There have been many different friends who while visiting Kyiv have said, "What's the take with this rector of some University with his own TV program!" It usually doesn't take long for me to figure out that they are referring to Mykhailo Poplavskiy, Rector of the Cultural University. Incidentally the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine contributes half a million hryvnias to the production of this show, which can be called little more than kitsch by international standards and which showcases him and his students.
Yesterday, was Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays. While having a traditional Easter breakfast at my business partner's we had the TV on for some ambient noise and to keep abreast of what is going on in the country as most of my friends are not indifferent to what is going on politically in this country, even on the holiest of Christian holidays. While surfing the channels we stumbled upon an interview being conducted with Poplavsky. Below are some of the questions [paraphrased] as they were posed to the singing Rector by the interviewee, along with answers which I have also paraphrased. While this is not the entire interview, these are the questions and answers that struck me the most.
Q: Mykhailo what was the largest amount you have ever been paid for one of your concerts?
A: I can't really answer that as the Tax Administration would be all over me.
My business partner grins and says, "Yeah, no kidding! If the Tax Administration was doing its job it would be all over him in a minute!"
Q: What kind of car do you drive?
A: A Mercedes.
Q: What model?
A: I don't know what model it is but it is one of the latest one's.... You know it's important that I drive something that my student's will have respect for...I have an image to maintain. There are a number of students at our university who's parents are influential business people, and some of them arrive at the university not only in nice cars but also accompanied by their own personal security guards.
A friend who had joined us for breakfast laughed at this comment. I then noted that a friend of mine had conducted a Master Class at this University only to have his mobile phone stolen by one of the students. My business partner interjected, what kind of parent would even consider sending their child to such a school. Our other friend then smiled and said, "The kind that can afford the fees that the University charges, and whose kids can't get into any other university!"
Q: How much money do you have in your pocket right now?
A: Let me check... I don't have any money in my pocket right now.
Q: While you may not have any money in your pocket now but how much do you usually carry on a daily basis?
A: About 3,000 hryvnias.
"Not bad money," I thought to myself!
Q: So what is your home like?
A: Well I live in a small 3-room flat but in some time I hope to build myself a nice place outside of Kyiv. When I first arrived in Kyiv I lived in pretty tight conditions, but let's say I learned about business and management through life. I used to by things here and take them to Poland and resell them, after some time I was transporting things by plane to Poland and making quite a bit.
I smiled, "Ah, one of the many who was involved in contraband!" My business partner added, "At the time he was doing what he claims was business, it was completely illegal. I know I a guy who got caught for contraband during this period he was talking about when the the Soviet Union was crumbling and ended up in prison for seven years!"
While Poplavaskiy claims on his personal website that he wants to see Ukraine develop into a democratic European country in a civilized manner, why is it that European and North American friends often ask about this guy who they think is totally off the wall. Maybe his understanding of civilized is completely different? Maybe, he really doesn't care, as he has the money to do what he wants? Maybe, his is disinterested in the development of a real and formidable cultural and entertainment industry, one which plays by civilized rules? But there must be a reason.
I have never been a advocate of either Poplavskiy's singing or the institute, god forbid call it a University, that he heads. But clearly the man has connections which put him in a field of his own and has allowed him to amass a small fortune. Apparently, according to the interview, he also has a chain of restaurants along the Kyiv-Odesa highway, and claims that he loves to cook. I would much rather see him take an early retirement and cook at his restaurants rather then appear on any stage in this country. But then again this is only my personal opinion.