Kidding. I’m sure everyone heard about Gerard Depardieu’s decision to renounce his French citizenship and move — first to Belgium, and now to Russia. For one, Russians offer a better tax deal:
If Mr. Depardieu chooses to take up Russian citizenship, he would potentially trade steep French income tax rates, which he said now claim 85 percent of his income, and even Belgian rates of 60 percent or higher, for Russia’s flat 13 percent income tax. The value-added tax, a sales tax on goods and services, is 18 percent in Russia compared with nearly 20 percent in France, while Russian social security taxes are 30 percent compared with 50 percent in France.
On its way out of communism Russia, like many other former Eastern Block countries, had adopted a flat tax. And if Gospodin Gepardieu thinks that 13% is too high, no worries — few Russians pay income taxes to begin with, and the country relies heavily on its oil and gas revenue. Sure, Mihkail Khordokovsky is doing time for tax evasion, or so we are told, but given how the actor was caught admiring Putin’s foray into popular culture, I don’t think he needs to worry about such things:
If it’s the low flat tax rate that interests Depardieu, why not chose Georgia or the Czech Republic? Putin continued:
But aside from tax savings, Mr. Putin suggested that French officials were too brusque in their response to Mr. Depardieu’s complaints and that he might find that Russians simply understand him better as an artist. “Actors, musicians and artists are people with a special, delicate psychological makeup and, as we say in Russia, the artist is easily offended,” Mr. Putin said at the news conference on Dec. 20. “So I understand Mr. Depardieu’s feelings.”
I assume he understands Pussy Riot as well. Not to say that Pussy Riot is anywhere near Depardieu’s talent, but we are talking bohemian sensibility here, not talent. Then again, perhaps Putin does know something about artists, many of whom, like our former Frenchman, like dictators.
Depardieu might want to review Russian ideas about immigration. If a Russian is to renounce his citizenship, he’ll be seen as a traitor by many of his ex compatriots. Actually, in that part of the world one doesn’t need to leave the country to rise to the status of Benedict Arnold. When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, virtually any activity that involves moving from one group of people to another, like switching places of employment, was considered treasonous. Things changed in the 90s, at least for a short time, but it looks like today’s popular opinion is back to the Soviet assumptions.
After the Pussy Riot “trial” last year, I was looking through Russian chatrooms. The general consensus there was that the young women had it coming, and that in other countries the punishment for their performance would be even harsher. One individual opined that Pussy Riot are traitors to their motherland, and that in the US they would be put to death for [high] treason. It was a well-liked opinion. Last November Putin broadened the legal definition of treason, giving himself a green light to go after dissenters.
Regardless the Russian views on dissent and treason, the new arrival will get to keep more of his money. How will he show his gratitude? Russians don’t have the tradition of charitable giving akin to the one we have in America. When we arrived to the US, we were moved to see people donating their money, time and possessions to help us settle in the new country. It was all new to us. Perhaps Gerard Depardieu, a Westerner, knows how charity is done.
The Russian population of parent-less children is now greater than it was at the end of World War 2. There are children starving in Russian orphanages, and now, because Putin is playing politics with their lives, they can not be adopted by American families. Surely an actor known for creating humane characters can not remain indifferent. He should contribute to an overhaul of the Russian orphanage system and perhaps adopt a kid or two.