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RUSSIA LONGS FOR REBIRTH

Author: Reviewed by PYOTR PATRUSHEV Pyotr Patrushev is a Sydney-basedjournalist and broadcaster. He recently returned from a three-month tour ofRussia.
Date: 15/11/1997
Words: 1537
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 12

RESURRECTION

The Struggle for a New Russia

By David Remnick

Random House, 398pp, $52

ISBN 0 679 42377

RUSSIA

Which Way Paradise?

By Monica Attard

Doubleday, 419pp, $39.95

ISBN 0 868 246832

RESURRECTION The Struggle for a New Russia By David Remnick Random House, 398pp, $52 ISBN 0 679 42377 RUSSIA Which Way Paradise? By Monica Attard Doubleday, 419pp, $39.95 ISBN 0 868 246832 Reviewed by PYOTR PATRUSHEV WHAT David Remnick does with his most recent book is to stake a new level of expertise, proficiency, historical perspective and sheer journalistic grit in the crowded and distinguished field of books by foreign correspondents in Moscow.

The former Washington Post correspondent, whose Lenin's Tomb won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, guides the reader through the labyrinth of some of the most important events in recent Russian history. The distinguishing feature of Remnick's work is his access to, and thoughtful interviews with, just about every important political figure in contemporary Russia, as well as with businessmen, writers, philosophers, soldiers and ordinary people.

There is a detailed portrait of Mikhail Gorbachev, so beloved by the West and so hated in Russia. It seems that the almost universal resentment at home against the bumbling former First Secretary was one of the deciding factors in the dismantling of the Soviet empire by a band of conspirators in December 1991.

Of course, the Commonwealth of Independent States which the conspirators cobbled together with such unseemly haste, its chief proponent, Boris Yeltsin, being stone drunk during most of the proceedings, was in a shambles before it got off the ground. The search for a new identity for Russia began, writes Remnick, in a state of "pure hysteria". "From such trash," he adds, alluding to the words of the poet Anna Akhmatova, "comes history."

But, as Georgi Satarov, a Machiavellian figure, and an adviser to Yeltsin, commented, the collapse of the system was inevitable, controlled or uncontrolled.

What came from under the rubble of the old system was no new democracy. In the atmosphere of moral vacuum and of growing lawlessness at every level, the shelling of the Parliament by the Russian Army tanks in 1993 announced the birth of a new species of a mutant Homo sovieticus - Comrade Criminal, who invaded every sphere of economic, social and political life. As a result, as much as $300 billion in stolen money has left Russia in the past few years. Anyone in a position of power with no qualms about breaking the law could get rich quick. Russia seemed to be ruled by a bunch of scheming oligarchs, many of whom, as the nationalists never tire of pointing out, are Jewish.

The search for a new "national narrative" made some look for a Russian Pinochet to create at least a semblance of order, while others, such as Moscow's Mayor Luzhkov, looked towards the restoration of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral as the symbol of Russian rebirth.

Literature was affected. As one writer commented, "People want a little pleasure. If they read about another concentration camp - they'll die." So, the early perestroika euphoria and a spate of quality books such as Anatolii Rybakov's The Children of the Arbat and Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate gave way to the sleaze of Larisa Vasileva's Kremlin Wives. But while older writers such as Andrei Bitov were complaining that they were now older than Lenin was when he died, the younger ones, like Vladimir Sorokin, felt the time would come again when "people will yearn for dreams".

Finally, Remnick tries to show that there is indeed a possibility of resurrection for Russia. He surveys the positive currents in Russian history, from the progressive zemstvos that run local affairs after the abolition of serfdom in 1861 to the 1906 constitution that spelled out the basic democratic rights of Russian citizens. It is a far cry from Tolstoy's concept of resurrection through atonement and repentance, a longing that has grown stale in that perpetually battered land, but perhaps a harbinger of a future society that is "good enough" to live in.

The very "heroic and desperate scale" of the Russian experiment makes it a moot point whether the New Russia, after its "collapse into freedom" will become "resurrected", or whether it will get bogged down in crime, drunkenness and the abuse of power. The decreasing longevity of the population (men in particular), the growing threat of drug addiction and the AIDS epidemic, the loss of economic independence by Russia through its reliance on Western goods and investments, all suggest cautious prognosis.

After the shameful Chechen debacle, not only Russia's body, but its very soul is badly bruised. Like the ailing Mir space station, Russia is adrift and in need of an overhaul. To anyone contemplating the magnitude of such an undertaking, Remnick's book offers a range of thought- provoking ideas.

Russia: Which Way Paradise? is the first book by Monica Attard, the former ABC TV correspond ent in Moscow (1990-1994). But, as the author makes it clear in the preface, the depth and duration of her connection with Russia and with the story of the broken promise of Communist ideology far exceed her term of duty. It began in her youth with breakfast-time conversations in her native Malta. In accordance with her father's theories, "workers' paradise" existed and money was the "root of all evil". It took three years of Russian experience (1983-1986) for her to start changing her mind. And it took a couple of bloody coups, the frustrations and joys of Russian life and maybe the heart-rending poetry of Anna Akhmatova, for Monica Attard finally to call the land of her old dreams "a sad shell of a Tolstoy epic".

She "wanted to portray and explain the lives of the Russians" she had met and befriended. Judging by some of the generalisations in her book, perhaps she also wanted to explain Russia itself and in the process to exorcise the ghost of a false paradise that her father's breakfast talks implanted in her impressionable young mind.

She begins, commendably, by a note on the Russian patronymics which, as any non-Russian reader of Doctor Zhivago will attest, can be a source of endless vexation. She also provides a chronology of events for the non-academic. In addition, she generously sprinkles her narrative with Russian slang and commonly used phrases (only occasionally erratic ally transliterated and translated), attaching a list of sources for further reading.

Attard's Russia is a personal and emotive journey. The Communist Party is a Mafia that laid the foundation for the recent explosion of crime. The system of almost universal fear was no workers' paradise but a rumbling historical juggernaut that destroyed millions of lives in order to turn a system of haphazard privilege into a new class system. Her continual tracking of the changing views and reactions of her friends and confidants, ranging from a true believer in Communism to a KBG staffer, are especially informative.

There are plenty of insider stories, such as her meeting with the ex-KGB British agent William Blake, or a mention of a drunk Yeltsin urinating on the wheel of the aircraft that brought him on his first trip to the United States, to keep the reader from drowning in the minutiae of a correspondent's version of current events. Often personal and lively, and revealing a feminine touch that Remnick lacks, are her descriptions of the abortion clinics, the collapsing educational system, her own bizarre wedding ceremony, the debauched opulence of the New Russians, and, of course, her experience of the 1991 coup in which, despite the personal risk, she braved the crowds and cajoled a tank crew to get her first-hand material.

It is only occasionally that she commits an error (such as saying that under Communism only the elite had access to State resorts and sanatoriums) or indulges in a generalisation that Remnick, for example, would never permit himself ("No-one read Solzhenitsyn or even liked him"; "Dishonesty was so firmly implanted, cynicism so ingrained in the Russian character . . .").

As with Remnick, her analysis of the causes of collapse of the system could have benefited from a broader economic perspective (the Soviet "economy" in retrospect seems little more than a giant potlatch ceremony run by a bunch of ill-bred and power-hungry party hacks) and perhaps even a psycho-historical one (there must be more to the "generations' conflict" than meets the eye, when a country allows itself to be run by a murderous psychopath for 30-odd years, loses millions of people in the process, and then begins to hanker again for a "strong hand").

If Remnick is an expert guide taking us on a Hermitage tour of the post-Communist chaos, Attard is a friend who leads us through the nooks and crannies of Russian minds, as well as their flats and streets, to give us a taste of the daily life and struggles of Russians trying to build if not a paradise, then at least a livable purgatory.

 

A NEW CURTAIN AND TIME OF TERROR?

Author: Robert Haupt and Pyotr Patrushev
Date: 16/01/1992
Words: 2790
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 11
YOU come to the line that matters halfway down the sloping road to this old town (Narva). A border guard waves your car into a queue of vehicles, where his colleagues are examining documents, searching car boots and raising and lowering the iron boom that marks off Estonia from Russia and the rest of the old Soviet empire. In the gloom of a northern winter, their dark, tight-fitting uniforms make them look like a SWAT team without the dogs.

Since we were headed east, the guards were looking for food smugglers. Estonia wants to prevent its desperately limited supplies being bought up for resale to hungry Russians. Rather than go into the provenance of the three bananas sitting in a plastic bag under the driver's seat (bought the previous day in Finland), I omitted to mention them - and felt a pang as we were waved through, as if we had been smuggling firearms. But after all, they were our supper.

To write about the rolling-back of the old Soviet western border following the collapse of the final part of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is moving enough: another loose end tied up from the machinations of Hitler and Stalin. But to see before your eyes what it's leading to is even more affecting.

That rudimentary gate on the Narva road is about to become one of the key points in the next Iron Curtain.

As if to prove the point, a St Petersburg-registered car roared past us while we were in no-man's-land and hurtled straight at the barrier on the Russian side, a policeman just managing to raise it out of the way in time. As the Lada fish-tailed on the slushy road, it might have been the Checkpoint Charlie scene from a Cold War film.

Where the first Iron Curtain was imposed by Moscow to keep the former Eastern European States within the Soviet empire, the aim of the next, Western-devised, one is to keep the Russians at home. Estonia may be a tiny place with a population of not more than 1.5 million but, as a jumping-off point to the West for those who live in St Petersburg and Moscow, it has become a magnet.

Armed with a Finnish visa (not so difficult to get), Russians have only to take the train to Tallinn, catch a ferry and they're in Helsinki. The Soviet Union denied its citizens the right to travel abroad by refusing to issue exit visas, but it doesn't exist any more.

Power over exit visas passed to Russia in the wake of the failed August coup, but somewhere between Moscow and Tallinn Russia's writ ran out, and its citizens could for the first time in their lives set foot in another country without having had to submit themselves to surly customs and immigration officials or pass before the intimidatory gaze of the KGB.

For some, it was an almost miraculous experience, leaving their country the way one might step on to a bus. No-one thought it could last for long, and it hasn't. Next week the second Iron Curtain is due to close. Then, should the snappy driver from St Petersburg try to return to Estonia, he would be stopped at the Narva border and, if he did not have an Estonian visa, sent back. Independent Estonia has assumed the right to control its borders and to admit or refuse whomever it chooses.

While visas will be readily available to most nationalities, they will be available only to Russians who can produce a letter of invitation from an Estonian resident. This brings Estonia into line with Finland and was evidently the price the Finns extracted for lifting that very requirement for Estonians wanting to travel to Finland. In other words: "Before we open the door between us, please shut the one between you and your neighbour."

Once the Estonian door is shut, the West will be free to continue supporting (the days of urging are gone) the removal of exit restrictions by all the members of the old Soviet empire. Such restrictions, as we all know, are a violation of the fundamental right of human beings to freedom of movement.

The free movement that the Finns (above all in the West) are afraid of is of overcrowded Ladas from Moscow and St Petersburg to the Finnish border. So far, the only people from the old empire to have gone there in numbers are, bizarrely, a couple of thousand ethnic Romanians who came from Moldova in the south to try to return to Romania via Finland. After camping in the border town of Vyborg for a few weeks, they were sent away.

THE lady at the Hotel Viru in Tallinn was quite calm about it: a foreign correspondent from Moscow may no longer settle his bill in roubles. "Roubles are no longer the currency of this country," she said, as if oblivious to the roubles flying all over Tallinn between Estonians, Russians, Byelorussians, traders from the Caucasus and, for all one knew, every other part of the former empire.

We replied that the Estonian currency, the crown, was not yet in circulation.

"Then you will pay in dollars," she said.

It is one more sign of the way the barriers are building around the old empire. What Westerners pay today, Russians pay tomorrow. The new Iron Curtain is a political wall but its foundations are in economics, and they have not been built by the West.

So disastrous is the economic decline in the old empire that it is difficult to imagine any other immediate outcome than a new Iron Curtain, even if the West did nothing. Countries that suffer hyper-inflation become prisons for all but those lucky enough to have assets or incomes in foreign currencies.

Estonia is wise to get rid of the rouble as quickly as it can but it can't get shook of Russia so easily. There are only a million ethnic Estonians in the country and half a million Slavs, the vast majority of whom are Russians; and Estonia's economy is intermeshed with Russia's. To help dissolve its eastward economic connections, Estonia is looking north to Finland, its linguistic brother. But that, in turn, elevates anxiety among its Russians.

If, one day, there were to be two armies of massed Ladas at the Narva border - one of Russians heading west to leave Russia, the other of Russians driving east to leave Estonia - it would hardly astound anyone familiar with the 800 years of that city's recorded history. Over the past 100 years it has belonged to (or been occupied by): Russia once, the Soviet Union three times, Germany twice and Estonia twice. Today it is a sleepy textile town whose importance as the subject of strategic contest seems long gone. Or has it?

Whatever happens in eastern Estonia, things are calm at the western end. My passport contains Estonian visa No. 13, issued in Moscow last week and bearing the coat-of-arms of the Republic of Estonia, thanks to the imprint of a rubber stamp that took some time for the mission to find.

The same dogless SWATs were there at the Tallinn ferry terminal when I arrived from Finland last Friday, looking into car boots and directing drivers into the customs office. With visa No. 13, I felt fully accredited, for once.

