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1. ITAR-TASS: Last of Russia hermits to leave of taiga for farewell
2. Interfax: CIS economy grows 4% in 2002.
3. Rosbalt/Interfax: US Ambassador: Number of Russians Visiting US Increasing.
4. Rossiiskaya Gazeta: Vitaly Tretyakov, WHY RUSSIA DOES NOT NEED A WINNER IN  THE IRAQI WAR.
5. National Post (Canada): Matthew Fisher, Russian space program has its own  loss: After one flight, budget constraints grounded the Soviet version of the 
space shuttle: Buran flies no more
6. New York Times: Sabrina Tavernise, Muscovites' Love for a Classic Ends at the Park.
7. The Washington Post: Eve Zibart St. Petersburg the Great. (re events in Washington and Baltimore)
8. The Washington Post: Happy Birthday, St. Petersburg.
9. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, Baghdad versus Dubrovka.
10. The Russia Journal: Matt Taibbi, The hierarchy of grief.
11. Robert Bruce Ware: Response to McFaul/7046 and Fitzpatrick/7049.


Last of Russia hermits to leave of taiga for farewell. 
February 7, 2003

They lived a reclusive life in a taiga wilderness and wanted nothing to do 
with the outside world. Agafya Lykova has outlived them all, and now she 
wants to venture into it. 

The hermit Lykov family, Old Believers, was uncovered in the taiga a few 
years ago. They explained that they had fled the Communist regime and settled 
near the Yerinat River, in the Kuznetsky Alatau mountain range, in the 1950s, 
almost never venturing outside it. 

Agafya, who lived in the taiga for about 60 years, disapproved of any trips, 
even for treatment in hospital. 

Now that she is old and alone, she sent a letter to the Kemerovo region's 
governor Aman Tuleyev asking to arrange a brief visit to her first and twice 
removed relatives who live in the town of Tashtagol, and to the settlement of 
Kilinsk, a seat of Old Believers. 

The mother, father, sister and brothers of Agafya died long ago, probably of 
influenza brought by tourists, to which the Lykovs had no immunity. 

Agafya said in her letter to Tuleyev, delivered by a stranger who encountered 
her dwelling, that she "had become old" and wanted to meet her kin "for a 
last farewell". 

The taiga around her hut is bare of human life, and she will have to go the 
100km to Tashtagol by helicopter. 

However, Agafya is not new to the turboprop craft. 

One winter she flew on it to the thermal spring where she periodically takes 
a self-invented course of treatment "for all diseases". Other times she 
reached it on skis. 

The recluse has been corresponding with Tuleyev, the regional governor, for 
five years. 

A helicopter delivers food and a bouquet of flowers to her twice a year. 

Last summer the governor arranged the construction of a new floor and a stove 
in Agafya's hut. 


CIS economy grows 4% in 2002

MOSCOW. Feb 7 (Interfax) - Gross domestic product in the Commonwealth of
Independent States grew 4% in 2002, the CIS Interstate Statistical
Committee said. 
CIS industrial output grew 4%, farm output 2%, capital investments 6%,
retail trade 10%, foreign trade (in the first 11 months) 5% and freight 4%,
the committee said. 
GDP growth was highest, as in the previous two years, in Azerbaijan,
Armenia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, at 9%-13%. Moldova's economic revival
continued, with GDP rising 7% in 2002, compared with 7% in 2001 and 2% in
2001. GDP was up 3%-5% in Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
This sort of growth has been sustained for four years in Belarus and six in
Uzbekistan. Economic growth slowed down a little in Russia and Ukraine.
Only in Kyrgyzstan did GDP fall, by 0.5%. 
Financially, the CIS member-states were relatively stable, with moderate
rates of inflation, comparatively steady exchange rates against the US
dollar, growth in gold and foreign-exchange reserves and budget surpluses
or, in some cases, only small deficits. 
Growth was also recorded last year in real disposable incomes, labor
demand was steady and unemployment relatively low. Household consumption
was higher than in 2001 in most states, but still below the 1991 level,
particularly in countries most affected by the financial crisis of 1998. 
There were no major improvements in the standard of living, so further
growth in domestic demand will be limited. 


US Ambassador: Number of Russians Visiting US Increasing

MOSCOW, February 7. The increasing number of Russians wishing to visit the
US indicates an improvement in relations between the two countries,
according to US Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow. Speaking at the
unveiling ceremony of a new building of the US consular section on Novinsky
Boulevard in Moscow on Wednesday, February 5, Vershbow noted that, unlike
people from other countries, the number of Russians who visited America in
2002 grew by 8% compared to 2001. 

Vershbow attributed this increase to both the improving relationship
between Russia and the US and to the growth of the Russian economy and
expanding economic ties between the two countries. Director of the Russian
Foreign Ministry's consular service department Vladimir Kotenev in turn
said the opening of a new building of the US consular section "reflects a
new level of relations between our countries."


Rossiiskaya Gazeta
No. 23
February 6, 2003

Discussions of ways to prevent a war in Iraq are becoming 
useless. We cannot influence US behaviour. Besides, Moscow has 
been working hard enough to prevent the use of military force 
and little more can be done in this area. If the Americans can 
be convinced to see reason, good and well. But what if we fail? 
In this case Russia can choose one of three options. 
It can definitely and clearly join the USA, thus helping 
the potential winner to win the war quicker and getting maximum 
dividends for this. But it is not quite clear who will win the 
Or it can stand up against the US policy, which means more 
or less open efforts to prevent the Americans from winning the 
And lastly, it can dissociate itself from assistance or 
resistance to either side. Let them decide the matter 
Outwardly, the latter appears to be the most logical stand 
for Moscow, but it will be very difficult to implement it. 
Russia cannot keep silent and remain neutral for the sole 
reason that it is a great power. Besides, geographically, the 
conflict region is located very closely to Russia, which has 
quite a few interests in Iraq. And lastly, both sides in the 
conflict (the USA and the Islamic world) will put pressure on 
Russia in a bid to make it assume a stand. 
So, what should Russia do? 
I will try to formulate Russia's strategic interests in 
connection with the US-Iraqi conflict. I see three such 
interests. First, Russia, which is weak now, should think not 
about the tactical advantages it can get as a result of any 
outcome and its involvement in it, but about the revival of its 
might. Consequently, the crucial criterion is not the sum total 
of possible advantages from supporting one of the sides but the 
losses that Russia can sustain by choosing wrongly. 
Second, the status of a great power binds Russia to some 
extent. Though superpowers still determine the course of global 
politics, there is one thing in which they are limited more 
than the other countries. What I mean is this: In the 18th and 
19th centuries and in the first half of the 20th century 
superpowers could easily engage in direct military 
confrontation, but they cannot do this today because this is 
fraught with mutual destruction or, worse still, the 
annihilation of the world. 
Consequently, whatever anyone may do on the international 
scene (the only exception would be a direct threat to Russia), 
it would not be in the interests of Russia or the rest of the 
world for Russia to engage in a direct conflict with the USA, 
single- handedly or in a coalition (for example, with China), 
over Iraq or any other problem. 
Third, Russia's strategic interest lies in minimising the 
military operation in Iraq and the region as a whole (because 
the region is situated uncomfortably close to Russian borders). 
And it does not need anyone to win a clear-cut victory.
Unquestionable victory by the USA would facilitate further 
growth of the already swollen US hegemony-seeking tendencies 
and result in total US control of oil resources and prices. And 
victory by Iraq would strengthen and spread Islam-Christianity 
confrontation in the world, thus curtailing Moscow's room for 
manoeuvre, weakening its influence on the oil policy and 
creating a precedent of an authoritarian regime defeating a 
democracy (though an aggressive one). Besides, one victor will 
be able to present maximum demands to those who did not support 
In short, it can be safely said that Russia (and not it 
alone) does not want a winner in the US-Iraq war. The regime of 
Saddam Hussein should not be toppled (I mean regime and not 
Saddam, as it is difficult - though possible - to imagine one 
without the other). But neither should the Americans suffer a 
crushing defeat. It would be especially dangerous if 
hostilities spread (by the September 11 scheme) to the 
territory of the USA or the European countries that join the 
anti-Iraqi coalition.
This would globalise the war and certainly push Washington to 
more ruthless and unreasonable actions. 
So, if we cannot prevent the war, we must act to preclude 
either side from winning it. The Afghan variant, meaning the 
creation of an absolutely pro-Western government that does not 
control the national territory, is not suitable. Iraq is 
located too closely to Europe (but, like Afghanistan, is far 
away from the USA, which is encouraging the Americans to act). 
Besides, Iraq means oil, and Moscow and other capitals do not 
need chaos on the oil markets.
In other words, a direct US occupation regime would be 
better than [an independent but] weak power. US occupation 
would not be victory but only a semblance of it. This certainly 
amounts to authoritarianism, which will fan anti-American 
sentiments in the region. And this means that the USA will get 
bogged down in the Middle East, which will eventually undermine 
and weaken the global super-power standing of the USA. 
What should Russia do to ensure that this war does not 
have a winner? We must on no account vote for giving the UN 
Security Council sanction to the USA, which means that 
Washington will have to bear full responsibility for the 
consequences of its actions. On the other hand, we should avoid 
using the right of veto, or at least try not to be alone to use 
this right. Neither should Russia help the USA to decide 
Saddam's fate in a "peaceful" manner, which entails Saddam's 
"voluntary" decision to resign and accept exile. At least not 
unless Saddam himself asks Moscow for such help. Involvement in 
a similar game with Milosevic showed what this is fraught with. 
If - or when - hostilities begin, Moscow should not speak 
up positively even about the correct actions of either side; it 
should only point to apparently wrong moves or gross violations 
of international law. Any support granted to the new government 
of Iraq created by the Americans can be given only in return 
for guaranteed respect of specific Russian interests in the 
And Russia certainly must not provide practical or 
material assistance to either side in the course of 
hostilities. And any special diplomatic activity by Moscow 
after the beginning of hostilities is out of the question. 
These are the main precautionary measures that will help 
Russia to avoid becoming involved in the conflict and assuming 
responsibility for the actions of either side. They also offer 
a chance to let the developments take the most logical course 
that would eventually end in a stalemate. 
By that time Russia's stand may objectively grow stronger, 
including thanks to the conflict. And second, either side may 
need it to take part in the joint search for a way out of the 
dead-end, in which situation Russia may be able to demand more 
favourable conditions for itself in a politically clearer form, 
without the burden of time-serving embraces with the "victor." 


