This site is our response to everyone who has ever asked us what Russia is like, and for anyone who might have never wondered, but should have. It’s an attempt to put into words Russia as we see it; our go at explaining that big old riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that in fact, never went away. It’s about understanding the views, opinions and psyche of a nation that hits our headlines daily, without many of us ever really knowing why. And ultimately, it’s about providing a picture of Russia, as seen first-hand by two people, who think that although the journey they’re on to try and understand this country might never end, the process itself is worth sharing.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Person of the Week: Maria "The Mashka" Sergeyeva

During the American presidential campaign our flat used to enjoy ‘Palin Watch’ - a daily ritual that involved scanning the papers for gems of the vice-presidential candidate’s (non)wisdom. And there were so many of them! Since then, following politics has been pretty dull. The likes of Obama, Putin and Brown et al., are just so sensible in comparison. They lack the, well, complete ridiculousness of Palin. But now we’ve discovered Maria Sergeyeva, Putin’s pink bikini wearing, foreigner-hating, Russia-loving pin up girl. And she has more than filled the ridiculous-things-said-by-people-who-may-one-day-become-very-powerful hole that Palin left behind.

A 24-year-old philosophy student, Sergeyeva does not hold an official political position. Yet. However she is already tipped to become a minister and has expressed her desire to one day become President, or at least Prime Minister. As a member of The Young Guard, the youth section of Putin’s party, her pro-Kremlin speeches and blog posts have become legendary. Indeed, a video of a speech she made in Red Square at the beginning of 2009, in which she shouted out to a crowd that she knew ‘Putin will protect me’ from the crisis, had to be removed from the political site it was posted on, after it attracted so much attention (over 140, 000 hits) that it caused the site to crash.

With her long blonde hair and glamorous good looks, she has become quite the celebrity on the political circuit and, judging by her internet popularity, is responsible for igniting an interest for politics amongst Russian youth. Her speeches, which are generally over-exciteable, unpolished but strangely addictive to watch, without fail praise the current administration, ever underlining that they, and they alone, can get Russia through the crisis.As such it has been suggested more than once that, like Nashi, she is on Putin's payroll as a gimick to win over the largely politically-apathetic Russian youth - a charge which she vehemently denies.

Her politics are firmly to the right and would, perhaps, even make the Daily Mail blush; at a political rally, she infamously held up a checked plastic bag, an object associated with immigrant market sellers from Central Asia, and told all immigrants to go home. Russia is for the Russians, she said. She’s vehemently patriotic (she only buys Russian products and her cause celebre is the protection of the Russian car industry) and believes that America is out to get her beloved motherland: “My love for Russia came with my mother’s milk. I loved listening to my grandparents’ heroic tales from the war. Putin has given us stability and economic growth. It’s good that he’s hardline and tough. That’s what Russia needs. America, of course, wants us to be weak.” Surprisingly she is also currently championing ecological causes, namely the opposition to the construction of a new waste-disposal unit in Moscow.

Judging by her huge popularity, it looks like Sergeyeva is here to stay. Political commentator Alexander Morazov told the Moscow News that he didn't see her going anywhere soon: “I think she will be become a new media figure... she will develop her activities not in the direction of pure politics, but will become ... a Ksenia Sobchak [it-girl presenter] not for the rich but for the poor.”

Here are some of Sergeyeva’s best (worst?) moments. Look out for more Sergeyeva-Watch in the future.

On how to solve the population imbalance in Russia - there are ten million less men than women.

Take men from abroad and bring them to Russian. It’s most important that women look after the family home and bring up children. Russian women are the most beautiful and tenderhearted in the world. We can lure the best specialists from the West with the help of our women’s beauty. That’s how to solve this demographic problem.

In response to the Georgian Eurovision entry, “We Don’t Wanna Putin”

If you don't want Putin, Medvedev will fuck you over. They're a TANDEM, you know.

Proof that she is an internet celebrity, if ever there was one. The caption under the video comes from a speech she made and essentially means that a crisis begins with your attitude towards it.

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