Mourning Departures, Deaths and Stagnation


10 January 2003

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Full Text: In response to "With Peace Corps' Exit, Russia and U.S. Suffer," a comment on Jan. 9. Editor, For four years I worked as a volunteer with a different organization, the Civic Education Project, in a number of former Soviet republics. I lectured in economics and provided some assistance with reform efforts in universities. Along the way, I learned Russian and made a large number of really great friends.

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We look forward to hearing from you.Email the Opinion Page EditorMy original mission sounds similar to most other organizations with operations in Russia and other countries -- the intention is to bring the knowledge of the West to the "lesser" countries and help the reform process. Obviously it would sound great that a country can state that it no longer needs this kind of assistance since that would imply it has caught up. At the same time, it is within the interests of these organizations to repeatedly state how far behind other countries are since it boosts the image of the West.

This is unfortunate and my mind has been changed since I left Canada, lived in the former Soviet Union and recently returned home. I think it would be better to have exchanges in general and drop the idea of the stronger helping the weaker or poorer. I have often been criticized for saying this, but I have often stated at conferences that I learned a lot from the East. Language training programs, the sciences and math in general are strong points of the Soviet educational system. Students exiting high school and entering university in that system are probably better equipped for serious study than the students I generally have in Canada. This is particularly impressive if one adds in the fact that we use so many resources to educate, yet the result is not all that great. Add to this the discipline and motivation level and, by and large, I would say that the East far outperforms the West in many ways.

I would like to conclude by saying that yes, in a sense, the Peace Corps is no longer needed in the former Soviet Union. What is needed are more exchanges of all sorts --- how nice it would be if the world were free enough to allow young Russians to take a mission to the United States and teach Russian, use resources with greater efficiency, and teach geography, diplomacy, science and math to North American teenagers.

Barrie B. F. Hebb Department of Economics Saint Francis Xavier University Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada Justice for a Murder In response to "U.S. Woman Charged in Adopted Son's Death," an article on Dec. 20.

Editor, I'm appalled and sickened by the article regarding the Russian child killed in America. I recently adopted a child from Russia. I live in America. My new daughter is the most precious gift in my life. I thank Russia and the Russian people for letting me adopt one of their littlest citizens. The woman who committed this horrible crime lives 10 minutes from my home. I'm going to make it a point to write and call the prosecuting attorney to make sure this woman pays for the crime she committed against an innocent baby who could not defend himself.

This women is now out on a $ 10,000 bond and home to celebrate Christmas with the rest of her family. I'm sick and very angry about this. I feel she deserves no bond. I also feel that she should be tried and convicted in Moscow, the birthplace of the baby. I feel that Russia should pass a new law stating that if a child is adopted from Russia, the parents should sign a waiver stating that if any harm comes to the child while under the new parents care, they will give up their American citizenship and be tried in Russia under Russian law and punishment.

I hope and pray that some Russian official will show up at the court in Lake County, Indiana, and make sure justice is done.

Colette Lubert Indiana Remembering a Friend Editor, The end of the year has turned out to be an unhappy one for Russian and Ukrainian aviation in more ways than one.

Little noticed among the names of those senior engineers, plant managers and other aviation experts who perished in Dec. 23's crash of an An-140 near Isfahan, Iran, was one of Russia's most prominent aviation journalists. Sergei Skrynnikov was the editor and driving force behind one of the more well-known aerospace publications, Vestnik Aviatsii i Kosmonavtiki, and was one of a handful of writers and photographers responsible for making sure that the rest of the world was aware of the rich history and many present-day accomplishments of Russian aviation.

Skrynnikov was well-known to many in the West for many years before it was possible for the average foreign aerospace specialist to travel to Moscow and tour design bureaus or attend a Russian air show. Back in those days of the closed and secretive Soviet Union he had established a reputation as a talented aircraft photographer, and his name would show up frequently on photo credits in the handful of aviation magazines that were allowed to circulate in the United States and Europe. When the wall came down in 1989 and aviation writers began trickling into Moscow one by one he already had a small community of admirers who had never even met him.

