News from Russia
(Moscow) Russian police are putting the brakes on trying to control the ever-growing inflow of stolen foreign cars.
Instead, if a Moscovite driver is found in possession of a car
stolen from the West, the street cop will simply issue a one-year
permit -- if no foreigner claims the hot car by then, the vehicle
becomes naturalized. "We have more important things than
just to babysit cars belonging to Westerners,'' said a traffic
police officer, adding "Westerners are rich enough to afford
a new car if the old one is stolen.''
(Geneva) While Westerners may be living longer than
ever, the news is not so good for Russian men - at least those
who don't live long enough to see 58 birthdays, according to the
World Health Organization. Russian men's lifespans peaked at 65
years in 1987, but due to declining health care, the current
average life expectancy is down to 57.7 years - below the level
of many African countries. Russian women are doing better; their
average life expectancy is 71 years.
(Washington, DC) My company published
an English version of the influential Soviet newspaper, Literaturnaya
Gazeta, in the United States. Our Soviet partners would ship us the large
newspaper-size negatives from Moscow to Washington, rolled up snug in a
cardboard tube. Since the newspaper's editor-in-chief was a high-ranking
official in the Supreme and Gorbachev confidant (Fyodor Burlatsky), the tube could
be specially delivered via diplomatic pouch on Aeroflot flights, passed
directly to the pilot for handoff to the stateside Aeroflot counter at
Dulles Airport, where I would promptly pick it up. Regular as clockwork. Except for the week when Secretary General Mikhail
Gorbachev was in Washington for a summit, and security was extra sharp. KGB
officers confiscated the pouch from the unaware pilot -- that
poor innocent -- and routed the negatives to the Soviet consulate. From there
a functionary called me to come pick the parcel up. No problem I said, glad I
wouldn't have to trek all the way out to Dulles but only across town to
consulate row -- a quick trip after lunch. Twenty minutes later, again
called the functionary, this time more insistent that I come retrieve the
So, off in a taxi to the Soviet consulate,
asking the driver to wait curbside a few minutes till I returned. Once inside
and identified, I was quickly surrounded by a circle of large Soviet officers
and escorted into a small side room, with the exit effectively blocked.
"What exactly is the purpose of these negatives, coming from Moscow in
such an unusual way?" demanded the brusque leader of the pack. With
a disarming grin, I was able to explain the nature of the negatives, the close
relationship we had the powerful Literaturnaya Gazeta, and with
a bite dropped the name of our ranking Soviet partner. The room
quickly cleared, I was awarded the tube, and cheerily escorted to the
door. Outside the taxi driver was miffed,
thinking I had stiffed him on a fare. He said he was about to call the police.
I suggested if an American goes into the Soviet consulate and doesn't
come back out, call the FBI! The CIA! The State Department! With a large tip
in his hand, he dropped me back at our Hall of States headquarters, where my
boss chortled at the tale.
(Klyuchi) In an instance of necessity hatching good
ideas, some Siberian farmers are using chicken eggs to cover
their ticket toll into the local movie theater. Many of the
farmers haven't been paid in months, so the neighborhood cinema
began bartering for movie tickets -- two eggs instead of the
15-cent admission. Problem is that chickens lay fewer eggs during
the cold Siberian winter, so the movie theater has also been
accepting empty bottles, sold in turn to bottle-users such as
(Moscow) Josef Stalin played a positive role in Soviet
history. That, anyway, says nearly one-third of Moscovites in a
recent poll. However half of the surveyed say they do not care
for Stalin, the USSR's iron ruler from 1924 till his death in
1953. Of those polled, people older than 55 were three times more
likely to approve of Stalin than those under 25.
(Moscow) Forget calling someone with big ears
"Dumbo" says a group of Russian researchers. They've
found that longer ears indicate special abilities, depending on
the differences between right and left ear size. A left ear
longer than the right suggests a greater proclivity for the
sciences, while an extra millimeter or two on the right might
indicate better abilities in humanitarian disciplines. The
grander ear on either side reflects which brain hemisphere is
dominant, according to the study of children's ear size.
