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Russia: TV Star Calls For Young Talents Online Project

Tina Kandelaki

Tina Kandelaki (Photo by Anton Nossik)

When famous celebrities use the blogosphere and make headlines because of it, it’s difficult to decide if it’s just another self-promotion or there are pure intentions involved… or maybe it’s both.

This is the case of what happened in Russia last week when a famous TV host Tina Kandelaki [ENG]  published a blog post [RUS] titled “Don’t ask who is guilty, but ask what to do” where she expressed an idea of an innovative online project that would empower the young generation of talented Russians thus strengthening the country.

This Internet-born initiative was eventually supported by the Russian Minister of Education Andrey Fursenko. It was also positively covered by many Russian traditional media.  At the same time, the debates around initiative and the nature of Kandelaki’s intents spread all over the Russian blogosphere.

Kandelaki is well known in Russia as a controversial performer. She appeared on the cover of Russia's Playboy and her name was involved in scandal that was linked to a famous Russian oligarch. Kandelaki  is also a successful TV persona who regularly hosts a popular teenager show “The most clever,” which provided a TV platform for talented children from Russian regions.

Recently Kandelaki became a member of a Civic Chamber of Russian Federation [ENG] and stated [RUS] that her goals was to improve an education system and make the chamber more interactive via online technologies. Kandelaki is also very active in the field of new media. She is not only a blogger but also one of the most active Russian Twitter users.

In her blog,  Kandelaki wrote [RUS] that Russia had a lot of young talented children and teenagers but no one knew about them. She argued that information technology should help in personal development of these children and, at the same time, facilitate technological development of Russia.

Kandelaki suggested that Russian “economic miracle” can be created thorough launching an Internet-based platform that would expose young Russian talents:

Нужно собрать воедино тех, у кого есть воля менять жизнь к лучшему. Тех, кто устал говорить о переменах, тех, кто хочет эти перемены совершать. А хотим мы все одного и того же – великих русских открытий, первых мест на Олимпиаде, экономического чуда в России по примеру американского, послевоенного западногерманского или азиатского. Но этого не будет, если мы с вами вместе не сделаем общее дело под названием «русское экономическое чудо». У нас у всех очень много идей, предложений и сил для реализации этого чуда. Нам только нужно найти друг друга.

We need to gather those who has a will to change life for the better. Those who are tired of talking about changes, those who want to make those changes. And we all want the same thing: great Russian discoveries, first places at the Olympics, economic miracle in Russia following the example of America, post-war West Germany or Asia. But it won't happen if we don't perform a common task known as “Russian economic miracle.”

Я предлагаю создать площадку в Интернете, где каждый мог бы рассказать о своих способностях, успехах и достижениях, а также о своих знакомых и друзьях, которые заслуживают внимания общества. В дополнение к площадке необходимо создать систему скаутов, которые будут искать таланты по всей стране. Всем этим людям нужно дать возможности для развития и познакомить их друг с другом.

I suggest creating a platform on the Internet where everyone would be able to tell about their talents, successes and achievements, about their acquaintances and friends who deserve the attention of society. As an addition to the platform, we need to create the system of scouts who would be looking for talents all across Russia. We need to give all those people an opportunity to develop and get to know each other.

According to Kandelaki, the new platform will expose new talents as it has been done by YouTube. However, it won’t work without a special institute of mediators who will develop the links between young talents and leading teachers . Kandelaki concludes:

Благодаря проекту, направленному на развитие талантов, в России появится больше героев. Это будущие победители Олимпиад, чемпионатов мира, выдающиеся математики, гениальные менеджеры, авторы открытий, меняющих мир и жизнь каждого из нас. Мы сами будем их находить и продвигать. Мы будем гордиться ими. А результаты их труда сделают жизнь каждого из нас лучше, комфортнее и удобнее. Это сила, о которой мы так много говорим и которой, на самом деле, являемся мы сами!

Thanks to the project targeted at developing the talents, Russia will have more heroes. Those are the future winners of the Olympics, world championships, outstanding mathematicians, general managers, authors of discoveries changing the world and life of everyone of us. We will find and promote them ourselves. We will be proud of them. And the results of their work will make the life of everyone of us better, more comfortable and more convenient. This is the force that we talk a lot about but, in truth, we are this force.

