No sooner had the audience recovered from the effects of Ivan Okhlobystin's speech to his electorate than the next presidential candidate, Iosif Prigozhin, appeared on stage. (For those who do not know Prigozhin - and you really do not need to - I will tell you: he is the music producer and husband of singer Valeria). At one point, it seemed that yet another pretender to power was appearing on the Independent Television Network's (NTV) talk show NTVshniki. When Yelena Drapeko resentfully exclaimed: "I have said nothing for half of the programme", it seemed we might have another challenger. Fortunately, this was not the case. The actress and an MP just wanted to add her two cents to the hot debate about celebrities involved in politics. And add her two cents she did: "Neither Minin nor Pozharsky were professionals." The group of highly-positioned personages, apparently assuming that she was talking about one and the same person, took a moment to reflect before choosing to talk about topics with which they were more familiar, such as their remuneration for participating in election campaigns. The almost-forgotten TV host Dana Borisova astounded everyone when, lowering her eyes modestly, she murmured: my fee for a public appearance in favour of this or that MP is $15,000.
Let us cut short this fascinating fee-counting exercise. It is far more important to note that this talk show has started forging new trends. The way they drown the remnants of any sense of the election campaign in shouting, laughter, absurdity and banter is a promising mode of domestic political thought. Yet the outlines of another, much more promising trend came through last week with Rogozin and his doctrine of enlightened nationalism.
It was back in June that Russia once again embraced Rogozin. Rogozin himself was at work in Brussels but his anxious soul was already with us. The interview turned to the return of the self-styled Hawk of the World to politics. The Hawk dodged the issue, stating merely that: "I will agree with the country's leadership." Judging by his rough start, by which I mean his keynote speech at the Yaroslavl forum and his appearance on the TV programme Poedinok (Duel), the government has nevertheless decided to play the race card.
Rogozin, leader of the Congress of Russian Communities, has not been at the forefront for quite some time. True, a few years ago he participated in the Name of Russia project, so interested parties had an opportunity to reacquaint themselves with his world view. Since Russia and Stalin are, according to grateful descendants, virtually synonymous, it became clear that our Rogozin, PhD holds Stalin in high regard: "There is much more to that period than just the Gulag - the country became stronger." Rogozin's love for the strong-armed leader is coupled with a gentle attitude toward the less intimidating tandem of Russia's current leadership. A passionate fan of Putin, he is also diplomatically masterful to find kind words for Medvedev. Only once during the project has Rogozin reminisced about his turbulent political youth and fallen into the abyss of political incorrectness. When talking about the Suvorov, Rogozin became extremely animated: "I wanted to take the microphone, pick up something heavy and go and attack Turkey."
Today, for Rogozin, political correctness is the most odious concept. He sounds the alarm: Russians have lost their national instincts. He calls for the re-nationalisation of the Russian people. Rogozin does not have a programme but he does have empty words and catchy slogans such as: "A Russian doesn't measure his conscience in roubles." Things are probably not as good for the United Russia Party as its leaders would have us believe. Why else would they release Rogozin to the forefront?
The question, of course, is extremely important but the benefits of "leaning toward the Russian" are highly questionable in the current political climate. It does not matter how inspired these advocates of the "Russian question" are or how lofty their ideas might be. The conversation begins and ends with one thing - judging the purity of one's Russian blood. And Rogozin, too, resorted to this same tactic. When he took issue with a talk show host Vladimir Soloviev's words, he immediately put him in his place: "A real Russian would have understood me correctly."
Nobody seems to understand Rogozin better than Okhlobystin. He calls himself a pure-blooded Russian and a thorough national-patriot. He, like Lenin, can find expressions for any occasion. In post-modern aesthetics, it does not matter to Okhlobystin what people say but how they say it. And, sadly, we have to admit here that he has been unsuccessful in the latter. He has absolutely no talent for the role of future imperial-orthodox messiah. He looked far more convincing in the trailer for the screen adaptation of Viktor Pelevin's "Generation P".
Okhlobystin, in a skull cap, wearing side locks and an old-fashioned floor-length frock coat, smiles triumphantly from the saddle of a Harley-Davidson. The expressive visuals are accompanied by a deep voice-over that, with an enlightened nationalistic tone, asks: "How long will the Davidsons ride our Harleys? Russia, wake up!".
Indeed, how long? Stay tuned, Rogozin and Okhlobystin will answer this most important of questions.