Tag Archives: Political creative

Not your usual Estonian Archangel: this is how you author the next prophetic piece of content

by Andy Kozlov @KozlovAndy

From Martin Meredith’s The State of Africa:

The army coup of 1966, sweeping away a corrupt and discredited regime, was greeted in the South [of Nigeria] by scenes of wild rejoicing. The coup leaders were acclaimed heroes; the politicians slunk out of sight …

By strange coincidence, a prophetic novel by.. Chinua Achebe was published in the same week as the coup, telling the story of the rise and fall of an African politician ending with an army takeover. ‘Overnight everyone began to shake their heads at the excess of the last regime, at its graft, oppression and corrupt government,’ wrote Achebe in A Man of the People. ‘Newspapaers, the radio, hitherto silent intellectuals and civil servants — everybody said what a terrible lot; and it became public opinion the next morning.’

Thirteen years later The China Syndrome — a film that describes a fictional worst-case result of a nuclear meltdow — was released 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. No wonder that for anyone who was around in 1979 the movie was a major event and sparked a lot of debate.

Before the film, Americans were 60/40 in favor of nuclear power plants; after the movie, the poll reversed. If not for the film and the fact that it was backed up in real life, Americans would today have 1,000 nuclear reactors in the US instead of 100.

Back in summer 2013, I happened across an Estonian screening of a prophecy-laden piece of content myself. I was struck by the premise and actuality of the events recounted in Searching for Sugar Man, a documentary about Sixto Rodriguez, a performer and songwriter, whose two 1970’s albums went bust in the US, only to have them find new life as part of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Rodriguez had given up on his singing career and was a manual laborer in Detroit. For most of his life, he hadn’t made a dime off his South African success. Most of South Africans had thought he was dead, having killed himself.

Sitting inside Estonia’s oldest cinema Kino Sõprus as I was watching the highly spiritual events unfold on the screen, I couldn’t help wondering why would the ‘unsung’ American singer settle on Estonia in the song that ‘prophesized’ his unemployment? Was there a hidden message for me watching this documentary about him, on my first trip to the Baltic country?

Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas
And I talked to Jesus at the sewer
And the Pope said it was none of his God-damned business
While the rain drank champagne

My Estonian Archangel came and got me wasted
Cause the sweetest kiss I ever got is the one I’ve never tasted
Oh but they’ll take their bonus pay to Molly McDonald,
Neon ladies, beauty is that which obeys, is bought or borrowed

Apparently, no matter whether you are a Nigerian, an American in South Africa or an Ukrainian in Estonia, behaviors can be changed much more effectively if the story we convey precedes reality in a sometimes shockingly and always strikingly convincing way. So how do you author the next prophetic piece of content?

No need to dust off your granny’s crystal ball.

A lot of it is about knowing your subject very well, knowing the possibilities and considering the unkown unkowns well before the rest of us read about them materialize in the news headlines.

A History of Books that Forecast the Future
A History of Books that Forecast the Future

Were The China Syndrome scriptwriters the clairvoyants of their time? Certainly there were lots of people who entertained the thought back then.

In reality, “the basis for the film came from a number of nuclear plant incidents and in particular the Brown’s Ferry Alabama Nuclear Power Plant Fire which occurred four years earlier in 1975.” The screenwriters just knew their subject well. They proved to be extremely good at spotting a shocking possibility rooted in the down-to-nuclear-reactor-safety-valve reality.

If you want to be communicating your message of goodwill in a strikingly convincing manner be on the lookout for current and upcoming changes before others do. Beef up this knowledge and perceptions with expertise that is still not common today or shared by others. They will follow you for your original discernment and curatorial picks!

And remember: the best way to predict the future is to shape it.

One 2015 tip-off to wrap it up:

On September 10 this year, if God continues to save the Queen, Elizabeth will overtake her great-great grandmother Victoria and, after 63 years and 217 days, become UK’s longest-reigning monarch

The author can be reached on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

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5 Global Russians, their media investments, Moscow’s own highest shelter in Europe

Previously we talked about the short-sighted attitudes by both sides of the Foreign Media in Russia show.

Now let’s turn around and scrutinize the foreign media assets of Mother Russia’s not-so-poor: some of them promoters of the Global Russian concept, some — literary-minded Russians around the corner from our London-based readers.

And again the lines of loyalty, the stresses are quite blurred, as far as media agendas of Russia-backed enterprises in the EU and US are concerned.

Are the Western-operating companies we will now talk about pro-Kremlin or pro-poor?

