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Paper Monitor

13:16 UK time, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's one thing to be goaded by the Swedish, as Sun readers are today in the guise of... well, no prizes for guessing who is called on to represent the Scandinavian state to the Sun faithful, but it's quite another to have Russia dangled in front of us as a role model.

To be taunted by our Nordic neighbours is just part of what it has come to mean to be British these days - whether it's education standards, social mobility, flat-pack occasional stacking tables, or indeed the effortlessness with which they face down 6ft of snowfall in one night. But Russia?

For those who grew up in the years when the Soviet Union was most associated abroad with long queues snaking out of bread shops, the Great Bear's transformation into the home of lithe, golden-skinned tennis players and multi-billionaire owners of British football clubs was hard enough to get a head around, but now it seems the country once dubbed the Evil Empire by Ronald Reagan has become a paragon of good practice when it comes to efficient road and rail management.

The BBC's 10 O'Clock News was at it last night, with its Moscow correspondent standing aside a curious machine which made lapping motions as it inched along a snow-strewn highway.

And here's the Times chipping in with a similar sentiment: "If only the country were ready, runs the lament, the snow could come and go with no great cost. Russia manages to survive winters far more severe than ours. So does Canada and so does Finland."

The Guardian takes things a step further, with its man in Moscow telling readers: "While Britain was paralysed by 15cm of snow, Russia was working normally... The Russian capital has an army of snowploughs and snow-trucks - not to mention thousands of dvorniki, or street-cleaners, employed to clear snow from pavements and communal courtyards."

Maybe that's the right name for the curious lapping thing.

But as well as all the handwringing about Britain being a Third World country unable to with a light dusting of the white fluffy stuff, there's a strange ambivalence in the papers.

Obviously, it's very upsetting, but also, I mean, er, isn't snow a bit lovely?

The leader in the Times gushes: "The first thing to say about snow is that it is extraordinarily beautiful."

OK chaps, but what about the chaos in the streets? It continueth: "There is a joy to trampling through unspoilt snow that some children enjoyed yesterday morning for the first time in their lives."

Must... fight... to... hold... back... tears.

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