By Igor Garanin
How does one correctly identify a compatriot when outside our enormous country? That’s right: by the stern look on his face. In a motley crowd in Venice’s Piazza San Marco, in the London restaurant Zuma, and in the Louis Vuitton boutique on the Champs Élysées the Russian is filled with solemnity. He is the director of the world. How come? Nobody really knows. But he took on this unbearable burden and is dragging it somewhere. Why he takes himself so seriously, what gives himself that confidence, or more accurately that totally lack of confidence in himself. Either he hasn’t recovered from decades of Soviet egalitarianism and wants to attract attention to himself, or he has not yet learned a foreign language and has complexes about that. Or perhaps out of habit he considers the Italians and the French to be class enemies, and is anticipating a provocation. Something won’t allow him to relax and take pleasure in the breathtaking views and tasty food. He grits his jaw, trying not to lose face. The habits of casual chitchat, mirthful laughter, spontaneous movement and spirited impulses have atrophied.
That’s why the educational work of the hero of our cover seems all the more valuable to me. At first he concealed himself from men and women in an impenetrable armor of complexes. This large man (in every sense of the word), Slepakov is always calm, he barely ever smiles, and speaks evenly, without intonation. Semyon’s fans think he’s just like us, they trust him. They listen to him carefully and curiously. Then they start to listen thoroughly and ponder the meaning of his couplets. And there is the essence of our distorted reality: the words are sharp (sometimes uncensored), the humor is bold, the images provocative. The audience gets scared: “Is that really allowed?” “It’s allowed, it’s allowed,” Slepakov responds with a confident gaze. The listeners look warily around, glance from side to side, and don’t see anyone. They start to giggle. At first very quietly, restraining