had other things on their minds. Surveys showed that as recently as the last week in October, up to 40 percent of Russians still had no idea who the candidates were. Most of the remaining people polled didnít have a strong opinion on the candidates or the election one way or the other.


Abramovich: the Musical?

Youíve heard of 42nd Street, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. Well now get ready for Roman Abramovich: the Musical. Theatergoers in Londonís West End could soon be tapping their toes to Red Rom, a jaunty rock opera about the life and times of Russiaís second richest man Ė or at least they will if British newspaper The Sun is to be believed. According to the daily tabloid, the rights to a new book about Abramovich, entitled The Billionaire from Nowhere, have just been bought by Billy Gaff, former manager of aging rocker Rod Stewart. Gaff visualizes Red Rom as an amazing rags-to-riches tale and intends to invite Elton John to write the songs. The finale will feature an all-male chorus line decked out in Chelsea stripes.

From Tomb Raider to Orphanage Raider

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, best known as computer-game-to-blockbuster-movie heroine Lara Croft, seems to be taking her role as a UNICEF goodwill ambassadress ultra-seriously. Not content with roaming the world promoting childrensí welfare and rights on behalf of this UN organization, she has recently begun adopting orphans as well. Last year she took on a Cambodian orphan while this year she adopted a Russian child. But some suspect that Jolie may have used her celebrity status to side-step the formal procedures. Russian regulations require adoptive parents to choose a child on the basis of photos and orphanage records, whereas she actually went and looked at the real thing, reportedly saying nyet to various possibilities before settling on seven-month-old Gleb. ďThis wave of foreign adoptions, including Jolieís case, is very suspicious to us. Donít they have their own children to adopt?Ē complained Lyubov Blizhina of Vladimir Zhirinovskyís ultra-nationalist LDPR political party.


A Very Big Oil Painting

Controversial Russian painter Ilya Glazunov has unveiled his latest work, ďGreat China,Ē dedicated to 55 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and China. Measuring 19.5 X 7.5 meters it is currently the largest oil painting in the world. You can fit a lot in a canvas that size and Glazunov and a handful of assistants and collaborators have not disappointed. The triptych portrays three epochs of Chinese history, from the period of the building of the Great Wall in the 3rd century BC, to the heyday of the Tan dynasty in the Middle Ages and finally the achievements of modern China, featuring taikanauts and skyscrapers. Alas, youíll have to travel quite a ways if you want to see it, as the painting was given as a gift to China. Closer to home, however, a new museum of Glazunovís works opened recently opposite the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts on ul. Volkhonka. Ideologically a Russian nationalist, Glazunovís work is often considered kitsch and cynically commercial. Pay a visit to the gallery and decide for yourself.

TATU Triumph

No, they havenít gone away yet. At the start of October one-hit wonders and Eurovision Song Contest losers t.A.T.u. were in the news again, after the scandalous duoís epic ballad of screechy lesbian passion All the Things She Said was named ďCollege Song of the YearĒ for receiving the most performances on American college radio. At the same time they received a BMI pop award, becoming the first Russian act ever to do so. The BMI collects licensing fees from radio, TV, internet, cinema and live performance, which it then pays as royalties to the composers, songwriters and music publishers it represents. It hands out its awards not on grounds of merit, but simply on how often the song was played on the radio.

New Visa Law Ė Pay Up!

President Putin signed off on a new law at the end of October authorizing fines of up to 50,000 rubles for foreigners caught in Russia without registration. The law, which reportedly went into effect immediately, means that if you are stopped by a policeman and you havenít registered three to five working days after entering the country you can be fined 2,500 rubles. If you havenít registered after more than five working days the fine increases to a whopping 50,000 rubles.

The new rule is a major departure from the old way of doing things. In the past, the business or organization that issued an invitation to the unregistered visa-holder was hit with a small fine. Now the onus rests squarely on the shoulders of the unregistered individual. No word yet on the extent to which the law will actually be enforced, but with such hefty fines itís probably better to play it safe.

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