In 2003, Yulia Volkova, one part of the Russian pop duo TATU, carried out Now not Gonna Get Us, a well-known track about two schoolgirls in love, on the MTV Song Awards in California.
Photos of the development used to be watched tens of millions of occasions the world over, and in line with Vice mag, the efficiency “introduced feminine queerness to the leading edge of mainstream”.
This yr, Volkova gave the impression in an overly other video.
In it, she mentioned her aim to run for the State Duma, Russia’s decrease space of parliament, with the ruling United Russia birthday party, within the upcoming September 19 legislative elections.
“I’m going to the Duma with United Russia to make certain that actual, now not verbal choices, are made to profit the vast majority of our electorate,” Volkova, now a 35-year-old mother-of-two, stated within the Would possibly 13 video, carrying an Orthodox Christian pass.
The clip used to be meant for United Russia’s primaries within the western area of Ivanovo, identified for poverty and a catastrophic scarcity of guys.
Volkova in the end misplaced to an difficult to understand male reputable.
However her failure has now not stopped different Russian celebrities who wish to grow to be politicians – most commonly on a pro-Vladimir Putin price tag, both with United Russia or the so-called “systemic opposition”, a trio of events nominally antagonistic to the ruling behemoth, however by no means essential of the Russian president.
The Kremlin welcomes those celebrities with open palms.
However activists very a lot doubt the sincerity of pro-Kremlin luminaries.
“I think they’re now not going to protect the pursuits of Russia’s electorate, however pursue their very own, self-serving pursuits,” stated Violetta Grudina, an opposition activist within the northwestern town of Murmaks, who has confronted detentions, interrogations and slanderous accusations after pronouncing her resolution to run in municipal elections.
“That is the way in which for the Kremlin to create spoilers, to create an phantasm of selection,” Grudina instructed Al Jazeera.
To the stars, the Duma isn’t a springboard for a mayorship, governorship or a presidential marketing campaign.
This is a protected harbour for plenty of phrases, a supply of exposure and numerous perks, together with envelopes with wads of money, claims a marketing campaign supervisor who labored in Washington, Moscow, Berlin and Minsk.
“Within the West, politics is only a sphere of job, a sphere of provider, however in Russia, politics is a way of life,” stated Vitali Shkliarov, who labored on Barack Obama’s and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns, promoted opposition candidates in Russia, and used to be jailed and tortured in Belarus after running with an opposition candidate in closing yr’s presidential election.
The Russian celebrities wish to be in politics “now not as a result of they wish to serve, however as a result of they wish to reside smartly,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Whilst weaker pro-Putin events enlist luminaries to spice up their approval rankings, United Russia wishes their enhance to legitimize its inevitable victory, mavens declare.
Inevitable as a result of for years the birthday party has been accused of rigging the vote – through election displays, critics and masses of 1000’s who rallied a decade in the past within the biggest protests for the reason that 1991 Soviet cave in.
“It’s not afraid to lose, for the reason that Central Election Committee will pretend their victory,” Gennady Gudkov, a former opposition lawmaker, instructed Al Jazeera.
“However it’s determined to legitimise itself by some means within the eyes of the general public,” he stated.
Artists and battle criminals
This yr’s checklist of wannabe politicians is a motley group and features a rapper who calls himself Purulent, fact TV stars and a few pop singers.
One is Denis Maidanov, whose patriotic hits come with “Russia, ahead!” and “Who Russians Are.”
“Many oldsters say that they teach their youngsters with my songs, and that could be a signal in their agree with,” he instructed the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid in early June.
Any other aspiring lawmaker is Zakhar Prilepin, a novelist and ex-activist of the Nationwide Bolshevik Celebration that advocated concepts the Kremlin as soon as banned as “extremist” – the annexation of Crimea and the Russian-speaking areas in Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Prilepin’s 2006 novel Sankya used to be hailed as a “manifesto” of anti-Kremlin formative years and, in 2008, he formed a nationalist party with fledgling anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny.
However after Moscow annexed Crimea and subsidized pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, many Nationwide Bolsheviks pledged allegiance to Putin – and joined the rebels.
Prilepin headed a squad of “volunteers,” served as an “adviser” to a separatist chief who used to be blown up in 2018 and confessed to committing battle crimes.
“I led an army unit that killed other folks. Loads of them. No different battalion in Donetsk may fit my battalion’s charges,” he stated in a 2019 interview.
Closing yr, Prilepin based the For Reality birthday party with actor and Orthodox priest Ivan Okhlobystin – who desires to revive the loss of life penalty in Russia and crown Putin as “monarch”.
Then they enlisted a washed-up global famous person.
Steven Seagal, an motion hero in Hollywood motion pictures of the Nineties, joined For Reality in December.
He gained a Russian passport from Putin in 2016 after lauding him as “one of the most global’s largest dwelling leaders” and supporting Crimea’s annexation.
In Would possibly, For Reality merged with A Simply Russia, a socialist, pro-Putin birthday party. It’s the weakest of the 3 “systemic opposition” events with 23 seats within the 450-seat Duma.
On the other hand, it will lose them in September as a result of best 5 % of Russians wish to vote for the birthday party, in line with a March survey through the Levada Middle.
Non violent ‘veterans’
United Russia, in the meantime, turns out gentle years clear of this battle for survival.
It has tens of 1000’s of participants, workplaces in every town and the city, and what critics name the “administrative useful resource,” a national gadget of coercing govt staff, academics and clinical employees to vote for its applicants.
In Would possibly, it struck a “cooperation accord” with the Union of the Donbas Volunteers who fought for the separatists.
“We don’t simply depend to your enhance, but additionally to your maximal involvement within the election,” Andrey Turchak, United Russia’s secretary-general, instructed a “veteran” convention on Would possibly 10.
“We will have to end up that now not best are we able to battle, protect our Motherland at the battlefields, however that we can also do one thing in non violent existence,” the Union’s head Alexander Borodai replied.
Borodai is most commonly identified for his two-months-long tenure as “chairman” of the “Other people’s Republic of Donetsk” in 2014.
Ukraine accused him and his “govt” of 1000’s of killings, abductions, evictions and expropriations.
However Borodai feels nice at house – and needs his brothers-in-arms to sign up for the political mainstream.
“Russian volunteers will have to get to energy,” he stated in a video posted on United Russia’s site.