Would I please go through customs and immigration?, I was asked by a kindly SWAT man, pointing to a structure about the size of a freight container. I crouched inside, to be asked my name and car registration number by a youth, who wrote down the answers in an exercise book. Perhaps there was some hope yet; this was hardly JFK Airport.

But he never once looked at my visa.

By Pyotr Patrushev:

THE people have little trust in their rulers, and central authority is rapidly disintegrating. Food riots erupt in Moscow and the provinces. Sharply rising prices for basic foodstuffs are being regulated but with little success.

Provinces, especially in the south, are restive or actively rebelling, while traditional enemies on southern flanks are poised to exploit any instability to achieve their own military and political aims.

Disfranchised and dispossessed ruling classes and the military released from duty are ready to join whatever cause or person will restore to them at least a semblance of old power and privileges.

Criminal activity is on the rise.

Western help is welcome, while conditions attached to it and the inevitable interference with the running of the country and its economy by foreigners is deeply resented.

Is this the picture of the Soviet Union in the winter of 1991-92? Well, yes, and also Russia in the spring of 1605.

Historically, the three main ingredients which led to the so-called "Time of Troubles" in Russia at the beginning of the 17th century were as follows:

* Hunger and discontentment of the population.

* Power vacuum.

* Foreign interference.

At that time, three successive harvest failures had led to widespread hunger, which had wiped out perhaps a third of the population.

However, some historians believe that there was plenty of grain to feed everyone throughout the years of famine. Hoarding by the rich landowners, the Church and the State, as well as inefficient distribution and spoilage, were what led to disaster.

Whatever was done finally by the authorities was too little and too late.

Within the power vacuum that opened after the death of the autocratic Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) in 1584, the various factions were using the famine and the popular discontent in their power struggle, rather than attempting to stem it.

Today, all the above-mentioned elements are present in varying degrees in the republics since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

The former communist power elite - the military and the bureaucrats in the central ministries - have fallen under the fiscal axe of the new rulers.

Of course, some of them will be able to integrate themselves into the newly emerging republican and regional power structures, but many - perhaps most of the centre-oriented bureaucrats, the military and the former KGB - will not easily find themselves a place in the new order.

They belong to the highly specialised class of Muscovy courtiers whose very raison d'etre was collection of taxes from the provinces and the maintenance of central authority.

They have four centuries of relentless selection behind them. Their painstakingly acquired and considerable skills in disbursing authority to the provinces, in imperial management and advance, in communication with abroad, however warped and ideologically distorted, are now useless.

This would have been bad enough to remind us of the spring of 1605. However, the problem runs much deeper.

The bulk of the population in the old Soviet Union were, in fact, State employees. They were purposefully "infantilised" by the party rulers so that they lost all their initiative and will to forge their own economic or political destiny.

They are much more prone to embrace ideas of Western aid rescuing them (a Soviet version of the cargo cult mentality) or millenarian ideas of salvation-by-demagoguery, as practised by some presidential candidates during the past Russian presidential election (notably by Mr Zhirinovsky, who rose from almost complete obscurity to secure about 6 million votes).

The hunger and the discontentment of the masses this winter may swell this number many times.

Yet the West is dithering in its attempts to deliver aid to the right people, and perhaps justifiably so.

As one German aid worker remarked, only 10,000 out of 80,000 parcels sent to Russia reached the right destinations. As he put it, as long as the insatiable stomach and tentacles of the mighty octopus - the old army and the dispossessed but still powerful former Communist Party elite - continue to strangle Russia, no aid will help it out of its present trouble.

The uprising of 1605 and the civil unrest that followed catalysed around the figure of the so-called "False Dmitry", a defrocked monk who pretended to be the son of Ivan IV. The son had, in fact, been killed in mysterious circumstances in 1591, but the Poles used this false pretender to advance their own imperial and religious ambitions.

The Russian nobility, and even the clergy, had largely supported the usurper, hoping to get rid of him once their power was restored.

However, this foreign connivance and the internal collaboration led only to further unrest, which lasted till 1613. In the process, it gave Russia a healthy dose of xenophobia as well as supplying it with a new and powerful impulse for empire-building.

While the danger of a new coup along the lines of the August one is probably exaggerated (certainly, Yeltsin and his revamped security services have been keeping a close watch on its potential leaders since the coup), the danger is likely that the seemingly odd coalition of forces - centralised bureaucracy, old Communists, the military and ex-security forces, conservative Orthodox clergy, workers' organisations and Russian nationalists - will play on popular discontent and come up with a Zhirinovsky-like figure in its grab for power.

With the political demise of Gorbachev, the power vacuum has not been resolved but has instead become more acute.

Yeltsin's popularity was in part due to his struggle with Gorbachev. Now, when he will be required to deliver the promises he had made during and after his election, his former alibi about the centre draining Russia of power and money will no longer be available.

Yet, the resources of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States are already overstretched.

The Polish experience with the rise and fall of Lech Walesa's popularity may be instructive here.

In 1605, Russians blamed Tsar Boris Godunov for their troubles and pinned their hopes on the miraculous salvation promised by the False Dmitry. Now they will blame Yeltsin.

GORBACHEV's political demise may actually be a relief to him, for the jockeying for power around Yeltsin and among some of his old comrades and colleagues reminds one of the Times of Trouble. Their political irresponsibility is matched only by the strength of their ambitions and their grave underestimation of the severity of the situation.

What are the lessons we can draw from this historical comparison?

Well, there are some good moments in this seemingly dreary repetition of history. The uprising of 1605 was relatively bloodless. The masses did not have the energy or the will to initiate another massacre.

Even the pretender was unsure enough of himself to instigate mock court proceedings against his rival nobleman, Basil Shuisky, whom he would have liked summarily to execute. Shuisky went on to live another day and even to govern Russia for a brief period.

The recent decision by the Constitutional Court to challenge Yeltsin's decree on the amalgamation of security organs may be a good portent (though, of course, it may instead be used by Yeltsin's opponents to further destabilise the situation).

Now that the IMF and the Deutsche Bank have virtually taken over the running of economic reform in the former Soviet Union, and Ukraine has become independent and deprived Russia of its safe south-western flank, the old xenophobic fears in Russia will be reawakened with a vengeance.

The integration of the Muslim republics into the Commonwealth will be an economic burden for the new union, while leaving them outside would seem to present political and even military dangers.

Of course, most of these fears may be unjustified: Russia and its new allies will, in time, have to get used to living with the new geo-political order.

The realistic choices for Russia and the CIS may be not market economy or socialism, but state capitalism with some smattering of social security administered by a huge and corrupt bureaucracy - or a neo-facist dictatorship

It may behove the West to learn the lessons of history and act decisively as a timely and impartial mediator as well as an aid donor, lest another False Dmitry plunges the still nuclear-armed Russia into a new Time of Troubles.

 

THE SOVIET UNION: A SLEEPER AWAKENED BY A BUCKET OF COLD WATER

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV
Date: 05/03/1990
Words: 1321
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 13
IT WAS Vaclav Havel, the playwright-President of the Czeckoslovakian Republic who put it first into words: the battle for the future will be waged not only for the pockets, but also for the minds and hearts of people.

For the Soviets, whose soldiers are beating a hasty retreat from their relatively comfortable quarters in Eastern Europe to the uncertainty of winter bivouacs at home, the loss of a sense of mission and the disillusionment with their past beliefs may be more severely debilitating than their economic problems or even the resistance of the apparatchiks.

At a recent examination in one of the Moscow colleges, a woman student refused to write an essay about Lenin, saying that she hated him. The teacher suggested that she write something about Lenin's opponents. "I hate the whole lot of them," came the reply.

This is not simply iconoclasm. This is a prelude to either anarchy, or a conservative clamp down. No wonder President Gorbachev wants more power. He seems to be the only person who may be able to keep the lid on the witch's brew unleashed by the combination of nationalist unrest at the periphery and a sense of loss of authority at the centre.

In Russia, as elsewhere, history tends to repeat itself. In the middle of the 19th century the words "perestroika" and "glasnost" were bandied about almost as freely as they are now.

Under the liberal rule of Alexander II, censorship virtually ceased to exist, foreign travel was eased, serfs were liberated, trial by jury and provincial self-government were established. The bureaucracy was ridiculed. The mystics and the prophets flourished.

However, the unleashed passions of the populace reached such heights that even liberals began to acknowledge the excesses of the Russian version of democracy, which culminated in the assassination of the Tsar himself. The reactionary period of "small deeds" followed, which drove Chekhov to his theatrical despair.

Of course, the situation now is immeasurably more complex. The Soviet Union is a part of intricately interconnected world. Everything that happens there is being scrutinised by the media inside and outside the country.

Driven relentlessly by the flywheel of East European reforms it helped to unleash, the Soviet Union is in danger of either being torn asunder or of sliding back into repression, Slavic narcissism and, finally, irrelevance. History may never repeat its offer to the Northern giant to "join the family of nations".

In the 1850s one writer compared Russia to a sleeper suddenly awakened when someone poured a bucket of cold water over her. But not only the benevolent forces are being awakened now. When President Reagan called Russia the "evil empire", he was both right and wrong. He was wrong in projecting on to the USSR America's, and West's, fears and apprehensions.

He was wrong in not seeing that the Soviet threat of world conquest, as its earlier dream of being the "Third Rome", was nothing more than a grandiose compensation by a nation which felt deeply wounded at some innermost core. It was a giant bluff by a country which was desperate to show the world that it was not desperate.

Mr Reagan was right - and here he could be supported by as unlikely an ally as Havel - in thinking that reform in the Soviet Union will be immeasurably more difficult than in the Eastern Europe.

As opposed to Eastern Europe or even the Baltics, the Soviet Union has no true or durable democratic model it can go back to. Its periods of courtship with democracy - whether in the 1850s or the early 1900s - ended in a bloody and acrimonious divorce.

Right now there is a melange of political platforms emerging. The most diverse groups, from true social democrats to neo-stalinists, from trade unionists to anti-Semites, from Russian chauvinists to anarchists are seeking to establish political legitimacy in the new and uncertain social order.

Underneath this superficial veneer of political pluralism lurk the truly powerful lobbies: the pro-Gorbachev ruling clique, and the yet badly formed but menacing conservative opposition uniting the conservative elements in the bureaucracy, the military, the KGB, and even the newly bold and wellheeled black market Mafia which is thriving in the climate of uncertainty and loss of nerve by the authorities.

The truth is that the battle for democracy in the USSR has only just began, with the opposing forces taking their positions both during the official elections and in the unofficial power brokering that goes on behind the scenes. Another ominous sign is that both the recent surveys of the public opinion and the lower-than-expected turnout at the recent demonstrations indicate growing passivity and disillusionment of the masses.

The paradox behind the recent attempt by Mr Mikhail Gorbachev to gain more power as president is that the progress towards democracy can only be safeguarded by the rule of law. At this stage, as so often in the past, the only power that seems able to guarantee the rule of law is the strong executive power of the new Tsar presiding over an embryonic, quasi-multiparty democracy.

In an ideal world, such a solution, especially if enshrined in law, would have seemed not only imperfect, but positively pernicious. As such, it will be strongly contested by the nationalists and the radical democrats in a full meeting of the national legislature, the Supreme Soviet, on March 12.

But in the world threatened by a precipitous slide into chaos and bloodshed, the maintenance of the rule of law by a strong presidential power may be the only safety net available, to allow the democratic process, albeit in an imperfect form, to continue.

It is entirely possible that Mr Gorbachev, who grew in the shadow of such super-apparatchiks as Suslov and Andropov, will not have the vision and the courage to lead the Soviet Union beyond the changeover period.

However, as pointed out in 1850s by as astute an observer of political change as Chernyshevsky, the middle-of-theroad man ultimately gains credibility from excesses of the Left and the Right.

It is all right for armchair political philosophers in the West to argue the relative merits and demerits of unbridled democracy versus the encroaching powers of statism. But for an ordinary dweller of a communal flat in Kharkov or Omsk or even Baku, the rule of law which Mr Gorbachev may be able to deliver with his new powers may be the lesser of the two evils.

There is a famous Russian short story of a native craftsman who was able to upstage foreign experts by putting horseshoes on a mechanical flea. Can Russia do it again, not in fiction but in fact? In the recently published manifesto of a new group called Civil Action, there is talk of an impending Russian"economic miracle", akin to the post-war German, and Japanese, and Asian economic miracles.

Will the Russian miracle happen or will Russia's Dionysian tendency to excesses and political nihilism defeat it again? The famous Russian troika galloping over the hills of history now has not the usual three horses in its harness, but at least 15 horses of different breeds pulling the rickety sled in all possible directions.

It will require all the skills of a master coachman, and more than a little help from foreign friends, to keep it from careering into the precipice.

 

ARE DRUGS EXPERIMENTING WITH HUMANS?

Author: Pyotr Patrushev
Date: 16/12/1989
Words: 1411
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 22
I BELIEVE that the only long-term way to win the drug war is to introduce drug use into the classroom as a legitimate subject, starting with, say, Grade 9.

I am not speaking out of total ignorance, and only partly tongue-in-cheek. For, during my recent trip to the US, I have taken an active part in the drug war, in the role, alas, of a civilian casualty.

