New weekly kicks off with scandal

  • 2001-08-16
  • Anna Pridanova
RIGA - A new Russian-language weekly in Latvia, Moskovsky Komsomolets-Baltija, promoted its first issue with a huge concert by Russian superstar Filip Kirkorov in Dome Square in the very heart of Riga on Aug. 8.

The free-for-all concert attracted more than 22,000 people, leaving Old Town littered and filthy and the country's politicians demanding the dismissal of city officials. The poor organization of such a large-scale event also cast doubts on Riga's ability to host its 800th anniversary celebrations, due to culminate this weekend.

More than 50 people crushed by the crowds received medical assistance during the concert. Ten ended up in the hospital. It was only due to good luck that the show didn't end in tragedy, police officials commented after the show.

Police saved the city from "very big trouble,"Interior Minister Mareks Seglins told journalists on Aug. 9, by regulating the crowd during the concert. "At around 9 p.m. the situation became explosive and the crowd was about to become uncontrollable,"Seglins said.

"Was it stupidity or provocation? The responsible officials have to draw conclusions on their own irresponsible actions,"he went on.

Maris Tralmaks, executive director of Riga City Council, who allowed the concert to take place on Dome Square and who failed to notify the police, later rejected all reproaches of carelessness.

He blamed the media for stirring up a storm of controversy around the concert. "I'd hoped that the concert would be a great gift to Rigans and the city's guests,"he said.

However, two parties - For Fatherland and Freedom and the People's Party - have already asked for Tralmaks, a Social Democrat, to be dismissed.

In the meantime, MK-Baltija released its second issue Aug. 15, after the total sellout of the first, which served as an entry ticket to a closed area near the stage.

The interest Moskovskij Komsomolets has in the Baltics is connected to the policy of the newspaper. The editors regularly launch regional issues, said Jurij Janson, administrative director of the publishing house Petit, which, together with Russia's TEM TV channel, are the official representatives of the best-selling Russian daily in Latvia.

The new Latvian weekly will compete with two other Russian weeklies printed in Riga - Subbota, published by Petit, and Vesti, issued by the publishing house Fenster.

Moskovsky Komsomolets is Moscow's leading tabloid, taking a huge 50 percent of the Moscow audience. It prints 700,000-1,000,000 copies per day and is read throughout Russia. Its daughter weeklies are prepared in independent newsrooms in 60 Russian cities.

Riga, chosen as a starting place for MK in the Baltics, will have only 30 percent of its content filled with local news. The rest will be news from Russia, the Baltics and the rest of the world, Janson said.

The owners of Petit, the publisher of Subbota, are not afraid of the competition MK would create for their own newspaper.

The commercial success of the new weekly is not so high, according to Abrams Kleckins, a media authority and professor at the University of Latvia. The press market is still not stable for Russian newspapers in Latvia, he said, but there are niches for weeklies to be filled. "Right now MK's chances here don't look better than 50-50,"he said.