‘Olga,’ the man who tore down Russia’s utopian façade

Written by V/s N Lacey, CNN

In 2002, Farid Muratov didn’t stop to enjoy his Nobel Prize for Physics. The consequences of the announcement had just been made, and his wife rushed to join him. He must’ve been planning it all along, before a mistake in banking the prize spoilt his mood.

“I didn’t know I had been awarded the Nobel prize,” he said at the news conference. “It doesn’t mean anything in Russia,” he said, before continuing the evening’s events, fresh from the internet auction of a frieze he had commissioned on performance grounds, where seats cost from $30,000 a pop.

Like Russians of his generation, Muratov was keen on science and an eye on adventure, and a rejection of Russia’s past as nouveau riche was always a marked trait. The variety of Russian philosophies and interpretations of tradition are deeply apparent on Russian TV screens, and the very low priority it bears in policy sets its sights on the globe.

1 / 17 A 1957 Acapulco El Sol Ford Mustang by art dealer Igor Gromov is shown in a warehouse, near Tivoli, with the garish headlight and flat top purposely obscured by a large projection of the Acapulco tenement they’re transported in. Credit: Courtesy Garbadei

The legacy of Russian dynasties is about to disappear, with multiple surveys in recent years forecasting a steep decline in the influence of the Russia of the tsars and dictatorships over the next 20-30 years. Obsession with Russia’s role and influence is seen as a coping mechanism, a psychological coping mechanism that underpins the country’s most revered heritage, its wealth.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, such irrational pride is being wound back. ‘Olga,’ as he was then known, was around 30 at the time and, like a vast majority of Russians, was lucky enough to have seen the changes already taking place, and its irreversible intention to eclipse Russia as we know it. Just imagine the other world, when the only kings and queens were traveling in glass cuckoo clocks, surrounded by gold embossed with arcane characters. They actually read the newspapers; they didn’t know where to begin.

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