I was walking along Sutter Street in San Francisco, in broad daylight, close to the usually safe Japantown. A gang of black youths were walking in the opposite direction. They were well-fed and dressed in smart track suits and casual clothes - not your usual derelict types who would push the streetwise button of a visitor.

I made eye contact with one of them, as he was trying to attract my attention by wild gesticulation. What happened next was a blur of movement and pain. I was kicked in the stomach and punched in the eye. As I fell to the ground, I saw the youths run.

They were not interested in my money. They were not muggers. They were high, possibly on crack. They were engaging in a self-designed, juvenile"hit-a-white-and-get-away-with-it" initiation ritual. I just happened to be the bloke with the whitest skin on the block.

I am not saying that the drug problem is in any way a racial problem. Heavy use of drugs by blacks is only one of its many facets. It is true that in the Highland Hospital in Oakland, in the San Francisco Bay Area, 45 per cent of all randomly tested, mostly black, patients showed crack metabolites in their blood.

It is also true that in New York, 73 per cent of arrested women, again mostly black, tested positive for cocaine. Equally true, drug use, in perhaps less eye-catching fashion, affects all races and all strata of the community in the US as it does elsewhere.

What I found out through this bitter personal experience is that the drug war, unleashed initially by the ebulliently optimistic if hare-brained Nixon, has left one with no place to hide.

Thinking of the staid Berkeley City Council's suggestion to introduce sniffer dogs into the streets and homes of this university town, I appreciated the relative safety of Australia. And I wondered how long it would last.

Could we learn something from the American experience? This year, the US Government earmarked a staggering $US8 billion (SA10.25 billion) for drug war. This sounds like a lot of money, until we learn that the illicit drug trade will net the equivalent of the entire Federal Budget deficit in the same year- a cool $US150 billion.

Yet, only a small percentage - 5 to 7 per cent - of heroin and cocaine traffic crossing the border will be intercepted. These days it costs $US2 million to catch and jail a single drug smuggler, plus around $US18,000 a year to keep him in custody for 10 to 20 years. As one prominent American columnist had suggested, it would be cheaper - as well as much easier, although not as glamorous - to BUY smugglers off the street at $US2 million a shot, and to allow them a comfortable retirement in Miami.

But even if the law enforcement agencies significantly cut the cocaine and heroin supply routes - which is unlikely - they will not snuff the demand. Just as the barons of the Medellin cartel in Bogota seem to be beating a temporary retreat, Asian and other cartels are coming on to the market with a new smokable form of amphetamine (called "ice"), which is far more addictive and easier to smuggle and manufacture locally than cocaine-derived crack.

A leading US psychopharmacologist and drug expert, Dr Ronald Siegel of UCLA, joined recently the growing band of specialists who say we cannot stop the drug use, only learn to control it. He calls the use of plant-derived psychoactive substances (of which alcohol is an example) "the fourth natural drive" and proves that it is as widespread in the animal kingdom as it is in the human and had been throughout evolution.He goes as far as to suggest that we may need to design better and safer psychoactive drugs and ways of using them rather than trying simply to prohibit their use.

The major problem with the current generation of drugs, experts such as Ron Siegel argue, is their illegality, their incredible potency (itself a product of science wreaking its belated revenge on man's presumptuous brain), and the abysmal ignorance of both the users and the controllers of use about the evolutionary nature and purpose of drug experience.

Drugs are now recognised as problem number one both in the US and in Australia, ahead of even such terrors as crime and inflation, and far ahead of war. Yet our response to this problem has been, it seems, somewhat myopic.

The proposed legalisation of drugs, which is regarded by some as enlightened, only perpetuates the problem of ignorant and health-damaging abuse, sacrificing large portions of the population, mostly young, for the relative peace of the rest.

An old Sufi tale says: "You can only use what you have learnt to use." It advises to train the genie to obey your commands before you let him out of the bottle.

An ethnobotanical expert in the US has suggested that human culture is in fact shaped by the historical interaction of people and plants, including psychoactive plants. Man, he said, might be just an experiment by plants, and, moreover, one that is a cause for grave concern to the rest of the biosphere.This is less whimsical than it sounds when we recall that such major social upheavals as slavery and opium wars were precipitated by man's uncontrollable addiction to white sugar, tea, and, finally, the extract of a poppy plant.

Coca-dollars are now a major political factor in the financial world. Just to think what a tobacco plant has done to humanity's health and finances boggles one's mind.

Other experts tell us that if you dig at the root of all modern religions you will find a plant-derived ritual. Plants were used for vision quests and initiations, thereby forging the link between the established cultural tradition and the aspirations of the young generation.

Can we put a claim to be at least as intelligent as plants, so that we can reverse the direction of our war on drugs - which is actually an unmitigated retreat - and take some charge of the experiment being supposedly carried out by intelligent plants on our incumbent civilisation?

Can we see in 25 years' time (or is it 10, or five?) school kits with homeopathic or superdiluted extracts of psychoactive plants from all over the world being available for experimentation, together with detailed description of plant action and their ritual use?

Can we see our teachers of psychology finally being able to explain and possibly guide not just the behaviour of rats in a maze, but the craving Gutenberg felt for fermented grapes whose juice made him see an image of the printing press for the first time, thus initiating one of the most significant revolutions in human history?

Can we see field trips to the Amazonian jungle and the forests of Siberia or North Queensland (were there still such in existence) to discover the ethnobotanical lore and traditions which have guided intelligent use of psychoactive plans throughout millennia? Or shall we simply buy more radars and high-speed chase boats and give police robotised battering-rams to break reinforced doors of crack or "ice" - or whatever - dens?

We have come a long way from the drug paranoia of the 50s to the rebellious euphoria of the 60s to the sober pragmatism of the late-80s. We have learnt that drug epidemics, as well as interest rates surges and recessions, come in waves whose laws seem, at this stage, more familiar to plants than to our human planners. Perhaps the time has come to study them as a legitimate subject without the fear and prejudice they usually provoke.

 

YOUTH REDISCOVERS THE DEATH OF THE LAST TSAR

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV
Date: 14/07/1989
Words: 1219
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 26
THE Soviet chronicler Eduard Rodzinsky, who recently disclosed the events of the night of July 17, 1918, when the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, his family, doctor and servants, were hastily butchered by a team of secret police executioners, has laid bare more than some old skeletons in the closet of Soviet history.

Words like "monstrous", "inhuman", and "impossible" preface the otherwise factual and dispassionate account of the night in the small southern town of Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk) published in the May edition of the magazine Ogonyok. What was always represented as a shining example of revolutionary justice begins to look like a bloody and awfully messy episode from a badly staged Shakespearian tragedy.

On the night of the execution, the Tsar and his entourage were moved into a basement room in the house where they were imprisoned under the pretext of a possible attack by the counter-revolutionaries.

Tsar Nicholas came into the room carrying his son, Alexis, in his arms. His wife Alexandra, surprised by the bareness of the room, asked for a chair to sit on. Two chairs were brought in; one for her and one for the 14-year-old Alexis.

Then, the execution squad marched in, hand guns at the ready. The commanding officer hastily read to the stunned Tsar and his family the execution order signed by the local party council.

The guards, ordered to aim at the hearts of their victims, began firing. Alexis, three of his sisters, the doctor and Alexandra's female attendant, who were still alive, had to be finished off with more shots and bayonet thrusts.

The bodies were dumped into a disused mine for temporary storage, and the officer and one of his guards went into town to buy kerosene and sulphuric acid needed to make the bodies unrecognisable.

The truck got stuck, the carts fell apart, the bodies were mixed up, and there were some attempts at pilfering by the guards.

All in all, the revolutionary guards who terminated the long reign of the Romanov dynasty seemed to act more like bungling and guilt-ridden criminals than soldiers. Finally, the following morning, the grave was levelled and carefully disguised.

This account, based on the most complete archival records available, lays to rest a number of popular myths, including the possible survival of the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

It also makes it clear that, although the execution was technically carried out by the order of local authorities, it was made possible only with the tacit agreement from the very top.

The symbolic meaning of this carnage only becomes clear if we recognise the place which the Tsar and his family held in the Russian psyche. The Tsar was traditionally not only the head of the nation, but also the embodiment of the heavenly Father on earth. The cohesiveness of the society, and even of individual families, implicitly depended on faith in the existence of an idealised mother and father, both in heaven and on earth.

Such faith was sorely tested during the last decade of the Russian Empire. The humiliating losses during the war, the German-born and unpopular Tsarina, the morbidly sick descendant to the throne, the presence of a debauched peasant monk, Rasputin, at the court, the corruption-riddled Church - all these were stark reminders that the old magic no longer worked.

The murder of Rasputin by a couple of dissolute and aristocratic playboys symbolised the beginning of the carnage which, as Rasputin had correctly predicted, would finally reach the Tsar's family itself.

Paradoxically, and despite all his faults, Rasputin provided a symbolic link between the throne and the mystical cravings of the peasant masses. Once that link was severed, the popular dissatisfaction against the domination of the Europeanised and renegade upper class became even harder to contain.

Now, 71 years later, the national consciousness of the Russian people is finally awakening to the significance of the murder of the Tsar and his family.

The interest in the events surrounding the Tsar's murder is astounding. Another writer, Ryabov, who actually managed to find the grave and identify the remains, told of the help and encouragement he received from every quarter during his investigation.

Exposes by writers like Ryabov and Rodzinsky and the huge popular interest they arouse (Ryabov's story may be made into a film) beg questions about the meaning of the Russian Revolution that have not been raised since a whole generation of psychologically oriented Russian writers - such as Berdiaev, Rozanov, Solov'ev and Frank - were exiled or hunted into oblivion.

Is it possible that the lawless way in which the Tsar and his family were executed was a symbolic prelude of things to come or, in the words of one Soviet psychiatrist, the "architect's error" which crept into the very foundation of the Soviet State?

It is becoming increasingly clear from the Soviet media that generation conflict in the USSR is at an explosive point, and that it even overlays ethnic unrest. It was mobs of predominantly young and disaffected Uzbeks and Azerbaidjanis that went on a rampage during the recent bouts of ethnic unrest

In Moscow recently, a brawl between about 1,000 youths was broken up by police. Authorities are concerned that the situation in Moscow may deteriorate further and become like that in Kazan, where police virtually lost control over youth gangs.

Gorbachev's glasnost confirmed to the young only what they suspected all along: that the last few generations of their elders were not as confident in the righteousness of their cause as they appeared to be. Thus, the young became more interested in mammon, Michael Jackson and even marijuana, than in Marx. Does the lawless and hasty murder of the Tsar and his family hold a key to this resurgent process of alienation and disaffection, buried in the depth of the Russian collective psyche?

Does Gorbachev, himself cast in the mould of the benevolent populist Tsar, represent a transitional figure on the way to true democracy?

Will he need to acquire a spiritual adviser, a perestroika-minded Rasputin, to link him with the consciousness of the masses, who seem to have lost faith in all rationalist slogans?

If so, will he simply get a sleeker Rasputin, a Kremlin guru with the gift for TV evangelism? There are certainly reports of the increasing interest among the Soviet young in Western gurus of the like of Rajneesh and Castaneda

Revival of interest in the events surrounding the murder of the last Tsar and his family makes such questions increasingly relevant, and possibly even politically significant.

 

THIS ETERNAL BATTLE OF FATHER AND SON

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV.
Date: 23/06/1989
Words: 1399
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 27
THE West has flattered itself about the benign nature of the Chinese regime, and is still deluding itself both on the extent of its own moral superiority and the true causes of the Beijing sacrifice.

When I think of the recent events in China, three images stand before me. One is the picture of the "pyjama student", apparently the son of a high-ranking party official, defiantly challenging the leaders during a meeting, before collapsing in his chair.

The other is the Styrofoam statue of the "Goddess of Democracy", hastily erected by the students in Tiananmen Square.

And the last, less obvious image, is of the great Yellow River (Huang Ho), also referred to as "China's Sorrow".

What the West has to confront yet is that the struggle in China was not just about democracy or corruption. It was also about power, and particularly about the perennial tug-of-war between fathers and sons, which pervades not only Chinese, but the whole of human history.

To understand the outcome of the current bout of this struggle, we have to remember that the great bulk of Chinese population still comprises peasants who, having most benefited from Deng's agricultural reform, have stood aside from the confrontation. To their inherently conservative outlook, students, intellectuals and even city workers could easily be presented as "thugs", "bourgeois liberals", or even "counter-revolutionaries".

It is no surprise that party propaganda has now begun to build up Deng as another Mao-like incorruptible "Father of the Nation". The humiliated and cowed students are paraded on television as a visible spectacle of the rebellious sons, now disgraced and punished. Selected workers who took part in the riots are sentenced to death. To a conservative mind, with punishment so colourful and palpable, guilt must be equally real.

Like countless emperors and warlords before him, Deng and his band of"angry old men" built their strategy on two concrete pillars - the loyalty of the military and passivity of the peasants.

By contrast, the student strategy, as righteous and timely as it might be, was built on Styrofoam and cellulose. They almost completely lacked proper organisation, planning, and infrastructure. Even their attempts at dialogue with the authorities seemed to have more style than substance.

In retrospect, what was actually surprising was not that they were eventually defeated, but that they got away with such defiance for so long and had managed to cause such seemingly conciliatory gestures by the leadership in the early stages of the confrontation.

