26 September 2007

TNT Reports on a Lower Frequency

For some time, I have been thinking that a proper consideration of “Moscow Through Brown Eyes” ought take into account one of the largest and most socio-economically deprived segments of Asians in the city—Tadjik workers. I had been working up a treatment of TNT’s hit series Наша Russia, a fascinating and problematic comedic treatment of Russia in the post-Soviet globalized world, including a recurrent skit on the lives and fantasies of two Tadjik gastarbeitery. Chock full of stereotypes and cheap shots, the series is saved by the brilliant acting of Mikhail Galustian and the occasional Boratesque turn that up-ends the prejudices that it simultaneously embraces. I won’t pretend to be qualified to properly interpret the humor—neither my Russian-language nor my depth of understanding of contemporary Russian pop culture would allow me to do a proper job of that task.

(I can, however, report that my Murmanskovite roommate in Petersburg was so captivated by the humor that he sat on his bed half-dressed, rapt with attention for the entire show. Only when it was over did he remember to put on his shirt and pants to get more beer. In other words, the comedy is strong enough to keep a young Russian from his quest for another drink—powerful stuff.)

My interpretative inabilities notwithstanding, the show did seem to me to be a nice lead-in to discuss the large, semi-invisible Tadjik labor force in Moscow. (Perhaps one plus for Наша Russia is that it even considers the lives of gastarbeitery.) But alas, the eXile has scooped me. Instead of following in the NYT’s current mode of reworking already-existing journalism for its Russia coverage, I’ll just refer you to the article; it really is worth reading, albeit drenched in the usual eX-sensationalism (a warning for those who’ve never ventured over to that site before). Expect a boring, straight-laced piece from the NYT in a few weeks.

One point to add to the eXile piece: remember the reason why there are so many Tadjik workers in Moscow. As immigrant activists have maintained for a few decades now: “we are here because you were there.” Something to think about.

p.s. Everyone should be paying attention to the Blackwater Inquiry.