Association for Creative Moral Education


dia_bluve.gifHome  dia_bluve.gifWhat is ZIPoPo  dia_bluve.gifProjects  dia_bluve.gifTrainings  dia_bluve.gifAuthor and Founder  dia_bluve.gifGallery  dia_bluve.gifAwards  dia_bluve.gifPublications  dia_bluve.gifPartners  dia_bluve.gifContacts




by Ann Boyles

This television show was first developed by Shamil Fattakhov, a journalist from Kazan, to promote family consultation on situations centered around themes connected to moral education.  The name of the program, "Zipopo," is taken from the first letters of the words "Zaochniy institut pozitivnovo povedeniya," which translates as "The Academy of Positive Behavior." In English the program is called "The Happy Hippo Show," a title inspired by a story related about Abdu'l-Baha, who, during His trip to America in 1911-12, is reported to have said to a crying child, "Don't be sad, be a happy hippopotamus!"

The concept underlying "Zipopo" is to present viewers with an opportunity to look at moral or ethical issues and to provide them with the means to approach life problems and find positive solutions through specific dramatic examples.

As Mr. Fattakhov has noted, the power of positive example has a long and distinguished history in Russia.  He cites the instance where, following the publication in the late nineteenth century of Leo Tolstoy's novel The Resurrection, about a man who forfeits his wealth and prominent position in society to repent for an evil deed he committed in his youth, many readers of the popular work radically changed their lives, confessing to crimes they had committed, donating their possessions to charity, and performing good works.

"Zipopo," which runs weekly in a number of cities in Russia and is about 40 minutes in length, features a dramatic skit performed by actors, a live audience of between eighty and a hundred people -- mostly youth -- and hosts who facilitate the discussion.  The hosts begin by warming up the audience and introducing the topic for the show, after which the first scene of a situation based on the topic is acted out.  The drama freezes at a crucial point of tension, and audience discussion opens up, facilitated by the hosts who, from time to time, interject relevant points or perhaps quote brief passages from literary or religious sources to further fuel the exchange of viewpoints.  Sometimes an expert on the topic is present to contribute ideas as well.  Following the discussion, which always focuses on finding positive solutions to the situation, the dramatic sketch resumes and one possible solution to the particular moral dilemma is presented.  A second round of audience discussion following the dramatic conclusion helps those present to recognize a pattern of response to the problem, based on moral principles.

Many of the scripts have been developed by Mr. Fattakhov, but he welcomes other authors and encourages youth to submit their ideas for future programmes; one scenario was written by a seventeen-year old high school student.  Well over two hundred such sketches have now been written and performed, including ones on topics such as how to avoid drug addiction, suicide, the difference between sex and love, youth and the police, stealing, unemployment, racial conflict, divorce, running away from home, how to find the right partner to establish a healthy family life, how to develop virtues, and so on.  The program has become very popular, not only with youth but with entire families, because it features ordinary people exploring moral solutions to common dilemmas that are often not addressed in society.  Viewers, then, see how they can practically apply moral principles in their own lives.

Mr. Fattakhov describes the goal of the program as "the healing and education of society through regular collective deepening in moral aspects, based on the highest moral principles proclaimed by prophets of all world religions, by outstanding philosophers and prominent people, accumulated by the wisdom of the whole of mankind."

Some of the factors that make the show effective are the use of drama to make the problem more emotionally immediate; the opportunity for different social and age groups to share a common experience; the broadening of youths' knowledge of life; exposure to the experience of consultation as both a spiritual and intellectual exchange in a supportive atmosphere; the legitimizing of positive actions and behavior in the minds of young viewers; the development of collective thinking to search for positive solutions to life's problems; and the power of the group's perception of positive examples.

Benefits to viewers include a widening of their knowledge of life; preparation for unexpected or unfamiliar situations; encouragement to talk publicly about matters of moral import; the strengthening of family unity through the promotion of family consultation on topics introduced in the shows; and encouragement for individuals to become responsible for their own moral choices, to make positive moral decisions, and to take positive action.

Audience bases for "Zipopo" are expanding.  Host training workshops have been held since 1994, and as a result the show is now established in a number of Russian cities, including Chita, Khabarovsk, Izhevsk, Ulan-Ude, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Kazan, Perm, Leninogorsk and others.  It has also been introduced into India, China, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, USA, Lithuania, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine.  And while "Zipopo" began as a program primarily directed at youth, different variations of the show have been developed, aimed at children, teenagers, women, families, and social groups such as teachers, businessmen, journalists, and so on.  Because the format of the show is very flexible and portable, it can be (and has been) done in locations as varied as kindergartens, youth camps, schools, colleges and universities, and on various types of mass media, including both radio and television.

In the city of Khabarovsk eighteen-year-old Tanya Moroz, who had been trained as a host, was galvanized to start up a radio version of the show, which she produced and hosted herself.  Another young host, Leonid Osokin, hosted a live TV program called the "Orange Show," modelled on "Zipopo," for some two years in his home city of Ulan-Ude. The popular show, which ran bi-weekly, reached some million people and was discontinued only when Mr. Osokin left to pursue a doctoral degree in morality and ethics.

Recently, Mr. Fattakhov has taken the basic format of "Zipopo" and has adapted it to different audiences. For example, he has offered seminars to businessmen on subjects such as ethics in business -- an issue of real concern in Russian society. The dramatic sketch presented at one such seminar opens with a businessman advising his wife over the telephone not to buy fruit or vegetables from a particular vendor who uses chemical sprays that could endanger the health of their family. Immediately following this conversation two people are ushered into the man's office, the first complaining about the pollution released by the businessman's factory and its effects on her child. The second, who is meanwhile quietly sobbing and obviously carrying something bulky under her coat, suddenly throws aside her wrap and deposits a dead dog on the businessman's desk, crying that this was her beloved pet who was poisoned by drinking from the stream next to the man's factory. At that point the action freezes and the seminar participants are invited to discuss the action, identify the moral principles involved in the situation, and devise a positive solution. Mr. Fattakhov related that the businessmen at the seminar were galvanized by the sketch and engaged in a very energetic discussion of ethics in business practices -- something they claimed they had not done previously.

Responses such as those of the businessmen--as well as the popular reception of "Zipopo" on the television and radio in various cities - undersore people's hunger for presentations and programs that address in a substantive, participatory way the issues of morality and ethics that are central to their lives. And the format developed by Mr. Fattakhov also shows that addressing such issues is far from a dull, dry exercise.