National Post (Canada) 
February 7, 2003
Russian space program has its own loss: After one flight, budget constraints 
grounded the Soviet version of the space shuttle: Buran flies no more 
By Matthew Fisher 

MOSCOW - Vladimir Mikhail-ovich Tsiganov has had a lot of time to ponder the 
tragedy of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia. 

Clad in threadbare clothes, the 51-year-old fisherman spends most days 
standing over a hole in the ice on the windswept Moscow River, only 50 metres 
from where a prototype of Russia's space shuttle, the Buran, sits frozen in 
time on the edge of Gorky Park. 

"I'm not here because of the Buran. I'm here because this is a good spot for 
fishing," said Mr. Tsiganov, flashing a toothless grin as he let more line 
into the water under the long shadow cast by the DC-9-sized vehicle. "But 
yes, I have been thinking about the Buran and the American space shuttle. I 
have always felt close to the Buran because I was here the day it arrived in 
Gorky Park eight years ago. 

"It might have been better if the Americans had used our Buran. It could fly 
automatically. It did not require pilots. If the Americans had had the Buran, 
maybe those seven astronauts would not have died." 

Buran means "snowstorm" in Russian, a name that seems sadly appropriate 
today. The wings and the nose of the white and black spacecraft in the park 
were covered in snow and buffeted by a breeze with a wind chill of -40C. 

It shared a corner of an amusement arcade with the "UFO Ride" and another 
contraption known as the "Dream Ship." 

Once, however, the spaceship was the pride of the Soviet space program, if 
only for a brief moment. Ten of the reusable vehicles were built, but only 
one ever flew and that only once. Piloted by remote control, that Buran, 
which was wrecked when a hangar roof fell on it a few years ago, circled the 
globe twice in November, 1988, before landing at the Baikonur cosmodrome in 

Because of a severe budget crunch, Russia cancelled the Soviet-era project 
five years later. It was an ignominious end to the last great Soviet attempt 
to match the United States in space. 

The Buran in Gorky Park was once used as a simulator by cosmonauts. It looks 
from almost every angle like an exact copy of the U.S. shuttles because that 
is exactly what it is. But the Russian variants did not have main engines at 
the back of the craft like the U.S. shuttles. Instead, they were powered by 
Energia rockets, immense launchers that are still the biggest projectiles 
ever made. 

"Our shuttle was better than the American shuttle because it was fully 
automatic and had a much bigger payload," said Sophia, a 25-year-old engineer 
charged with keeping the Buran in Gorky Park warm in winter for occasional 
visits by schoolchildren. 

The Buran manufacturer's Web site makes the same boasts. It also claims the 
heat-deflecting ceramic tiles on the wings and in the nose of the Russian 
spacecraft were stronger than those on the U.S. shuttles and had been placed 
at more efficient angles. 

"The tiles you see on the nose of our Buran are fakes, but the ones that are 
under the wing are originals that were designed to protect the Buran from 
burning up," said Sophia, pointing at the black belly under the vehicle's 
stubby wings. 

The keeper of the Buran, who declined to give her last name, said she found 
it tragic that this billion-dollar example of space technology had ended up 
as a toy in an amusement park in the heart of the Russian capital. 

"However, it is also a tragedy what has happened to our space program," 
Sophia added, shifting from one foot to the other in the bitter cold. "I take 
some comfort from the fact that a lot of people come here to see the Buran 
when the park is open during the summer. Its technology remains the 
technology of the future. Such technologies should be developed. 

"The question with the Buran was always money. It was not a question of 
Russians not having enough grey cells." 

Out on the gelid river, Mr. Tsiganov expressed similar sentiments. "I gave up 
my Communist Party card in 1983 and opposed the space program, but only 
because it was built on the bones of our people," he said. "I was very 
saddened by what happened in Texas. I vividly remember the Buran's flight 
into space. I want the cosmos to be developed. 

"Maybe they can haul this Buran away from here, and the Americans and 
Russians can learn from it together." 


New York Times
February 7, 2003
Muscovites' Love for a Classic Ends at the Park

MOSCOW, Feb. 5 Russians love their writers, not least because they were
the keepers and chroniclers of history when times got tough. So when the
Moscow city government unveiled plans for a monument to Mikhail Bulgakov,
one of this country's most adored authors, it should have been a happy

It was not. 

Plans for the monument, a 40-foot- high bronze stove and other statues,
have caused an uproar in Moscow, particularly in the neighborhood where it
is to be erected the site of a small park and famous pond in the heart of
Moscow that were the setting for the opening scene of Bulgakov's cult
classic, "The Master and Margarita."

A small but growing group of residents has held protests, written letters
and begged the stolid Moscow city government to scrap its plan. The Russian
film director Nikita Mikhailkov and even the minister of culture, Mikhail
Shvydkoi, have joined the protests. On Saturday, in the snow, against a
backdrop of yellow backhoes, a crowd of about 300 residents rallied against
changes to the park. 

In Russia, struggles between ordinary citizens and "the power" as
Russians call it rarely end in victories for the people. But the scuffle
over the park very well might. In a radio interview on Tuesday evening, the
sculptor, Aleksandr Rukavishnikov, said that he had decided not to erect
the giant stove, and that Moscow's chief architect was "90 percent in

The residents remain suspicious. The city has already closed off the park
for construction. They say the monument will ruin the quiet park, which has
remained relatively unchanged since it was set aside as a public space in
the early 1800's. A granite walkway will be laid on the pond's banks. The
pond will shrink, and a corner will be heated to give the appearance that
one of the statues is walking on water. 

"It's a live body and they are killing it," said Tatyana Selikhova, who
accuses city workers of throwing the pond's carp to their death in
waterless barrels and chopping into the roots of a 100-year-old linden tree
while draining the pond. 

"It's as if a dirty man with mud on his boots walked into my house and
said, `I'm going to live here from now on,' " she said.

The sculptor, Mr. Rukavishnikov, defended his creation at a news conference
last month. People rarely see the beauty in modern art when it is created,
he said, and only future generations will appreciate the monument. The news
conference later degenerated into a shouting match pitting the artist and
his defenders against residents who had sneaked into the room.

"It's probably normal that it annoys people," said Aleksandr Tanklevsky,
head of Moscow's cultural heritage department, at the news conference. "Van
Gogh was not accepted at first either and now he's worth millions."

But residents said that it was the monument's scale and the extent of the
changes that they opposed. Moscow's mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, has a penchant
for large projects, and since the early 1990's the city has undergone a
considerable face lift, with ritzy housing complexes, shopping centers and
underground parking garages much to some residents' chagrin. A giant
statue of Peter the Great standing in a ship that dominates a bend in the
Moscow River is particularly despised.

Perhaps most maddening about the Bulgakov plan, said Natalia N.
Chernitsova, another resident, are the references to "The Master and
Margarita," a novel that is loved by young and old for its lively and
surrealist telling of life in Stalin's Russia. The book was completed just
before Bulgakov's death in 1940, but held by Soviet censors until 1973. A
revised, and some say more complete, version was published in 1989. In the
monument, scheduled to be unveiled in May, the book's hero and heroine will
be sitting on a park bench, embracing.

"We all have our own ideas of what Master looks like," Ms. Chernitsova
said. Mr. Rukavishnikov has defended his idea, saying the statues faces
will remain unseen, covered by their hair.

Still, some residents disapprove. "It will be Bulgakov-land," said Ms.
Selikhova, 47, who has lived in the area for 22 years. 

Fears have spread that Bulgakov's old stomping grounds would fall prey to
the rabid commercialism. Residents spoke with furrowed brows about plans
for an underground garage and new elite apartments.

Muscovites taught by decades of experience to be wary of official promises
are not yet ready to believe Mayor Luzhkov, who after the demonstration
promised to find a compromise with the area's residents, who include some
of Moscow's most prominent business people and intellectuals.

