Vladimir Sloutsker interview
by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2007-09-18
With plans to launch a Jewish TV channel to unite the global Jewish community, Russian businessman-turned-politician Vladimir Sloutsker is determined to make it happen where others have failed. In an exclusive interview, Sloutsker, 51, talks to SJ's Leslie Bunder about his plans, ambitions and why he won't be buying a football club.
Why do you want to launch a Jewish TV station?
Well, it is the most frequent question I receive now. Frankly speaking, because I am Jewish myself and all the problems we share in the Jewish community worldwide are close to me. I've been a president of the Russian Jewish Congress and due to their position I could understand how the structure of the Jewish world is. Jewish communities are separated and even inside the communities there is no common opinion on things. Other communities have their information space uniting them, and unfortunately our Jewish community has none of this extremely important factor, the common integrating information uniting the community. I decided such a space could be formed only by the most influential form of media, which is TV.
What makes you believe you can do it when other similar projects have failed to work?
The similar projects failed to work, I believe because those involved did not want to make complex content unifying, and were unable to formulate first of all internally a purpose they wanted to reach. They were either keen to get financial results or most probably make an information or cultural source itself. But the content which can be useful in this case was not available for them. I believe it can be available for us. The Jewish view of the world should include religious content, cultural content, history of Jews, all together in one channel.
How is the TV station going to be funded and who is going to fund it?
It is going to be funded by sponsors. I have already talked to many Jewish businessmen worldwide and no-one has refused. The first question was when and where to pay!
Will the station be in Europe first, and in English, then in other languages later?
We are looking to start up with English and then other languages included, but English is the most commonly understood language worldwide.
What is it like being Jewish in Russia today?
On a government ground level there is no restriction or any pressure, it is very free to be Jewish here. Myself, for many years I did not feel any limitation for myself as a Jewish person.
How was life growing up for you in the former Soviet Union?
Well it was a much harder time. I found when I was 17 years old and I finished school I could not enter the university which I liked because there were restrictions for Jews to register, and I was made to enter the university which was available for Jews. It was very tough.
Are there problems with anti-Semitism in Russia?
Well sure it exists and it is growing. The world is moving towards greater instability rather than greater stability, and that is reflected in international and inter-religious tension, so surely that includes anti-Semitism as one of the factors. Anti-Semitism is growing everywhere and that's why we need to be united.
Do you help your wife with her fitness club business and do you think she'll expand outside of Russia?
I don't know, I never interfere in her business. The only role I performed was the role of client! I believe it's one of the biggest fitness clubs in Europe, close to 50 clubs but each club is very big, they're not like small tiny gyms.
Tell us about your business interests, are they in property or investments?
I was in private equity business before I joined the Russian parliament but according to Russian legislation I cannot be in direct business so I have to trust my assets to a third party, and by doing that I can influence something. All my interests were concentrated in Russia. I had some interests in high-tech in Europe but it was not successful.
Lots of Russian Jews are buying football clubs in the UK. Is this something you would like to do?
It's out of my interests. I'm not a great fan of football. I like to watch it but I'm not a great fan of it.
So if you come to England you won't be staying with Roman Abramovitch in Chelsea?
I should be going to watch the match but if something else would be more interesting I would prefer it. But my wife is a fan of football!