The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones' Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians' MONOCLE
The Russian Bookshop at Waterstones’ Facebook page advertised this publication by Masha Gessen as their Book of the Month in February 2014. Former director of the Russian Service for Radio Liberty, Ms Gessen reportedly used to edit Snob magazine, the Global Russians’ MONOCLE

11,510 ultra high net wealth individuals — those with net assets of US$30 million and above — called the UK home in 2014. These are worth US$1.45 trillion in total

Self-confessed avid reader of high-quality literature in Russian and English, Russian billionaire Alexander Leonidovich Mamut shelled out £53 million to acquire London-headquartered book retailer Waterstones in May 2011.

London counted 100,000-strong Russian-speaking community in early 2012

Alexander Leonidovich, an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin, appointed James Daunt, founder of Daunt Books, as managing director of the company that serves UK, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands.

UK publishing industry generated £4bn in 2011

Number two in our list of global Russians with a penchant for media investments abroad is Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, former KGB staff and currently publisher of four UK newspapers, including the one that has called his book chain-owning namesake “an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin.” Alexander Yevgenievich reportedly stated that during his time as a spy in London, he used the Evening Standard to find information.

Lebedev used to own the Moskovski Korrespondent, but closed it down “for political reasons after it published a spurious article about Vladimir Putin having an affair with an Olympic gymnast half his age”

On 25 March 2010, Alexander Lebedev bought the loss-making The Independent and Independent on Sunday for £1.

Accompanying two Sashas on the Olympus of Russians with preference for foreign media assets is Sergei Polonsky @Spolonium, himself an Olympus-builder.

The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)
The Federation Tower with a banner quoting Rudyard Kipling on the importance of being confident in yourself, patient, forgiving the liars, the crowd that blames you for the turmoil and being self-effacing as you forgive (Photo: Openbuildings.com)

Alexander Yevgenievich knocked Russia’s real estate developer Sergei Yurievitch Polonsky from his chair as both men were appearing as guests on a show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the Gazprom-owned NTV channel in September 2011.

A blow that did not connect cleanly was prompted by a dispute over Sergei Yurievitch’s project named Башня Федерация.

Expected to be completed in 2015, the Federation Tower is said to be able to withstand a direct hit of an aircraft [as you guessed what they meant here]. The building is a hit with extreme sports people, as well as film and TV people.

Awarded a Prix d’Excellence in the Office Property category by FIABCI, the International Real Estate Federation, the Federation Complex is to become the tallest building in Europe. China State Construction Engineering Corporation was the first in Russia to pour self-compacting B90 concrete into the complex steel concrete and high density reinforcement structures of the Federation Tower’s outrigger and technical levels.

Notorious for his stance and public pronouncements, Sergei Polonsky has often introduced creativity-laden ideas into Russia’s otherwise parvenu post-Soviet elites.

In November 2011 his international investment and development company Potok∞ launched a reality project named Большой дом. Using Youtube, Twitter and Alexander  Mamut-owned blogging service Livejournal, Polonsky’s team boosted business by revealing to the rest of us the behind-the-scenes of the Federation Tower construction process, including brain storming sessions, corporate parties, desicions on hiring and firing.

Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015
Exiled in Cambodia, Sergei Polonsky is featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015

Exiled on his own collection of eight islands in Cambodia — where he recently launched Polonium, a business training program — Mr Polonsky is prominently featured in a Moscow-based movie called Elusive (Неуловимые) to hit screens in Russia in March 2015.

Polonsky has set a goal of earning not less than USD1bn through his jungle-based business education venture.

From New York magazine:

Another set of projects invariably bears the hallmark of his older sister, Irina, a patron of arts and literature. In private life, Mikhail and Irina form an unusual, closed-off unit. Until recently, they lived together in a relatively small Moscow apartment, well after Mikhail had become a billionaire. Most likely at Irina’s urging, Mikhail has endowed a lavish literary award, a publishing house, an arts festival, and, finally, Snob [a magazine for the “Global Russian”].

The Mikhail in question is Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, politician, and owner of the ONEXIM Group and the US basketball team the Brooklyn Nets.

A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two's cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)
A billboard over NYC. Mikhail Prokhorov with former Brooklyn Nets co-owner and rapper Jay Z. If you care, google up these two’s cameo with Michael Bloomberg (Photo: Ihatelupica.blogspot.com)

With an initial distribution of 20,000 in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco and some 700,000 Russian speakers living in the United States (as of 2010), Snob originally launched in Russia in 2008 with a USD150 million investment from Mikhail Dmitrievitch. In London, “the magazine bought up billboards in the Underground and elsewhere and slapped Russian-language ads on them, perplexing Brits and embarrassing local Russians.” For New York, they imagined “something that speaks to Snob’s globalist brand, and something that shows that the Russians actually understand contemporary New York.”

Yuri Milner has described his time at the World Bank as his “lost years”, due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner wraps up our overview of Global Russians on a shopping spree for media assets, with his investments in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Groupon, Alibaba, and Planet Labs via the Mail.ru Group and Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global).