"It was precisely the place in Moscow where the book begins, because of its
calmness and its aura," Ms. Selikhova said. "Even the Bolsheviks couldn't
ruin it. But Luzhkov is succeeding. He is killing the soul of Moscow right
here in this place."

She admitted that the artist might be right when he said that people would
come to like the monument, but added: "That's because they'll have nothing
to compare it to. I was told when I was young that Soviet children were the
happiest in the world, and Americans were miserable. And I thought it was
the God's honest truth."


The Washington Post 
February 7, 2003
Weekend section
St. Petersburg the Great
Eve Zibart, Washington Post Staff Writer
Eve Zibart covers restaurants for Weekend. Her assignments for The
Washington Post have included coverage of the visual arts, music and dance.
Caviar is her own idea of a field of study. 

HOWEVER COLD the war, however bleak and frumpy our images of Moscow and
Siberia, Americans have always loved Russia. Which is to say, we have
always cherished St. Petersburg, because it is the white city on the dark
Neva that was home to the most romantic of Russian images: "The Nutcracker"
and "Dr. Zhivago"; Faberge's imperial eggs; the Winter Palace and the
Hermitage; the Versailles-like Summer Palace at Peterhof. The writings of
Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky. The music of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky,
Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Stravinsky. The ballets of
Nijinsky and Nureyev, Petipa and Diaghilev, Balanchine and Baryshnikov.
White nights and black caviar. 

This year marks the tricentennial of its founding by Peter the Great, and
the arts communities of Baltimore (which recently arranged a "sister city"
relationship with the Russian metropolis) and Washington are collaborating
with the great institutions of Russia to offer an unprecedented tour
through 300 years of St. Petersburg culture -- visual and dramatic arts,
fine crafts, design and music. This movable feast, especially the "Vivat!
St. Petersburg" festival that begins Thursday in Baltimore, is in great
part the brainchild of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conductor and musical
director Yuri Temirkanov, who also serves in those roles with the St.
Petersburg Philharmonic, and whose lengthy re[acute]sume[acute] includes
the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra and the Kirov Opera and Ballet. In
Washington -- which can boast of being home to one of the most impressive
collections of Russian decorative arts in the world, thanks to Marjorie
Merriweather Post, and of the Kennedy Center's decade-long association with
the Kirov (Marrinsky) Theater -- the celebration is a little less
widespread but no less impressive. 

Among the major venues participating are the Baltimore Museum of Art; the
Walters Art Museum; the Kennedy Center; Hillwood Museum & Gardens and
Evergreen House, two of the region's most imposing house museums; and the
National Museum of Women in the Arts. Over the next several weeks, programs
by the Baltimore Symphony and Baltimore Opera Company, the Washington
Ballet and the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Bolshoi and
Kirov ballets and members of the Kirov Opera, will spotlight great
composers and choreographers. 

Even the seemingly more transient arts -- the unbelievably ornate costumes
created for the Ballets Russes, which inspired the cult of Russian ballet
in Europe and the United States; the whimsical desktop animals of Peter
Carl Faberge; the dinner settings of the various royal regiments; the art
deco and Native American-inspired fashion textiles of Leon Bakst -- still
demonstrate a strong hold on our imaginations. 

And for those who insist on considering Baltimore's arts circles as somehow
secondary to Washington's, "Vivat! St. Petersburg" slyly reveals some old
and impressive connections. Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of
Paganini," which the Baltimore Symphony is performing later this month, had
its world premiere in Baltimore in 1934 with Rachmaninoff himself at the
piano. Bakst, who made his name designing for Diaghilev and the Ballets
Russes, spent several months in Baltimore as the guest of Alice Warder
Garrett at the lavish Evergreen House, where he designed and installed sets
for her private theatricals. He even created the elaborate stencils based
on Russian and American native folk art symbols -- roosters and birds in
particular -- that cover the theater's walls, ceilings and even some
furnishings. (Alice Garrett might be considered Baltimore's answer to
Marjorie Post: She also collected works by Modigliani, Degas, Picasso,
Bonnard and Vuillard; Tiffany lamps, vases and chandeliers; and Chinese
porcelains and Japanese netsukes, among other things. The Evergreen
collection totals more than 50,000 pieces.) 

Much of the art and music on display during the celebration hearkens back
to St. Petersburg's most glittering epochs, the 18th and 19th centuries,
implicitly linking it to the czars. Nevertheless, the parade of culture
does not stop with the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of the
Romanovs. Carrying the story well into the 20th century are the Walters Art
Museum's exhibit on the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century; the
American Visionary Art Museum's Joy America Cafe exhibit on the art of
Pavel Leonov, a Russian "outsider" not previously exhibited in the United
States; School 33 Art Center's exhibit on the contemporary Baltimore-St.
Petersburg art exchange; the exhibition by Yuri Gorbachev, who created the
original artwork for "Vivat!" (and who is represented in the Louvre,
Kremlin and White House but who is probably best known for his annual
Christmas Stolichnaya ads), at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel; as
well as exhibits of contemporary Russian ceramics, jewelry and photography
at various Baltimore galleries. 

The Baltimore Opera is staging the U.S. debut of Shostakovich's "Lady
Macbeth of Mtsensk" in a production created at the Dresden State Opera (and
featuring some members of the Kirov Opera) that updates the story from the
mid-19th century to the 1930s, reflecting a crucial point in the composer's
career: Though praised when it was first performed in 1934, both the opera
and Shostakovich himself were publicly vilified by Stalin two years later,
which marked the beginning of the composer's lifelong battle for artistic
freedom and economic survival. 

At Baltimore's Center Stage, two prominent actresses, Regina Taylor and
Olympia Dukakis, will read updated versions of Chekhov's "The Seagull"
(titled "Drowning Crow") and Gorky's "A Mother." Many other museums,
musical venues, religious and educational institutions and even restaurants
in Baltimore are also mounting shows (or menus) or offering lectures
related to "Vivat! St. Petersburg," and a daylong bus tour on weekends
covers several of the major exhibits. A complete and frequently updated
list is posted at www.vivatfest.com. 


Russia's artistic capital, and for two centuries its actual capital as
well, St. Petersburg was never truly "of" Russia -- something like the way
New Orleans, with its indelible Euro-creole stamp, is distinct from the
rest of the South. (In fact, despite being laid out in 1703 and named the
capital in 1712, the land on which the city was constructed was not ceded
to Russia by Sweden until 1721.) 

Its separateness was part of Peter's plan: Where Moscow was Asiatic,
onion-domed and its boyars long of beard and gown, St. Petersburg was
emphatically European, modern and classical but enlightened (and the
courtiers clean-shaven). And it was clearly an imperial city. The czars,
particularly the military-minded, physically imposing (nearly 7 feet tall),
politically ambitious and personally ruthless Peter, considered themselves
the heirs and successors of the emperors of classical Rome. ("Czar" itself
is a derivative of "Caesar.") One of Hillwood's treasures is a late
18th-century enameled gold box portraying the Empress Catherine as Minerva,
the goddess of wisdom, the sort of elaborate metaphor all the Romanovs were
prone to. 

Designed by Italian and French architects, St. Petersburg's buildings were
baroque (the Alexander Nevsky monastery, the Cathedral of Saint Peter and
Saint Paul, the Winter Palace) and neoclassical (the Marble Palace, the
Academy of Arts, the Taurida Palace, the Exchange, the Cathedral of the
Virgin of Kazan). Palace Square, with its half-circular wings and huge
triumphal arches topped by winged Victorys, rivals the Louvre. St.
Petersburg was Peter's window on the West, both culturally and politically,
and his challenge to the established courts of Europe. It was a strategic
port, a fortress, an intellectual mecca and a showplace all at once. 

It was always as much a woman's capital as a man's, as the Europeanization
of Russia and the shift of its social center to St. Petersburg brought with
it the relative emancipation of women, who proceeded to exercise
considerable, if behind-the-scenes, political influence through their
salons. So considerable was their influence, in fact, that several of the
empresses took power by dispensing with their male predecessors: Empress
Elizabeth, Peter's daughter, was elevated to the throne with the help of
the Imperial Guard -- a very Caesar-like tactic. Catherine the Great,
preparing to follow Elizabeth's example only a few months into her own
husband's reign, corresponded with Voltaire and Montesquieu and began her
34-year rule, as many Caesars claimed to, with major reforms. Despite her
German blood, she became Peter's most important disciple: From the court at
St. Petersburg, she waged war and negotiated treaties that extended
Russia's borders through the Crimea to the Black Sea, the Baltic, across
Alaska and well into Poland. 

It was Catherine who had the Winter Palace -- the most famous architectural
silhouette in the city -- rebuilt and redecorated, and had the Hermitage
Pavilion transformed into the art gallery it is today. The Hermitage, now
the State Hermitage Museum, was created around a collection she purchased
in 1764 as a signal of her intention to establish St. Petersburg as the
undisputed arts capital of her empire. She was a prodigious, and prodigal,
collector, and by the time of her death, the inventory included
approximately 4,000 Old Masters paintings, 10,000 drawings, an equal number
of engraved gems and thousands of decorative objects such as snuffboxes,
watches, furnishings and porcelain. 

