Ryan’s Russia is the best new show on Bloomberg Television. How do I know this? Full Disclosure: I am a closed captioner for the hearing impaired and I caption Bloomberg News nearly every day. Though I’m not their target demographic, Ryan’s Russia has been a nice little surprise. It’s hosted by Ryan Chilcote, who spent time in Russia as an exchange student in the ’90s. He’s speaks the language fluently and, in a refreshing change of pace — get ready for this — does some actual long-form reporting, the likes of which you might find on the endangered species list.
Edit: Well, crap. Bloomberg is not terribly embed-friendly. That’s unfortunate. Go here to watch the full episode.
The first segment of the program deals with a problem near and dear to my heart, traffic. Did you know Moscow has the worst traffic in the world? I didn’t either. Moscow’s roads were designed around public transport. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians have developed a desire for self-contained human transport solutions, or cars. In the above video, Chilcote demonstrates how on an average day, a drive from the airport to the Kremlin — a distance of 19 miles — takes three and a half hours. As an Angeleno, I’m not sure whether to rejoice or weep over the fact that we’ve been beaten by the Russians in a leisure activity at which we truly excelled.
But the terrible traffic is only half the story. I first became aware of the larger issue couple of years ago, when I read William Gibson’s excellent Pattern Recognition. Part of the story takes places in Moscow and Gibson talks about how the politically powerful and the wealthy get around the traffic in cars equipped with flashing blue lights. Everyone is supposed to make way, like good little former communists. But no longer. A spunky group of protestors calling themselves the Blue Bucket Brigade dress up like Stalin’s secret police, affix blue buckets to the roofs of their cars (and to their heads) to speak out against such abuses. They have apparently become quite a headache to the elite. Good show, comrades.
In the same episode, Chilcote also talks to anti-corruption crusader, Alexei Navalny. He uses a pretty awesome technique to gather information about Russia’s secretive corporations. Navalny buys stocks in the companies which grants him access to their filings. He then posts what he finds on his blog. Needless to say, this makes Vladimir Putin unhappy. Chilcote also visits a cemetery in Moscow which is the final resting place for remains of dozens of people killed by Chechen rebels in the Moscow Theater siege as well as several former Soviet-era hockey gods. The whole series is well worth watching. And I’d like to give a thumbs up to the art department for the graphics. I wish there were some images available to post.