An insidious plan to enforce the Constitution: a series about spies in the United States was released in Russia, which became the culmination of propaganda
Intending to show how they work against the United States, Russian spies showed how they work against their own country.
This winter a new spy series, “The Russians,” appeared on Russian screens – about the work of Russian illegal spies in the USA. On 14 February in the on-line movie channel Premier the final episode of 12 was aired, and the film is expected to premiere on the one of the main Russian propaganda channels, NTV. If one is to believe the show, Russian spies spared no effort preventing any possibility of a decent future for their own country.
“The Russians” vs. “The Americans”
The creators do not hide the fact that the new screen opus is their response to the American cult serial “The Americans,” also concerning the activities of Soviet illegals during the Cold War. In an attempt to deliver a “decisive blow” to foreign cinema, the prototypes of the characters played the main roles: former spies Andrey Bezrukov and his wife Yelena Vavilova, who were expelled from the United States in 2010 following their discovery. They were co-authors of “The Russians” script, and Yelena Vavilova’s book, “The Woman Who Can Keep Secrets,” formed the basis of the series.
The pair of former spies do not hide the fact that the product created with their participation is more propaganda than entertainment. In Vavilova's words, upon watching the serial “The Americans,” she “immediately felt a desire to tell how the work of illegal spies is really carried out overseas.” “The serial is correct and based on real life,” the screenwriter assures us in the hope that after watching, young people “will not fear intelligence work” and will wish to simulate her espionage career.
Corpses, blood, and violence
However, in the first episodes of “The Russians” it seems that the former spies’ idea of “real life” is quite unique, to put it mildly. In the opinion of the creators of the series, the relationships among Americans are fraught with constant scandals leading to assaults, mutual threats, savage rapes, and, of course, assassinations.
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The neighbors of the principal characters, the Gautheirs, seem like a respectable American family but turn out to be drug traffickers. When they learn that the Gautheir children, young Peter and Paul, have noticed odd things in their house, they decide to kill the children along with their parents. Needless to say, the supermen of the Gauthiers are stronger, and in an unequal battle, they kill their unfortunate neighbors. It is with this “typical sketch of American life” that the serial begins.
The FBI agents investigating the killings turn out to be lovers, but the only form of interactions between them, besides sex, for some reason are scandals, hysterical phone calls from the mistress to the wife, and primitive fights. Needless to say, with such a relationship, the colleagues can’t even agree on which of them carries out the arrest of the next suspect, which of course leads to fresh corpses.
The head of a leading consulting firm, according to the plot, is a pervert who rapes everyone in his path, beginning with the wife of a respected university professor and ending with a well-known journalist. When his conduct causes problems, the respected American consultant resolves them with the help of a hired assassin.
It seems that the goal of the creators of the serial was to discredit not only the image of their enemies, but the very understanding of people and the nature of human relationships as such. Of course, the atmosphere in American business circles is far from ideal. In an environment where big money and big power collide, one can find instances of unethical behavior, and even sexual harassment. But the way it was presented in “The Russians” cannot withstand comparison even with the most mediocre Hollywood action movies. Against this background, the pretentions of Bezrukov and Vavilova are especially ridiculous regarding “The Americans,” in which in their words there is improbable cruelty and violence.
One may suppose that in modern Russia, where the murder of tens of thousands of innocent people is considered normal, the relationships shown in the Russian series seem quite natural and innocent to the creators.
“The Russians” as a form of Russophobia
It is interesting that Russian spies Katherine and George Gauthier are portrayed in the serial as little better than their American colleagues. They sound off contemptuously about America trying to “bring democracy” to other regions, obviously believing this is the worst sort of behavior. The main way the Gautheir couple recruits agents is blackmail. At first, they try to recruit their drug dealer neighbors using compromising evidence, then their drug addict clients, and finally a maniac rapist who is killed later by another Russian agent.
The creators of the above-mentioned serial “The Americans” show their characters in a much more favorable light. In it, the Russian spies truly believe in the communist idea and fear the real threat of war for their country, but they care nothing for democracy. In “The Americans” those agreeing to work for the Soviet Union often do so for ideological reasons, and the authors aren’t afraid to show the real shortcomings of America at that time in order to explain their motivation.
Thus, among those working for Russian spies in “The Americans” are an altruistic pastor, fearful of the arms race, a fighter for African American rights, facing the remnants of racism, etc. The creators of the serial “The Russians” hold a much lower opinion of their characters. Not without reason, they believe that only maniacs and drug addicts can work for modern Russia, and even then under threat of blackmail. In truth, it is difficult to find a more “Russophobic” product. Clearly, this is what Yelena Vavilova had in mind when she spoke of the veracity and realism of the series.
Realism and Fantasy
Maybe an even more truthful moment is the story about the re-recruitment by Moscow of former Iraqi terrorists to whom the Gautheirs proposed “to work under a new flag against our common enemy.” The fact that in one of the episodes these people mount an act of terror against an American civilian target with dozens of deaths doesn’t bother the Russian spies in the least.