In the end, the "Goddess of Democracy" was pulled down by the soldiers as easily as it was erected. The TV coverage made good news abroad, but mattered little once the massive Public Security Bureau unleashed its dissident-netting operations, while the habitual paranoia began to grip the masses, setting relative against relative, father against son, mother against daughter.

For most Westerners, it is hard to imagine just how male-dominated, paternalistic and centralised the Chinese society was and still is. The most crucial fact of life throughout the long Chinese history was the need to maintain a huge network of dykes, rivers and canals which formed the backbone of their intensive system of agriculture.

To do that, one needed mass labour, large-scale bureaucracy, centralised government, and obedience to hierarchical authority.

When authority was lax or corrupt, one had floods and disasters which took literally millions of lives, as they did in 1854. Thus the Yellow River's other name became "China's Sorrow".

But authority in Imperial China also implied responsibility, conveyed by the Heavenly Mandate to rule.

The most central quality sought by the Confucian men of power was jen -humanity. Authority had to be morally justified by an adherence to a code of ethics which was more stringent than that of the population at large. The ruler had to be "first in worrying about the world's troubles and last in the enjoyment of its pleasures".

It is perhaps significant that recently the epithet of "heartlessness" -the antithesis of humanity - was applied to leading conservatives in China and Russia by their critics.

It may be futile to speculate how this attitude of "heartlessness" crept into Chinese life. Was it a result of internal corruption and disintegration, or was it a result of China having been raped by the West during the last 150 years? All we do know is that the lure of the unifying pseudo-father (Mao Zedong in China, and Stalin in Russia) had ultimately proved disastrous. The chickens of communist delusion of social harmony have finally come to roost at Tiananmen Square, as they did earlier behind the barbed wire of the monstrous gulag in the Soviet Union.

The West also has to accept at least partial responsibility for introduction of the rationalist, materialist world view to China, which further helped to undermine its spiritual foundations.

For modern Chinese thinkers such as Wu Chih-hui, soul or spirit had to be banished from the universe. Progress depended on proliferation of material goods which would satisfy our needs and allow us to resolve the mystery of life on the basis of rigorous scientific thinking and human management.

Modern rulers of China aspired to become spiritual Henry Fords imbued with almost limitless autocratic power and a sense of self-righteousness which made Savonarola look like a muddle-headed liberal.

Another Chinese rationalist thinker, Hu Shi, reversed the old Buddhist fable of the monkey who tried to jump away from Buddha's realm but, no matter how far or near he jumped, he always landed on Buddha's hand.

Hu Shi insisted that science had now become the pinnacle of knowledge from which the human mind, like the proverbial monkey, can no longer escape.

It was only an extension of this philosophy to begin to think of people as soulless automata who can be sacrificed to production quotas or to the vagaries of internal party struggle.

The blind, surreal fury of the massacre in Beijing has wiped out years of rational political and economic thinking and planning both in the West and in China itself. Is history, after all, the domain of "the prophet, the madman and the genius", rather than something amenable to human intellect?

Have we approached yet another historical juncture where blind forces of history and the human unconscious combine to create a whirlwind of self-fuelling disorder and violence? Are we about to land again in Buddha's dispassionate hand, but in a most uncomfortable manner?

Perhaps now, at the end of the 20th century, one need not be so fatalistic. The old men of China may sooner or later get their just deserts. Economic sanctions and moral indignation may be more enduring than the Chinese leaders expect.

Even the mirage of the instant celluloid fame may one day, as it did in Poland and Czechoslovakia, prove to be a catalyst to renewed political action of an older and wiser generation of reformers.

But the lessons of Beijing will be even more valuable if they could make us more self-critical, rather than self-congratulatory, and more aware of the deeper causes of our own behaviour. In this, the recent events in China are only a dramatic example of a universal human dilemma.

The hail of bullets at Tiananmen Square had shown how far we are from finding an effective way of bridging the gap between frightened and entrenched old men in power and the young hopefuls for whom the only way of making a noticeable political statement is a glorious sacrifice of their yet unlived lives.

To find an effective answer to this dilemma may be the real challenge of our times.

 

HOW TO SURVIVE THE RIGOURS OF MORTIS

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV
Date: 21/01/1989
Words: 1177
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 31
ONE of the USSR's most popular writers of the post-revolutionary period was Mikhail Zoshchenko. His short stories depicted the absurdity of the new order, as it attempted to reshape the stubbornly recalcitrant masses into at least a semblance of Homo Sovieticus.

But nothing that Zoshchenko could have invented compares with the reality of Soviet life, as shown by some of the more courageous recent forays of glasnost-orientated journalists.

The latest such foray, by the indomitable magazine Ogonyok, concerns one of the final unmentionables of Soviet life - the Soviet way of dying.

It appears that the Biblical lament, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" has more than rhetorical significance for those Soviet citizens who are improvident enough to succumb to this most ancient human denouement.

If they happen to die during public holidays - which any intending deceased must be strictly advised against - they could be confronted with an absence of a suitable coffin, since government outlets which supply such consumer items are naturally closed.

The deceased and, perhaps even more palpably so, his or her surviving relatives and friends are thus thrown on to the resources of the yet incumbent private funeral industry.

Having found a coffin of suitable size - at, say, five times the usual price - they may find that the grave diggers, having done their job with amazing speed and alacrity, were nonetheless prevented from completing it since a huge boulder would be found to prevent the entry of the coffin into its final resting place.

Currently, the going price for removing the boulder (which appears to migrate mysteriously between the graves) is 100 roubles per grave (about two weeks' average wages or $A192). Of course, only the most steel-hearted would consider bargaining over the obviously exorbitant price at such a sensitive moment. Such vagaries, as well as the logistic and economic considerations, may sway the more budget- and efficiency-minded among the population to prefer the ritual of cremation to the act of burial.

However, the simplicity of this solution often proves to be deceptive. The modern Soviet crematoriums are, of course, State-run institutions with their own rules, procedures and customs which take little or no account of the psychological stress that their potential customers may be under.

There are production quotas to be thought of (a reliable eye-witness reported that at least one director of a crematorium had a bright banner over her desk proclaiming her institution to be a winner of the "socialist competition"); questions of throughput considered; the inevitable shortages of raw materials and supplies attended to (in a Ukrainian crematorium the following sign was observed: "Due to shortage of urns, remnants will henceforth be issued in plastic bags").

A solemn-looking official with an arm band and a lapel pin depicting the flame which is about to consume the earthly remains of your relative or friend would briskly usher you through the final rites, reading haltingly from two pieces of paper, one containing the "canned" version of the ritual and the other the actual data of the deceased which are inserted as required.

An inconspicuously-placed organ may burst forth with a resonant dirge at an appropriate moment, stunning the hushed audience out of their fatalistic reverie on the eternal questions of life and death. Or a sporadic firing may ensue outside the neighbouring reception hall where a high-ranking military official is being sent off with full military honours.

But even these ordeals come only at the end of a long and torturous process that only a few survive unscathed.

First of all, at the morgue, to which one comes to claim the body of the deceased, one is confronted with a forbidding sign: "Deceased are issued only upon the presentation of a death certificate and a current passport with valid residence permit."

Having satisfied the official of the morgue as to your, and your deceased, bona fides (we will not even consider here a case where the deceased had, for example, absentmindedly allowed his residency permit to lapse before absconding to the nether world and thus leaving his relatives in a most uncomfortable lurch), you will join the queue of the bright yellow hearses(with neatly painted signs "Smoking prohibited" inside their cavernous holds)and proceed to the nearest crematorium.

Some people have been known to faint upon approaching these austere-looking structures with tall chimneys belching plumes of dark smoke. However, if you are still conscious, you may join the queue which on any given day may comprise dozens or hundreds of individuals awaiting their turn.

Needless to say, there are no refreshments provided, aside from a rubber hose issuing a cloudy stream of tepid water. But you may be cheered by a sign proclaiming: "The convenience and comfort of preserving your urn at the enclosed sanctuary, available upon application."

Should you decide to take the urn with you for less convenient but more private storage, you may have to offer a small donation to the crematorium's demonstrably underpaid staff who will then speedily repair to locate your particular urn (or so you hope).

It is possibly deeply symbolic that one of the greatest Russian poets of this century, Osip Mandelstam, has no grave to which his many admirers at home and abroad can flock. Having been imprisoned on Stalin's orders, he was either killed by criminals in the camps as he, in accordance with one version, tried to recite the verses of Petrarch to them, or thrown overboard from one of the many prisoner transport vessels which plied the deadly route to Kolyma.

One of the last verses he wrote could well be considered his epitaph:

I have missed my cup at the fathers' feast,

And the joy and pride of living,

For the brassy valour of future years,

And the hubris of believing.

In one of the most famous recent Russian novels, Valentin Rasputin's Farewell to Matyora, there is a scene where villagers bodily defend their churchyard from desecration by the officials eager to clear up the "debris"that would float up once the site was flooded by a new hydro-electric project

Gogol, who was horrified at the possibility of being buried alive, could have rested in peace under the new order, the chances of a speedy burial being slim.

 

PERESTROIKA HAS SET SOVIET UNION ON FIRE

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV. Pyotr Patrushev is a Sydney-based writer andtranslator anda commentator on Soviet affairs.
Date: 08/11/1988
Words: 1827
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 17
THERE IS a true story in Moscow about a school for which they needed a teacher of psychology. As none could be found, they appointed the astronomy teacher, since both subjects were judged to be equally nebulous.

Yet, psychology is precisely the subject that Soviet leaders may have to study very intensively in the near future if they are to make any impact at all on their largely lethargic and cynical populace.

In three recent and popular movies the following images stirred the passions of the viewers: a disinterring and a trial of a dead father; a young, pretty and intelligent woman whose marriage choices are limited to a bright but hopeless drunk or celibacy; and, finally, a young woman attempting suicide and an abortion as a result of cramped and unfulfilling domestic and marital situation.

Three profound schisms seem to underlie all the other problems in the Soviet society: a conflict between the young and the old, between men and women, and between paternal figures of authority and the people.

So, what's new, the reader will ask. Every society, including Australia, has the same problems. Well, the difference is that the Soviets are willing to let their astronomy teachers sort these problems out.

Not that the problem of a lack of psychological awareness and facilities was not raised in the Soviet press. It was, together with just about everything else. But there is a long haul between words and deeds.

Take just one problem - the conflict between the generations. The Soviet press speaks freely now of the prevalence of armed, violent and virtually uncontrollable youth gangs in many cities.

After years of blaming foreign influences and the adult mafia, Soviet sociologists are admitting that these gangs represent a natural reaction of the young to the corruption and meaninglessness of life around them.

In effect, the young are creating their own societies, with their own cruel but honest rules of mutual help and valour. The Lord of the Flies is riding high in the USSR.

In a subtler fashion, the same problem manifests in the political arena. The arch conservative among the Soviet leadership, Mr Ligachev (the recently demoted number two in the Politburo), and the arch liberal, Boris Yeltsin (the former Moscow party chief, also just demoted), represent the seemingly irre-concilable extremes of policy.

Of course, Mr Gorbachev, who tried to mediate between the two men -unsuccessfully - would seem to represent a moderate position. Well and good, except that he was then caught up in the position of an all-knowing father figure who can resolve all problems - clearly, not a very enduring solution.

Perhaps the greatest problem that the reformers face is the problem of time. In a matter of months, Gorbachev, almost single-handedly, has pushed through constitutional and organisational reforms that would take years in a truly democratic society. He is like a military commander who wants to take all the commanding heights before the enemy regroups itself. All the opponents have to do is to lie in wait until he shoots himself in the foot.

True, there are signs of progress that go beyond the rhetoric. For the first time since the 1917 Revolution there is an attractive and vocal "First Lady" in the Kremlin. There is also a woman in the Politburo - a jealously guarded male preserve of ultimate power.

The first marriage bureau has opened in Moscow - although its work is hampered by the bureaucracy. A monastery has reopened, and the Church is getting more freedom and may be even get land rights. There is a society of charity and even some talk of animal liberation.

These are undeniable signs of progress. But the optimism is tempered by other, equally undeniable facts.

The Church, emasculated by years of subservience, first to the Tsar and then to the Party, may, in its present form, be largely limited to its role of a tourist attraction and a fashionable way to demonstrate this currently safe form of dissent from official ideology.

Deeper down, there is a hankering for the pagan roots that were brutally crashed by Christianity which was, like perestroika, introduced from above a thousand years ago.

Politically, the vague ramblings of discontent among the old guard are beginning to crystallise into a potential strategy. A Moscow journal has just published excerpts form a novel titled The Day of Judgment, which openly voices the perennial Russian chauvinistic fear of a "Jewish-masonic conspiracy" which is supposedly trying to destroy and take over not only the USSR, but also the world at large. The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion, a well-known forgery of the Tsarist secret police, is in wide circulation.

It is very possible, indeed probable, that the publication of The Day of Judgment and the fears of the "Jewish-masonic conspiracy" were intentionally encouraged by the conservative wing in the KGB. This is a true and tried way of redirecting the anger and the frustration of Russian masses towards some easily identifiable target.