At one point in the 1990s, Yuri Borisovich worked for Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now an émigré. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest person, becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008. In January 2007, 30% of shares of Mail.ru were bought by Cape Town, South Africa-headquartered Naspers, an e-commerce and pay TV company, with assets like MultiChoice, DStv, MWEB and M-net.

Milner envisages that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems will increase our collective intelligence

An acronym of sostoyavshiisya, nezavisimyi, obrazovannyi, blagopoluchnyi (accomplished, independent, educated, thriving), Snob magazine under deputy editor Maria Alexandrovna Gessen   some years back “made a turn toward social activism, battling, for instance, the Putin administration’s revisionist sugarcoating of Joseph Stalin.”

She was dismissed from her position as the chief editor of Russia’s oldest magazine, Vokrug sveta, a popular-science journal, in 2012 after she refused to send a reporter to cover a Russian Geographical Society event about nature conservation featuring President Putin, because she considered it political exploitation of environmental concerns

So if the Global Russian “aggressively adopts traits of other cultures without betraying his own” — he ‘cooks like a Frenchman, entertains like an American, and forms friendships like a Russian’ in American nonfiction author Masha Gessen’s words — and if he/she is not 100% pro-Kremlin how many percentage points is he/she pro-poor? What do you think?

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205 years after the last Russo-Swedish war, this Swedish-Ukrainian production takes you to Berlin to discover how much freedom your government lets you have

People familiar with the matter have no doubt that Russians will eventually learn to live with Ukraine in the EU. No-one will, though, tell you when exactly Ukraine will graduate to the EU member status and when Russia will come to appreciate such a combination in its neighborhood.

Shot in Berlin, during a pro-Russian rally in support of March 2014 Crimean “referendum”, The Wall is a reflection film directed by the Ukrainian filmmaker Sergii Volkov. The German capital is one of those places that dramatically influenced the whole past century. Will Ukraine’s Kyiv — with its recent Euromaidan events — prove to be a protagonist of the dramatic and, admittedly, much needed change in the rapidly globalizing world?

A Swedish-Ukrainian documentary, The Wall is free from any built-in comments, voice over. Everything is built on observing the events. You will have a sense that you are there, amidst those events.

We can only hope that your government and state media will allow you to choose which side you take.

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It just so happens that media is a strong instrument in shaping human opinion.

In a world of ever increasing need for cooperation and harmonization of national worldviews, state-run media just won’t let go. But also publishing industry segments like fashion continue to show that they couldn’t care less about equality and harmony. What is going on in relation to foreign media in Russia is a prime example of such short-sighted attitudes by both sides of the fence.

In Russia, the publishing industry is still reeling from legal changes earlier this year while the new amendments — to go into force on December, 6th — will soon have foreign companies to seek government permission before buying a stake of over 25 % in newspapers or magazines in the Eastern European nation.

Daughter of former Kostroma senator, Miroslava Duma is featured in the April 2013 issue of Vogue USA
Daughter of former Kostroma senator, Miroslava Duma is here featured in the April 2013 issue of Vogue USA

Engaged in an information war with the rest of the world over its western neighbour nation of Ukraine, the Kremlin seems to be undeterred — on the contrary, they might be delighted — by assessments from the likes of The Business of Fashion that

The new laws are a bullet fired squarely at the country’s independent news outlets

In a communication to BoF, Olga Mikhailovskay, former fashion director at Elle Russia, who has experience of work with the likes of Vogue Russia and Kommersant, a Russia’s richest man Alisher Usmanov-owned newspaper:

I am sure there is a way out like in China, for example, where western glossy magazines are running very successful businesses

Russia’s curent print mediascape is caracterized by these large players which are fully or partially foreign owned: Burda, Hearst Shkulev Media and Sanoma Independent Media, the owner of The Moscow Times.  By February 1, 2017, these companies have to bring their ownership in line with the new law, meanwhile the Kremlin will have a say over how these companies deal with their assets.

Last month, state-run paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta sniped at Russian creatives like former Harper’s Bazaar Russia editor Miroslava Duma, accusing them of gratifying the western press and “not doing enough to promote Russian designers in their engagements with international media.”

But it’s all a media show of remarkable grandeur that is put up for the uninitiated. No conspiracy theories, please. Plain anecdotes. Some post-Soviet Russians who got rich not in an opposition to the Russian government enjoy the spoils of their status. Their children revel in the global culture while the Kremlin continues to feed the impoverished, media illiterate Russians with the Cold War semantics.

And sure the media attention-loving kids of the Western or Ukrainian rich are no less different. Rarely in the history of PR would you spot a genuinely well-meaning, goodwilling starlet on the rise. This is why at Steppes in Sync we continue to raise awareness, talk media ownership.

Got more fitting anecdotes? We’d love to hear from you!

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