(Berezniki) Four people in this Ural Mountain city have
been arrested for selling human flesh as veal, after police found
the corpse of an elderly man in a suspect's apartment. A police
(St. Petersburg) How to protect the earth from galactic
attack ... comets and asteroids, that is. The subject attracted
the world's scientific community to Russia to figure out defenses
against cosmic collisions with space debris. The conference was
organized by the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of
Theoretical Astronomy and the International Institute of Asteroid
Danger. The long-term goal: creation of a global anti-asteroid
(Volgograd) The environment has become so hazardous in
this southern Russian city that officials will issue 60,000 gas
masks to local citizens. The region has suffered from a plague of
accidents and fires releasing toxic wastes into the air above
this city on the Volga River. About one-million people live in
Volgograd -- formerly Stalingrad -- a major industrial center for
steel, chemicals and oil refining.
(Itar-Tass) The coordinator of the Women of Russia
movement, Yekaterina Lakhova, says stability in the country is
threatened by a lack of women in government offices. She says
women make up a half of Russia's workers, and are better educated
than Russian men. "However there are practically no women in
government at the decision-making level," she says. Nor are
there women among regional leaders, the heads of legislative
bodies, the mayors of major cities or ambassadors to foreign
countries, she complains.
(Edinburgh) Scotland based Buddhists are raising funds
to buy a ex-military building in Moscow and convert it into a
Buddhist temple. They'll need to do a lot of rubbing on the
Buddha's belly to raise the $200,000 for the deposit on the
building, though Russians have already contributed $50,000 toward
(St. Petersburg) Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All
Russia has sanctified the Church of Saint Sofia, which has been
reconstructed over the last four years. The 19th century church
was formerly of Count Shuvalov's family estate, and presently is
part of the Ioann women's monastery.
(London) British sugar moguls are a bit dismayed that
Russian production of the sugar-intensive "samogon"
moonshine is in decline. The potent brew distilled from sugar,
water, and anything else in the cupboard -- such as potatoes or
bread -- once accounted for 10 percent of Russia's sugar
consumption. Samogan uses a kilogram of sugar to make just one
liter of the fiery drink, fermented to super-intoxicating levels
in just 10 days. The homemade moonshine has been displaced by
less-lethal and cheaper imports.
(Vladivostok) Siberian tigers may soon breath their
last, if Russian poachers continue to hunt the prized animals for
their coveted skins. Wildlife officials estimate only 200 of the
tigers remain, down from 300 in 1991. The prized tiger pelts sell
for thousands of dollars in Asia, says Russia's chief of the
tiger division of the Regional Wildlife Protection Committee.
(Moscow) The largest threat to Russian
reforms, says first deputy Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, is an
all-pervasive corruption throughout all spheres of Russian society. Some 14,000
corruption cases have been handed to the courts over the last two years. Chaika
says banking is the "most crime-ridden sphere," followed by health
care. "Untraditional" forms of bribery -- such as recreation services
and appointments to well-paid jobs -- are becoming more commonplace, he says.
(Russia) Russians are saying "hot dog!" to
good ol' made-in-the USA frankfurters -- their country has become
the leading importer of the wieners. Last year Russia chowed down
some 53 million pounds of US sausage and bologna, most of that in
the form of hot-dogs. That's up from 25 million pounds a year
earlier. "It's a fairly inexpensive product that gives them
very cheap calories," says a top US hot-dog exporter.
(Amursk) A glut of silkworms may be causing catastrophe
for local vegetation, but it's a bonanza for Russian
schoolchildren in the region who are reaping 1,000 rubles (about
20 US cents) for every jar of the creepy crawlies they collect.
The silkworms have gobbled most of the greenery in Amursk, and
city leaders have had no other recourse but to turn to the
children, who have each gathered more than two gallons of the
(Itar-Tass) Russian foreign minister Evgeny Primakov
says Moscow will oppose three negative trends in the Western
world directed at his country: 1) The tendency to paint the
"winners and losers" in the "Cold War" in
terms of "black and white." 2) The attempt by
capitalist dominators to create a "unipolar world,"
rather than moving towards a more "multipolar model."
3) The new Russia is entering the world economy viewed simply as
a "raw materials appendage." Primakov says these trends
need to be countered by Russian foreign policy.