One might even say it was women who gave St. Petersburg its human face as
well. During the 18th century, Russian aristocrats started to populate
their homes and then the palaces with formal portraits and their intricate
records of fashion and jewelry. (Indeed, until Peter the Great began
commissioning paintings of his courtiers, real portraits, as opposed to the
stylized representations derived from Orthodox iconic traditions, were
considered improper, and the picturing of women positively shocking.) Many
of these court portraits were executed by female artists such as Marie
Antoinette's former protege Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun; the
Berlin-born Anna Dorothea Therbusch- Lisiewska, whom Catherine commissioned
to paint eight Prussian royals; and later the Scottish painter Christina
Robertson, whose society portraits, reproduced throughout Europe in fashion
magazines, were brought back to St. Petersburg by Russian noblewomen
sojourning in Paris. She was commissioned to paint the women of Czar
Nicholas I's family. 

It was a woman, Marie-Anne Collot, who sculpted the head that adorns the
equestrian statue of Peter the Great, the so-called "Bronze Horseman" that
is the visual signature and mythical guardian of the city. (Vigee-Lebrun,
Therbusch-Lisiewska, Robertson and Collot are all represented in the
exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, as is the empress in
Collot's bust.) 

An American woman -- cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who at one
point was married to Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies --
helped preserve many of Russia's pre-Revolutionary treasures through her
shrewd acquisitions (and her inner-circle contacts). Post's Hillwood Museum
& Gardens, whose permanent collection of imperial Russian art, porcelain
and silver is thought to be the most comprehensive outside Russia, is
assembling 55 of its most stunning objects into a single exhibit called
"The Myths of St. Petersburg: Impressions of the City From the Hillwood
Collection." The exhibit is being mounted in the dacha, the one-room log
cabin inspired by Russian summer houses, in a way that provides a clearer
historical flow than the mansion's room displays, and will remain
throughout 2003. Among the highlights are the Minerva box and an 1896
stikhar, or deacon's robe, of gold-wrapped silk thread that was woven for
the coronation of Nicholas II. Although Post's two imperial Faberge eggs
will remain in the house, two other Faberge pieces, a tiny gold and emerald
statuette of Peter the Great and an early 20th century gold, pearl, ivory
and enamel desk clock, will be exhibited in the dacha. 

Along with the exhibit, Hillwood will offer special audio tours for
children, add weekend hours (one Sunday a month) and co-sponsor a symposium
with Georgetown University focusing on three centuries of art and
architecture in St. Petersburg and Washington. And June 24-28, Hillwood
will present a St. Petersburg-style "White Nights Festival," with evenings
of music, dance and theater. 


Faberge being such an icon of Russian decorative arts, one of the most
popular of the "Vivat!" exhibits is likely to be the latest in a
decade-long series of Faberge showcases, but one with a little more kids'
appeal than most. While the name immediately evokes the ornate eggs
produced for the czars' Easter presents, the House of Faberge also produced
whimsical animal sculptures nearly as rich: rock crystal polar bears with
ruby eyes; amethyst rabbits and bulldogs; a quartz squirrel and pink quartz
piglets; a citrine and diamond mouse; a nephrite and diamond hippo; a
jasper rhino; an obsidian and ruby elephant; parakeets made of topaz,
ivory, peridots, sapphires and gold; a jade and ruby frog; an agate camel;
and a duck of nephrite, chalcedony, lapis, diamonds and gold. 

Henry Walters first discovered the Faberge creatures when he visited
Faberge's St. Petersburg studios in 1900 and purchased several pieces,
including a jasper anteater and an agate chimp. His mini-zoo, along with
more than 60 other animals borrowed for the exhibit, parasol handles, bell
pulls, boxes, match holders, bowls and basins, seals and other decorative
accessories, are among the 123 objects in "The Faberge Menagerie," one of
two exhibits opening next week at the Walters. 

There are four of the fabulous Imperial eggs on display there as well, two
belonging to the Walters itself and two borrowed from the Malcolm Forbes
collection in New York. 

The second Walters show, "Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde," will be less
familiar to most visitors, and probably seem less romantic than the
Faberge. Indeed, it is almost a class distinction, and a show that
poignantly parallels the collapse of the Romanov empire and the rush to
revolution. A striking selection of approximately 70 paintings from the
State Russian Museum, many of them oversized and emphatic, are being hung
alongside examples of folk and religious art, toys, posters and prints,
textiles, signboards and everyday graphics from which the avant-gardists
drew their images. While the court and aristocracy were still immersed in
the European tradition, these artists were looking inward, to Russian
traditional arts, for inspiration -- a search for their roots that was
associated with a growing nationalist sentiment -- and also keeping a close
eye on the development of cubism and futurism. 

Among the best-known names in the show are Wassily Kandinsky, whose
paintings on glass were references to similar pieces popular at common
country fairs, and Natalia Goncharova, who championed folk art as a
cultural resource. 

Another family-friendly attraction is the BMA's "Art of the Ballets
Russes," a dazzling assemblage of more than 100 costumes and stage pieces
designed for Sergei Diaghilev's groundbreaking company. Founded in Paris in
1909 as a sort of Kirov-in-exile, and fired by the extravagance of the art
scene there, the company was conceived of in much wider artistic terms than
its more traditionalist peers: The costumes, stage sets, music --
commissioned from the likes of Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel and Prokofiev,
among others -- choreography and even the performers themselves were
expected to be innovative, brilliant and glamorous. Among the artists who
helped create these costumes and sets were Miro and Matisse as well as
Bakst, and the ornateness, the richness and the obvious actual weight of
these outfits, which must have sorely tried their wearers, is remarkable.
Mannequins dressed in the costumes are grouped, and in some cases gently
posed, by the appropriate ballets; they are footlit as if on stage, and
have as backdrops vividly painted panels on which are mounted framed
costume and set designs, many fully realized pieces of art in themselves.
Selections from famous scores play gently in the background. An interactive
section allows visitors to manipulate miniature theaters via movable
scenery, lighting and characters in costume. 

The Ballets Russes rooms lead almost directly into the second BMA exhibit,
which focuses on Bakst's designs in more detail and displays another of his
theatrical sets, along with his commercial textile designs and rare
examples of the actual printed silks manufactured in the 1920s. 

That exhibit in turn ties in with the opening of Bakst's only extant whole
theater -- a skylighted, second-story gallery that once was a gymnasium,
and which is above another gallery that used to be a bowling alley -- at
Evergreen House, the Garrett mansion. The pattern for the rooster stencil
that covers the side lounge, along with the stage set, is in the BMA
exhibit as a sort of "flip-book" example of multicolored stenciling. 

A third BMA exhibit of more specialized interest is a centennial tribute to
the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who was also an art collector; works
by Picasso, Klee and other modernists, along with Piatigorsky's
Stradivarius, will be on view in the Cone Wing. 

Other highlights of the St. Petersburg tricentennial include a gallery
exhibit and outdoor installation of contemporary Russian art at the
Maryland Institute College of Art and a show of five St. Petersburg artists
at the new Maryland Art Place facility. 

More than 30 programs, lectures, seminars and special events are being
presented by the Smithsonian Associates through March 31. They will cover
art, architecture, music, ballet, opera, cuisine, film and literature. 

The National Museum of Women in the Arts' exhibit will include 50
sculptures and paintings by 15 women, all on loan from the Russian state
collection at the Hermitage; there will be related hands-on children's
activities and lectures. 

Both the Kennedy Center and, through its venues, the Washington Performing
Arts Society, have scheduled musical and ballet performances ranging from
the Kirov and Bolshoi ballets, along with international primos and members
of the Royal Danish, Miami City and American Ballet Theatre companies, to
concerts featuring Russian composers, soloists and conductors, including
NSO laureate Mstislav Rostropovich. The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
debuts its production of "Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death" at
the Warner Theatre in April. The Washington Ballet also has punctuated its
spring and fall seasons with pieces by Russian composers and choreographers. 


The Washington Post 
February 7, 2003
Weekend section
Happy Birthday, St. Petersburg 

The following list includes many of the major venues and programs being
offered in connection with "Vivat! St. Petersburg" and the 300th
anniversary celebration of the founding of St. Petersburg. A comprehensive
schedule of events and exhibits in Baltimore, along with information on
restaurants and hotels offering special "Vivat!" packages, is available at
877-225-8466 or www.vivatfest.com. For information on particular seminars
or special events, contact the individual venues or consult their Web sites. 


AMERICAN VISIONARY ART MUSEUM -- "Russia's Holy Fool: The Outsider Art of
Pavel Leonov," through April 1. 800 Key Hwy., Baltimore. 410-244-1900.
www.avam.org. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:30-10 (in the Joy America Cafe). $ 8,
$ 6 students and ages 55 and over (free to cafe patrons). BALTIMORE
MARRIOTT WATERFRONT HOTEL -- "Yuri Gorbachev," Feb. 13-March 2. Open daily
11-8 (in the lobby lounge). 700 Aliceanna St., Baltimore. 410-385-3000. Free. 

BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART -- "Art of the Ballets Russes," from Wednesday
through May 4; "The Brilliance of Bakst: Theater and Textile Designs From
Baltimore Collections," from Wednesday through May 4; "Gregor Piatigorsky:
Virtuoso as Collector," Feb. 26-June 8. North Charles and 31st streets,
Baltimore. 410-396-6310. www.artbma.org. $ 7, $ 5 students and ages 65 and
over (free to museum members). 

