09:46 GMT +315 November 2018
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    Deeper Than Oil: Life Gets 'More Better’ for Sveta from Ivanovo

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    A federal TV station in Russia has been coming under criticism of late from media professionals and bloggers over its decision to grant a 19-year-old Vladimir Putin supporter with no previous broadcasting experience and an intellect described by her critics as “junior school level” her own prime-time talk show.

    A federal TV station in Russia has been coming under criticism of late from media professionals and bloggers over its decision to grant a 19-year-old Vladimir Putin supporter with no previous broadcasting experience and an intellect described by her critics as “junior school level” her own prime-time talk show.

    Pro-Kremlin youth group member Svetlana Kuritsyna gained national infamy when she was interviewed at a pro-Putin rally late last year by a Moscow-based newspaper and a video of the clip went viral.

    “We’ve begun to dress more better [sic],” Kuritsyna said when asked to list the achievements of what was then Putin’s United Russia party. “Agriculture is doing well, too. There’s more earth and there are, y’know, vegetables and rye, all that, there.”

    She also said another “good, even very good achievement” by the party was that “Moscow is a multi-ethnic city with lots of people in it and they help us, people from other towns.”

    Kuritsyana quickly became known throughout Russia as Sveta from Ivanovo, after the central Russian town she hails from, and her sayings quickly passed into everyday speech. At least among internet users, anyway.

    But the relentless mocking of Sveta saw the journalist who had filmed the clip apologize publically to her for not warning her she was spouting “nonsense.” “Come and spit in my face and then we’ll go and have a cup of coffee,” wrote Moskovskiye Novosti journalist Yevgeny Gladin.

    Sveta, who admitted falling into depression in the weeks after the clip went viral, did not take up the offer. Instead, she gave more interviews.

    In a follow-up interview with Kuritsyna after Putin’s victory in the March presidential elections, Sveta from Ivanovo praised the former KGB man for “sorting out good relations with all other countries.” She also hailed the “progressive youth” that had sprung up under his rule. By “progressive” she meant that “parents can afford to buy their kids good phones and that. And not on credit, either.”

    “Some 18-year-olds have even got their own cars. I even know some,” she gushed.

    And all this despite a video clip that came out around this time showing Sveta’s student accommodation, with its sad peeling wallpaper and sagging bunk beds. The same clip also featured an interview with her mother, who complained about her 7,000-ruble monthly (just over $200) salary, from which she had to find 6,000 to pay for her apartment. True, Sveta’s father, she said, earns around 20,000 rubles a month. “I live ok,” she said, “for my town.”

    The Sveta cult had taken off. In an interview with talk show presenter Sergei Minaev, Kuritsyana stunned her host when she put forward her theory as to the recent anti-Putin protests.

    “If the opposition comes to power, they will unite Russia straight off with America,” she said.

    “Are you being straight with me Sveta?” asked Minaev. “I mean, you really believe that the Americans look at this huge territory, and think they need to build here roads, of which there are none, build an infrastructure and feed 144 million people?”

    “They’ll shoot our lot straight off,” replied Sveta, apparently joking this time.

    “But look,” she went on. “Putin has held our country together for so long and not given it away to anyone.”

    In case anyone was wondering, the channel that has chosen to present Sveta to the nation is NTV, the station that attracted a storm of criticism over a documentary earlier this year alleging that people were being paid to go anti-Putin protests. (This is an accusation that has more frequently been voiced about pro-Putin rallies. The type that Sveta was heading to when she gave the interview that would change her life.)

     “The government is – in all spheres and on all levels – encouraging a lack of talent and a lack of education,” wrote a blogger for the online Snob.ru magazine. “Those who make it to the top are those who seem to say to others – guys, to be successful, you don’t need to be a thinker. We don’t need your new ideas.”

    Sveta’s talk show is due to debut on July 21 and is set to see her interview a host of famous Russians, including the eccentric veteran politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who once threatened to seize Alaska from the United States and to launch nuclear weapons at Japan.

    I’ll be watching, for sure. There’s something addictive about Sveta’s lack of vocabulary and ability to reduce any debate to the level of a playground argument. And something tells me Sveta also has what it takes to become the figure the anti-Putin opposition loves to hate.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

    *
    From lurid tales of oligarch excess to scare stories about Moscow’s stranglehold on Europe’s energy supplies, the land that gave us Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Putin is very rarely out of the news. But there is much more to modern Russia than billionaire tycoons and political conspiracy. Marc Bennetts’ weekly column, Deeper Than Oil, goes beyond the headlines to explore the hidden sides of the world’s largest, and often strangest, country.

    Marc Bennetts is a journalist who has written about Russian spies, Chechen football and Soviet psychics for a number of UK newspapers, including The Guardian and The Times. He is also the author of Football Dynamo: Modern Russia and the People’s Game (Virgin Books).

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