An Oscar for the Tsar

An Oscar for the TsarAlmost nobody misses the opening of the Olympic Games, wherever they might happen. I was among the endless crowd of viewers who watched the parade of nations present at the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 4, 2022. Among the dignitaries in the official grandstand was Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, who is said to have been preparing for a military invasion of Ukraine. Due to a doping scandal, Russian athletes are competing as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee, under the acronym “ROC.”

One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was certainly the parade of Ukrainian athletes in front of the official grandstand and of the Russian president, the image going viral on social networks. Vladimir Putin suddenly fell asleep, seeming to move only when the Ukrainian athletes had already passed. The image of Putin taking a nap in the stands seemed so real and believable that De Niro or Al Pacino would have been envious of the artistic impression of the acting number, for which there was no need to shoot a double. This is the question that lingers in everyone’s mind: Why should the well-known politician choose to fall asleep? Somehow to show his contempt for the athletes who paraded under the Ukrainian flag? Or, who knows, the fatigue from the protocol meetings may have “knocked him out.” Or it could have been a white night.

What would it have been like if the Russian president had applauded frantically, standing? He could have said he was applauding the Ukrainian “brothers.” With his experience in political diplomacy, it would have been a trifle to explain his gesture of “joy” and his applause.

Putin swims in icy water, plays with tiger cubs, but also with the nerves of his fellows, giving shivers to his opponents and state leaders pretty much everywhere. He is a skilled hunter, a great hockey player, but also a fit athlete in hand-to-hand combat. He rides bears and ignores the Ukrainian delegation at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

More recently, he’s been having fun with Macron playing cat and mouse. I have often seen in my parents’ yard in our native Loviste how our cat was hunting a mouse. Before sacrificing it, the cat would playfully hit the mouse with the paw until it was dizzy, then let it recover. The mouse wanted to scamper, but the she-devil would catch it and make it dizzy again. Eventually, bored, the cat delivered the coup de grace, tearing it into its claws.

The meeting of the two reminded me of a joke circulating during the time of dictator Ceausescu. He had put three mice in three cages, which he met once a month. To find out how they’re doing. The peasant mouse reported that it was receiving some food and water, but it could get somewhat better. The same for the worker mouse. Ceausescu finally reached the cage of the intellectual mouse. Well, do you have enough to eat. Yes, Comrade President. Enough to drink. Yes. Then why are you so scrawny? They show me the cat every time. I don’t think Macron was shown the cat, but the bear.

I met only one real Russian in my life, but a formidable one: the famous poet and film director Yevgeny Yevtushenko. I met him at the International Festival Days and Nights of Literature in Neptune, held June 6-11, 2007 and hosted by U.S.R. His artistic and lyrical personality, eager for life, with an acute perception of the post-war daily, undermined any political orthodoxy. The late poet wrote literature with much dedication and originality. I consider him the last great poet of Russia, although mother Russia does not lack valuable poets.

I keep wondering if the poet Yevgeny, in his capacity as a film director (see “Stalin’s Funeral”), would have proposed an Oscar for the Tsar, thanks to his artistic appearances, especially the simulation of the nap in Beijing. But as a poet, what would the famous Yevtushenko have said to Putin?

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