Staunton, August 29 – In Soviet times, the joke ran, the press carried three kinds of news: obituaries which were certainly true; the weather forecast which was possibly true; and everything else which was patently false. Typically, however, it was recognized that at least the words of the supreme leader would be quoted accurately, however false their content.
Now, however, the situation may have deteriorated because it appears that even Vladimir Putin cannot be certain that all news outlets in his country will quote him correctly. A case in Tatarstan 12 days ago of such misquotation of the Kremlin leader is attracting ever more attention, and one can only wonder whether this is unique or the start of a new pattern.
On August 17, Tatar-Inform carried a story about Putin’s meeting with representatives of the national social organizations of occupied Crimea. According to the news service, Putin gave as “an example of the peaceful co-existence of representatives of various confessions and various nationalities … the Republic of Tatarstan” (tatar-inform.ru/news/2015/08/17/467664/).
The Kazan-based outlet then ascribed the following words to Putin, albeit not in the form of a direct quote: According to Putin’s “words, Tatarstan is a strong and peace-loving region” and he “directed the attention of the participants of this meeting to this fact and propose using its priceless experience.”
Several writers have pointed out that what Tatar-Inform reported did not perfectly correspond to Putin’s speech, but Mikhail Shcheglov, the head of the Society of Russian Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan and of the “Let us Help Novorossiya” movement, has now savaged it on the website of the World Russian Popular Assembly (vrns.ru/news/4004/#.VeHiDZcWIbN).
He compared what Tatar-Inform reported with the text provided by the Kremlin itself (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50140) and found some significant differences. Putin did say that Tatarstan was “an example of the peaceful coexistence of representatives of various confessions.” But he did not add “and various nationalities.”
That is Shcheglov says “already a creative development of the thought of the president of the Russian Federation which hardly can be called correct.”
In addition, he continues, “the phrase that ‘Tatarstan is a strong and peace-loving region’” is one that “could not be said by the president of the Russian Federation by definition.” Such “epithets,” Shcheglov continues, “are appropriate for an independent state and not a subject of the Russian Federation.”
Are there perhaps “’aggressive regions’ in Russia?” Shcheglov asks. He doesn’t provide an answer, but perhaps some others can.