Renowned Russian Director Speaks Up in Support of Oppositionist TV Station

In his open letter to President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Sokurov praised the station's young team.

MOSCOW -- Renowned Russian director Alexander Sokurov has sent an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, expressing support for the oppositionist network Dozhd, recently turned off by all major cable and satellite operators following a controversial World War II opinion poll.

“Mr. President, Dozhd has the world's youngest team working in television,” reads the letter. “Whatever people say, this is our national asset, an absolute exception to all rules.”

Dozhd's problems began last month, when the station's web site ran an opinion poll asking users if they thought it would have been better to give up the city of Leningrad (Now St. Petersburg) to the Nazi troops during WWII and avoid its 872-day siege, which took hundreds of thousands of lives.

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Sokurov is among the most decorated living Russian directors. His most recent major international award was the Golden Lion at Venice in 2011 for his film Faust.

Sokurov, a resident of St Petersburg, who has turned to the city's WWII history in his films, considered the station's move to be a mistake, but still defended the station's team.

“They are young, and they make mistakes, which is typical of youth,” he said.

“I am sure that Dozhd is in the search of a [new] language, which is closely connected with the life of new Russian society,” reads the letter. “They don't import anything, they create everything by themselves.”

Last week, Dozhd's employees had a meeting with survivors of Leningrad siege, who also spoke in support of the station.

Alexander Vinokurov, the owner of Dozhd, told a news conference last week that the controversy was only a pretext for the pay TV operators to turn off the station, while the real reasons were in its other content, which included anti-corruption investigations by prominent blogger and opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

Over the last few years, Dozhd has been a lone dissenting voice in the Russian media landscape, dominated by state-controlled and heavily-censored TV networks. Dozhd covered the massive opposition rallies in late 2011 and early 2012 and the court cases of Pussy Riot and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.