In the last dozen or more years Sergei and his magazine became a permanent fixture at international aerospace exhibitions around the world. We will all miss his gentle manner, his great sense of humor, his broad knowledge and clever insights, and the many contributions he made in bringing a clear picture of Russian aviation to the rest of the world. His loss to Russian aerospace journalism is probably no less than the impact of Sergei Bodrov, Jr.'s passing has had on Russian filmmaking.

Saying good-bye to a friend and colleague whose departure is so sudden and shocking is not the way one would choose to end the year. I take some small solace in knowing that he died doing that which he loved so much -- flying to some far spot of the world to cover the week's latest story in the world of aerospace. Unfortunately, Russia once again shows its infinite capacity for tragedy -- a nation rife with the unluckiest circumstances that consume some of its best as a consequence. Employing the degree of understatement that only a great shock and disbelief can inspire a friend of mine said years ago -- when another colleague of ours was killed in a flying accident -- "we lost a good guy the other day." Yes, we surely did.

Reuben F. Johnson Defense Correspondent Aviation International News Kiev On Bivens and Orwell In response to "A Calisthenic Personnel Policy," a comment by Matt Bivens on Dec. 23.

Editor, In his most recent diatribe against the Bush administration, "A Calisthenic Personnel Policy," Matt Bivens once again exposes his bias and ignorance. Employing methods to which no serious journalist or scholar would condescend, Bivens extrapolates a full-blown condemnation of George Bush as a cruel and insensitive "frat boy" from a single, unidentified source in The Washington Post. Such a method, despite its chicanery, is the only way Bivens attacks the U.S. president. Since Bivens already knows the conclusion to his so-called argument, i.e. that George Bush is bad, all that he needs to confirm his prejudice is some evidence, regardless of how flimsy or absurd it might be. And when substantial evidence is lacking, as it is in this case, Bivens simply fabricates a phantom conversation (between George Bush and his "underlings") to bolster his empty accusation.

There is, however, a more insidious aspect to Bivens' commentary than his cheap tactics of character assassination. With a sleight-of-hand common to those on the political margins, Bivens implies that George Bush has become a totalitarian dictator reminiscent of Joseph Stalin or George Orwell's Big Brother. Bivens constructs this historically and conceptually inaccurate indictment by quoting an obscure section of "1984," subtly labeling George Bush the "great leader," and insisting that the U.S. president "demand s forced Soviet-style calisthenics" from his Cabinet members and the American public. At face value these comparisons and insinuations are entirely misleading and inflammatory. More importantly, if Bivens had thoroughly read George Orwell's other writings, especially those written during World War II, the former editor of The Moscow Times would have realized that the author of "1984" is no ally in his clumsy and unconvincing attempts to condemn the Bush administration.

Patrick Michelson Moscow A Russian Roosevelt? In response to "Putin's Star Falling in the East," a comment by Pavel Felgenhauer on Dec. 25.

Editor, After Boris Yeltsin, who was a drunk but obviously more emotionally connected to the people, it surprised me that the Russian people elected such a little "autonoman" as Putin. The man looks as if he has ice water in his veins straight from the KGB water cooler. Has he done anything for the people since taking over control of Russia besides waging war and occasionally throwing someone in jail for failure to do something? Russia has a serious hunger and housing problem and the government should be attacking it with the vigor of the Great Patriotic War to find and pursue a workable solution.

The common people of Russia I think are sick to death of dead leadership in their country. All I see is a stagnant recycling of old failed ideas from leaders that haven't had an original thought in their lives. This includes everyone from the president down to city mayors. Russia is too convinced it needs a military on par with China and the United States. You would be better off building more vodka plants than building more missiles and airplanes. At least somebody would be happy about that.

