French actor Gérard Depardieu has made lots of news recently.
First he moved to Belgium — upset by the French government’s proposed 75 percent income tax for millionaires.
Then he agreed to become a citizen of Russia — taking up an offer made by President Vladimir Putin himself.
Now, Depardieu has gone on national TV in Russia to praise Putin for his “political wisdom” and criticize the opposition.
Depardieu’s words may actually carry some weight in Russia.
His movies are very popular there — and he’s famous for his commercial endorsements, too.
Depardieu would have to live in Russia 182 days out of the year to qualify for the 13 percent flat tax there.
But he might easily find employment there since he’s done it before.
Laure Mandeville is Washington correspondent for the French daily Le Figaro.
She said the love-hate relationship between France and Russia has been going on for centuries, and that Depardieu is one of many celebrities manipulated by the Russian government to make Russia look good.
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Jeb Sharp: I’m Jeb Sharp and this is The World. French actor Gérard Depardieu has made a lots of news recently. First he moved to Belgium, upset by the French Government’s proposed 75% tax for millionaires, then he agreed to become a citizen of Russia, taking up an offer made by the President Vladimir Putin himself. Now, Depardieu has gone on a National TV in Russia, to praise Putin for his “political wisdom” and criticized the opposition. Depardieu has words that may actually carry some weight in Russia, his movies are very popular there and he is famous for his commercial endorsements too.
[Commercial, speaking in Russian].
Sharp: That’s Depardieu in an old TV Ad, for Baltimore a Russian brand of Ketchup.
Sharp: Laure Mandevile, is Washington correspondent for the French daily Le Figaro. She says Depardieu is allowing himself to be manipulated by the Russian Government.
Laure Mandevile: President Putin in particular, I think he is enjoying very much showing the West that Russia is this wonderful place where great actors like Depardieu are coming. I think Depardieu is in fact the role of, what we call in French “les Idiots”, “useful idiots” that were used by Lenin, in his time, in the west to promote Bolshevism and Communism. And I think, Depardieu in his own way plays this part now.
Sharp: So there’s clearly a lot of history to this and you yourself have written about the sort of, centuries-old fascination between France and Russia. How far back does this history go, this tension, this “Love-Hate” relationship?
Mandevile: This sort of fascination for Russia dates back to the 19th Century. Even before the revolution, the Encyclopedists were fascinated by Russia and they called it “the Enlightened Despotism”. But then, there was this sort of attraction to Russia of many people in France, who were not happy with the Revolution and looked to Russia as the place where they could thrive, so choose complicated history and at the same time, as you know, Catherine the Great was extremely influenced by the French thinkers, all these period, you know, the Enlightenment. And she welcomed Didirot in Russia and Didirot was fascinated by Catherine the Great and I would say, he was blind to all the faults of this regime.
Sharp: You talked about this sort of people in France, seeing this enlightened despotism in Russia. Say a little bit more about the other side of the relationship- Russia and the Soviet Union’s fascination with France. What is it that people see in France that they want or that resonates with them?
Mandevile: First of all, there was the influence of the French revolution which was extremely strong and actually was somehow imported in Russia, but in these sort of Eastern and Despotic form, you know, which was the Russian revolution. And also the Russians have always thought of France, you know, as the country of culture of sophistication, they loved French literature all the elite in Russia in the 19th Century and in the early 20th Century spoke French. There are whole chapters of Tolstoy’s books originally in French, in “War and Peace”. And what is interesting is, there was a sort of reversed trend after the Russian revolution, when the French intellectuals started longing for the socialist ideology and the Marxist model and you have all these very prominent series of French writers like Sartre and Gide and Farrago and many others, who went to the Soviet Union as to the new Mecca and they were blinded too by their ideologies for many many years.
Sharp: So Laure, as you sit in Washington and you watch this new example of this “Love-Hate” ,”Push-Pull” wannabe- relationship. How do you explain it? I mean, what fundamentally is going on now and how does it connect to this history?
Mandevile: I think that the first of basic explanation is that Depardieu is fleeing the socialist new fiscal environment in the fact that he doesn’t want to pay 75% of income-tax. And the other element is that he chose Russia as a symbol of autocracy and the regime extremely tough and hostile to any kind of a position. And this position is coming back again and they are very frustrated to see that, such a symbol of French culture and French cinema says that Russia is a great democracy.
Sharp: Well, Mandevile is the Washington Correspondent for the French Daily Le Figaro. Thank you for the history lesson Laure.
Mandevile: Thank you.
Sharp: Want to see an old ad of Gérard Depardieu hawking Ketchup in Russian. We have that in other video showing the French fascination with Russia at theworld.org.
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