It’s been a rough week for Russia’s Prime Minister, Victor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin. How rough? Well, as it turns out, he’s not worth 5 billion dollars, as alleged by United States’ Republican Congressman Henry Hyde. Nuh-uh. Hyde was just behaving like the anti-Russian that he is. Rather, according to a recent Russian government press release, the second most powerful man in the C.I.S. makes a paltry $703 per month.
“Seven hundred and three dollars?! Shame!”
Right you are, Knock-Knock. We couldn’t sit around quietly knowing that the man who is one finger away from having his finger on the nuclear button earns less than your average Arthur Anderson fleet driver, so we decided to take matters into our own hands. We hit the streets with a collection box and a picture of the Prime Minister, with the announcement: “Seeking Help!” Unfortunately, revenues were less than impressive, and we were chased off the streets twice by the militsiya. So we decided to dispense with the small change approach, and go Big Time. We created a non-profit organization called “The Fund to Support Viktor Stepanovich,” and announced a fundraising dinner to help boost the Prime Minister’s meager salary up to that of world standards. Knowing that business people always hate to be first, we noted in our dinner invitation that our fund has already had success in raising moneyÑ$487 dollars and 80,000 rublesÑfor the Prime Minister. The invitation offered three package deals to the fundraiser attendee: $50 for a regular dinner; $500 for “special seating”; and $2,500 for a “private audience with Viktor Stepanovich”.
Now, here’s the tricky part. Clearly, our hastily-thrown-together invitation would raise a few eyebrows at your average Western or Russian firm. So the key was to seek out foreign-owned firms whose very national character precluded them from suspecting that a practical joke was being played. After consulting our eXile technicians in the humor lab, we narrowed down our targets to companies from two regions of the world known for their lack of humor: Southeast Asia, where teasing is held in very low esteem, and Sweden, which needs no explanation.
So, we mass-faxed our invitation to several Korean, Japanese, Hong Kong and Swedish firms, then followed up with phone calls… and the results were astonishing, leading us to wonder whether Viktor Stepanovich’s star is fading fast.
eXile: Hello, this is the “Fund To Support Viktor Stepanovich.” I’m calling to follow up on our invitation we sent you for the fundraising dinner. How many people from Itochu will be going?
Itochu Corporation: We aren’t interested.
Itochu: Because, that’s our decision. That’s all.
Kawakami Trading Corp: We haven’t decided yet. If we do want to go, we’ll fax you back R.S.V.P. Don’t bother calling us.
Kawasho Corp: Unfortunately, we won’t have the opportunity to attend this function.
eXile: What do you mean? You mean you don’t have time for it?
Kawasho: Yes, that’s right. No time.
Mitsubishi: Are you serious?
eXile: Oh yes, very serious.
Mistubishi: Chernomyrdin said he lives a good life on this money. I consider this to be an April Fool’s joke.
eXile: No, we already did our April Fool’s joke.
Toyota: Well, the style of your invitation was done well. It gave me a laugh.
eXile: But it’s no joke.
Toyota: Really? Well, I’ll put you in touch with the secretary of the Japanese representative.
Toyota: I’ve spoken with the Japanese representative, and unfortunately they have a previous engagement on the day of the fundraiser, and for the days leading up to your fundraiser they will be busy as well. Please accept his apologies.
Ssangyong Corp: We aren’t interested.
eXile: Why not?
Ssangyong: Koreans aren’t into fundraisers.
eXile: Can we at least fax you the invitation? This is on behalf of the Prime Minister of Russia.
Ssangyong: Don’t bother.
Japan Air: No, we’re not interested. In fact, we don’t understand why this needs to be done.
eXile: Well, we thought it was shameful that Russia’s Prime Minister makes less money than, say, a driver at Arthur Anderson.
Japan Air: A what?
eXile: A driver at Arthur Anderson. That’s just an example.
Japan Air (holds phone): Unfortunately, our representative will be busy that week. We apologize.
A Prime Snub? Yes indeed. Now, it was up to the Swedes to help Viktor Stepanovich save face.
Ericsson: Is this a joke?
eXile: Absolutely not. The fund has been up for awhile now. We’ve raised $487 dollars and 80,000 rubles.
Ericsson: How is it possible that in Russia one could abuse its Prime Minister!
eXile: We aren’t abusing him. We are trying to rectify abuse in which he is paid less than, say, a driver at Arthur Anderson.
Ericsson: Why don’t you try to contact our Corporate Communications Manager? Perhaps he’ll find this interesting.
Oo, Viktor Stepanovich really has hit an all-time No. One more chance!
eXile: Hello, is this SAS?
SAS Airlines: Yes it is.
eXile: Hello, I’m calling from the “Fund to Support Viktor Stepanovich.” It’s about the invitation we sent you for our fundraising dinner this May 14th. How many people from SAS are going, and which type of arrangements would you like to make?
SAS Airlines: We are a Scandinavian airline. We don’t do Chernomyrdins.
Welp, looks like we came up a little short. How short? H’m… let’s add it up. Wait a sec while our technicians run the numbers…
Hey! We didn’t get a single bite! Just Taibbi’s six thousand rubles. Poor Victor Stepanovich, it seems nobody likes him. Kinda makes him the Mahi Vijayshwari of the Kremlin, don’t you think? Well, see you next issue, guys and gals!
This article was published in Issue #5 of The eXile, April 1997.
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