And what game is Kasparov playing these days?
In the last few days, the Wall Street Journal has devoted a fair amount of column inches to sensational headlines like "A Chess Champion Unites Disparate Critics of Putin - Kasparov Tries to Turn Kremlin's Crackdowns to Political Advantage" (June 20, 2007) and "From Russia, Without Love: New Movie Slams Soviet Union" (June 21, 2007).
In the first article, the Journal's Alan Cullison builds up the importance of Garry Kasparov as a major political leader in Russia. Never mind the fact that Kasparov the politician (as opposed to the chess master) is almost an urban legend in Russia. Russian liberals failed when they had their chance in the 1990s, and now even the best chess player in the world can't help them to win the political game.
Another inconvenient fact is that Another Russia, the so-called political movement where Kasparov is the number one man, was until very recently sponsored by none other than the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who supports the forceful overthrow of the democratically elected Russian government and told the Financial Times that he had stopped funding the group because he viewed it as ineffective. Mr. Berezovsky is wanted in Moscow on multiple counts of fraud and racketeering. Nearly 500 contract killings and bombings related to Avtovaz took place during the oligarch's unhappy ownership of that company, which is now under new management.
In the first paragraphs of a review of Gruz 200 (Cargo 200) by the Journal's Andrew Osborn, the author immediately launches into political commentary that is almost entirely unrelated to the film. In this, he makes a statement that the residual throngs of Cold-War minded pundits inside the Beltway like to repeat. Mr. Osborn writes, "Russian President Vladimir Putin, who restored Russia's Soviet-era national anthem, has called the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union 'the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century'". Anyone who reads Russia Blog regularly will understand why President Putin made this statement, and what he really meant by it -- that millions of ordinary Russians struggled to survive after the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed.
As for the movie, it is a Tarantino-style slasher flick that also happens to depict the Soviet past (the trailer on the WSJ website shows a brief dialogue between two characters, one of them an academic, who solemnly tells an ordinary man that God does not exist). The Journal article focuses on the very graphic violence in the movie and claims that it has received mostly negative reviews from Russian film critics. The article also suggested that very few ordinary Russians would get to see Gruz 200 because it would probably not be shown on late night television. In reality, the picture has received 5-stars from several major movie-reviewers in Russia and has been sold out at movie theaters across the country. In fact, it's playing at the pace of nearly one-show every other hour per multiplex.
Gruz 200 movie trailer
I have asked this question before and will ask it again: in omitting important facts when reporting about Russia, whose interests are being served? And why is this otherwise very reliable and well-established publication not focusing more on the things that truly matter in Russia -- like investments, culture, and demographics?
I do regret the retirement of Garry Kasparov, because he was a master of the game ---- and I frequently wonder, how can a brilliant chess player turn around and in the blink of an eye become the self-appointed leader of the political opposition in Russia and a regular columnist for the respected WSJ at the same time? That my friends, is one head-spinning game of speed chess!