You might have heard about the recent kerfluffle involving the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated (for Cyrano de Bergerac) French actor Gérard Depardieu. French President François Hollande recently carried out his pledge to increase the top marginal income tax rate in his country to75%, and Depardieu has become the point-man for resistance to that among the French wealthy. He has written vituperative public letters to the president, for example; but he has also asked for and received Russian citizenship (where income taxes are at only 13%, for everyone). He’s apparently good friends with Vladimir Putin, according to the French weekly L’Express (and numerous other publications):
Yes, good buddies they are, интимные приятели . . . if you click through there to the article you can see a nice photo of the two men embarking on a bear-hug. “Did you see my latest film?” Gérard asks Vladimir, “I sent it to you.” (Depardieu’s latest project was a franco-russian co-production on the life of Rasputin, in which he took up the title role.) And Brigitte Bardot is threatening to follow him to Russia, although over a dispute involving two sick elephants (I kid you not! Click thru!) rather than taxes.
But here’s the punchline to all this, beyond the patronized pachyderms, which I provide as a public service to those (very few) of you who have not already figured it out for yourselves. Russia may impose only a 13% tax-rate, but it’s really not a very nice place to go and live; Depardieu’s praise of the state of democracy there, which formed part of his open letters, only shows how ignorant he is, for Russia has no rule of law and the rich there stay that way only through Vladimir Putin’s good graces (as shown by the counter-example of former oil company CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky).
There’s yet another L’Express article of note here, entitled Russia: Depardieu among the crazies? For the spot in Russia Depardieu has picked out for himself – should he really want to spend time there – is said to be the southern Moscow suburb of Белые Столбы (“White Posts”). But as journalist Alla Chevelkina (note the name) points out, Depardieu apparently is unaware that Russia’s most famous mental institution – which in the bad old days also housed numerous Russian dissidents as part of the Soviet regime’s employment of psychiatry as a weapon against such “troublemakers” – is in the same neighborhood and shares the “White Posts” name. Or that Russians use the expression “gone to the White Posts” to denote someone who has been packed away to the crazy-house.
UPDATE: And now the newspaper Libération tells us that Depardieu was greeted as a hero upon his arrival in Russia, and offered a house and the post of Minister of Culture! The thing is, all of those have to do with the Russian Republic of Mordovia, some who’s-ever-heard-of-it place apparently located somewhere to the east of the former Stalingrad.