From Russia with flubs


Last summer, Slate's Jack Shafer wrote a very funny column about Russia: Beyond the Headlines, a cheesy newspaper-style advertising supplement that ran in the Washington Post and was packed with Soviet-style propaganda.

Judging from the inaugural issue of Moscow Open City, which arrived at the Phoenix earlier this week, not enough people in the Russian P.R. world read Shafer's piece. MOC, which was founded by Moscow's Committee for Telecommunications and Mass Media, is a visually beautiful publication. But it's packed with tendentious, grammatically tortured, utterly laughable prose. Not only is it not an improvement over RBH; it actually seems to be worse.

Take the editor's note (please!):

Dmitry Medvedev has become the youngest Russian leader (if one is not to take into account inborn rulers of the Russian Empire.)

As many as 71% of Muscovites, who will always express their discontent for any given reason, voted for the new President. This confirms that Medvedev is good for much better than any polls.

This raises two questions: 1) Huh?; and 2) Didn't Medvedev win because he was the handpicked successor of Vladimir Putin, who's used intimidation and violence to turn Russia into a one-party dictatorship?

Nyet!, says the magazine's first article. "The new Russian President won his election campaign as early as the first round," this (unbylined) piece explains. "However, it was not because the powerful state machinery backed him up. He promised to follow the same course the country had been developing for the previous eight years. His victory became a sort of national referendum." There you have it.

The aforementioned article is titled "Power does not exist for itself: Theses from the Winner's Election Program." Awkward and Marxist-sounding, to be sure--but it positively rolls off the tongue compared to some of the other titles in MOC. My favorites:

Who is Mr. Medvedev? By the way, many people do not think that this question which many observers asked when Putin came to power is actual anymore

Goujon the Frantic: There was no figure amongst the Moscow merchants more picturesque than the owner of the metallurgic plant Yuliy Goujon

Mercedes for the price of one coin: Do you think it is impossible? You are wrong!

And, my personal favorite:

The land flowing with milk and honey: Horned creatures from abroad yield tasty milk. Each Muscovite can make sure of this soon

Now, I'll admit that my Russian-language skills are nonexistent. But I have studied a couple of foreign tongues in my time, and I wouldn't dream of writing for a non-English-speaking audience without enlisting a native to smooth out my shitty prose. The powers behind Moscow Open City obviously have plenty of money to spend. Before the next issue rolls off the presses, I'd suggest they find a good proofreader--who grew up speaking English.

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