BALTIMORE OPERA COMPANY -- Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," Feb.
22, 26, 28 and March 2. Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.,
Baltimore. 410-727-6000. www.baltimoreopera.com. 

BALTIMORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA -- "Temirkanov Conducts Prokofiev" with
violinist Boris Belkin, Friday-Sunday; Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and
Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 with violinist Vadim Repin, Feb. 13-14
and 16; Prokofiev's "Selections From the 'Suites of Romeo and Juliet' " and
Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on the Theme of Paganini" with pianist Dmitri
Alexeev, Feb. 20-22; Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and
Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" conducted by Nikolai Alexeev with pianist
Anna Kravtchenko, Feb. 28-March 2. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212
Cathedral St., Baltimore. 410-783-8000. www.baltimoresymphony.org. 

CENTER STAGE -- "Drowning Crow" by Regina Taylor, Feb. 25, and "A Mother"
by Constance Congdon, Feb. 27. 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore. 410-332-0033.

EVERGREEN HOUSE -- "A Russian's Winter in Baltimore: Leon Bakst at
Evergreen," from Sunday through March 30. 4545 N. Charles St., Baltimore.
410-516-0341. www.jhu.edu/ evrgreen. Open Monday-Friday, 10-4, Saturdays
and Sundays, 1-4. $ 3 for exhibition, $ 6 for house tour and exhibition. 

SCHOOL 33 ART CENTER -- "Shadows/A Missive for St. Petersburg: The
Baltimore-St. Petersburg Exchange Exhibition," through March 9 . 1427 Light
St., Baltimore. 410-396-4641. www.school33.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday,
11-4. Free. 

WALTERS ART MUSEUM -- "Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde," from Thursday
through May 25; "The Faberge Menagerie," from Thursday through July 27. 600
N. Charles St., Baltimore. 410-547-9000. www.thewalters.org. Open
Tuesday-Sunday, 10-5; first Thursday of the month, 10-8. Timed admission
tickets through May 25 $ 12, $ 10 students, ages 18-25 and ages 65 and
older, free 17 and under. Beginning May 27, admission $ 10, $ 8 ages 65 and
older, $ 6 students and ages 18-25. Advance tickets available from
Ticketmaster (with service charge), 301-808-6900 or 410-752-1200, or


HILLWOOD MUSEUM & GARDENS -- "The Myths of St. Petersburg: Impressions of
the City From the Hillwood Collection," through Dec. 31. 4155 Linnean Ave.
NW. 202-686-5807 or 877-445-5966. www.hillwoodmuseum.org. Open
Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30-5. $ 10, $ 8 65 and older, $ 5 students and ages
6-18. Reservations required. 

The Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Royal Danish Ballet, March
4-9; The Kirov Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Adam Cooper Company, March
12-16. Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600 or 800-444-1324.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS -- "An Imperial Collection: Women
Artists From the State Hermitage Museum," Feb. 14-June 18; "Tales,
Traditions and Tsarinas: A Celebration of Russian Arts," a free family
festival, April 6, noon-4. 1250 New York Ave. NW. 202-783-5000.
www.nmwa.org. Open Monday-Saturday, 10-5; Sundays noon-5. $ 8, $ 6 students
and ages 60 and over and 18 and under; free admission the first Sunday and
Wednesday of each month. 

NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA -- "Rostropovich Conducts Prokofiev" with
cellist Xavier Phillips, Feb. 27-March 1; Works by Prokofiev and
Tchiakovsky conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev, March 20-22; Shostakovich's
Cello Concerto No. 1 conducted by Leonard Slatkin with cellist Truls Mork,
April 24-26; Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 conducted by Slatkin with
pianist Yefim Bronfman, June 5-7. Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St.
NW. 202-467-4600 or 800-444-1324. www.kennedy-center.org/petersburg. 

SMITHSONIAN ASSOCIATES -- Various venues. 202-357-3030.
www.residentassociates.org. Lectures, seminars and performances through
March 31. $ 12-$ 225. 

WASHINGTON BALLET -- "From Russia With Love," a program series including
works by Balanchine ("Rubies") April 2-6 and Prokofiev ("Cinderella") May
28-June 1. Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. 202-416-4600.

Also Opening:
Russian Ark
The first feature-length movie ever to contain its entire story in one,
uninterrupted shot (87 minutes in duration), this film pays tribute to
Russia's great state museum, the Hermitage, and by extension the nation,
its cultural treasures and history. With breathtakingly detailed
choreography, Russian director Alexander Sokurov leads you through 33 rooms
of the museum (Peter the Great's former Winter Palace) and several
centuries of artistic and cultural magnificence. During this unblinking
inner journey, we meet all manner of characters, both historic and modern.
"Ark" is more than a showcase nod to Russian history, or an elaborate
technical exercise. It's an extraordinary dramatic experience, a blissful
waltz through time without so much as an elliptical hiccup. While you're
watching this labyrinthine, indoor epic and especially its climactic
mazurka ball in the Hermitage (a reenactment of the last function held in
1913), remember to breathe. Contains nothing objectionable. At the Cineplex
Odeon Dupont Circle. 
-- Desson Howe 


The Russia Journal
February 7-13, 2003
Baghdad versus Dubrovka
By Andrei Piontkovsky

An American-led military operation to topple Saddam Husseins regime in
Iraq is inevitable, no matter what decision the U.N. Security Council
reaches. The only thing that could call it off would be for Saddam to flee
the country. 

There are plenty of political, economic, legal, strategic and military
arguments both for and against this operation. Each of the world leaders
and the ordinary people debating the issue has their own logic, interests
and sympathies.

Theres no scientifically proven truth in this debate there never is in
political conflicts. So, lets not try to find it, but rather, while we
still have the time, look at one aspect of the prospective operation to
which both its ardent supporters and staunch detractors seem to have paid
little attention.

Iraq has attempted to get nuclear weapons, but hasnt got there so far.
Iraq does have large stocks of chemical and biological weapons. Serious
experts are well aware of all this. The demands for proof coming from some
European capitals and from the Russian press are deliberate hypocrisy. U.N.
inspectors in Iraq arent there to find out where Saddam is hiding his
sarin, but to force Iraq to account for what it did with its tons of
biological and chemical weapons since the inspectors left the country three
years ago. This Iraq has refused to do.

Many accuse the United States of having double standards, for taking a
tough stance on Iraq but a softer line with North Korea which, aside from
chemical and biological weapons, also has more lethal nuclear weapons and
the means to deliver them.

The American approach is indeed different in the two cases, but the issues
are different, too. Kim Jong Il, the dear leader in Pyongyang, already has
nuclear weapons, and now he is free to starve his people, blackmail the
world to get rice, diesel fuel and other simple pleasures of life, and sell
his little plutonium pies on the black market to all the takers. 

Its already too late to do anything about Kim. Any attempt to intervene in
North Korea could result in unacceptable damage to the civilized world
Kim could blow up Seoul or Tokyo, for example.

Its also too late to sort out who let things reach this point the Soviet
Union, which supplied Pyongyang with nuclear technology and trained North
Korean specialists under the cover of its peaceful-atom program, or former
U.S. President Bill Clinton, who let slip the chance in the mid-90s to
perform nuclear circumcision on North Korea in such a way that nothing
would have grown there ever again. 

There is nothing the Americans can do now, except perhaps take Kim on an
armored train from San Francisco to Washington.

The North Korean nightmare only serves as even more of a warning not to let
another such regime get its hands on nuclear weapons, and, in this sense,
it is an argument in favor of a military operation in Iraq.

But there are still questions. True, Saddam doesnt have nuclear weapons,
but he does have chemical and biological weapons. If he were backed into a
corner by the threat of his political and physical death, what would stop
him from unleashing his weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops,
U.S. allies such as Israel, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, or even U.S. territory

Do the Americans calculate for this threat in their plans, and, given the
way theyre so eager to start the operation, do they see it as a serious
possibility? I put this question to my American colleagues, including
high-ranking retired professional military officers, at the recent Davos
Economic Forum, which, despite its formal agenda, was devoted entirely to
the prospective war in Iraq.

What their reply essentially amounted to was that, to use chemical weapons
either in the battlefield or to attack neighboring countries, Saddam would
need a way of delivering them, but Iraqs missiles, etc., would be
destroyed by super-precise U.S. weapons at the slightest hint they were
being readied for use.

They also said that, if Saddam used biological weapons against U.S. troops,
who have all been vaccinated, it would be his own people who would suffer
above all, and it is unlikely he would take that risk. This argument
strikes me as less convincing.

Finally, they said that, as far as the risk that Saddam would attack
America itself goes, Americans have been living with that possibility since
Sept. 11, and U.S. security services do what they can to prevent it. But
they say there there can be no question of letting this background threat
paralyze the U.S. governments actions.

So, either Saddam will not use his weapons of mass destruction, or the
Americans wont let him do it effectively. This is what leading experts
and, it seems, the people planning the military operations believe will

Time will soon tell whether they are right. In any case, their confidence
is impressive. But this brings to mind a psychological analogy with the
hostage drama at the "Nord-Ost" musical in Moscow last October.