I hope that someday soon Russia can find its equivalent of a Franklin D. Roosevelt who cares enough about the people and their horrid conditions to really do something proactive to start helping people solve their problems with love in his heart instead of a lust for power. I am sorry to say that I see such a chasm between leadership and the people of Russia and the wound grows bigger by the day. This will go on until there is another 1917-style revolution unless there is more heartfelt love for the people in your leadership at all levels.

Dennis Garwitz, Sr.

Garland, Texas Still Waiting for a Visa In response to "U.S. Begins to Clear Up Visa Backlog," an article by The Associated Press's Elizabeth Wolfe on Dec. 25.

Editor, Thank you very much for your article. This issue is very important for me because my family has been going through this ordeal since August 2001.

Our story is very typical. I'm a social scientist and have been working in the United States since 1995. In August 2001 the U.S. consular section in Moscow denied my O-1 visa (alien of extraordinary ability in the sciences). On Aug. 15, 2002 the INS re-approved my O-1 visa application but I still don't have a decision from the consulate in Moscow. I asked to be allowed to take my documents, property and library out of the United States but the answer was "no." Consular officers have put me in a very difficult situation because I don't have any opportunity to work and support my family. This has been continuing for 17 months.

I requested numbers from the biggest embassies in Moscow and made a comparative research on visa policy of foreign countries toward Russia. I found that usually foreign embassies deny less than 3 percent of applications for non-immigrant visas received from Russian citizens. The rate of denials at American consulates in Russia today is 10 times higher: 25 percent. The anti -Russian visa policy is the main obstacle on the way of development of Russian -American relationship today. Let's tell the truth: American consular officers in Russia are killing Russian-American friendship. This is wrong. Both nations together have to stop this madness.

Igor Souzdaltsev Moscow Life in the Caucasus Editor, I am a student in the United States and I am fond of the pieces by the BBC's Baku-based journalist Chloe Arnold. I think that only a woman -- a foreign woman -- can dare to be outspoken in Baku under a "modern democratic" tyrant such as Aliyev. Long live this brave and intelligent woman.

The New Year should bring new hope to the hearts of millions of Azeri, Georgian and Armenian refugees working at Russian markets. What was the point of their desperate demands for freedom and independence in the beginning of the perestroika era if half the population from these republics now depends on Russian bread givers? Who is responsible for the children dying in tents in refugee camps in these three republics? Why should people pay for the mistakes of their political leaders? It seems we are living for eternity with these unchangeable former Communist leaders. It looks like the Sphinx's puzzle: How is this possible when these three republics are rich with natural resources? It is the right time to change horses, enough with fooling the world community with fairy tales of democracy in this area. The Caucasus needs real democrats for real changes for future peace, as a way to return to older, kinder times.

Rahilya Sultanova Department of Political Science Kansas State University Putin's Religious Sway Editor, One of the things Putin did in his Christmas message was to praise the Russian Orthodox Church and religious organizations of other Christian confessions "as their activities bear great meaning in affirming high spiritual values." This is the third time in a short period he has told not only Russia but also the world -- for sure he is aware of the fact that his statements are heard worldwide -- that non-Christians are not only inferior to Christians and especially to Russian Orthodox Christians but also that they are not able to have high spiritual values.

According to the press, the president has a good knowledge of history so he must remember that 64 years ago Europe, including Russia, was confronted with the result of a nation's conviction it has a racial superiority to others: millions of deaths in a five-year time span. At this moment the world was awaiting the start of a war by a nation that was convinced its values were superior to those of the rest of the world. One might start to worry about what lies ahead as the result of these constant presidential attempts to convince his people that they have a religious superiority to the world.

Putin has the right to state that non-Christians/non-believers are inferior as much I have the right as a non-believer to state that by doing so he is failing as president. I have always thought him intelligent enough to understand that as a private person he has the right to believe whatever he likes, but that as president of the biggest country in the world geographically it is not only a stretch to act constantly as the public relations manager of the Russian Orthodox Church, but he is also creating another threat to peace in the world, as we can learn from history.


Source: The Moscow Times