The Telegraph ran a interview with Alexander Mamut of SUP yesterday, the new Kremlin-loyalist owner of LiveJournal (which we have blogged about here and here). Mamut comes off pretty eloquently, remarking that for some Russians in the blogosphere, “worrying is modus vivendi”, that blogging is for people who can’t stop talking or for those who have something important to say, and that “censorship is not profitable.” The problem is that “profitability” would seem to be of least concern to the state security apparatus, and if they were to ask Mamut to do something specific with LiveJournal, what rights would he have to protect privacy? Asked if he would ever criticize the government he answered:
“I have not the slightest desire to do so,” he says, “because he who criticises should not only pronounces words but be prepared to act. I am not a human rights activist. It is enough for me to run my business and in that way, I make a difference. If we look at our society now, on the whole it is happy, the mood is improving and people are confident of the future. Nobody interferes with what I do. I am responsible for my family, my business. I am not responsible for the country. It is easy to criticise when you are not in a position of responsibility.”
See more good excerpts from this ambiguous and compelling Russian businessman after the cut.
From the Telegraph:
Mamut does not himself have a blog on LiveJournal. He says that blogging is either for people who cannot stop talking or for people who have something special to say and he feels he falls into neither category.Away from the febrile postings of internet bloggers, most people in business have got used to the idea of Russia’s commercial expansion overseas. But generally, most oligarchs have made their fortunes from steel or mining – few have tried the internet.”I don’t see myself as an oligarch,” says Mamut. “I really like, at this stage of my life, to do business where there is an element of creativity. You can’t do business without money, of course, because that’s how it works but I’m not in business only for the money. I want the emotional involvement; to satisfy my curiosity.”…The screensaver on Mamut’s laptop shows his elite Moscow restaurant, Most which means bridge in Russian. He clicks onto Radio Chiplduk his new internet radio station, broadcasting music and humour. He hands out a copy of Tam, which means There, a new novel about life after death, which is hot off the press from his publishing house Kolibri (meaning Humming Bird). He talks enthusiastically of his other businesses, aimed at Russia’s growing middle class, including his Bookberry chain of bookshops, and his plans to open a cinema for good foreign films in Moscow….However, his main pursuit of lifestyle businesses, rather than natural resources or other traditional industries, is due in part to the fact that other Russians haven’t woken up to the opportunities, he claims. Although the state dominates the energy sector, much of the rest of the Russian economy is wide open to entrepreneurs, including foreign investors, Mamut believes.Small and medium-size businesses are in their infancy because Russians have not fully understood how much hard work is required for business, he says, while admitting that corruption and bureaucracy remain obstacles.”I am not blaming Russian people,” he says. “They have been used to living in a paternalistic society, where the state did everything for them. The paternalistic state also finds it hard to transform itself. Transformation takes time.”…But what does he think of the fate that has befallen others in Russia, such as fellow oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now languishing in a Siberian jail, convicted of fraud and tax evasion having tried to fund a political opposition to Vladimir Putin?Mamut declines to comment….”You cannot surprise me with horror stories about the hardships of ordinary Russian life,” he says. His own childhood in Communist times was relatively fortunate – his parents were professionals and he went to a Moscow school which gave extra English tuition – but he was not particularly privileged. “I wanted to travel, to see London at least, because I had studied English,” he said. “But there were no opportunities in those days. I prepared myself for a thoroughly ordinary life and suddenly…”