Also quite realistic is the portrayal of the number of traitors from among intelligence and counterintelligence officers – at a minimum, three from a fairly small group of Chekists. It also seems quite plausible that an agent codenamed “Margarita” kills people (including failed Russian spies) on orders from his SVR handlers. In the end, following a failed attempt to liquidate their own colleagues, Moscow predictably abandons the unlucky killer to his own fate, and the person who gave him the criminal orders is not punished in the least.
As for the technical side of the issue, “realism” develops a serious limp. One of the main complaints of Bezrukov and Vavilova against “The Americans” is the “unrealistic” friendship of the main characters with their neighbor, FBI agent Stan Beeman.
«“If it turned out that our neighbor was an FBI agent, there would have been an immediate order from the Center to move under any pretext, – this a completely unacceptable risk,” reveal the former spies. However in the new serial the main character-illegal is under FBI investigation from the beginning: at first, under suspicion of murder and drug trafficking, and then espionage – and he is perfectly aware of it all.
Nevertheless, such a "trifle" did not move the Russian "James Bonds" even for a while to stop intelligence activities. It is likely that being “in the shadow” of counterintelligence, according to Russian spies, is much less risky than simply being friends with a neighbor. However, why even bother with any plausibility in terms of security in the series, where, for example, American handlers transmit tasks to their agent in Russia via open messages in video conferences over the Internet?
Prevent Democracy and Federalization
As the story progresses, between violence and murders the main story line of “The Russians” begins to take shape. It gradually becomes clear that the main villain besides the Americans is the oligarch Boris Mikhailovich Khovanskiy. For those who have not yet understood the analogy with the former director of YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, the script specifies that Khovanskiy is the owner of the oil company, “YUGOS.” The “YUGOS” head of security, Sychugin, together with Americans (or parallel with them – this is never explained) also organizes a series of contract murders not unlike the other characters in the series. And only towards the end of the twelve-episode serial does the reason for all this bloody confrontation become clear and what is behind the insidious plan of the Americans, code-named “Zone of Influence.”
It turns out that the essence of the plan is the desire of Khovansky-Khodorkovsky to sell his oil assets to the Americans, which will help him realize a much more sinister plan. Khovansky plans to run for president and hopes the Kremlin won't be able to stop him from doing so if he has enough financial resources. It is this prospect that Catherine and Georges Gauthier, who have exposed the "insidious plans" of the oligarch, discuss in desperation.
Not one of the spies is embarrassed by the fact that the desire of "Khovanskiy" to promote his candidacy for election is absolutely legal, while attempts to prevent him from doing so are fundamentally unconstitutional. In fact, the plan of Khovanskiy and the Americans, according to the main characters of the series, was only to help a person protect his rights and prevent Putin’s unconstitutional usurpation of power.
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However, as it turns out, the greatest evil is not in this. In the penultimate episode, it turns out that Khovanskiy, if he wins the elections, hopes to achieve genuine democracy and federalization in Russia, because otherwise the country is "doomed to repeat the same historical mistakes." It is worth recalling here that Russia, according to its Constitution, is a democratic and federal state. However, the illegal spies, as well as their leadership, do not seem to be aware of this.
So, the intelligence and counterintelligence chiefs, considering the Gautheirs’ report vie to frighten one another with the idea of a “blood drenched” country, and describe federalization as an attempt to “divide and conquer.” “We are a step away from catastrophe,” they exclaim pathetically. Exactly how the development of markets and economic independence in the regions might lead to catastrophe, the Chekists did not bother to explain.
The final scene of Khovanskiy's arrest also fits into this logic. According to the plot, the Chekists have been lobbying for five days for amendments to the federal law "On Subsoil" and are trying to ensure that it is published at the last minute, so that the disgraced oligarch would not have the opportunity to find out about it. Then, based on the new law, Khovanskiy is arrested right at the airport for just planning a deal, which at the time of its planning was completely legal. In a word, one gets the impression that the Russian special services throughout the series worked not so much against Western intelligence as against their own country.
War with the future disguised as the past
It is noteworthy that according to the plot, the action of the serial takes place in 2003, while Mikhail Khodorkovskiy began to express thoughts about the need to develop genuine federalization somewhat later. They have become especially relevant today against the background of the bloody war with Ukraine unleased by Vladimir Putin, which as many analysts point out threatens the very existence of Russia.
Against this background, the scenario proposed by Mikhail Khodorkovskiy of preserving Russia as a single state possessing nuclear weapons seems to be the most humane, especially in comparison with the positions of the countries neighboring Russia. The former political prisoner himself does not hide the fact that one of the goals of the option he proposes is to reduce the risk of the collapse of Russia, and he personally tries to convince the Western allies to accept such an approach. In fact, Khodorkovskiy and his like-minded people are doing their best to save Russia, while Vladimir Putin's policy will lead directly to its destruction.
One can imagine that if such a serial had really appeared in 2003, it would have elicited shock and rejection from the majority of Russians. However, after decades of propaganda manipulation, the consciousness of Russians seems to have changed so much that the majority is prepared to see good in war and killing and see a free and peaceful life as the greatest evil.
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