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Russian satirist under fire for comparing Sochi Games to Hitler's Olympics

February 12, 2014 18:27

Putin has faced Western accusations of intolerance and authoritarianism in the run-up to Olympics, not least over laws banning "gay propaganda" among minors.

1936 olympics

Awards ceremony for Pentathalon event, 1936 Summer Olympics, Berlin.. (photo credit:Wikimedia Commons)

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin's allies are seeking an apology from a Russian satirist who drew a comparison between the Sochi Winter Olympics and the 1936 Berlin games Adolf Hitler used to help entrench his power and offer a rosy picture of Nazi Germany.

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The comparison by writer Viktor Shenderovich has upset the ruling United Russia party, which sees it as an insult to those who fought Nazi Germany and an attempt to undermine Russia over the Games, on which Putin has staked his political reputation.

Putin has faced Western accusations of intolerance and authoritarianism in the run-up to the Sochi games, not least over laws banning "gay propaganda" among minors.

The 1936 Berlin Olympics, however, took place against a decidedly more sinister backdrop. Concentration camps were already filling with homosexuals, Jews, Communists, Roma and other groups openly hounded and villified by the Nazis.

In a reference to 15-year-old Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya after she won a gold medal in Sochi, Shenderovich wrote in a blog post on Monday: "I like that girl on skates very much."

"Very much! But if you only knew how much Berliners in the summer of 1936 liked shot putter Hans Woelke ... a smiling, handsome young man who symbolized the youth of the new Germany!"

He said the final price of "this sports feat" in Nazi Germany included the World War Two siege of Leningrad, the Dachau concentration camp and the carpet bombing of the British city of Coventry.

"This was not Hans' fault, of course, but it ended up that he facilitated it," he said, suggesting that Lipnitskaya's triumph should not lend legitimacy to Putin.

The head of United Russia's faction in the State Duma, Vladimir Vasilyev, called for an apology during a session of the lower house of parliament on Tuesday.

"Society does not forgive insults to veterans and to those who cannot stand up for themselves," he said, referring to some 27 million Soviet citizens killed in World War Two.


Svetlana Zhurova, a United Russia lawmaker and former Olympic champion speedskater, said Shenderovich's blog "fits into the campaign against the Olympics that has unfolded in the Western media."

The aim was "to take away our country's celebration", she was quoted as saying on the party's website on Wednesday.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined comment. Putin said this week foreign criticism of the Sochi Games had echoes of Cold War rhetoric.

Many Russians see victory in World War Two as their country's proudest moment in the 20th century and any comparison with Nazi Germany is sure to cause outrage.

A television station which asked viewers on its website whether the Soviet Union should have surrendered Leningrad, now St Petersburg, to Nazi Germany, is fighting to survive after Russia's main satellite provider stopped broadcasting it.

The city was blockaded for 872 days.

There was no sign Ekho Moskvy will face a similar fate, something that would cause alarm abroad and among Putin's opponents. The station is critical of the Kremlin even though it is owned by state-controlled gas firm Gazprom.

Both Shenderovich and Ekho Moskvy have refused to apologize for the blog.

"It is Mr. Vasilyev who should apologize for boorishness and slander," Shenderovich said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy. "I said exactly what I wanted to say, and 200,000 people read it and understood."
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