Connection, ally, friend, buddy
Connection. Ally. Friend. Buddy. These are just some of the labels customarily attached by now to Arkady R. Rotenberg in the media — largely, though not exclusively, outside Russia — given that he is all or any of these to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
The New York Times chose the word “friend” to describe him. And to some degree he must be that. And more than a Facebook/VKontakte friend, for sure. Arkady and Vladimir used to go to the same judo club back in the Soviet Union, and they seem to have remained strategic partners ever since. Arkady and his brother Boris both have extensive business interests, including ownership of the pipeline construction company Stroigazmontazh (SGM), interests that seem to expand lately. Now Arkady apparently controls a major share of the school textbook market, too, according to the New York Times, through a company chaired by him called “Enlightenment” (insider joke alert).
A rival competitor (in the school textbook market), obviously bitter over these recent developments, is quoted as saying, mostly about the Russian political-slash-economic elite overall:
“They used to focus on the very biggest businesses: oil, gas, big infrastructure projects, the banks. But now that they have eaten all the food in that cupboard, they are eating the mice, and the mice’s food, going after smaller and smaller markets.”
An official explanation as to why less textbooks in the market would be good for Russian people:
“Many people drink Coca-Cola, but that does not mean it is good for you.”
You do understand? Do I understand not? Does this sense make…? Well, of course in a sense it does — if you look at this with interest in controlling Russian minds or at least what those minds may consume.
Arkady seems content with the situation. After winning a few major contracts connected to the Sochi Olympic Games in the past he famously said:
“If people didn’t give me all this publicity, calling me a ‘Friend of Putin’, then my business would be worse. And so it’s growing well.”
Otherwise, all that talk of friendship is obviously nonsense. Who heard of friendship on the tatami? Illustration with non-random judo master, on the cover of a book published by the company that first bought Enlightenment through privatization…