Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ten Words Not To Be Used in Presence of Mr.Putin

Russian media circulates a list of words to be avoided when speaking to Prime Minister Putin. According to the reports it was put together to drill participants in the meeting with Mr Putin at a youth gathering this summer.

Here is this list:

1. Medvedev (Медведев) - don't mention the President who is seen by many only as figurehead while the Prime Minister wields the real power, or so some would like it to be seen.
2. Money (деньги) - apparently it is not good form to talk money, directly, with a man as important as the Prime Minister.
3. President (президент) - same as no.1. Obama misaddressed Putin as President at their famous 'samovar breakfast' during the US President's visit to Moscow earlier this year.
4. Goszakaz (госзаказ) - literally: state order, a government guaranteed and funded commission to produce a certain type and quantity of merchandise. In other words, a government guarantee of commercial viability. A major source of bureaucratic power - and corruption. Not only in Russia of course. The leader shouldn't be associated with any of these obviously.
5. Falling down, decrepit (разваливающийся) - we don't want to talk about failure in the face of a man who only wants to be associated with success.
6. Slumping, declining, decadent (упадочный) - same as no. 5
7. Bad (плохой) - probably, same as no.5 and 6.
8. Give me (дайте) - don't pester great men with petty requests and probably same as no.4. Not to be confused with давайте or давай (let's do it, go for it).
9. I want (хочу) - same as no.8
10. Help (помогите) - a hate word of particular significance, especially when used as an offer of help. Michael Dell of Dell Computers learned it the hard way at the Davos Economic Forum earlier this year. Putin, like many Russians, sees offers of help as patronising, unsuitable when talking to a great nation. Watch the video with Putin replying to Dell below.

The list reportedly was compiled by the head of the Federal Agency for Youth Vassily Yakemenko for participants of the Seliger-2009 gathering, an annual national workshop for pro-government young people at a campsite near lake Seliger, 350 km Nort-West of Moscow. Putin visited the event in July this year.

The list of banned words was first reported by the Kommersant, a lively business newspaper, popular not so much for the accuracy of its reporting, but for the tongue-in-cheek style of packaging the news. According to the report Yakemenko said: I am not giving directives, only recommendations. You either follow my recommendations, or you don't speak to Putin.

It is not clear if the list exists as a document or was put together by the Kommersant correspondent himself. In any case, it is claimed that none of the banned words were said during Putin's meetings with the Seliger youth. Exchanges were along the you-love-me-I-love-you lines, says the paper. 'A girl to Putin: 'you are a wonderful leader'. Putin to the girl: 'and you are a beautiful girl'.

When Michael Dell, CEO of Dell computers, asked Putin at Davos what Western IT companies could do to help Russia, it provoked an angry outburst which surprised many. But, as the Fortune/Money CNN Europe Editor Peter Gumbell explained,
Russia has been allergic to offers of aid from the West ever since hundreds of overpaid consultants arrived in Moscow after the collapse of Communism, in 1991, and proceeded to hand out an array of advice that proved, at times, useless or dangerous.
Putin's withering reply to Dell: "We don't need help. We are not invalids. We don't have limited mental capacity." The slapdown took many of the people in the audience by surprise. Putin then went on to outline some of the steps the Russian government has taken to wire up the country, including remote villages in Siberia. And, in a final dig at Dell, he talked about how Russian scientists were rightly respected not for their hardware, but for their software.

The impact of Putin's outburst was considered serious enough for Russia Today, a sleek propaganda satellite TV channel and web-site, to claim, unconvincingly, that Putin's real meaning was 'lost in translation'. Putin's anger and his insistence that Russia did not need help, but would welcome equal partnership, were not.

Here is a video where Putin asks Yakemenko to put an oscillograph for the young inventor on his to do list. ('Vasya! Oscillograph!'):

And here Putin is telling off Michael Dell:

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