Russia’s Media Paradox

millionaire042508.jpgIt seems like a cruel paradox that the same week in which the Russian government called for stricter media laws, allowing them to shut down a publication for printing libel, that billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov announces the launch of Snob Magazine, an exclusive-access elitist platform for Russia’s nouveau rich to boast to one another of their latest bling. I have feeling that this kind of journalism is not about “comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable” – but maybe Prokhorov is just trying to distract people from the Norilsk news. Then again, the country’s president-elect has said that any amount of cash can be conjured with just a snap of the fingers. Jane Armstrong shares some interesting views on Russia’s fondness for ostentation:

“The rich in Russia are different,” said Jane Armstrong, The Globe and Mail’s Moscow correspondent. “What they try to do is display their wealth extravagantly, because they weren’t allowed to for so many years.”

Russia’s elite will speed in expensive cars with tinted windows to get attention, Ms. Armstrong explained. People who don’t need them will hire bodyguards to flaunt their importance, and they make sure they are seen at expensive restaurants, “even if the food is terrible.””They will drop $3,000 at a restaurant to show they’re successful,” she said. “Anything we would consider gauche, they do with gusto.”So a brazen initiative such as Snob, aimed at Russia’s rich, makes perfect sense. “Any kind of new trend like this Snob magazine would be popular. They’d lap that up,” Ms. Armstrong said.