To appreciate the deceptive technique of Putin-era propaganda, try watching 12, Nikita Mikhalkov’s remake of the classic jury drama Twelve Angry Men, in which the accused becomes a Chechen refugee. The film portrays many of contemporary Russia’s vices – racism, drunkenness, recklessness, vulgarity – so scathingly that it feels honest. But this is truth as camouflage for falsity. In what it says about its core themes – the justice system and the Chechen wars, two of the most neuralgic issues for Russia’s rulers – the film is a lie.
The rules for Russian writers and journalists are fairly simple. Keep your nose out of the Kremlin’s brutality in the north Caucasus. Don’t complain that the courts and legal system are a laughable sham. Above all, perhaps, don’t come between the powerful and their cash machines. Observe them,