Following on the heels of Gerhard Schröder’s ridiculous award from the captured Russian Academy of Sciences, last week former French president Jacques Chirac was awarded Russia’s highest state prize for “outstanding humanitarian achievement” (I include a brief translation of a blog posting from Le Figaro). Naturally he was so touched by the generous title that he took the opportunity to praise Russia’s excellence in democracy with a straight face. Critics will naturally say that these men are exceedingly undeserving of these titles, but the Kremlin is sending a clear message – work with us to promote our interests and stay quiet about human rights and authoritarianism and you will be rewarded. What’s next? I suppose that we’ll see former Italian PM Romano Prodi be awarded with a prestigious innovation award for his creative pipeline deals to shatter European energy unity…. From Le Figaro:
Jacques Chirac, a friend of Pushkin and Putin On the lapel of his vest the new medal engraved with an imperial eagle is shining, presented to him yesterday by President Dmitry Medvedev in the grand palace of the Kremlin.
Jacques Chirac was awarded Russia’s highest state prize, “the most prestigious distinction” according to Medvedev, for “his decisive influence on the integration processes in Europe and in the world” and “his role in the development of French -Russian relations.” The former French President received this honor for his “outstanding humanitarian achievements,” whereas other awards were distributed to the Russian scientists and artists.As he stressed himself in his acceptance speech, he is the first foreigner to receive this honor following last year’s winners, the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Alexei II.The medals were handed out with great pomp in the Saint George’s hall at the Kremlin (they confiscated my camera as I was not accredited as the photographer, but you can see this place on the Kremlin website) in the front of the impressive audience. First of all, visibly relaxed Putin (here photographed at the garden party, that took place after the ceremony). Jacques Chirac seemed genuinely touched and reminded that he was “very young when he became a student of a Russian professor (…) who offered me the treasure of your culture (…) the giant of the international literature that is Alexander Pushkin.” Dmitri Medvedev, for his part, reminded that the young Chirac translated Eugene Onegin by Pushkin. It is however in French that Jacques Chirac expressed himself.”The era of ideology has gone” continued former French president, “and Russia is pursuing the democratic path. This is a historic and difficult mission, results of which evoke admiration and respect, so impressive is the progress so far.(…) Without Russia Europe would be mutilated.”In the close proximity, next to the young liberal guard of the government like Vice Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov were standing less obvious examples of Russian democracy: Igor Sechin, the president of the administrative board of Rosneft, whom former owner of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky considers as directly responsible for his imprisonment; Vladimir Zirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist member of Russian parliament; or Ramzan Kadyrov, the young president of Chechnya, who muscled his way into order in the rebellious republic.At the end of ceremony, a few hundred guests were invited to the garden party organized by Kremlin on this recently established day of national holiday.