In response to a string of terrorist acts by Chechen rebel groups, Russian President Vladmir Putin has formally announced plans to concentrate power through direct appointment of regional governors and the elimination of individual district elections for the Duma.
In response to these sudden moves, Colin Powell said “This is pulling back on some of the democratic reforms as seen by the international community that have occurred in the past. So yes, we have concerns about it, and we want to discuss them with the Russians.” But the democracies of the world are having trouble urging Russia to see things their way and the Bush administration is concerned that too-severe criticisms might only act to diminish any possibilities for further alliances, especially when it comes to cooperating in the war on terror.
But all of this is good news for Ukrainian-born funnyman Yakov Smirnoff who made a career with his “What A Country!” routine in the mid-80’s, appearing in guest spots on TV’s Night Court. You might remeber some of Smirnoff’s more memorable lines, such as:
In Russia, if a male athelete loses he becomes a female athelete.
or, this biting media critique:
In Russia we only had two TV channels. Channel One was propaganda. Channel Two consisted of a KGB officer telling you: Turn back at once to Channel One.
and, of course Smirnoff’s offbeat takes on Russian comedy:
Many people are surprised to hear that we have comedians in Russia, but they are there. They are dead, but they are there.
After 13 years since the Soviet Union collapsed, the comic has fallen on some hard times. However, Smirnoff is apparently working on some new material to update his act. Here are some ideas found in Smirnoff’s trash can more recently:
In America, terrorists come from other side of world. In Russia, they live next door.
In America, you can lose popular vote and still be elected president. In Russia, you can be president and just get rid of popular vote.
In Russia, state controls health care for people. In America, health care controls state. I love this country!