It came to my attention that a new show, Meet The Russians, is launching on Fox in late September. We are promised "a jaw-dropping world of unbelievable riches and extraordinary characters" in this reality TV series about the super-wealthy Russians living in London. "This is a Russian fairy tale with a difference", trumpets Fox in its promotion campaign.
Understandably, as a Russian living in London, I am horrified. I've paid little attention to The Only Way Is Essex, Made in Chelsea or Geordie Shore but this one is a bit too close to home.
For starters, it seems to me that TV makers have long assumed that the viewers are happy to switch off their brains as soon as they turn on the telly. We are allegedly so happy to conform our views to the stereotypes we are being offered, such as "orange Essex girls" or "double-barrelled ladies who lunch in Chelsea", that we would not want anything, other than what we have been suspecting all along: the Russians love their vodka, they wear real fur, and they are fabulously rich.
I am sure we'll all have a good chuckle, "meeting the Russians", but what worries me is that stereotypes stick.
Since there are 300,000 Russians living in London as the Telegraph reports, has anyone thought of making a series where we could meet genuinely interesting, intelligent, inspiring Russians? No, I thought not.
Yet, among 300,000 Russian Londoners you'll find Valery Gergiev, the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, regularly performing to standing ovations at the Barbican and at the Proms and Alina Ibragimova, a 28-year-old exceptionally talented violinist. Yana Peel, Chief Executive of the world's leading forum for live debate, Intelligence Squared, was recently selected for the Mont Blanc Award for Arts Patronage, acknowledging her philanthropic contribution to education and visual arts. Political scientist Alena Ledeneva of the University College London published two books critically examining the governing system of Putin's Russia, "How Russia Really Works" and "Can Russia Modernise?".
For those, wanting to meet the Russians who won't make you cringe, Pushkin House in Bloomsbury is an educational, not-for-profit enterprise, promoting Russian culture in London with events ranging from music recitals to talks on how to climb Elbrus. Russian Art Week is taking place on 22-29 November with exhibitions and related events showcasing Russian art in London.
I am a Russian living in London, and whilst I would not say "No" to a shot of frozen Russian vodka and blinis with caviar on a special occasion, I hope that through my work at Ladies Who Impress, celebrating female role models, I inspire a different reaction than an overwhelming urgency to reach for the remote control.