Shortages of food, nationalist unrest, even drunkenness and the chaos which perestroika and glasnost are bound to cause initially, can all be conveniently blamed on some foreign-inspired conspiracy. Jews are despised even more because they belong to a small minority of people who are allowed to emigrate abroad.

Those who believe that such a crude strategy can no longer work in the Soviet Union should read the novel Fire by the Soviet writer Valentin Rasputin. Rasputin showed that any conflagration in the Soviet society, such as a fire in the village store, can bring to the fore the long-suppressed resentments and hatred which then flare up with a tremendous force.

Perestroika is, after a fashion, a social fire of major proportions. Only, as one Russian writer remarked, "the fire is not on the roofs but in the minds of the people".

Despite all these unresolved problems, President Gorbachev and his associates are pushing ahead with major initiatives in disarmament, trade and foreign relations which are also seen as an attempt to legitimise and strengthen the new regime.

There remains, of course, the old tension between Soviet ambitions and aspirations in Europe and in the East. Following the example of Peter the Great in Europe, Gorbachev, in his speech in Vladivostok, announced the opening of a "window to the East".

While the Soviet Far East and Siberia represent possibly the greatest development potential for the USSR, the same old anxieties persist. The Russians, who have spent their longest period of slavery under the Mongols, are apprehensive about Asia and the Far East and far more ignorant about this region than about Europe or America.

There is a current joke in Moscow which tells of a news dispatch in the year 2000 which announces that all is quiet again on the Sino-Finnish border -a heavy-handed reference to China's old territorial claims on the USSR.

The Soviets, while eager to develop trade and procure capital in the East, do not yet seem to have the skills or even sufficient awareness to make a gesture towards their old rivals which would be comparable in subtlety and impact to the one made by the Japanese Prime Minister during his last visit to China, when he acknowledged the ancient Chinese roots of Japanese culture.

The old nostalgia for Russia's own Oriental past and a hankering for a reconciliation (a pre-revolutionary Russian writer, Herzen, spoke of the Pacific and the Far East as the Mediterranean Sea of the future) are, once again, tempered by the realities of history and politics.

It is intriguing to note that one of the foreign spies in the novel The Day of Judgment comes from an emigre family in Australia. He "infiltrates" the Soviet Union from the East, entering the port of Nakhodka. He is armed with a collection of pornographic postcards which are designed to corrupt the local youth.

Such a plot would have been deemed suitable for a comic vaudeville, were it not for the knowledge of deep puritanism of such Russophile leaders as Ligachev and the yet deeper fear of the eastern frontier.

It is clear that for some people the opening of the "window to the East"means also the dangerous route for the entry of foreign influences.

The other side of this deeply-felt idea of the Soviet Union as a self-contained entity is the extreme reluctance of Moscow to consider rights of emigration. Despite the recent increase in the departure of Jews, and despite all the achievements of perestroika, the Soviet Union remains, for most of its citizens, a closed society.

Generally, one still needs an invitation from a relative to be able to live abroad. While the Soviets are talking about making their ruble convertible, the problem of a "convertible citizen" - one who is allowed to travel in and out of the USSR without incurring the wrath of the officialdom and the interest of the KGB is still beyond the ken of even Mr Gorbachev, who talks vaguely of the dangers of "brain drain".

Yet this problem is fundamental to the liberalisation not only of Soviet, but of Russian society, for xenophobia and isolationism predate the October revolution.

As long as the West remains a forbidden, and unfamiliar zone, both the xenophobia and the attempts by the old guard to manipulate this fear of the alien for their own benefit will persist.

Ultimately, free immigration should become the touchstone for the Western efforts to help Soviet reforms. No foreign investment or assets will be safe as long as the majority of Soviet citizens remain essentially ignorant of the ways, both good and bad, of the world at large.

As opposed to most other emigres and Sovietologists, I believe that perestroika will ultimately succeed, with or without Mr Gorbachev. Its time has simply come. The old guard will lose precisely because it is old, flabby, and tired. But not before it puts up one last fight, which may not be too far off.

In the meantime, all we can do is to adopt the enduring words of the founder of Cheka (the precursor of the KGB), "Iron Felix" Dzerzhinsky, who admonished us that "the price of trust is eternal vigilance". So be it.

 

A NEED FOR PERESTROIKA OF THE SOUL

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV Pyotr Patrushev is a Sydney-based writer andtranslator and acommentator on Soviet affairs.
Date: 05/11/1988
Words: 1897
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 31
The whole of history is about sacrifice. No-one remembers victims. People only remember victors.

- Stalin in Rybakov's latest novel, 1935 And Other Years.

TRUE, no-one knows for sure the number of Stalin's victims. If we count the unnecessary losses during the war, the number could be as high as twice the present population of Australia. Internal genocide on this scale is unparalleled in modern history. We have to go back to the Aztec empire's mass sacrificial rites to find anything even remotely approaching the Russian scale.

We know what happened to the Aztec empire. As for the Soviet Union, it is only now that the full extent of the carnage and its implications for the national conscience are being assessed. The "Waking Giant" is waking from a giant psychological nightmare that lasted almost three quarters of a century.

It may be that the results of Mr Gorbachev's perestroika and indeed the future of the Soviet Union as a world power will be largely determined not so much by the economic, political or legal reforms, essential as these are, but by the the extent and thoroughness of the psychological restructuring that will be needed to incorporate the horrifying abuses of the past into the consciousness of the nation.

One cannot accomplish much in economics or politics if one is dealing with a nation of drunks whose spiritual backbone has been broken. One cannot live by glasnost alone. And certainly, one cannot create computer software or even potatoes out of ideological discussions.

The Soviets realise this. Reports are emerging about exhumations of mass graves in various republics. The skulls, both children's and adults, their meagre belongings, the sizes of the holes in their craniums blown out by bullets, are being neatly catalogued. It is being noted that victims were often lined in a row along the side of the mass graves and shot with one bullet, where possible, to save ammunition.

These are the first rumblings of the massive grief and anger, suppressed by the people for decades. There are calls for a legal reform which would waive the statute of limitations in relation to those of Stalin's henchmen who are still alive.

It is not an easy task to understand and explain the extent of Stalin's carnage. Calling Stalin a paranoid schizophrenic, as has been done recently, also resolves very little. If so, then a substantial part of the Soviet population was, for almost 30 years, in the grip of some strange mental derangement.

Recently, a number of books and articles have appeared which probe the problem deeply. There is the talk of the "father syndrome", from which Russia suffered under Stalin, and to which some are still nostalgically attached. There are the first voices, such as that of the writer Yuri Dombrovsky, which look at the emergence of three distinct breeds among the Soviet population: the Informer, the Executioner and the Victim; the "unholy trinity" which fed hundreds of Stalin's camps with human fodder. If we pull this recent and some older information about the nature of Stalin's period together, the following picture emerges.

A number of historians agree that most revolutions pass through the following stages: 1. Social frictions in the society and the erosion of existing authority; 2. Seizure of power by one of the revolutionary groups; 3. Brief period of flirtation with the previously held utopian ideals which are quickly eroded by practical demands; 4. Split between the radical and moderate factions of the new leadership; 5. Seizure of power by the radicals and the ensuing terror; 6. A virtual recreation of the old order, but with a new ruler and a greater and more efficient mechanism of repression.

The peculiarity of the Russian revolution of 1917, compared for example to the French and the English revolutions, all of which roughly correspond to the above formula, lies in the particular vehemence with which the old order was destroyed and the new created, and the personal psychological tendencies of the two supreme leaders that the Soviet Union inherited after the revolution -namely, Lenin and Stalin.

Both had little emotional contact with their fathers. Lenin's father was an aloof, strict and emotionally sterile schoolmaster. Stalin's father was a drunk and a weakling who nonetheless intimidated and punished Stalin. Of course, neither Lenin nor Stalin ever acknowledged the source of his rebelliousness. Yet, Lenin was almost possessed by regicidal fantasies, while Stalin could never submit himself to any authority at all, not even that of God (he was a failed seminarian).

Some psychological authorities speak of fanatical leaders of the ilk of Stalin or Hitler as the "garbage collectors of the collective unconscious". The removal and the subsequent murder of Tsar Nicholas and his family by Lenin and his associates represented a profound shift for the Russian psyche which always regarded the Tsar as God's representative on Earth.

During the following 50 years, Russia had to pay dearly for this departure. For it still could not shake off its spiritual and psychological dependence on a strong paternal authority. Vladimir Lenin was a childless, humourless, asexual and obsessional individual who was good at chess and party politics. Soon after the revolution, he became increasingly exasperated by the creeping of the old order into the new and was finally removed by a bullet fired by a woman.

Stalin was a vengeful and ruthless manipulator and a psychopath whose immense insecurities about his height, intelligence and appearance were more than compensated for by an unquenchable thirst for power. His party nickname, Koba, came from a novel, The Patricide, by a little-known Georgian writer Kazbegi. He also used to identify psychologically with the pretender to the Russian throne, Grishka Otrepyev. His heroes were highwaymen and people like Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, both of whom, by omission or commission, killed their sons.

Similarly, Stalin deserted his firstborn son Yakov when he was captured by the Germans. His second son became a hopeless alcoholic. He largely ignored his daughter Svetlana and destroyed the lives of his two wives. Such were the men that were supposed to lead the USSR to its goal of being a workers'paradise on earth. It could be said that if Lenin seduced Mother Russia with his utopian promises of peace, bread and land for everyone, Stalin had methodically proceeded to rape her.

As Stalin's greatest gift lay in projecting his own impulses on to others, he first had to rid Russia of exactly the people who responded to Lenin's, and his own, siren call: the idealists, the rebels, and the young who were good at dismantling authority but not very good at consolidating a dictatorship.

The irony of it is that the closer the new pretender came to the throne and to the title of Father of the Nation, the more insecure he became. Deep down, he knew he was only a false pretender and that the only way he could maintain his power was through eliminating all possible rivals who might possess better claim to the title - which meant virtually everyone.

The purges and the denunciations that ensued could only be compared to Dante's Inferno in their grotesque and senseless brutality and violence. Stalin, who in theory did not like the laws of genetics, embarked on a systematic process of "unnatural selection", allowing the survival only of those who represented no threat to him - the cowards, the sycophants, the sadists, and the careerists whom he could set one against the other. The "top dog" determined which breeds were going to survive and thrive under him.

And thrive they did. While ordinary people chafed under incredible poverty and hard toil, the new elite built themselves dachas on the Black Sea coast and elsewhere and created a network of privileges which would put the Tsar and his boyars to shame.

Yet such was the power of even a pseudo-father figure, and such is the need in most people to maintain an illusion of normalcy in their lives, that many people still believed in the benign nature of their leader, blaming his henchmen for the abuses (of course, Stalin cunningly cultivated this notion). Even the West was largely deceived by the genial Uncle Joe. To justify a reality which was becoming increasingly absurd, a whole topsy-turvy school of psychiatry was conveniently created which proceeded to brand, and to put away into mental institutions, anyone who dared to question the status quo.

For Stalin, death, and only death, was the ultimate arbiter. He could not sleep well until he was sure that all those who could oppose him - and there were more and more of them as his mind slipped finally into a truly clinical paranoia - were physically eliminated.

In the meantime, Stalin's heirs entrenched themselves at every level of government, industry and the party, so that even Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in his secret speech in 1956 did little to uproot them.

Seventy-one years after the October Revolution there are five times as many alcoholics in the USSR as there are soldiers, its production of tractors is 6.5 times greater than that of the US, while its production of paper is five times less. Profound disillusionment with the system, shortage of information and excesses of planning have one common cause: an ignorant and mediocre class of pseudo-managers whose only concerns were and are political orthodoxy and survival. Poisoned rivers, polluted seas and eroded soil were only a natural extension of the economy whose primary task was to keep in power a bunch of incompetent and corrupt yes-men.

For Mr Gorbachev or anyone else, rooting out the yes-men and their descendants is not going to be easy. In Rybakov's best-selling novel about the early years of Stalin's reign, there is a telling passage. When an old row of food shops in the centre of Moscow was being demolished to make way for a new housing development, huge and well-fed rats emerged from underground recesses and ran for cover, invading even a nearby luxury hotel. The hotel had to be closed down for a while to allow the rats to be exterminated.

Well, the new Russia cannot afford to close its hotel down, even briefly, and it can also no longer afford simply to destroy rats, even rats that have fattened themselves on human blood. To cope with this dilemma and to regenerate the energy and the vitality of the exhausted and largely cynical Russian masses, Mr Gorbachev and his supporters will have to respond to the deeply felt need for psychological and spiritual renewal without which all their other reforms may remain but a pipe dream.

 

WHAT RUSSIA REALLY NEEDS IS A GOOD, OLD-FASHIONED SHOW TRIAL

Author: Pyotr Patrushev
Date: 15/09/1988
Words: 1237
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 14
THE day the trial of Brezhnev's son-in-law on charges of corruption opened in Moscow, Yegor Kuzmich Tverdolobov, an employee of Aeroflot in Washington DC, came to the cafe on the ground floor of the Watergate Complex to have his habitual screwdriver and savoury blintzes for lunch. He liked the place partly because the FBI, knowing the popularity of the place with the international clientele, had thoughtfully supplied it with a few Russian-speaking waitresses, and partly because the blintzes were so good.

