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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
The Sun shines in Moscow
Front page
Zhizn has a striking resemblance to The Sun

In his tiny office a mile from the Kremlin, newspaper chief Ram Gabrilyanov barks orders at his staff.

Ram has created Russia's first western-style tabloid.

It is called Zhizn, or Life.


We have copied the Sun, but there is nothing wrong with that. It is just the kind of paper our country needs - Tsar Peter the Great did exactly the same

Ram Gabrilyanov, Chief Editor
And there are no prizes for guessing where he got the idea. Ram's desk is covered with copies of Britain's best selling newspaper - The Sun!

The two papers are remarkably similar. Zhizn's typeface and layout are identical to the Sun's.

There is an agony aunt.

And what is the first thing you see when you open the paper up? Stranitsa Tri! - Page Three - featuring a naked Russian woman, like 22-year-old Tamara from Vologda.

There is even a section called Bazariy with entertainment stories.
Agony aunt page
Before joining Zhizn Inna worked as a spy

As for the news, well, the edition I was given to read at Zhizn's head office included a scoop about a footballer being snapped with two Russian beauties.

And the story of a businessman who had a heart attack when the prostitute he visited turned out to be his own daughter. Very Sun!

Controversy

"Yes, I admit it," Ram told me. "We have copied the Sun, but there is nothing wrong with that. It is just the kind of paper our country needs. Tsar Peter the Great did exactly the same. He, too, copied things from the West to help Russia catch up with the outside world."

Showbiz page
Bazariy is the same as Bizarre but with a Russian flavour
The newspaper caused a degree of controversy when it first appeared.

"When at first time we printed Page Three - those naked girls - we got a lot of phone calls from old ladies," said journalist Timur Marder.

"They said - Wow! What are you doing? It is impossible, these naked girls are awful!"

Since then, Zhizn has gone from strength to strength.

It is now one of the top selling dailies in Moscow - and is available in 50 cities around the country.

A Russian Deidre

One of the most popular sections of the paper is the problem page Dear Inna! - Zhizn's version of the Sun's Dear Deidre column.

Inna's past, I suspect, is rather more colourful than Deidre's - before joining Zhizn, she worked as a spy!

Now she is inundated with requests for advice.


What is really frightening is that these sort of newspapers will absorb not only the market, but also the mentality of the nation

Sergei Brelyov, journalist
"Most of the marital problems I hear of in Russia are caused by the difficulty of finding your own place to live." Inna said.

"You often hear of a divorced husband living with his new wife, in the same one-bedroomed flat as his old wife and her new husband. It causes terrible problems!"

Zhizn has been such a success that it has spawned a tabloid rival - a Russian version of Germany's Bild newspasper recently went on sale.

Tabloidisation

Russian journalist Sergei Brelyov told me he was concerned about the tabloidisation of the Russian press.

"Look, 10 years ago you had The Times and you had tabloids which started absorbing the market - and now they dominate it," Sergei said.

"So what is really frightening is that these sort of newspapers will absorb not only the market, but also the mentality of the nation."

Mind you, on the streets of Moscow, no-one seems to be too worried.

Like most of the people I spoke too, pensioner Svetlana Nikolaevna admitted she likes Zhizn - especially Page Three.

"That naked girl? Oh, she is lovely," Svetlana beamed.

"Such a lovely pose. Oh, and I like the crossword puzzles, too!"

Which all goes to show that in Russia today - the Sun really is shining.....

See also:

09 Apr 01 | Entertainment
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