The blog post caused a significant resonance and was covered by most of major traditional media outlets in Russia. Hundreds of Internet users sent letters with suggestions to a special e-mail that Kandelaki left at the end of her blog. More than 700 people left comments to blog post itself.

Many of them were very excited about Kandelaki’s initiative and fully supported it. LJ user Sasadziro wrote [RUS]:

А я считаю идея что надо!!!
По сути – это виртуальный молодежный технопарк :) Проблема в другом. У нас в России сформировался ГИГАНТСКОГО размера стереотип, что ТАМ (за рубежом) лучше чем в ЗДЕСЬ. Вот что нужно ломать в головах людей!!! Это блеф поддерживаемый всеми кто ТАМ не был… У нас люди с идеей боятся идти к людям с деньгами, потому что считают что те их кинут.

I think it is a good idea! In a nutshell, it is a virtual youth techno park. :-) But the problem is in another thing. A gigantic stereotype has been formed in Russia that THERE (abroad) is better than HERE. That is what needs to be broken in the hands of people!!! This is the bluff supported by all who have not been THERE… Our people with an idea are afraid to go to the people with money because they believe that those would cheat them.

Some of the users, like crystal_style, wrote [RUS] that they were ready to volunteer for the project:

готова быть волонтером) нужна какая-либо помощь, я здесь. сама учусь в РЭА им.Плеханова и думаю, если вообще будет нужна помощь студентов, объединимся и сделаем))

I am ready to be a volunteer. I am here if you need any help. I study at the Russian Economic Academy named after Plekhanov and I think we can unite and help if you need the assistance from students.

Some media claimed that the project might turn to be a national HR-based, which would shape the future of Russian governance and business.  This idea was supported by an oligarch Aleksandr Lebedev who said that he would follow the Web site and make an effort to engage young talents in his business. Moreover, the initiative was endorsed by the Russian Minister of Education Andrey Fursenko. He said [RUS]:

Это полностью  вписывается в нашу программу. Я  могу сказать, что мы однозначно эту  инициативу поддержим, и в принципе у нас появились определенные возможности поддержать ее не только морально, но и материально. Это точно  будет развиваться. Я считаю, что это вещь однозначно полезная.

This fully goes in accord with our program. I can say that we will definitely support the initiative and, in principle, we have some abilities to support it not only in morally, but also financially.

However, some bloggers were not sure that Kandelaki’s project addressed the right problem. LJ user stga wrote:

Инновации, модернизации, и прочие интеллектозации востребованы должны быть прежде всего экономикой. Причем экономикой направленной на создание конечного продукта. Не инноваций и идей которые сами по себе ничего не стоят (…) Поддержка талантов ради поддержки, без востребованности это глупость.

Innovations, modernizations and other intelectualizations must be demanded by the economy. By the economy that is targeted at creating a final product. Not innovations and ideas that are not worth anything (…) Supporting talents just for the sake of supporting talents without the demand from the economy is stupid.

LJ user gr_ushanka suggested that the main problem was not a wrong approach to talents, but a system of education in general:

И в чем конкретно должна заключаться помощь этим самым талантливым людям? Мне кажется, что думать надо в первую очередь про нашу систему образования, про обеспечение инфраструктуры регионов, про веру людей в то, что они могут что-то сделать сами.

And what is the help to the talents should consist of? I think that we need, first of all, to take care of our system of education, ensuring infrastructure in regions, developing the belief among people that they can do something by themselves.

LJ user i12runoff was even more pessimistic in his reaction:

Стоит создать такой орган поиска талантов и он моментально превратиться в очередной элемент отбора “элиты”. Побеждать в конкурсах там опять будут “по знакомству” или за деньги.

Once this body of talent search is created, it will momentarily turn into an element of searching for “elite.” Only people who have money and know someone would be winning the academic competitions.

Other bloggers asked who was going to sponsor this projects and expressed concerns not in regard to the idea, but how it would be implemented.