Looking at this portly and relaxed figure few would have guessed that Yegor Kuzmich was actually a major in the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence. His cover was the position of life jacket maintenance man with Aeroflot's Washington ground staff. His codename was Wink, due to his occasionally disconcerting habit of winking rapidly when confronting a stranger for the firsttime.

Wink had been in a foul mood ever since he heard the news of the trial on the Russian Service of the BBC. The country was going to the dogs. What next?Soon, they'd start digging corpses out of their graves, just like in that awful movie Repentance, and putting them on trial.

He was pleased when an old colleague, a CIA agent codenamed Scrubber, joined him at his table. Scrubber's duty was to tidy over jobs botched by his organisation in Central America. Wink'sjob was gathering technical and military information pertaining to the US Air Force.

Their respective specialisations were so narrow and so far removed from each other that, like non-competitive organisms in an ecological niche, they felt safe with each other. Over the years, they'd got used to occasionally having their own mini-summits over a glass of vodka or a martini.

"Yes, this perestroika business is certainly going too far," opined Scrubber, noticing his friend's dejected mien. "Before you say glasnost twice, they may start cutting our funding in Congress, now that the old Evil Empire is no longer there to scare the voters. We might go the way of the Star Wars -big bang, no bucks."

"Yeah," agreed Wink in a downcast tone. "You Americans should have listened to the warnings Henry and Dick were putting out in the papers early in the piece, saying that this whole reformcaper is just another communist ploy. The Cold War has become the Cuddles War, and we are its first casualties. Now it may be too late to redress the damage."

For a while, they ruminated on the possibility of finding another enemy that would satisfy the fears of their respective electorates and the prejudices of their leaderships. They both eliminated China as a possibility. It was too important a market and labour pool to waste.

Japan - you couldn't even think about having agents in Japan - the expense alone would be prohibitive. Australia was too small; besides, you could find all the state secrets you ever wanted in the newspapers there.

There was little choice, they both agreed finally. For the time being, America and the Soviet Union were still by far the most natural enemies. And they now needed each other more than ever.

"You know," said Wink, "things are getting so bad at home, they are thinking about allowing kids with computers to talk to their counterparts abroad. Now any whizbang kid could get, in one hour, more sensitive information by tapping into your networks than I could ever hope to gather in a year. I can't even type, let alone work one of those machines."

"Yeah," echoed Scrubber. "We are getting so hamstrung by the Congress that we hardly get an opportunity to do any work, let alone botch things up. Soon, I'll be out of my job, scrubbing dogs', not intelligence, messes off the streets."

"But surely, we could do something to avert the danger?" implored Wink.

Scrubber sipped at his martini silently for a while. Wink waited respectfully, conscious of his friend's superior deductive skills.

Suddenly, Scrubber hit himself on the forehead. "I think I have it," he shouted. "What? What?" begged Wink.

"Remember Socrates? And the Reichstag fire? What you have to come up with is a bogeyman you can turn into a national scapegoat. Something that will turn the majority of the gullible populace, and the conservative forces, once and for all, against the forces of perestroika."

Wink was all ears. He was not too sure about Socrates, but he knew about the phoney Reichstag fire in Germany in the thirties and the subsequent trial and conviction of the supposed culprit. That had surely worked, otherwise Hitler would not have come to power so easily.

As for scapegoats - well, Scrubber did not have to teach him anything about finding, and punishing, scapegoats. Wink went through a pretty tough school himself in his time.

"Tell me," Scrubber continued, "what are the most emotional issues in the Soviet Union today? Is it not the fear of change, the xenophobia, and the struggle between the young and the old?"

"I guess that pretty well sums it up," conceded Wink.

"Well, then you have to find some prominent reformer, accuse him of attempts to corrupt the innocent Soviet youth, and link him with some sinister foreign or emigre elements. I think that will be as sure a recipe for success as the one that got Socrates drinking his hemlock cocktail with friends."

"You mean we have to stage a Sokratsky-type trial to stop the perestroika in its tracks, and to balance out the assault on the conservatives?"

"You've got it, Wink. Yes, the Sokratsky trial, I like the sound of that. A big reversal of Soviet policies will also help us here to put Bush and Quayle safely into the White House. And the good old times of cold, or at least moderately frigid, war would resume.

"There'll be plenty of work for all of us to do. They say you cannot turn the clock of history back, but you sure can throw a darn good monkey wrench into its works."

"I like the idea," Wink said, after some consideration.

"I knew you would," said Scrubber, getting ready to leave. "You know where to find me if youneed any help, don't you?" "Sure thing," said Wink, winking at him heartily for the first timein months.

After Scrubber left, Wink called the waitress and ordered himself another screwdriver and a triple portion of blintzes with caviar. Real caviar.

Two months later the Sokratsky trial opened in Moscow amid growing nationalist unrest and clamour for more and faster reforms.

It was the biggest show trial in Soviet history, and became the rallying point for conservatives threatened by change and investigations of corruption, not only in the Soviet Union but also abroad.

PS: This might even come to pass - stranger things have happened.

 

AIDS REACHES MOSCOW TO EXPOSE AN ICEBERG TIPPED BY A CONDOM

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV
Date: 26/08/1988
Words: 1973
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 24
IF you are travelling to Moscow (or Omsk or Erevan) this winter, you no longer have to rack your brains over whether the most wanted commodity in Russia this year is women's tights with floral designs or Toshiba speakers or crocodile skin shoes.

You can still take any of the above, but make sure you stuff them to the brim with condoms because that precious cargo will open many doors, if not hearts, for its proud owner.

The truth is that the AIDS problem in the USSR (although numerically small in comparison with countries like Australia) is not only laying bare planning and production deficiencies that could cost the country thousands of human lives and billions of rubles, but also testing the limits of social tolerance and acceptance, even in the age of glasnost.

The newest word in the Soviet vogue vocabulary is SPID (pronounced "speed"and meaning AIDS). A few sophisticates will even talk to you about"spidophobia", the unreasonable fear of contracting AIDS, which is becoming widespread.

But the most significant results by far of the spread of the AIDS virus are the social and psychological repercussions it is creating among the Soviet people. One leading Soviet specialist is talking about a potential polarisation of Soviet society in response to the AIDS threat that would amount to nothing short of civil war.

While this might have been an exaggeration uttered in the heat of a discussion, there are a number of reports that show extreme forms of overreaction and discrimination, as well as official obtuseness, which are encountered by the people who suffer from AIDS, especially if they belong to one of the major initial "risk groups" - homosexuals, prostitutes and drug addicts.

In one case reported from a small provincial town, a couple diagnosed as HIV positive were sacked from their jobs and put for a few weeks into a quarantine cell, where they were studied by doctors and photographed by journalists (through a glass window) like two exotic animals. They were finally released on the insistence of Moscow specialists but were unable to find work or stay in their home town. They left, with some of their belongings, for an unknown destination, like itinerant plague carriers.

Officially, the confidentiality of the diagnosis and the humane treatment of patients is assured by the Soviet law; in practice, doctors will often call the party boss to announce the bad news or will even openly write the diagnosis on the patient's sickness certificate.

The licence for such actions, be as they may in violation of the "socialist norms", lies in the general intolerance of any kind of deviance which has been bred into Soviet society by decades of xenophobic preachings and ruthless persecution of undesirable minorities.

Homosexuality, even among consenting adults and in private, is still a criminal offence (although no longer rigidly enforced). Drug addiction has been generally viewed as a scourge brought on by Western decadent attitudes and influence or as a surprisingly resilient relic of the past (in the case of Central Asian republics).

Attitudes to sexuality in general are such that some early Soviet reports about the AIDS epidemic claimed proudly that Soviet men and women were morally superior beings in comparison with their Western counterparts, since they were engaging in the act on average six times less frequently. This was viewed as a guarantee that the AIDS virus would not spread as rapidly under socialist conditions as it did in capitalist countries.

The truth of the matter is that no-one in the Soviet Union has any reliable data about the state of sexual morality in general, let alone frequency of intercourse.

Ministry officials euphemistically referred to the condom as Item No 2. (This name stems from its designation on the manufacturing schedule. It is also popularly known as galoshes, due to its powerful built-in anti-erotic properties.)

General prudishness and ignorance has even led one Soviet writer to reflect that sex is the best kept military secret in the USSR. So secret, in fact, that not even the "closed" data, available to "competent" authorities only, is known to exist.

However, since the reform program began, some interesting facts have emerged. Among them was an unexpectedly high rate of unwanted pregnancies among teenagers (the Soviet Union is a known world leader in the use of abortion as a major contraceptive) and an exponential growth of minor venereal diseases (such as gonorrhea) among the young.

The specialists also found that the unexpected promiscuity was compounded by an appalling lack of basic knowledge about sex and sexual hygiene.

In one interview, a Soviet specialist spoke wistfully about French television's ability to interrupt a prime time broadcast with a public announcement about the need to use condoms for protection against infection during the first act of sexual intercourse, because the rupture of the hymen might be accompanied by bleeding.

But, for better or worse, the hymen of Soviet prudishness is being rudely ruptured by the AIDS scare. Even the term "anal intercourse" has finally appeared in one or two popular publications, an event unthinkable only a few months ago.

The reaction to the AIDS scare ranges from hysterical calls to isolate all HIV carriers in special camps (a similar reaction was also recorded in Bulgaria) to some of the most enlightened comments on the nature of the condition and its prevention found anywhere in the world press.

The most informed specialists, such as the sexologist I.S.Kon, advocate public education and concrete preventive measures (such as the wide availability and popularisation of condoms and free, clean syringes).

However, as the accompanying table shows, this is easier said than done.

The problem is that condoms represent only a tip of the iceberg of ideological unpreparedness, compounded by sloppy medical and industrial practices.

There are doubts about the thoroughness of the sterilisation procedures in many hospitals, particularly in remote areas. Special central sterilisation units have been set up, but they cannot satisfy the demand. Patients who have regular injections are being advised to bring their own syringes, if they can procure them.

The mind boggles when one thinks about the hard-to-sterilise hemodialysis machines or blood transfusion units or the lack of disposable containers for blood. The Soviet Union has little non-reusable equipment, cannot afford to buy it abroad and lacks either the industrial capacity and sophistication or the will to manufacture the needed items locally.

On the plus side, it must be said that the Soviet Union has the capacity to quickly and effectively introduce large-scale blood testing (sometimes without the knowledge of sample givers), visitor screening (at present, all foreigners intending to spend more than three months in the USSR must produce a clean bill of health) and swift local reform (in prisons or in the Army).

In Moscow barber shops, all equipment with the potential to cause bleeding or abrasions must be sterilised, at least superficially.

The sophistication of some of the discussion in the Soviet press could occasionally make Australian standards seem parochial and intellectually simplistic.

Although it is acknowledged that AIDS initially was affecting primarily prostitutes (who comprise an especially large risk group in the Soviet Union, because of their extensive contacts with visitors from Africa) and homosexuals, its threat to the heterosexual community is being widely acknowledged.

Even the inherent value of sexual freedom is being acknowledged by some as a new and progressive social process that builds voluntary internal controls against promiscuity, instead of the fragile and punitive puritanical prohibitions of the past.

The Soviet Union's chief epidemiologist and AIDS expert, Professor V.I.Pokrovsky (who has recently visited Australia to acquaint himself with the local experience), has even pointed out that prudish and ineffectual measures against AIDS were threatening primarily the young, amid whom the various risk groups intermingled.

He implied that attempts to preach morality to the young as the only preventive measure, knowing that they are at the prime of their biological capacity for sexual and social exploration, were not only futile and counterproductive but almost wilfully destructive.

This remark becomes even more poignant as one reads reports in the Soviet press about the virtual state of war between youth gangs in some cities, and the aging and repressive old guard that attempts to answer the threat of social ferment and disillusionment with calls for more and tighter law and order.

AIDS in the USSR seems to have become a social touchstone in the battle between "fathers and sons" (a title by the Russian novelist Turgenev) that will test their capacity for mutual recognition and forebearance or for mutual destruction.

The limits of tolerance are exemplified by replies of the two key bureaucrats who control, respectively, the manufacture of condoms and the availability of syringes. The first says he has no spare foreign currency to buy the badly needed condoms abroad; the second opposes "making life easier for the druggies". "Would you tell them, 'There you go, precious ones, here is a clean syringe for you to shoot yourselves up with?'" he said.

One must acknowledge, however, that the problem of comparative lack of foreign currency in Soviet coffers is a real one (although even poorer Cuba has managed to solve it, at least in relation to condoms). But surely, if there is a will, there is a way.

For example, why not barter the surplus Australian condoms or disposable syringes for the surplus of Soviet cotton, caviar, timber, cheap cars or whatever is needed in Australia? Could the old catchcry "Make love not war"acquire a new meaning?

As the recent AIDS conference in Hobart has shown, here, as in the USSR, there is little room for complacency or wasted time.

It is clear that we still have a long way to go, not only in terms of finding a medical "cure" for AIDS but also in terms of our capacity to develop humaneness and compassion towards each other.

THE TOLL: 56 INFECTED, THREE DEAD

Population: approximately 280 million.

Known persons infected with HIV virus: 56 (30 identified in the first four months of 1988 - rate doubling similar to in Australia).

Surviving AIDS patients: One (three dead).

Estimates of homosexual population: 2.5 million to 7 million.

Registered drug addicts (1987 data): 50,000.

