Maria Zakharova: Russia’s fearless blonde defender in the information war

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June 2, 2016 – 

Ekaterina Lukina, PolitRussia – 

Translated by J. Arnoldski 

Since August 10th, 2015, the attention of the politically interested public has magically shifted focus towards the main muse of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the director of the information and press department, Maria Zakharova. More precisely, attention has been focused on how boldly this fragile lady rushes into the bunker of information wars and against all kinds of possible attacks on Russia. It is impossible to remain indifferent towards Zakharova. She is clever, charismatic, sharp-tongued, and completely phenomenally restrained. 

The appearance of Zakharova announced to the world the new image of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and this did not happen by accident. Back on February 10th, 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting with media workers on the occasion of Diplomatic Worker Day, called for a change in style in the work of Russian diplomacy. According to him, the foreign ministry should base its work on new standards and use “soft power” in the fight against external information threats. He said:

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“Priority importance is attached to the competent use of ‘soft power’ mechanisms: strengthening the positions of the Russian language, actively promoting a positive image of Russia abroad, and being able to organically integrate into global information flows.”

The president called things by their names. Literally six months later, the year 2014, rich in political disasters and conflicts, struck and relations with the countries of the West extremely deteriorated. Difficult political decisions and unique informational support were needed, and massive attacks on Russia’s reputation, accusations, and provocations compelled Russia to react properly. 

From Soviet communiques to Kalinka-Malinka

The informational pressure of the West, unprecedented in modern history and sometimes beyond foul, was a challenge above all for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Western experts slyly grinned and snickered that the brilliant and polite Sergey Lavrov would have to bear the whole burden of everything alone. The previous head of the press department, Alexander Lukashevich, could not take the fire for himself, as he worked in the government style of Soviet tassovok (news reports from the main news agency of the USSR). This diplomatic worker was from the old school, stern and solid, but in response to the information war of the West he couldn’t put forth a decent response without breaking the rules. 

The ossified image of diplomats was preceded by the long history of the Soviet, and then the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If earlier all of the attempts of Teimuraz Sulatov to introduce the “personal motif” into diplomatic work were seen as symptoms of delirium, then the head of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eduard Shevarnadze, desperately tried to perceive the “traditional” way of thinking. It is difficult to image what this future president of Georgie would have told his subordinates about “Kalinka-Malinka” in front of journalists. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs needed energy and a strong response to modern realities. 

The decision was not long in coming. After only a matter of time, a “verified” person was to be put at the head of the department of press and journalism – and this person was the blonde beast, Maria Zakharova, called upon to be the Russian response to Jen Paski.

Despite the absurdity of Paski’s statements, her persona instantly became the subject of discussion, and this means that the same fate awaited any thing she voiced on behalf of the US State Department. But Russia did this without the idiocy part, and entrusted the diplomatic press-service to a genuinely intelligent woman. The student surpassed her teacher. 

The Path to political Olympus 

Maria Zakharova spent all of her childhood in Beijing with her parents, and then returned to Moscow. After graduating from the faculty of international journalism at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Zakharova was an intern at the Russian embassy in her familiar China, where she successfully starred in a local film about the revolutionary Li Lisan. Her fascination with China and Asia and the East in general is serious – this is not only her professional specialization (eastern studies), but part of her inner world. She once said:

“China, of course, influenced the formation of my attitude to life. I tried to take in the surrounding world in both its unity and diversity. These are not empty words, not a formula taken from textbooks, nor from college lectures.” 

After finishing her internship, Zakharova went to work for the diplomatic bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she climbed the ranks of the press department until becoming its head in 2003. In 2005, Zakharova was transferred to work in New York as the press-secretary of the Russian Embassy at the UN. 

In other words, Zakharova, learned the peculiarities of diplomatic cuisine and information war from the very beginning of her career path, so the state and citizens can be relaxed, because Masha will always find the words for an answer.

Immediately after Maria’s appointment to the position of director of the department, Sergey Lavrov began to gradually fade into the shadows, all the more rarely rushing into the bunker of the information war, and reducing the degree of his statements. He could do this thanks to the blonde Valkyrie who daily put up a relentless struggle with Russophobic garbage and statements from official and unofficial persons in the West. 

Maria’s Quotations

Maria’s sharp statements, the length and breadth of which are dotted with sarcasm towards European and American antics, cannot leave anyone indifferent, but always evoke a strong reaction and strong emotions. Sometimes even those people who are indifferent to politics react to them. Over a short period of time, but on big air, Maria Zakharova has said so many resonating things, that it is high time to compile a quotation collection. Here are some of them:

“Will Facebook block accounts for using the words “katsap” [Ukrainian derogatory slang for Russians – JA], “vatnik” [Ukrainian derogatory slang for Russians, particularly in Donbass, from the word for “padded jacket” which is stereotypical attire – JA], “Moskal” [harsh Ukrainian word for Russians – JA], and “McCain?”

Zakharova appealed with this to the public in response to the blocking of the account of the writer Eduard Bagirov for using the totally harmless phrase “poor khohkly” [Russian slang for Ukrainians – JA]. 