On the contrary, bloggers like tan_de were annoyed [RUS] by the critical approach:

Прочитала пост на одном дыхании. Замечательная идея! но как всегда, нашлись люди, полные пессимизма, придирающиеся к каждому слову. Нет, критическое мышление – это хорошо, но давайте направлять его на конструктив. Например, на реализацию этого проекта.

I read the post with one breath. Wonderful idea! But, as always, there are people full of pessimism and picking on every word. Critical thinking is good but let's direct it constructively. On making the project possible, for example.

However not only the idea itself, but Kandelaki motive’s and her intents were under scrutiny of bloggers.  Some of them suspected that the blog post is not an own initiative by Kandilaki, but a part of political plan by Russian ruling party “Edinaya Rossiya” and president’s administration. LJ user sash13ok wrote [RUS]:

“Идея” – хорошая. Но, я надеюсь, что данный пост с его “всенародным обсуждением”, это только один из тактических шагов Тины на пути реализации этого проекта. Ведь Тина не просто “большая девочка” и брюнетка, а человек походивший по “коридорам” и общающийся с умными дядьками. Поэтому, уверен, что в АП уже назначен “посевной инвестор” из упоминаемых в “Форбсе”, которому посоветовали проявить социальную ответственность. А данная “туса” в ЖЖ (в хорошем смысле), это “социологический замер” размера поддержки и творчества масс.

The idea is good. I hope that this post with its “nationwide discussion” is one of Tina's tactical steps on the way to make the project work. Tina is not only a “big girl” and brunet, but also a person who walked along “corridors” and talked to smart men. I am sure that the president administration already appointed an “investor” from those mentioned in Forbes who was advised to show social responsibility. And this “party” (in good sense of the word) is a social measure of the size of support and creativity of masses.

LJ user Alex-mazurov commented [RUS] on the fact that Kandelaki was supported by the minister of education and recognized in it soviet roots:

В прежние времена, как говорится, до исторического материализма-олигархизма, с такими инициативами могли бы выступить представители класса гегемонов – знатная бетонщица или, например, знатная доярка.
Теперь инициативу, наверняка, поддержит “Единая Россия” и так далее. Свято место пусто не бывает – место гегемона занимают теперь гламурло гламурные персонажи. Тоже знатные …

In the past, as they say, before historic materialism-oligarchy, only representatives of the class of hegemons could come up with those ideas – famous woman cement worker or famous milkmaid. Now the initiative is likely to be supported by “United Russia” party and so on. A holy place is never empty. The place of a hegemon is now occupied by glamorous characters. Also famous…

Some bloggers suggested that the problem was not only Kandilaki’s intents, the project’s idea or the education system, but the entire political system. According to imajin only comprehensive political reform might have an impact:

Не с того предлагаете начать.Вы пытаетесь найти внутренние ресурсы для развития. Между тем есть громадная дыра, через которую эти ресурсы становятся недоступными для страны. Я имею ввиду неконкурентноспособную политическую систему. Из-за ее коррупционности никаких ресурсов не хватит для развития. Сколько ни вливай – будет распилено и рассовано по карманам.
Эта дыра давит на всё. На некомфортность жизни здесь. Нет нормального образования, здравоохранения, милиции.  Пока политическая ситуация не решится, остальное – как мертвому припарки.

You suggest to start with a wrong thing. You try to find internal resources for development. Meanwhile, there is a huge hole through which those resources become unavailable for the whole country. I mean uncompetitive political system. Because of its corruption, no resources are enough for development. No matter how much you pour into it , it will be shoved among different pockets. This hole presses on everything. It presses on discomfort of life here. No normal education, no heal care, no police. Until the political situation is resolved, all efforts are as infective as poultice for the dead.

Kandilaki’s post and its endorsement by the Russian government is an evidence that Russian Internet not only becomes  a space for politics but a part of the politics. The real impact of it is questionable, but it’s certainly exposes the polarization between those who excited by the Internet-oriented policy shift and new opportunities to interact with public figures and those whose mistrust the state. The time will probably show if Kandelaki's idea was nothing more than self-promotion, government-based initiative or a start of a successful project.

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