How does the Kremlin distort reality? Peter Pomerantsev, a British journalist whose parents emigrated from the Soviet Union, worked as a reality television producer in Moscow during the oil boom of the 2000s. This book is his account of the internal workings of Russia’s “great reality show.”
Pomerantsev takes his camera everywhere. Rather than focus on the unnamed President, he mingles with the motley crowd living the Russian dolce vita, from provincial gangsters in ironed tracksuits to languid girls looking for millionaire sponsors. He will “never have a cast like this again,” he realises.
Television is the glue that holds this Russia together, according to Pomerantsev. Today’s broadcasters have learnt to avoid the dullness of their Cold War predecessors, aspiring to “synthesise Soviet control with western entertainment.”
In a particularly timely passage, he examines how the Kremlin is spreading its views abroad using Russia Today, a 24-hour English-language TV channel. With a staff that includes fresh-faced graduates from Britain and America, it courts western audiences hungry for “alternative” news. “There is no such thing as objective reporting,” its Managing Editor tells him in almost perfect English.
Pomerantsev’s writing is as fizzy as the Prosecco drunk by his Moscow protagonists but his message is sober. His book is a scintillating take on a twisted reality fabricated by the Kremlin and its servants.