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5 Feb, 2019 10:53

‘Corruption is in Russia’s DNA’: Even Moscow’s biggest critics can’t stomach ‘racist’ NYT op-ed

‘Corruption is in Russia’s DNA’: Even Moscow’s biggest critics can’t stomach ‘racist’ NYT op-ed

An unfortunate New York Times op-ed which argues that Russia has a genetic affinity for corruption has disgusted even the most vocal Kremlin critics – an impressive feat considering the US appetite for mindless Russia bashing.

Around-the-clock Russiagate hysteria has produced an impressive array of poorly conceived, xenophobic-laced Kremlinology – but the Times’ latest offering, ‘The Putin I Knew; the Putin I Know’, is a rare delicacy that not even the most accomplished truffle dog could dig up.

Penned by one Franz J. Sedelmayer, the piece uses anecdotes about Vladimir Putin when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg to argue that “Putin’s Russia” is hardwired to hate democracy. Sedelmayer, we’re told, ran a security company that received a contract in St. Petersburg – resulting in several run-ins with Putin in the 90s.

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“Corruption is in Russia’s DNA, as it is in Mr. Putin’s,” the German author theorizes. Not satisfied with pontificating about Russia’s genetic defects, Sedelmayer later quips that “sharing’s not the Russian way.”

Some might applaud Sedelmayer for not trying to mask his expert analysis with flowery innuendo, but even the most hardened Russia critics found his casual generalizations too nauseating to stomach.

“‘Corruption is in Russia’s DNA.’ This is racism masquerading as analysis,” wrote NPR Moscow correspondent Lucian Kim.

Maxim Edwards, a former editor at the profoundly anti-Putin Open Democracy, mocked the op-ed as a smorgasbord of clichés.

The article’s comment section was also peppered with messages expressing disbelief that the New York Times provided a platform for the German businessman’s fact-deficient rant.

“‘Corruption is in Russia’s DNA...’ Could you imagine a statement like that directed at any other ethnic group? Or did NYT conduct a pioneering DNA study, and discover that bigotry is ok, if it’s anti-russian?” one comment read.

Alas, the op-ed boasts more than just unapologetic prejudice. In an ill-fated attempt to demonstrate his deep understanding of Russia and its genetic aversion to democracy, Sedelmayer rolled out an italicized list of scary Russian words, proving once and for all that the Russian language has a word for “lies.”

“A former K.G.B. officer, he [Putin] understands how to use disinformation (deza), lies (vranyo), and compromise (kompromat) to create chaos in the West and at home,” Sedelmayer states matter-of-factly.

Actually, ‘vranyo’ is not some sort of sneaky KGB code word – it literally just means ‘lies’. And Sedelmayer might want to run ‘kompromat’ through Google Translate again. (Free Russian lesson: It means ‘compromising material’, not ‘compromise’.)

Sedelmayer’s impressive Russian language flexing did not go unappreciated on social media, with even the likes of Julia Ioffe expressing dismay at the New York Times’ subpar translation skills.

Summing up the overarching problem with Sedelmayer’s salty word salad, Soviet-American journalist Yasha Levine posited an uncomfortable hypothetical scenario:

“Imagine a NYT op-ed casually stating: ‘corruption is in the Jewish DNA.’ But as long as we’re talking about Russians, this kind of gross xenophobia is totally fine.”

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