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Depardieu’s Russian citizenship triggers mixed comments

January 09, 2013, 17:11 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

The news French film actor Gerard Depardieu has been granted Russian citizenship made headline news in the first days of the new year. Analysts attribute the emotional comments that followed virtually in no time in the Russian mass media and the national segment of the Internet not so much to the man’s personality as to the current problems of Russian society.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to grant Russian citizenship to Depardieu on January 3. A short while later he received the French actor in Sochi to present him with his Russian passport. Depardieu decided to renounce his French citizenship after the home country introduced a special luxury tax.

Depardieu explained that he had handed in his French passport when French Prime Minister Francois Hollande called him a coward for his intention to move to neighboring Belgium. He has not given up the idea of becoming a Belgian subject, either.

“I shall certainly have double citizenship,” he said without hesitation.

Some in Russia were quick to make a great fuss over the French actor’s decision, but many others reacted with skeptical grins.

There has been word that Depardieu may hope not only to get a place where to live in Russia, but also permanent employment. The leadership of Mordovia – Russia’s constituent republic closest to Moscow – has invited Depardieu to take the post of the minister of culture. The invitation followed during the actor’s recent visit to the republican capital Saransk.

“Depardieu has been offered the post of the minister of culture. They have a vacancy. He replied ‘Thank you, but I am already the culture minister of the world,’ the chief of the state film fund Gosfilmofond, Nikolai Borodachyov, remarked on the Russian News Service radio station.

However, Depardieu did not say an emphatic ‘NO’, adding that he would be able to make a decision only when he had studied the life and culture of Mordovia in detail, for which he would have to visit the region many more times.

Depardieu has already received registration (a procedure mandatory for all Russians) in Saransk. The head of the republic, Vladimir Volkov, has expressed an intention to give him an apartment as a gift.

Meanwhile, the drama theater in Tyumen, a large city in the heartland of Siberia, has declared it may hire the French film star on a permanent basis for 16,000 rubles a month (an equivalent of 530 US dollars).

“Tyumen’s drama theater has made a decision to support Russian citizenship and great French actor Gerard Depardieu and offer him permanent employment starting from March 2013, a salary of 16,000 rubles plus 22% plus 10% plus the 15% Urals bonus plus surpluses for parts played and a rented apartment in the center of Tyumen,” as follows from a statement on the theater’s Facebook.

The Tyumen theater is equipped with a system of individual translation for spectators – both audio and video options and scrolling text. It is also the largest drama theater in Russia, the post says.

Commentators are more intrigued by what in their opinion is inadequate response to the “Russian- citizenship-for-Depardieu” affair. Some people are very critical of the French actor for his decision to exchange European democracy for its Russian version. Others argue it is a good occasion to feel national pride. And very many find the hullabaloo in the media over the development as very annoying.

“The Depardieu affair has added an absurdity color to the season of New Year and Christmas holidays,” says Kommersant FM observer Konstantin Eggert. “An aging movie idol is to play a role in the sphere of international culture that is very similar to that of Germany’s former chancellor, nominal chief of the Nord Stream gas pipeline project Gerchard Schroeder in the world economy,” he argues. “Now he will keep signing hallelujahs to Russian democracy.”

“Any routine development can be presented in a way that will make any person look like an idiot,” says retired officer Yevgeny Shults in his blog. “It is a matter of proportion. There is nothing wrong about granting Russian citizenship to Gerard Depardieu as such. What is really bad is the hysteria in the mass media on the occasion. An ordinary development has been blown out of proportion and presented as Russia’s triumph. All progressively minded people will start moving to Russia.”

He is certain that Gerard Depardieu should have been given Russian citizenship in an ordinary fashion.

“The whole affair is absolutely mediocre. It is much ado about nothing,” journalist Leonid Radzikhovsky said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station. “A man has received the country’s citizenship. It’s a very routine event. The real problem is the response to it by the country’s ill public mind.” In his opinion it illustrates the “degree of split and inadequate anger” in Russian society.

“Some say Depardieu is a disgrace for the whole civilized world, because he has agreed to accept the citizenship of a country that has just adopted a very cruel law banning the adoptions of orphaned children by foreigners,” says essayist Ivan Preobrazhensky on the website. “Others keep talking nonsense about the great French actor’s example drawing foreign investors.”

Lastly, the analyst says with certainty, it is merely another conformation jingoism and radical opposition are same-type phenomena.

“The advocates of both views equally despise their country. In reality both believe that their country is not worthy of Depardieu. They see their own fellow citizens as second-rate people as compared with a foreign celebrity,” Preobrazhensky said.