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Russia

Putin's Culture Minister, A Chilling Power Through Art

Loathed and feared in the art world, Vladimir Medinsky has shown a clear willingness to quash what he believes casts Russia in a poor light.

At 44, Medinsky has wide-reaching powers.
At 44, Medinsky has wide-reaching powers.
Emmanuel Grynszpan

MOSCOW — In many ways a symbol of today’s Russia, Vladimir Medinsky was one of the most widely anticipated guests at Geneva’s recent Book and Press Fair.

The 44-year-old's appointment three years ago as Minister of Culture came as a surprise to everybody in Moscow. An historian, popular essay writer and, most importantly, an apparatchik of the ruling United Russia party, he nonetheless appeared to be an underdog in an elitist and closed world.

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Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.

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