Why did the terrorists not blow up the theater building even though they
certainly had the time to do so? We will never know the answer. Likewise,
we will never know how the rescue operations organizers knew there would
be no explosion. Without this knowledge, storming the building would have
looked like a suicidal undertaking that would have condemned 900 hostages
and the elite of the Russian special forces to a certain death under the
theaters ruins. Not even President Vladimir Putins fantastically high
ratings could have withstood such a catastrophe.

Maybe the Americans also know something we dont.


The Russia Journal
February 7-13, 2003
The hierarchy of grief
Press Review
By Matt Taibbi

Gone officially this week are the salad days of Western reporting on
Russia, that era when every slow news day could be washed away with a
single trip to the Baikanour launching station to inspect the pathetic
rubble of the once-mighty Russian space program. Gone are the honey-sweet
days of the creaking Mir space station, which provided constant and
dramatic visual evidence of Russias inferiority to America. Those days
went up in a ball of fire over Texas and Louisiana and, if we are to
believe press reports, their remains are already being sold on e-Bay faster
than our government can retrieve them.

One never knows how to respond to the press coverage of things like the
Columbia disaster. A weird sort of hierarchy of grief, a kind of
institutionalized prioritizing of emotion, has been established in our
press, and it shines through on these occasions. A three-car pileup on I-90
that leaves seven dead will be a front-page story of the county weekly, the
Podunk Times (circulation 4,900), a page seven Metro Section item of the
nearby Gannett-owned Daily Metropolitan and will not reach the national
press at all. A bus crash that leaves 10 children dead and five without
arms will either make the briefs section or the front page of USA Today,
depending on whether or not it was a slow news day.

Ten armless Swiss children will be lucky to get a mention (while 30 are
guaranteed a good spot), and 10 dead Congolese will not even make it onto
the wire that gets sent to the newsroom. When one deals with African
fatalities, the death tolls have to reach five figures before any
self-respecting AP reporter will even sit at the negotiating table.
Airborne disasters are where it gets interesting. A major plane crash with
200 victims dominates the news cycle for three days and gets 10 whole pages
of the front sections of most papers. The cycle lasts twice as long if the
crash takes place in the United States, and the air-time and print-space
ratios grow exponentially higher as the downed plane rises in size and
class. The airline is also a major factor: Americans rate best, then
Western Europeans, then Japanese, followed by ex-communist white people,
Chinese, Indochinese and, finally, near the bottom, Latin Americans and
Africans (whom we are always surprised to learn actually fly in the first
place). Therefore, the maximum air-time goes to an American 747 that
crashes on land over New York City; the near-minimum goes to an AN-140 over
Pakistan or a Fokker 27 over Belize. In America, we selectively grieve not
only for people, but for airlines and types of airplane.

The space shuttle is naturally the ultimate brand and the ultimate
airplane, and that, along with the importance of the victims and the
location of the crash, makes it obligatory for newspapers and TV outlets to
turn the grief levels up to maximum. Many newspapers in America devoted
over 20 pages to the shuttle in their Sunday editions, a startling number
that rivals presidential-election coverage. The decision to devote such an
awe-inspiring amount of space, coming at a time when there were so few
actual concrete details about the accident, forced newspapers to resort to
all sorts of transparent stupidities, including (and especially) the
obligatory "[insert Podunk town name here] Copes with Its Unbearable Grief"
story. Heres an excerpt from the offerings in my locale, in the Buffalo News:

"As adults across the region mourned, some looked ahead to the need to
explain the disaster to young people many of whom may not remember the
Challenger disaster and to help them deal with their grief and

Id just like to point one thing out here. A "young person" who was alive
at all during the Challenger disaster would be a minimum of 16 years and
nine months old now. A "young person" who could actually remember the
Challenger disaster would have to be 18 or 19 now. It is hard not to laugh
at the image of the mourning mother pacing back and forth as she struggles
to find a way to explain the shuttle crash to her stoned 19-year-old son,
who is chain-smoking upstairs in front of the "Anna Nicole Show" but
these are the kinds of absurdities that are not only acceptable in American
journalism following major disasters, theyre required.

When people defend American journalism and talk about how it is still the
freest in the world, I always feel like asking them about all the different
required responses in our press. We have so many of them. When Shaquille
ONeal makes a questionable joke about Yao Ming, we are required to force
him to apologize. 

When a salesman is crushed by a falling blimp cockpit, we are required to
mourn for his passing and celebrate his dull suburban life, his grim
marriage to his fat wife, his utterly depressing collection of sandstone
Jesus figurines. And when the space shuttle explodes, Americans who are
increasingly unemployed and cash-poor and struggling and have bigger things
to worry about are required to be seen publicly grieving for their
"fallen heroes" and their "wounded national pride."

A story this large and unavoidable has tentacles that inevitably reach all
the way to the bureaus in Moscow. This was especially true given the
additionally unpleasant angle the Russians added to the Columbia story
their emergency bailout of the International Space Station. 

At a time when America is seeking to force the whole world to accept it as
earths unshakeable hegemonic power, it is more than a little embarrassing
to have our space toys rescued by the "decrepit" Russian space program.
That is why stories like the APs "Russian Ship Docks with Space Station"
(Feb. 4) tended to be buried deep inside the news sections.

A few reporters, most notably Michael Wines of the New York Times, tried to
cope with the problem by making the angle of Russian participation one that
focuses on the unfortunate fact of our having to rely upon such a poorly
funded, crumbling and probably hopeless program ("New Burden for a Poor
Russian Space Program," Feb. 4). Still fewer others looked on the bright
side, noting how far weve come, as two nations, since 1986 and focusing on
the cooperative spirit of our two space programs (see Douglas Birch of the
Baltimore Sun, "Russia Unites with America in Grief," Feb. 4).

But the most likely result of the Columbia disaster is that space reporting
from Russia will end. When Mir faltered, you couldnt get Russian space out
of the news. 

Now that its saving us, just you try and get it in.


From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <...@brick.net>
Subject: Response to McFaul and Fitzpatrick
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 

Response to Michael McFaul (JRL 7046): 

Yes, some opeds are imbalanced, but they may not be the ones that make the
best argument on behalf of a balanced approach. I respond to your oped
because you were criticizing American officials for what you interpret to
be imbalanced policies in Russia and specifically in Chechnya. Contrary to
your argument, I think that American policies on Chechnya, and toward
Russia as a whole, are now shedding some of their Cold War baggage and
becoming more balanced. That's important with regard to Russia, but with
regard to Chechnya it's absolutely crucial because the imbalance of the
Western response has done much to exacerbate and prolong conflict and
instability in the region. The situation in Chechnya is finally in a
position to start improving, and American officials will have a role to
play in that improvement if they can maintain the balance that they
increasingly have achieved. If they fail then they may become almost as
irrelevant in the North Caucasus as have those European governments,
councils, and sundry NGOs that systematically failed to achieve a balanced
and informed position on this issue. Then who would be left to help? 

Your reply to me didn't mention Chechnya although it was a recurring theme
in your oped and the focus of my response. I hope that your subsequent
opeds about American policy in Chechnya will reflect more of the detailed
work on the North Caucasus that you seem to suggest you have done somewhere
else. For if we casually repeat the same half truths over and over again,
and especially if people in positions of scholarly authority do so, then
pretty soon those half-truths become the whole "truth", and the only
representation of the "truth" that is accessible to most people. Injustice
is always entrenched when a half truth becomes the whole truth, and there
are a great many half-truths that are in danger of crowding out the truth
about Chechnya.

Here it may be helpful to consider one of Ms. Fitzpatrick's confusions. As
American citizens, you and I have a duty to form opinions, as she suggests,
about the possibility of war with Iraq. Yet while I have this duty as a
citizen, Michael, I have no special knowledge about Iraq apart from what I
gather in the popular media, and perhaps the same is true of you. If that's
the case, then we would be abusing our scholarly authority if we were to
write opeds in which we presented ourselves as experts on the situation in
Iraq, because we would be misleading people. This would be a danger,
especially, if we used our authority as scholars largely to rehearse what
we had seen in the media, since our readers might think that we were
providing independent, scholarly confirmation for those media reports. Were
we to do such a thing we would betray those who place their trust in us. Of
course, one of the best ways, for scholars to acquire independent,
authoritative information is to conduct fieldwork.

I'm afraid that both you and Ms. Fitzpatrick missed my point about
Sovietology. I was not suggesting, Michael, that you were ever a
Sovietologist. Instead I was saying that I cannot think of any other
discipline with empirical aspirations in which we find so many people
offering pseudo-scholarly conclusions about something with which they have
had no direct experience whatsoever. But in this discipline we find all
sorts of people evangelizing with righteous indignation about the North
Caucasus, even though they've never bothered to set foot there. Any other
empirical discipline would be embarrassed by such a charade, yet our
colleagues seem to accept such practices without so much as a second
thought. So I was just wondering why that is the case. 