(Brussels) Russian has become the most popular language
across the European continent, according to a survey by Eurostat.
Adding the European Union's 286 million citizens to Eastern
Europe's 269 million, 35 percent of the total understand Russian,
compared to English at 28 percent, German at 20 percent and
French at 17 percent. The citizens of Belgium, The Netherlands
and Luxembourg were the most polylingual. Coming in as the least
useful European languages: Portuguese, Greek and Finnish.
(Books) Gregory Rasputin, the mad-monk confidant to
Russia's last czarina, was not easily killed by his enemies: they
poisoned, stabbed and shot him, yet he still lived for several
hours before he was finally drowned - all in one long night of
murderous conspiracy. How was this intriguing tale reported in
the heavily censored czarist press of the day? Like this: "A
certain person visited another person with some other persons.
After the first person vanished, one of the other persons stated
that the first person had not been at the house of the second
person, although it is known that the second person had visited
the first person late at night." Want to fill in the blanks?
Read The Man Who Killed Rasputin by Greg King.
(Moscow) More than five million Russians work in
harmful conditions, according to the Itar-Tass news service. An
all-Russian conference on labor safety pointed at unsafe
manufacturing equipment as the biggest risk to workers. Safety
advocates are calling for adoption of "economic methods of
the management of labor safety," says the report.
(Moscow) Russia was home to nearly 8,000 different
crime rings of at least 30 members each in 1995, says a senior
official with the Russian organized crime directorate. The
official says some 140 Russian crime "families" are
operating abroad, half of them in Germany and 15 percent in the
United States. Russian and U.S. leaders signed a 1995 agreement
cooperating in the fight against mobster crime.
(Bonn) Where does Russia stand in a survey of 54
different countries for the most corrupt? Well, not at the
bottom. That was reserved for Nigeria, followed by Pakistan and
Kenya. Russia came in at 47th place, in the vicinity of China
(50th) and India (46th). Coming in at first place as the least
corrupt country is New Zealand, followed closely by Denmark,
Sweden, Finland, Canada and Norway. A few other corruption
ratings, from worse to best behaved: Italy (34th), France (19th),
Japan (17th), United States (15th), Germany (13th), and Britain
(12th). "Much of the corruption in the developing countries
is the direct result of corrupt multinational corporations,"
says Peter Eigen, director of the Berlin-based anti-corruption
group Transparency International.
(Switzerland) Who's the top competitor on the world's
economic battlefield? Not a big surprise: it's the fiscally
pugnacious USA. That's according to the annual World
Competitiveness Yearbook, published by the International
Institute for Management Development. Moving down the ranking
ladder, stands Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Denmark on the 2nd
to 5th place rungs. Switzerland and Germany have slipped to 9th
and 10th places, while Britain and France are in 19th and 20th
place. Russia comes in last at 46th.
(London) But what inquiring minds REALLY want to know
is which countries are the world's top SEX superpowers. This time
Russia comes in first, with the USA in the inferior second place.
Russians engage in doing "it" 135 times a year on the
average, while Americans average 133. That's still more than
twice as often as the less-lascivious Spanish (64 times). The
London International Group (makers of Durex condoms) surveyed
10,000 sexually active adults in 15 countries about their love
lives. Voted the most considerate lovers: Canadians, Mexicans and
(Ottawa) The Russian mafia is taking root in Canada,
which has Toronto police pondering how to counter the invasion.
The Russian mobsters are increasing their take ranging from petty
street crimes, to extortion and laundering millions of dollars
through real estate deals. Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and
Calgary have also become unfortunate hosts to Russian crime
(Warsaw) The Russia-Belarus union has nearly half of
Poland's people feeling a little edgy, according to a recent poll
by the CBOS agency. Forty-seven percent of the Poles says the
alliance poses a threat, while 36 percent says it does not. The
treaty was signed on April 2, 1996 establishing a Community of
Sovereign Republics between Russia and Belarus. The accord
signals Russia's plans to rebuild a Soviet-era empire, says 63
percent of the survey respondents.
