Russia is still reeling from Western sanctions, Ukrainian resistance against its invasion and Moscow’s pronounced lack of allies. During last week’s broadcast of the show “Full Contact,” State TV host Vladimir Solovyov, one of the most prominent mouthpieces for Putin’s regime, grimly acknowledged that Russia has only two allies: Iran and North Korea.
While Kim Jong Un is touring the land, state-controlled media is currently working to convince everyday Russians that instead of looking to the West, they should start emulating North Korea. During Thursday’s broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, Sergey Mikheyev described Kim Jong Un as “a dude with a square head,” whose superpower is being unpredictable. He argued that the people of North Korea are impervious to Western pressure because of their spartan lifestyle.
Mikheyev said, “Yes, life in North Korea is no picnic. But it isn’t as bad as Americans portray it... American sanctions are scary only to those who have been on their hook to begin with! Those who have bank accounts over there, parallel lives [in the West], etc. What can you forbid to North Koreans? To drink Coca-Cola? They don’t have it anyway! To watch Hollywood movies? They don’t have them anyway! You’ll turn off their Internet? They don’t have it anyway! You won’t import IPhones? They don’t have them anyway! You will forbid them to travel to Europe and America? They aren’t traveling anyway! There is no way to get to them.”
Solovyov, who lost his Italian villas to Western sanctions, sternly looked on, as Mikheyev spoke.
Mikheyev praised Vladimir Putin’s rumored plan to visit North Korea in the near future and predicted wide-ranging cooperation between Russia and the “hermit kingdom.” Mikheyev pointed out that in the past, North Korea was ridiculed in Moscow, but now serves as an example of independence and unpredictability Russia would do well to follow.
Mikheyev surmised: “The low living standards are both the weakness and the strength of North Korea! You can’t do to them what you could do to the people—and the elites—in the post-Soviet space that got hooked on what you have to offer. Elites in the post-Soviet space got used to eating good food and having sweet dreams, to keeping their money in [Western] banks. But these people don’t need anything! Well, maybe they do need it, but they don’t have anything.”
On Saturday, the host of “Day Z” Yulia Vityazeva continued the theme, as she played video clips of a Russian military choir and other performers giving a concert in Pyongyang. Russian singers belted out Soviet war songs for the subdued audience, which didn’t seem to move, except to clap—often, in perfect unison. A photo of Kim Jong Un and Putin, hand in hand, was displayed on a giant jumbotron, followed by a notation in Russian and Korean: “Eternal friendship.”
Vityazeva watched the footage with stars in her eyes and then remarked that the audience looked clean, well-fed and had a healthy complexion—contrary to popular stereotypes about the North Korean population that lives on the verge of starvation. She tried to dissuade viewers from assuming that members of the audience were hand-selected and specially prepared. A guest on her show, economist Alexey Bobrovsky, destroyed the illusion as he noted, “In all countries, people are hand-selected for special events in order to convey the needed impression on-camera.”
Vityazeva noted: “In the West, they are persistently describing [Kim Jong Un] as a dictator, but our attitude is different.” She opined that the days of Russia’s adherence to the sanctions against North Korea are coming to an end.
During Friday’s broadcast of the program “Karnaukhov’s Labyrinth,” host Sergey Karnaukhov complained about the “hedonistic metamorphose” Soviet people underwent after the dissolution of the USSR. He argued that after the Soviet Union fell apart, its people ran to the West and all they found there was “cold emptiness and the smell of death.” He added, “When hedonism, riches and enjoyment became a way of life for the entire population, we saw how these people quickly digested themselves! Nothing was left! The social state was gone! The guidelines and values were gone! The elites suddenly saw a different life.”
Karnaukhov angrily described the effect of the Western lifestyle on elites and the masses as a “shell shock” and blamed it for a record number of wealthy citizens leaving Russia: “Anything that is the middle class and above is running away from the country. Why? Because they are shell-shocked!”
Karnaukhov added, “Why are we so attentively talking about North Korea right now? North Korea maintained its school of engineering and an economic system that can resist the system of global economic sanctions. We need that!” He complained about the hedonistic lifestyle of many Russians, who are used to eating out in restaurants, golfing and clubbing. Karnaukhov pointed out: “Turns out, there are different values and a different lifestyle. North Korea preserved them and even increased them. It means we can rely on them! We can go there, look at their life and see that what we’ve considered to be valuable in our country isn’t valuable at all. It’s a way to destruction. It’s a road to nowhere. You can’t live this way. Our people are deteriorating! We can see the degradation of our country.”
Karnaukhov urged all Russians to proclaim that they don’t want to live the way they are currently living any longer: “Just say it, we don’t want to live this way any longer! We don’t need this savage capitalism!” He added, “North Korea is offering its system of values! We’ve been chuckling at Juche [North Korea’s state ideology], but turns out, it isn’t funny. Turns out, we should laugh at ourselves! We’ve dissolved our identity in hedonism and leisure. Russia no longer exists! That’s what we have achieved. But now is our chance and all will be well.”