Here is how the head of the department commented on the hysteria that developed surrounding the military situation in Syria:

“I wonder how the Pentagon is now translating and analyzing the words of Putin that it may or may not be necessary to have a military base in Syria. This is what grandmother said twice. Sorry guys, but there’s no mastering this. If only you would start looking for the grandmother.”

On the enchanting role of the Odessa region governor, Mikhail Saakashvili, at the anti-corruption forum in Dnepropetrovsk, Maria said:

“After Condoleezza Rice sent Ukrainians to Liberia to rejoice about what they have, then it became hard to surprise me. But now  the American protege “on Louboutin high heels and in pants” [a reference to a notorious Russian pop song in which the lyrics are “on Louboutin high heels and in fucking crazy pants” – JA] has ambitious political plans in Ukraine.”

But the best humor is humor about oneself. One day Maria joked about her clothes and published a photo on social networks in a fashionable jacket and wrote:

“Today I’m a real vatnitsa in a vatnik, with cotton candy straight from Solovyov.”

And there’s the intellectual duel between the blonde beast and the curly sonneteer, the poet Dmitry Bykov, which become one of the most discussed semi-political events…But the poetic style used by Maria Zakharova is not only for duels. Her poem created for and dedicated to the Russian servicemen killed in Syria on November 24th, 2015 is famous: 

“Let’s gather, my brothers, to remind
Those who shielded the world by themselves,
Who forever forgot their own success,
To enrich all of us.
Let’s remember them in prayer,
In order for them to pardon us,
For not taking us with them,
Leaving us on the Earth.
Let’s remember them a hundred times,
With a glass, and tears,
And with bitterness of awards,
For their farewell fight.
Let’s remember them by all standing,
Bending over the grass.
They left for there where,
Light hides behind the darkness.
Let’s reach out our arms to those,
Whose eyes are full of tears,
Whose house became deserted,
By the horror of hurt.
Let’s remember them, I beg you,
Let’s remember them all together,
Those who perished for the country,
For honor and for their own.”

Slapping Westerners and curtsies for the people

Many Western media sources have gotten a verbal slap in the face from “our Masha.” The English-language TV channel Euronews twice caught the attentive eye of Zakharova. First she caught them lying about “2 million deported Crimean Tatars” instead of 200 thousand. Then she caught and made public the disinformation garbage about the supposed Russian reaction to the adoption of a resolution on Crimea in the Italian region of Veneto. The head of the department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not hesitate to teach yet another lesson in journalism to “free and independent” Western journalists.

At the same time that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is becoming more sarcastic towards our international “partners” leading the anti-Russian campaign, so is the ministry now closer to ordinary Russian people and its wide audience.

Along with professionalism in Maria’s actions, so is manifested the humanity of our diplomats. She broke all stereotypes of the personnel employees of the foreign ministry. 

For example, Maria does not hesitate to post on her personal social networks numerous shots from her family archive, just as any woman who genuinely enjoys flowers and doesn’t hesitate to cover the details of her happy motherhood. It seems that we’re already 30 points over Psaki, so what else is there left?

Zakharova does not limit herself only to photos, but also impressed the public with another sensational outburst. During the Sochi ASEAN summit, this representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs kept her promise to reporters and danced none other than Russian “Kalinka.” 

This is touching, funny, and at the same time, extremely serious. Of course, everyone remembers how the first president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, danced to Osin’s song and conducted an orchestra. But never was such art from “first rate figures” so politicized. Now it can rightly be said that Zakharova is not only a response to Psaki, but to Barack Obama too, whose tango at the reception of the president of Argentina was topped by Maria’s “Kalinka.” We’re not talking about the level of dance art, but about the effectiveness and colorfulness of how “our Masha’s” dance turned out better than Obama’s attempts to portray himself as a passionate macho.

The face of Russia

Summing up, but without recounting all of Maria’s exploits, it is should be stated that Zakharova has for a few years actively generated the most honest image of the Ministry of Foreing Affairs and to a certain extent is the face of the Russian Federation. She is not only candid in her harsh statements, but is patient in the face of criticism and honest in admitting our own mistakes. The opponents of the Russian government both domestically and abroad now have a horrific allergy to Zakharova and despise her. Hence why “Radio Free Europe” compares the aggressive style of her statements to Soviet posters, and why the journalist Oleg Kashin, famous in narrow opposition circles, blames her for rudeness and advises her to improve her rhetoric. From time to time, Maria also comes under criticism from patriotic citizens, such as after her quite harsh assessment of Stalin and her attempt to all but compare him to Hitler earned her a barrage of criticism and outrage. 

However, despite a few weak points (who doesn’t have them?), Zakharova was and remains one of the most formidable and clever blondes of our time. The public continues to admire her insightful and rapid reactions to the flows of information dirt. It would be right to say that the uncontrollable Maria Zakharova is our Russian shield against the poisonous arrows of lies and the disinformation from our “dear partners.” 

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