Estimated total: 120,000+ and rapidly growing.

Number of condoms planned for 1988: 220 million.

Estimated minimum demand: 600 million.

Disposable syringes planned for 1989: 350 million.

Estimated minimum demand: 6 billion +.

 

NEW SOVIET CAPITALISTS ARE TALL POPPIES

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV
Date: 05/08/1988
Words: 1467
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 25
A group of private entrepreneurs has recently built a small pig farm near Moscow, to supply the local populace with fresh pork. They have managed to overcome the usual bureaucratic barriers that still make many co-operatives uncertain ventures.

But they have overlooked one factor. The locals would see them not as the long-awaited saviours from lines and shortages, but as "tall poppies" who need to be cut down.

After three arson attempts and despite a round-the-clock vigil by the co-operative members, all that was left of the farm were cinders and burnt pig carcasses.

The Moscow News, which described the incident in a recent issue, points to a "happy end"; a nearby collective farm with some unused property allowed the co-operative to carry on its work.

But the fiery debates over the virtues and pitfalls of private economic initiative continue unabated. In fact, judging by the vehemence of the arguments and the space they are alloted in the press, this problem - which is really a problem of influence and, ultimately, power in Soviet society - is at the centre of Gorbachev's reform.

In the end, its resolution will determine the success or failure of perestroika (restructuring), as it determined the fate of Soviet economic and political life half a century earlier.

A number of respected Soviet economists and historians agree now that small-scale private enterprise, introduced by Lenin in 1921 as "new economic policy" and later abolished by Stalin, was instrumental in rebuilding the Soviet economy after the ravages of revolution and the civil war.

By the end of 1922, the young Soviet republic could even contemplate grain exports. By 1925-1926, the economy was growing at an astonishing rate of almost 30 per cent a year. However, Stalin's reintroduction of punitive taxes, levies and restrictions on private enterprise, and the almost wholesale deportation and destruction of productive peasantry during the late 1920s and 1930s, have put an end to this spiral of growth.

Widespread pilfering, wastage and abuse of natural resources became the norm. The high quality butter from Siberia, derived from cows grazed on mineral-rich hay (the delight of gourmets abroad and a source of valuable foreign currency) was relaced with a rancid State-supplied ersatz.

The nightmare of the forced collectivisation has meant not only a great personal tragedy to millions of families, but also the relegation of one of the richest lands on Earth to the status of an impoverished agricultural wasteland.

During the past 20 years alone, something like 3.5 million hectares were lost to erosion and salinisation.

In Uzbekistan, the indiscriminate use of pesticides (at up to 50 times the permitted levels) led to an unprecedented increase in the levels of infant mortality and miscarriages and the number of deformed babies.

Yet the huge "agromachine" rolled on. The USSR, if one is to believe official statistics, has produced more tractors per capita than any other country. Yet its productivity was so dismal that one Soviet writer advanced the idea that these numbers were a pure myth or that the missing tractors might still be found in some deserted paddock, grazing peacefully among some scrawny kolkhoz cows and horses.

Instead, it was the minuscule number of private plots that supplied 51 per cent of potatoes and vegetables, 71 per cent of milk, 71 per cent of meat, 70 per cent of leather and 43 per cent of wool.

However, during the 1930s, it was neither the economic priorities nor the needs of the population that determined the future direction of the country; it was the personal struggle for power.

In 1932 a group of the most dedicated, far-thinking and rational party members, who were protesting against Stalinist "excesses" (the adherents of the so-called "Ryutin platform"), were rounded up, branded as "enemies of the people" and eliminated.

The current economic reform in the Soviet Union will need to address the lack of incentives, the high taxes on co-operatives and the preference for State needs in terms of supplies and resources. As one Soviet writer points out, an empty machine-oil barrel still costs more than a tonne of co-operative grain, as it did in the 1930s.

Another problem is how to spend the hard-earned roubles? The average person has no access to the hard currency shops that sell coveted imported goods. The official exchange rate for the rouble is viewed even by the Government economists as an embarrassment. Thus, a complicated system of "hard currency adjustment coefficients" exists, which, in practice, devalues the rouble by widely varying amounts.

Such obstacles affect not only the still marginal co-operatives but also the State enterprises that are trying to become profit conscious.

However, as in the 1930s, underneath these economic reforms a fierce struggle for personal power goes on and is sometimes referred to in the press. The "Rashidov Mafia" investigation into the extent of corruption in the southern republics is viewed by many as a test case that will establish the limits of current attempts to "break the backbone of the corrupt bureaucracy"(in the words of a prominent Soviet jurist) there and elsewhere.

The extent of the corruption is only now gradually becoming clear.

Behind the facade of the command-style economy was the actual reality of private accumulation of wealth and privileges and arbitrary rule that could make Western mafiosi dream of emigrating to Kazakhstan. Important party and industry sinecures were raffled to the highest bidders among the growing hordes of the new party millionaires. All opposition was silenced. Even now, attempts to unravel the extent of the "planned mafia" are met with obstruction and resistance.

But the problem is deeper still.

It is not only the corrupt and entrenched bureaucrats who are making the outcome of the reforms uncertain. There are reports of unscrupulous, or simply inefficient, private enterprises that have filled a vacant niche in the marketplace only to prove to be a source of further vexation and loss to the already beleaguered Soviet consumer.

And, as we have seen in the case of the fire-prone pig farm, the consumer, who has by now grown used to the grey uniformity of egalitarian squalor, needs to be reassured that the reforms will not simply lead to the replacement of the arbitrary rule of the State by the iron fist of the emerging "new capitalists".

The problem is, thus, in the education of the Soviet population, at all levels, in the delicate art of checks and balances, pluralism and negotiation, lobbying on behalf of the various interest groups and protection of the poor and the underprivileged. In other words, in pragmatic, everyday democracy.

This will be no easy task.

If history is anything to go by, the wild swings between liberal reforms and oppression are as much a peculiarity of the Russian soul as its penchant for hard drinking and emotive poetry and music. In a recent novel (ominously titled Fire) by a prominent Soviet writer, Valentin Rasputin, the forces of good and evil in the Russian psyche, are exemplified by an overly idealistic night-watchman and a psychopathic marauder, who die together, locked in a deadly embrace of mutual hate.

To steady the proverbial Russian troika (which is, alas, powered nowadays by rockets, not horses) on its wildly undulating course, Mr Gorbachev and his associates will need more than clever economics and political and legal safeguards, essential though they are.

They need to appeal to the symbol-starved Russian psyche and to the yet embryonic sense of democratic fairness and moderation, only now beginning to emerge on a political landscape scorched almost to the ground by decades of purges and denunciations.

This delicate balancing act will require a combination of spiritual breadth, political acumen and moral sensitivity only rarely encountered in the land of "victorious proletariat" that, over the years, bled itself of some of its best political and managerial talent.

 

IS GLASNOST THE END OF A NEUROSIS?

Author: PYOTR PATRUSHEV Pyotr Patrushev is a Sydney-based freelancewriter and aprofessional translator and interpreter.
Date: 08/07/1988
Words: 1250
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 27
WHILE the recent extraordinary conference of the Soviet Communist Party can be credited withthe introduction of the Western-style cut-and-thrust debate into a hitherto moribund political arena, a less-noticed revolution in thinking has been proceeding apace in some Soviet publications.

The June 1 issue of Literaturnya Gazetahas fired the first salvo in a battle to rehabilitate and make respectable the much-maligned subject of psychoanalysis and its founder, Sigmund Freud. It published an article by a leading Soviet expert on psychiatry, Professor Aron Belkin, as well as the text of Jean-Paul Sartre's obscure but fascinating play about the life of Freud.

In Belkin's article, Freud is hailed as one of the most original and influential thinkers of the century.

His indirect contribution to be-havioural medicine, neurobiology, psychiatric endocrinology, ethnography and even sociology is acknowledged. This is a far cry from the usual denunciation of the father of psychoanalysis as an idealistic, bourgeois, reactionary figure.

I recall the extraordinary difficulties I had to tackle in the early 1960s to procure copies of Freud's books in the USSR. True, there were plenty of books about Freud and "Freudianism", but they contained little more than carefully chosen quotations wrapped in the most turgid prose imaginable, attempting to persuade the reader that the Viennese psychiatrist was a little batty himself and a stalwart defender of capitalist values and morality.

To be able to judge for oneself, one had to undergo an ordeal of bribing or otherwise seducing the usually forbidding custodians of the "closed archives"in the institutes of higher learning.

This was despite the fact that all Freud's major works were available in Russian translation in the 1920s.

It was not only the Establishment that debunked Freud; I remember the reaction of my brother, a fairly typical member of the educated working class, to the precious volumes that I would excitedly display upon procurement. "But this is all based on crap," he would exclaim after leafing cursorily through Freud's Introductory Lectures.

Well, if so, crap is in in the Soviet Union. It has not only hit the fan in the process of glasnost and perestroika - even the dismal state of Soviet public toilets, previously a taboo subject, is now being written about in the Soviet press - it is finding supporters in some pretty high places.

In Sartre's play, apparently only recently published in France, Freud is exhorted by the dying Meynert, his erstwhile conservative mentor and adversary, to "look for secrets in the filth". He acknowledges the fact that his earlier dismissal of Freud as a young innovator was due to his fear of disclosing the depth of his own degradation. Meynert admits that he has refused to undergo self-search and analysis and has thus lived a "wasted life".

Why? For the same reason, he tells Freud, that Noah punished his youngest son for having observed his nudity.

The implications are curious and fairly obvious.

One only has to recall the stern admonition to the party faithful by the formidable Yegor Ligachev, the widely acknowledged Politburo conservative, that even the reformist vanguard, including Gorbachev, came to power at the sufference of the "old guard" exemplified by people like him and Gromyko, who held the balance of power.

It is one thing to say the king has no clothes;it is quite another to physically try to strip him of his remaining mantle of power, no matter how scanty.

Curiously, Ligachev's denunciations of the "excesses of glasnost" often harp on the putative desire of the investigative journalists to "dig in the filth".

Freud, of course, could have had a good old chuckle listening to the rhetoric of perestroika and glasnost.

What do these two phenomena exemplify, he would have said, if not the throwing off of repression and the return to "reality" after decades of neurotic self-delusion and aggrandisement?

Professor Belkin certainly goes this far, if not further. He implies, for example, that suppression of Freud and the whole field of depth psychology made it more difficult for the masses to understand the origin of fear and their "blind faith in the infallibility and wisdom of the powers that be".

In the play, Freud talks about a member of the elite "supreme council" who committed incest with his daughter. His colleague Breuer refuses to attribute guilt to a person of such a high standing.

Freud counters him:"Vienna is rotten through and through. We will either clean it up or demolish it. I cannot imagine a healthy society which is based on a lie."

If history is anything to go by, such a process of purging the societal consciousness of past delusions and outright villainry is seldom straightforward.

Professor Belkin admits this when he says, towards the end of the article, it much easier to get sick than to recover.

One need only recall how some practical attempts to apply psychoanalytic methods in the past in the Soviet Union (by, for example, I.S. Sumbayev) have led to rapid demotion and ostracism.

While there were definite ups and downs in the degree of vilification to which psychoanalytical theories were subjected (with the nadir during the infamous Stalinist 1950s) orthodoxy's dislike for the "uncovering of the unconscious" has been steady and relentless.

At least one other aspect of psychoanalysis was not mentioned in polite company until recently. In Sartre's play, the obedient Claquers, who dismissed Freud after his rejection by the authorities, said pointedly that he was, aside from everything else, a Jew;only a Jew, they implied, "would go to Paris to learn theories which have been well-known and disproved in Vienna".

Freud was admonished to limit his treatment to the accepted "physiotherapy, massage and cold showers", just as generations of Soviet psychiatrists were encouraged to rely on Pavlovian psychology augmented by electric and insulin shocks, with an occasional, painful injection of Sulphazin into the quivering buttocks of their recalcitrant charges.

Is it enough, as the Freud of the play asks, to "allow the cockerel to crow in order to banish the vampires who are afraid of the daylight"?

Certainly, the bureaucratic vampires are much better entrenched and organised than in Freud's time. But there is no doubt that they are at least making a temporary retreat in Gorbachev's Soviet Union.

If the former "charlatan and obscurantist" has now been called "an honest scientist, a noble man and a courageous seeker of truth", well, even the sceptical old man himself would have had to admit that not all changes in the social order are an illusion in the civilised man's discontented eye.

 

The great escape weekender

Author: KEELI CAMBOURNE
Date: 03/02/2007
Words: 2206
Source: ILL
          Publication: Illawarra Mercury
Section: Weekender
Page: 8
Terrified of the brutality of the Russian army, Jervis Bay's Pyotr Patrushev hatched a daring escape - a 30km swim to freedom, writes KEELI CAMBOURNE

Pyotr (pronounced Peter) Patrushev knew he had only one night to make his escape across the more than 30km of cold waters to safety.

He admits that years later, knowing what he now knows, he may have been a little scared of what he was about to do, but as a 20-year-old with only one thing on his mind the marathon swim didn't seem that big a deal.

After all, he knew that he if he stayed in Russia he was going to be killed anyway.

On an early spring night from the border town of Batumi, Patrushev set off - in the dark, wearing swimming trunks and a pair of flippers, and plunged in to the waters of the Black Sea heading for Turkey.

