“One must read the papers,” said a Soviet literary character

A sound piece of advice, that. Sometimes one wishes that those who report on Russian affairs followed it.

They don’t though, which is why over the last few days they’ve been breaking the earth-shattering news of Russian paratroopers fighting, and dying, in  the Ukraine.

I hope you won’t think I’m bragging, but I shattered that very earth a fortnight earlier, on 28 August: http://alexanderboot.com/content/no-russian-soldiers-are-fighting-ukraine-so-why-are-they-dying.

How did I manage to scoop the Moscow bureaus of our major newspapers? By doing what they evidently neglect to do: following Russian sources.

The Russian media don’t just enlighten; they also delight. They don’t just sate one’s hunger for information; they also stroke one’s poetic sensibilities.

Take, for example, the chastushka by the blogger Norvezhsky-Lesnoy who, if it were up to me, would give Bob Dylan a good run for his money in this year’s Nobels.

For the non-Russians among you, the chastushka is the Russian answer to the limerick. Unlike the limerick, the chastushka has only four lines, rhymed as either AABB or ABAB.

Also unlike the limerick, where each line develops the story, chastushkas often say what they have to say in the last two lines, unrelated to the first two. Like the limerick, the genre demands the use of off-colour lexicon.

In common with Bob Dylan’s doggerels, which, according to Ben Macintyre of The Times, represent the height of lyrical poetry, chastushkas are meant to be sung, not read. This didn’t prevent my New York friend Vladimir Kozlovsky from publishing two volumes of them.

However, those he published weren’t so much the original folk verses as parodies of them, written by Moscow intellectuals able to delve the poetic depths of the genre. Sometimes they resort to it by way of commentary on current events.

That’s what my Russian colleague did in response to the oligarchs’ frantic rush to sell off their foreign assets – for fear of having them impounded should the national leader attack another few countries, or else losing them to said leader’s confiscatory whims.

Here’s his chastushka, in my loose translation that captures some of the lyricism of the original without doing it full justice:

“In the street a lonely Basset// Is sitting sadly on a stone// I have sold my every asset// To be left the f*** alone.”

Sublime, isn’t it? I hope the Nobel Committee gives the poem proper consideration.

Unless, of course, they’d rather honour the Ukrainian Putin-leaning poet Oles Buzina. I’ve been unable to obtain the full text of his masterpiece What Did They Fight for in the Maidan?, but the last two lines answer the eponymous question with awe-inspiring poignancy:

“So that the fate of the Ukraine// Be decided in Europe by pederasts.”

Here’s another deserving Nobel candidate, whose poetic power is fully comparable with Bob Dylan’s, even if his civic pathos is different.

Lest you may get the impression that the Russians shun prose as a means of political self-expression, allow me to assure you this isn’t the case.

Moreover, the erudition of Russia’s commentators fully matches the poetic sensibility of her bards.

For example, the most widely viewed talk show on Russian state television (which is to say Russian television) got to the bottom of the West’s hostile reaction to Russia’s reclaiming her rightful property:

The vengeful West has imposed sanctions “because 500 years ago Russia declined to accept the crown from the Pope’s hands.”

This regrettably fails to explain why mainly Protestant countries, such as the USA or Britain, have imposed the same sanctions as the Popish Italy or France.

Also, dating the Catholic Russophobia back precisely to the early 16th century strikes one as slightly arbitrary, what with the Reformation diminishing papal power in Europe at exactly that time.

Yet the Papist angle is self-evident to Russian audiences, what with their possessing the Gnostic knowledge inaccessible for Westerners. As an ex-Russian myself, I can try to fill in the blanks for your benefit.

Half of Europe rejected Roman Catholicism 500 years ago, and so did Russia. (Actually the Russians did so in 988 by opting for the Byzantine rite, but what’s a few centuries among friends? It’s the thought that counts.)

Unlike the Russians, however, the West still feels guilty about this apostasy, an emotion universally known to make people seek scapegoats. In this instance it’s Russia, which remains staunchly anti-Catholic, and indeed anti-Western, to this day.

Hence, 500 years after half of them rejected Catholicism the dastardly Westerners have decided to punish Russia for doing the same. Only a Judaeo-fascist Nazi Banderite would detect a causal relationship between the sanctions and Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine.

Gnostic Russians are capable of discerning real, as opposed to trumped-up, causal relationships. Thus that very talk show explained that those opposing Russia in eastern Ukraine are the same people who are decapitating hostages in northern Iraq.

And even if they aren’t exactly the same people, they are certainly driven by the same evil forces. This equates the Ukraine with the Islamic State, and just to think that the Ukies stubbornly claim to be as Christian as the Russians themselves.

It’s time the world saw through their heinous subterfuge; it’s time the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (recently anathemised by the Moscow KGB Patriarchate) referred to himself by his real, if hitherto secret, title: the Ayatollah of Kiev.

Isn’t Putin’s propaganda fun? One does wish the Hitchenses and Bookers of this world knew enough Russian to follow it.

“People who don’t read the papers,” said Ostap Bender, the hero of the most popular Soviet novels Twelve Chairs and The Golden Calf, “ought to be killed on the spot.”

The death penalty would be a bit harsh; public recantation would suffice. Or perhaps a Catholic-style mea culpa would be just the ticket.


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