(Moscow) Russian diabetics will be able to receive a
dose of "sugar-level reducing" medicines and
foodstuffs, produced right there on Russian soil using indigenous
ingredients. Russia has about two-million registered diabetics,
though analysts estimate the total closer to eight-million. The
county imports about $90-million worth of insulin each year, to
help stave off the diabetes-related Russian death rate ranking
third just behind cardio-vascular disease and cancer deaths.
(Moscow) Russia's most popular puppet show is
celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Sergei Obraztsov Central
Puppet Show has entertained tens-of-thousands of fans in 50
different countries, with a witty program that parodies slipshod
variety performances. This year the puppets will perform for
audiences in South Korea and California.
(Ussuriysk) College students everywhere know the hunger
pangs that can occur between checks from home or college grants.
But starving students at the Russian Far East Agricultural
Academy have turned to eating frogs and snakes whenever their
grants are delayed. The idea came to a veterinary student who had
just completed a frog dissection, when stabs of hunger caused him
to fry up the legs rather than trash them. Fortunately there is a
steady supply of frog fare at the local reservoirs.
(Moscow) In a rare bit of optimistic news out of
Moscow, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that
investors are again warming up to Russia. Why's that? Stock
prices are soaring, inflation is down dramatically, trade surplus
is bulging, gross domestic product is no longer falling. Major
foreign brokerage houses are bullish on Russia, and investors
believe the reforms will move ahead, says the report.
(Jerusalem) Russian government action against the
Jewish Agency -- a group responsible for helping some 600,000
Jews emigrate to Israel from Russia and the FSU since 1989 -- has
raised concerns that Jewish emigration from Russia could be
halted. Actions against the agency include the cancellation of
its accreditation to operate in Russia. "The Jewish Agency
... has never been subject to such treatment," says the
(Washington) The Russian mafia's reach has expanded to
about 50 countries including the United States, says CIA director
John Deutch. He warns the extensive crime network threatens to
undermine the political and economic stability of Russia. Russian
organized crime encompasses government corruption, drug
trafficking, terror, weapons proliferation, embezzlement of
government property, contract murder and bank fraud, he told a
(Moscow / Itar-Tass) How could the Communist Party --
which gave a jolt to the entire 20th Century, which lived through
three revolutions, which won two terrible wars (the Civil and the
Great Patriotic), which performed the miracle of post-war
rehabilitation, and which had a membership of more than
18-million -- meekly leave the political arena literally
overnight? Those questions are undertaken in a new book,
"CPSU: Anatomy of Disintegration," published by Moscow
Respublika Publishing House, written by Leon Onikov.
(St. Petersburg) Russian book publishers are rolling
their presses in a renewed frenzy following a presidential decree
relieving mass media and publishing from tax payments for a
period of three years. Analysts say the Russian book market is
nearly overwhelmed with new releases. Some 90 percent of Russian
publishing houses are located in Moscow; seven percent of Russian
books are published in St. Petersburg.
(Moscow) In a diplomatic tit-for-tat, the U.S. Embassy
in Moscow has imposed a sharp rate increase for Russians
requesting a U.S. visa. The move is meant to match the high fees
Russia charges Americans for visas. Russians must now pay $150
for a one-year U.S. visa allowing multiple entries, and $450 for
a multiple-entry three-year visa -- more than double the former
cost. Americans must pay $120 for a one-year multiple-entry visa
to Russia, and the same amount for the more-rarely granted
three-year visa. Russia's single-entry tourist visa is a bargain
(United Nations) Russia has ponied up $28 million to
support the U.N. Peace Force budget, after earlier paying its $46
million annual membership fees. Russia is now in the minority of
member states that have paid its dues. Standing debts to the U.N.
near $3 billion, including what's owed by the United States.
(Washington) Billionaire high financier
George Soros says the world community has missed an historic
opportunity to create a free and open society in the former
Soviet Union. In 1989 Soros proposed a multibillion dollar aid
program for Russia and the other republics along the lines of the
World War II Marshall Plan. The failure to accept that plan
"is where we went wrong," Soros says. He however plans
to continue the work of his foundation in Russia promoting
freedom "as long as we are tolerated."
(Even More News From
News from the FSU & Eastern Europe
News from Asia
News from the United States
Various articles on International
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