The only answer that I could imagine was that the culture of this
discipline remains a vestige of Sovietology. I'm suggesting that the
current culture of our discipline may be a hangover from those days when
Soviet officials did not permit American scholars to visit the North
Caucasus. Fortunately, that's no longer the case. Now there are regularly
scheduled flights, and we can go there to see for ourselves. So I was
suggesting that perhaps people in this discipline no longer need to
tolerate those who offer themselves as experts without ever visiting the

When I suggested that scholars should not present themselves as authorities
on this region unless they have some experience with it, I did not mean
that therefore people should stop writing about this region. I meant that
therefore those who wish to write about this region should go there and get
some experience. Many JRL readers are better equipped than I am to do
fieldwork in the North Caucasus, and I wish they would go there and do it. 

In that regard, I'm particularly concerned about those American scholars
who publish books about Chechnya without ever visiting the region, as, for
example, in the case of the most recent monograph on the topic. I see this
as intellectually irresponsible and dishonest. It breeds great
misunderstanding and confusion because such books and such views will be
forever cited by people who are unaware of these fundamental limitations. I
was especially dismayed when one of these evangelists told me last summer,
as he finished his book on Chechnya and departed for Tuscany, that he was
afraid to visit Dagestan or any other part of the region, because of the
danger that he might be kidnapped. I can understand that fear, but I can't
understand why he chose to write a book about a region that he was afraid
to visit. Isn't there anything to write about in Tuscany? 

Of course, there are those who have who have produced helpful books and
articles based upon their fieldwork in the North Caucasus. The difficulty
is that much of this work was done before or during the first war in
Chechnya, from 1994 to 1996. This is a problem because most of the
controversial issues that confront us today concern events that have
transpired in the region since 1997. Anatol Lieven has returned to the
region in recent years to do some helpful work, and I assume that Anna
Zelkina has as well, though I haven't see it. Tom de Waal has recently
worked in the South Caucasus, but I have no information about any recent
work in the North Caucasus. Three other scholars who have helped me
tremendously don't seem to have done much recent work there. Anne Nivat and
Anna Politkovskaya have provided descriptive work, and both deserve great
credit for what they have achieved, but I have difficulty viewing their
work as scholarly. At times I am not even sure that they are objective
journalists so much as advocates. Perhaps scholarly fieldwork would confirm
some of their conclusions, but I would like to see some fieldwork before we
all decide that their viewpoint is the only one.

Response to Catherine Fitzpatrick (JRL 7049): 

When struggling to make a complex point, one is rarely granted the kind of
pedagogical assistance that you, Ms. Fitzpatrick, have provided to me. I
have been working hard to persuade readers that Western views on Chechnya
are characterized by deep confusion, and I could scarcely have asked for a
better illustration of confusion on this topic than that which you have so
promptly provided. Yet it seems to me that at the heart of your essay there
is at least one interesting, perhaps important, question: Why is fieldwork
necessary for an authoritative understanding of recent events in the North
Caucasus? You have wrapped your question in layer upon layer of
bewilderment, but I'm grateful for that because it seems that your
confusion is the answer to your question. Sadly, you've also tarnished your
essay with some unfortunate baggage, and I regret that I'm forced to deal
with that first.

I am not a racist, nor have any of my arguments in this, or any other
discussion, ever been framed in racial terms, nor have they ever suggested
racial implications. Far more than most people, I have strong reasons to
find racist attitudes toward Kavkasian people to be very deeply abhorrent,
and that is one reason why I have often spoken out against them. It simply
would be impossible for me to take a racist position toward Kavkasian
people. I think that your charges along these lines exhibit your weakness
in this field. If you had much confidence in your case you would not have
needed to resort to something like this.

Second, I don't just "genuflect" to suffering in Chechnya. Nobody wants
peace, stability, and prosperity in Chechnya more I do, and for the record,
I don't care whether Chechnya is independent or not. I simply want Chechens
to live in an orderly society and leave their neighbors in peace. In
writing to JRL, I usually am trying to balance things that other people
have written. I always make some mention of the suffering in Chechnya to
make it clear that I am not denying the truths of other writers. I am
simply saying that they do not present the whole truth. In forums where
there is no one to present the Chechen viewpoint I try to address both sides. 

Finally, regarding your request for citations of scholarly research, I
wondered where you had put your own citations, but here's a bit of info
about mine: Had you troubled yourself, not even to visit the region, but
simply to sit in your chair and study some of the literature on it, or even
to do a simple Google search, you would know that I've published many
articles based on my fieldwork in the region. However, it's particularly
fortunate that you should raise this issue at this time since four
scholarly journals contain my co-authored articles in either their current
or their next editions. These include Nationalities Papers, Europe-Asia
Studies, Post-Soviet Affairs, and Problems of Post-Communism. The last
three of these contain the results of a population survey with 1001
respondents, and open-ended elite interviews that we conducted in Dagestan.
The project was funded by the National Council for Eurasian and Eastern
European Research and the National Research Council. I've presented summary
reports on this data at international conferences in San Francisco,
Scotland, and Berlin. For most of the last two years, the American
Political Science Association has had our paper on the Internet, where it
would have popped up had you bothered to do even the most rudimentary web
search. The URL for the paper is
http://pro.harvard.edu/papers/013/013014WareRobert.pdf the URL
for the abstract is http://pro.harvard.edu/abstracts/013/013014WareRobert.htm 

With the present discussion in mind, readers might consider our articles in
Post-Soviet Affairs (18,4) and Problems of Post-Communism (50, 2). Both of
these articles present data concerning Dagestani views on Chechnya and
Russia. They show that overwhelming majorities of Dagestanis, historic
allies of the Chechens against Russian imperialism, now see Chechnya as the
greatest threat that they face and look to Russian federal officials to
help them in times of acute crisis. The other two articles listed above
deal with related issues of political Islam in the region. Three additional
articles on this study are either under consideration by scholarly journals
or in advanced stages of preparation. 

But returning to your essay, Ms. Fitzpatrick, you are transparently wrong
when you state that any major international relief or rights organizations
remained in the North Caucasus throughout Chechnya's period of de facto
independence from 1996 to 1999. Specifically, all of the organizations that
you mention (UNHCR, MSF, OSCE, ICRC, HRW), and many more, abandoned the
region in those years because their staffers either were murdered in
Chechnya or were kidnapped and held under truly horrifying conditions in
Chechen cellars for exorbitant ransoms. The ICRC got out after six of their
workers were murdered in Chechnya in late 1996. The UNHCR pulled out of
Dagestan in autumn 1997 for this reason, and I can assure you that their
international staff was terrified and severely restricted in their
operation months prior to their final departure. The UNHCR left the entire
North Caucasus after March 1998 when the head of their operation was
kidnapped in Vladikavkaz, and then held for eight months in a Chechen
cellar awaiting payment of $5 million. I've talked to the Equilibre staffer
who was responsible for finally freeing his two colleagues from a Chechen
cellar, that is before Equilibre fled the region. He told me: "everyone in
Chechnya is involved in the hostage industry in one way or another." That
is exactly what many Dagestanis who were hostage in Chechnya have reported.
Certainly, many have reported escaping from their Chechen captors and
seeking help from other Chechens only to find that they were handed back
over to their captors, then beaten or tortured for their attempted escape.
Recently an MSF administrator told me that he thought his organization
might have been more open in discussing the Chechen hostage industry as the
reason they abandoned the region in those years. I understand that two or
three small charities did remain open in Chechnya. I admire their staffers,
but unfortunately they operated on such a small scale that they could help
few people, and without going into details I'm sure that students of the
region will recall that staffers of several small relief organizations were
also kidnapped during those years. 

Now, Ms. Fitzpatrick, regarding your central question about the importance
of fieldwork, let's consider these two questions: 1) How do I know about
these things? 2) How is it that you don't know about these things? I know
about it, first, because I was in the region during those years watching
some of these organizations pack up and leave the people who needed them
with no assistance whatsoever. I know because I've talked to some of the
local staffers that they left behind, and I've talked with people who were
forced to do without their help. 

But I wouldn't have know about it if I were only reading the popular press
because these events have been little covered. Perhaps that explains why
you are confused. From what you have written, it appears that you think
that because these organizations have now returned to the North Caucasus
that they were always there, even during those years of Chechnya's de facto
independence. Perhaps you read stories in the popular press about how those
organizations are active in the region today, and you evidently did not
read stories in the popular press about how they all abandoned the region
in recent years. So you think that they were always there. Why was there a
lack of information on this topic? 

During the three years that Russian troops withdrew from Chechnya the
entire region became so dangerous and terrifying that most journalists were
understandably afraid to go there. Those few that ventured into the region
did so only rarely. So outside the region there was little information
about the massive horrors that occurred during that time. In fact, there
are many Russians today who don't understand how bad things were in the
North Caucasus during those years. 

Of course, we all know how bad things are there now. That's because after
the Russian army returned to Chechnya in 1999 it became less dangerous for
journalists, relief, and rights workers to visit the region. Unfortunately,
very few of these workers had the integrity to admit that they were so
afraid of the Chechnya-based hostage industry that they did not return to
the region until the time when they once again enjoyed the protection of
the Russian army. Had they been more honest, then more people might have
understood that Russian army had a moral responsibility to go back to
Chechnya to protect the local peoples from horrible abuses. Instead most of
our journalists and rights workers spent nearly all of their ink
publicizing the abuses by the Russians, and rarely mentioning the abuses on
the other side. 

