Putin's Kiss and the Power of Doubt

This evening, following the release from prison of Vladimir Pereverzin, the former deputy director of the Yukos oil company, I joined a group of reporters and supporters of the Russian opposition parties for a film screening of a documentary film aptly titled Putin’s Kiss

While in the first instance, Yukos received a kiss of death from the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in the later he receives a kiss from an emphatic supporter and a member of the NASHI (OUR) youth movement, Masha Drokova. Masha is no ordinary girl Russian girl, for she was the face and the voice of the movement, serving as its representative to the media, the broader general public, and the world of a “democratic anti-fascist youth movement,” according their official site. Such a job, as Masha found out, carries profound challenges and inherent dangers. However, these are not physical, but mainly introspective. As she is sent to reach out to the broader world, the interaction brings her to meeting and communicating with opposition journalists and writers. In this specific case, Oleg Kashin, a journalist who was attacked by two young men outside of his home, becomes a friend and the brutal attack on him forces Masha to seek justice for a critic of the NASHI movement. I highly recommend this film to the American audience, not for the depressing and distressing realities of Putin’s Russia, but for the promise and effectiveness of doubt that comes from interaction.


Russia is preparing for a presidential election, following a fraudulent parliamentary election this past December. The election will undoubtedly lead to the re-election of Vladimir Putin as president, but the country that he will come to govern will be a far cry from the one he intended to lead. I do not wish what happened to Mr. Kashin to happen to anyone, but because of the tragedy and travesty of the attack and because of his interaction with an idealistic young girl, she has come to question the validity of her beliefs and the fundamental principles of Putinism that she has been raised on. The current growth in the ranks of the opposition movement in the major urban centers of Russia and the increased volume of descent allowed on Russian state-controlled television stations will continue to seed doubt through engagement and on a much larger scale. Doubt leads to questions, questions require a response, lack of response can lead to unrest. As such, Putin will have some serious explaining to do and, most importantly, to the disenchanted youths who are now being confronted with less than desirable truths about the leadership they were taught to adore.

There is a great Turkish proverb: If you speak the truth, have one foot in the stirrup. I have had my foot in the stirrup that has led me to live in the United States. However, the truth may force the party, Putin in this case, to whom the truth is being spoken to and about, to find a stirrup as well – sooner or later – making this film a must see for those interested in the current events in Russia.

Putin’s Kiss is a great story put together by a Danish filmmaker Lise Birk Pederson, released by Kino Lorber Inc. and will be screened in the United States.

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Lev Sviridov

Lev is an Acting Director of the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College and a Senior Research Associate of the CUNY Energy Institute at The City College of New York, specializing in the chemistry of Manganese Dioxide for grid scale energy storage applications. Additionally, Lev serves on the board of Concord Consortium, Human Rights First, and the 21st Century Foundation.

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