MOSCOW – With fewer and fewer voices to recall the horrors of Auschwitz, the question of how to keep the memories of it alive has become more pressing. In Russia, a reality television show has chosen a highly controversial way.
Dressed in striped inmates’ clothing with yellow Stars of David, two dancers were shown performing an ice skating routine. One of the performers was Tatiana Navka, a former Olympic ice skater and the wife of Dmitry Peskov, a high-profile spokesman and adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On her Instagram account, Navka commented that the performance was based on one of her favorite movies, “Life is Beautiful.” The 1997 movie centers on a father trying to distract his son from the horrors of Nazi concentration camp internment.
On social media, the performance was quickly dubbed “Holocaust on Ice.”
Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of holocaust studies at Emory University, wrote on Twitter: “Have you lost all sense of decency? Have you no shame? The Holocaust on ice, complete with a sound track of barking dogs.” Others called the show “sickening” and “beyond the satires.”
The involvement of Putin adviser Peskov’s wife in the show is considered to be the latest controversy for the Kremlin official.
Peskov, who has divorced twice, married Navka last year in a blockbuster summer wedding attended by pop stars and high-ranking bureaucrats in the Black Sea city of Sochi. The wedding quickly provided grist for scandal: first when pictures emerged of Peskov sporting a $620,000 Richard Mille RM 52-01 watch (his declared annual salary was far lower), then when an opposition politician claimed that Peskov had rented a $425,000 per week luxury yacht called the Maltese Falcon for his honeymoon.
Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that Navka was the registered beneficial owner of a secret offshore firm exposed in the Panama Papers leak.
Peskov, a former diplomat who has served as Putin’s personal spokesman since 2000, has called those accusations “slander.” Despite the sensational headlines, there have been no signs that Peskov has fallen out of favor in the Kremlin.
In Russia, high-level bureaucrats and their wives have become tabloid royalty, and Peskov’s family is no exception. The Russian edition of Tatler, a British glossy magazine focusing on fashion and gossip, has published a series of features on the spouses (mainly wives) of Kremlin elite over the last two years, including Putin aide Vladislav Surkov and billionaire Boris Rotenberg. Tatler has run interviews with Navka and with Peskov’s previous wife, Yekaterina. “I thought that Dima was different,” the headline ran.
On Monday, Peskov told journalists during a daily news conference held by telephone that Navka’s performance “isn’t a question that concerns the Kremlin” and declined to comment.
“I am proud of my wife,” he said. “That is all I can say.”
Noack reported from London.
Video: Navka’s Ice Skating Routine