Relief workers and rights workers did the same thing. I'll be brief, and
limit it to a few of the most glaring examples. Ask yourself, Ms.
Fitzpatrick, how many reports you've read by AI, or HRW, or MSF, or PACE,
or UNHCR based upon their interviews with the 32,000 Dagestani IDPs who
were displaced by the invasions from Chechnya, and who endured for 8 months
without any help whatsoever from any international relief organization? The
answer is: zero. There haven't ever been any such reports. Why not? Because
at the time, all the relief and rights workers were understandably too
scared to go into the region and talk to them. Then, in 2000, when she was
the UNHCR commissioner, Mary Robinson spent a day visiting a prison in
Chechnya. That afternoon she was scheduled to visit refugees of the Chechen
invasions in Dagestan's Novolaksky rayon, and then meet with Dagestani
officials. Ms. Robinson visited the prison in Chechnya, but then went
straight to the airport in Mahcahkala without meeting with the Dagestani
refugees or officials. The Dagestani officials canceled her flight to
Moscow with hopes that they then would be able to meet with her. Ms.
Robinson stayed in her hotel room and refused to see the officials. There
are dozens of similar stories of the disgracefully imbalanced treatment
that these organizations have given to the people of the region. AI, HRW,
and PACE have now completely discredited themselves in the North Caucasus,
and have rendered themselves utterly powerless, which is a misfortune
because the people need their help. MSF's reputation has also suffered
locally. That's unfortunate because MSF and UNHCR have a great deal of work
to do there. To its credit, OSCE held a hearing on the invasion of Dagestan
in Washington, but they had abandoned the Northeast Caucasus at that time.
Of if you prefer, Ms. Fitzpatrick, ask yourself how many of these
organizations have issued reports about their interviews with victims of
the hostage industry.

The point is this, Ms. Fitzpatrick: I know about these things because I
went to the region and watched them happen, or I talked to people in the
region who watched them happen. You are confused about these things,
evidently, because you did not visit the region, and because fundamental
information about this region has been virtually unavailable to people who
have not gone there to get it. That's an illustration of why it is helpful
to do a bit of fieldwork if we are to understand what is happening in the
North Caucasus. 

Regarding massive human rights abuses committed by people in Chechnya
against other Chechens, and against other peoples of the region, Ms.
Fitzpatrick, you may already be aware that slavery is a human rights abuse.
Between 1997 and 1999 there was an open slave trade in Chechnya. In fact,
some slaves have been freed from their Chechen "masters" within the last
year. You see, Ms. Fitzpatrick, in Chechnya kidnapping was not a casual and
occasional affair, like one of your embassy lunches. There were several
organized gangs, sometimes associated with Chechen clans, who kidnapped,
tortured, dismembered thousands of people, including women and children,
and including many of their fellow Chechens. Often they were tortured and
mutilated on videotapes that were sent to their family members, not for
purposes of entertainment you understand, Ms. Fitzpatrick, but for purposes
of extracting exorbitant ransoms from their impoverished families. Do you
understand Ms. Fitzpatrick? Body parts were regularly sawed off of people,
including little girls and boys, on videotape. Then the videotapes were
sent to their families along with the severed body parts. Such things were
common and frequent occurrences throughout those three years. There were
places in Chechnya where dozens of victims were kept in small cages, like
animals. Many people were chained, sometimes by their necks in tiny dark
holes. I know someone who was kept in Chechen cellar with a couple inches
of water entirely covering the floor. These things happened to some of my
friends, Ms. Fitzpatrick. Also, it happened to a lot of people that I don't
know. When I was in Dagestan in 1998 it seemed that nearly every apartment
building, sometimes nearly every stairwell, had someone who had been
kidnapped, beaten and tortured in Chechnya. That was certainly true of my
apartment building. So I have a little trouble seeing how anyone can really
understand what happened in that region unless they were present in 1997,
1998, or 1999, or unless they've spent some time with people there today.
But I didn't find any other Westerners anywhere around there in those
years. I didn't ever see any journalists; I didn't see any human rights
workers, and by 1998 I didn't even see any relief workers. Even the Russian
Federation didn't seem to have much of a presence there in those years. 

The point, Ms. Fitzpatrick, is that the Chechnya-based hostage industry
involved several extensive organizations that deprived thousands of people
of their liberty, enslaving some and torturing many, over a period of
years. That's what I call massive human rights abuse. I think that I have a
good understanding of what all of this means because I was there in those
years. By contrast, it doesn't seem that you have any understanding of what
it all means, and in fact the only people that I've ever met who seem to
have any real understanding of what it means are people who were there. In
other words, I think a bit of field work is important if one is really
interested in trying to grasp a problem of this magnitude so that one will
be in a position to present oneself as an authority. 

Now it's at about this point, Ms. Fitzpatrick, where your discussion
becomes so confused that it is almost impossible to respond to you. You
see, Ms. Fitzpatrick, after Russian troops left Chechnya, there was no one
that hostages and slaves in Chechnya could turn to for help. Effectively
there were no authorities of any kind, and there was no effective police
force. There was chaos, and criminal gangs associated with many of the 160
Chechen clans, and warlords with their gunmen, and there was a "government"
that quickly degenerated to the point that it was little more than one clan
against all of the others. Even the emissaries that Moscow dispatched to
try to negotiate with that government were kidnapped and killed. There were
effectively no authorities and no police in Chechnya until after 1999 when
the Russian military returned to the region and began to set them up. 

Perhaps, like many people, you've been confused by the remarkable "Catch
22" of those years. Here's how it went: People in Chechnya committed such
massive human rights abuses that nearly all journalists, rights, and relief
workers were afraid to go anywhere near the area. Also very few scholars
ventured into the region to conduct fieldwork. So few people know what
happened in the region during those years. So few people believe that
people in Chechnya committed massive human rights abuses. Or consider this
"Catch 22", Ms. Fitzpatrick: Between 1996 and 1999, Chechens were incapable
of sustaining an authoritative political structure. Hence, chaos reigned.
Hence, there were massive human rights abuses. But (as you point out, Ms.
Fitzpatrick) human rights organizations don't hold anyone at all
accountable for those abuses because (get ready because here comes the
beauty of it) there was no government in Chechnya. The world is full of
people who want to consider Chechnya an independent state at all times
except those times when Chechnya could be held accountable for the horrible
things that happened in those years when it was an independent state. It's
the kind of logic Lewis Carroll would have loved, except it's far darker
than anything you'd ever find at the bottom of a rabbit hole. 

The journalists and rights workers haven't helped us sort through Catch 22s
of that sort, Ms. Fitzpatrick, and that's why we need more scholarly
fieldwork. It seems that some people think that the situation in Chechnya
is comparable to that in Hungary, Poland, or the Baltics prior to the
collapse of the Soviet Union. When you get a little closer you see that
it's not.

Wars sometimes occur when cultures need to change. For example, problems in
Nazi German society, and in Imperialist Japanese society contributed to
causes of World War Two, and the war culminated in the transformation of
those two cultures in ways that are generally regarded to have been
constructive. One of the things that I admire about many Germans is that
they tend to accept responsibility for the problems of their society during
those years, and for the fact it took a war to bring them to a point where
they could begin solving those problems. 

It seems to me that the situation in Chechen society is comparable, except
that in Chechnya the problems may be worse because they center on a social
structure that is much older. Why is it that there has been so much
violence in Chechnya? Certainly historical grievances are part of the
problem. But the Dagestanis led the Chechens against the Russians in the
19th century, and there are no problems between Russians and Dagestanis
today. The Ingush and other Kavkasian groups suffered the same brutal
deportation as the Chechens in 1944, but today there are relatively few
problems between the Russians and these other groups. So how do we explain
Chechen exceptionalism? Maybe it has to do with Chechnya's distinctive
social structure, based upon a kinship hierarchy, and centered around
clans. Dagestani society has long been united by political structures that
trump kinship structures, but in Chechnya kinship structures are
preeminent. Chechen society seems to remain fragmented along clan lines,
and that seemed to be one of the reasons why Chechens were unable to
sustain an independent, authoritative political structure when they had a
chance to do so. If that is part of the problem then it would help to
explain why Chechen leaders have chronically framed their appeals for
popular support in terms of nationalist anti-Russian rhetoric, or in terms
of radical Islamist rhetoric, or in terms of Chechen warrior mythology. All
of these appeals seem to help Chechens to overcome social fragmentation,
and to unite. The problem is that such appeals lead to catastrophic
problems with their neighbors, and within their own society. If we're
serious about finding a way out of the conflict in Chechnya then we need to
understand its causes, and we won't be certain how to do that until we have
considered all reasonable possibilities. Ms. Fitzpatrick, I've gone into a
little more detail about these issues in Problems of Post-Communism (47,
2), in Europe-Asia Studies (53, 1), in editions of Analysis of Current
Events published in December 1999 and in February 2002.

I regard these issues as complex and controversial. I care a great deal
about them, and I know that I don't fully understand them. I would be
grateful if other scholars, perhaps some of those who are better equipped
than I am, would help me to understand them better. I truly believe that
one cannot really grasp what has happened in the Caucasus without spending
some time there. It seems obvious to me.