It was 30 years before he returned to his native homeland of Siberia, but his escape was one of the most daring in Soviet history and resulted him being sentenced to death by authorities for high treason - a charge that was only downgraded in 1989.

Now in his mid 60s, Patrushev lives on the idyllic and peaceful coastline of Jervis Bay - a far cry from his boyhood in freezing Siberia, but the softly spoken gentleman says the South Coast reminds him very much of his homeland.

"I grew up with in nature, which is probably what gave me the strength to do what I had to do," he says.

"I would go hunting and fishing in the forests around our village. Sure we endured great privations, but those forests and streams were teeming with fish and animals. It was cold, but you dressed for it and were used to it.

"Looking back now I have memories of unspeakable beauty of the forests and sunshine glistening on the snow.

"It wasn't actually only the beach that drew me here, although I swim in it every day - it was the fact this place is also surrounded by forests and bush, like when I was growing up."

Although Siberia holds fond memories for him, by the time he was a teenager, Patrushev, like all Soviet men of a certain age, was conscripted into the army - and it was there he was exposed to the brutality of a system which has only now been fully revealed.

"It was a system of hierarchical violence, and there is no way a 'normal' person could understand a culture that was so politically violent," he says.

"This was a country that has killed up to 40 million of its own people through revolutions and purges. I was a young, idealistic person, I was a competitive swimmer so I was already a little privileged. I got to travel and go to large libraries and read material that the general population never knew existed.

"I had a completely different mentality to the average Russian and so from that liberal background and the rebellious nature I was thrust into this completely brutalised army culture.

"And I soon came to realise if I did not do something dramatic I would literally not survive there."

His first job was to get out of the army. To do that Patrushev managed to convince the hierarchy he was a paranoid schizophrenic and transferred to a psychiatric facility for further "testing".

But he knew that he only had a certain amount of time before he was either found to be faking or put through a "rehabilitation" process of electro shock therapy and injections.

He managed to escape from the hospital with the help of friends who were undergoing training there as young doctors. In the middle of night, he made his way to a railway station, stole a horse and sled, covered himself in rags to cover his hospital issue pyjamas and fled to the home of his swimming coach.

"He risked his life and that of his family to help me," Patrushev says.

"I actually spoke to him the other day, he is an old man now, but he told me that after I left Russia he always felt that he was being watched.

"If it was still in Stalin's time, he would have been shot for what he did."

Patrushev managed to secure an ID and made his way to Batumi - the most heavily patrolled border town in Russia - where he was immediately recruited by the local swimming team that badly needed a backstroke swimmer for a forthcoming competition.

This meant he had a job and a place to stay - all important pieces of his plan to escape.

"I also was training every day, which was good," he says.

"But I was a 100 and 200m backstroke swimmer and the coach was wondering why I was insisting on doing endurance training, swimming with lead weights on my arms."

But he knew his time was limited. When he made the mistake of waving to the Turkish consul in the town - who just happened to train at the same gym - he was immediately put under surveillance.

"The atmosphere of surveillance and paranoia in a border town is just amazing and it is even hard for me to imagine it now," Patrushev says.

"I had done nothing wrong, but the attitude was 'why would he know the Turkish consul?' I was just being friendly but also being careless and if I was much more mature I would have known exactly what was going to happen."

What did happen was that Patrushev was notified that he needed to go and "have a friendly chat" with the KGB. At that point the young man knew he had a limited time to escape.

"From that point on they increased the surveillance on me, and I knew I had about two weeks before they got all the information they needed to get me," he says.

"Now having travelled back to Russia I know they questioned all my relatives as well."

With his flippers in hand, Patrushev chose a warmish night, with little or no moon to start his swim.

"You needed to have flippers - even Ian Thorpe could not have made it without flippers," he says.

It wasn't the strong currents or the freezing upsurges of water that were worrying to Patrushev. He had to dodge nets, searchlights, surveillance planes, submarines, sonar radar, depth charges and patrol boats.

"If they saw a break in the waves, they didn't risk that it may have been a dolphin, they just dropped a depth charge which killed everything in close proximity," he recalls.

After a night of swimming backstroke - "better for orientation" - Patrushev says he knew he wasn't going to make it to Turkish soil by daylight.

Instead he says it was a fluke which saved his life, when he pulled into a cove at the break of dawn, not knowing that it was a submarine base near the Turkish border that had its own security and was not patrolled by guard dogs during the day.

After hiding out for the day he went back into the Black Sea the next night and by the next morning swam ashore to what he hoped was Turkish territory.

"But you can't ever be sure. There's no Turk that comes out and says you're in Turkey," he says.

He walked for a long time in the mountains - still not having eaten - until he came to a village with a mosque and knew he was safe. He broke into a barn, stole a couple of eggs and fell asleep.

But his journey was far from over. Suspicious of his tale of escape - there was no successful swims out of Russia, although hundreds of people perished while attempting to cross the border - the Turks locked him in a military facility for "debriefing" where he stayed in solitary confinement for six months.

"That was when I started to get worried," he admits.

But he was eventually cleared of any charges and entered Turkish society, fluent in the language which he learned in jail and with a mission to expose the Soviet system.

When you think about the fate that befell poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko at the end of last year, what Patrushev was doing was pretty risky, but the young dissident published articles on the Russian military and its psychological brainwashing which were picked up around the world.

He didn't realise until nearly 30 years later that his work had resulted in him being sentenced to death for high treason, a fate that usually only befell top Russian military or political figures.

"I later found out there were 12 volumes of information on me which I thought was an amazing waste of government resources," he says.

"Because really I was just a boy who liked swimming and who just didn't like the crazy kind of system that the country had."

When he first escaped from the psychiatric hospital, Patrushev knew he was also leaving behind his family, and it wasn't until nearly 25 years later that he had his first contact with them when his sister arrived in New Delhi.

But even then he - and she - were under the scrutiny of the KGB and Patrushev says he knows that his family did what they had to do when he left to ensure they too survived the Soviet system.

"Survival is your first priority and all of the emotional links had to be sacrificed. When I first came to Russia after 25 years and fully cleared of any offences - in fact I was being treated as a bit of a hero - my mother still wanted to know if I had a proper visa for entering the country.

"It was a difficult situation for them in the past and they had to think about the repercussions for themselves, but fortunately they were already in Siberia so there weren't many other places to send them really."

After learning to speak English, Patrushev says he chose Australia as his destination in 1964 "because it was far away from Russia and because the '60s was the time of great Australian swimmers."

Life now is certainly at a slower pace, but after becoming first a BBC correspondent and later Radio Liberty science broadcaster, where he started one of the first Russian language science and environment shows on foreign radio, working as a mediator and a top level translator, as well as penning two books so far - his autobiography and a fiction novel in the vein of George Orwell's 1984 called Project Nirvana, Patrushev is still passionate about the world and making people realise that there is a better way to do things.

With his wife, Alice Messerer, he runs a computer training company, which is involved in community work in the Shoalhaven, but is still called upon to write and broadcast on Russian politics and use his skills to translate and mediate.

"Coming from where I come from I don't see what is going on in the world as being as catastrophic as many. We were so close to annihilation during the Cold War and from that point of view we will always live in a world which is dangerous," he says.

"But I also believe there is a balance between good and evil and that there are lessons to be learned from what is happening now.

"The technology of peacemaking is getting a lot more sophisticated now and although I have no illusions about what humanity is capable of, I am very appreciative of the steps that people take to achieve harmony.

"Every person has a lot of choices and each person can contribute something to the world. Now I try to do it through my writing, but trying to tell the truth as I see it.

"We have to look at the world not as something that God or evolutionary forces created with us as passive agents, but look beyond that and realise that however the world came about, it needs our conscious efforts to make it a better place."

Talking the talk

Pytor Patrushev will be one of the featured writers in Sydney for the Soirees Litteraires on February 6.

The Soirees Litteraires - Talks on European Culture - meets at the NSW Writers' Centre, Rozelle, on the first Tuesday of every month at 6.30pm for 7pm.

The title of Patrushev's talk is Russia: Dead Souls Waking and is based on Gogol's novel Dead Souls.

Patrushev likens his own escape from Russia and subsequent 30 years in exile as being like a dead man waking.

His book Project Nirvana is a satire which exposes a society built on lies. He will talk on the questions of survival and spiritual growth.

The evening costs $10 or $7 concession and includes a light supper.

Enquiries: NSW Writers' Centre 9555 9757 or joanna@atticstudio.com.

 

BOOKWORM

Author: Angie Schiavone
Date: 27/05/2006
Words: 251
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 36
The Sydney Writers' Festival gets into full swing this weekend and ends with a talk by acclaimed author Alain de Botton (pictured) at 6pm on Sunday at the Opera House. Tickets are $30, bookings 9250 7777. In case of a sell-out show, you can watch a live webcast at swf.org.au.

There are two chances to catch up with Christopher Kremmer this week. He will speak about his latest book, Inhaling the Mahatma, 1pm on Wednesday at Stanton Library, North Sydney (free event; no bookings), and at 6.30pm Wednesday at Mona Vale Library ($6, bookings essential, 9970 1600).

Australian authors Stu Lloyd (Gone Troppo) and Pyotr Patrushev (Project Nirvana) will speak at a literary lunch, at noon on Friday, as a part of the Jervis Bay "See Change" winter arts festival. Tickets are $30; bookings 4443 9825. The festival runs until June 11; see jervisbayarts.asn.au.

Making Tracks, this year's UTS Writers' Anthology, will be launched by poet Martin Harrison, 6 for 6.30pm on Thursday, at Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. Free event; RSVP 9660 2333. Also on Thursday, travel writer Tim Elliott will discuss his book Spain by the Horns, 6 for 6.30pm at Woollahra Library, 536 New South Head Road, Double Bay. Tickets $10; bookings 9391 7100.

Award-winning author Kate Grenville is the guest speaker at this month's PEN lunchtime reading, 12.45pm on Thursday. PEN readings are on the first Thursday of the month at Customs House Library, Circular Quay. Free; no bookings required.

bookworm@smh.com.au

 

IN SHORT FICTION

Author: Reviews by Michael McGirr
Date: 28/01/2006
Words: 820
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 22

By Pyotr Patrushev

Booksurge, 158pp, $19.95

Some writers, such as Neil Postman, have seen Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World as two sides of one coin. In Orwell's book, tyranny uses fear to imprison people. Huxley's citizens are pleasured into submission.

In a way, Patrushev's novel brings these visions together. It is set in Russia in the 1970s, the height of the cold war. First Secretary Glavny is worried that the advance of socialism is being delayed by a more pervasive "ism", namely alcoholism. He devises a secret project to develop a happiness drug to be called Supersoma.

Richard Sinclair, an American intelligence operative, has been chosen as the experimental monkey on which to impose this new enlightenment.

Patrushev is deadly serious as he labours these ideas. His book might have been saved from the doldrums if he had been able to glimpse the comic potential of this material.

 

BIBLIO FILE

Author: Compiled by Joel Becker
Date: 07/11/1998
Words: 656
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 10

 

WEDNESDAY

Andrew Riemer, author and critic, will be guest speaker at a meeting of the Society of Women Writers, in the Dixson Room, State Library, noon. $16. Bookings: 9983 1935.

International PEN (Sydney) presents readings in support of imprisoned writers. Readers include David Malouf, Roberta Sykes, Robyn Fallick, Pyotr Patrushev and Alice Tay; chaired by Nicholas Jose, at Gleebooks, 7pm. $6/$4, with proceeds going to PEN. Bookings: 9660 2333.

Maeve Binchy talks about her new novel, Tara Road, at the Independent Theatre, 269 Miller St, North Sydney, noon. $25 includes finger food and a glass of wine. Bookings: 9969 9736.

 

FEAR AND GREED RULE AS A MIGHTY NATION FALLS APART

Author: Sheila Browne
Date: 24/10/1990
Words: 958
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Northern Herald
Page: 18
PYOTR Patrushev has just returned from his first visit to his native Soviet Union in 28 years - the country which, only a few weeks before his return, overturned the death penalty imposed on him for his dramatic escape abroad all those years ago.

"The country is in a far worse state than when I left," said Mr Patrushev, 48, a former swimming champion who fled the Soviet Union at the age of 20 by swimming 30 kilometres across a treacherous corner of the Black Sea to Turkey, and who later migrated to Australia.

"But it's far better in that at least we know about the conflicts, about the need for change, and though it feels extremely uncertain for people who are in the midst of that change, ultimately it is better.

"It's like being in neurosis or being sick without knowing it and now it is finally out there - you can deal with it, it has become conscious."

Mr Patrushev - a writer, broadcaster, translator and consultant with the Chatswood-based Conflict Resolution Network - said that when he first arrived at Moscow Airport he was taken away by guards and detained for more than eight hours.

He had made the trip to visit relatives, mainly in his native Siberia, and make contacts for the network, which teaches conflict resolution skills under the auspices of the United Nations Association of Australia. (The Northern Herald reported his work in July, when the Conflict Resolution Network was inundated from letters from the Soviet Union following an article about it in Pravda, the Soviet newspaper.)

Both Soviet and Australian authorities had assured Mr Patrushev that it was safe for him to travel to the Soviet Union on his Australian passport.

But nevertheless he was detained, most of the time in a hot and stuffy airport hotel, without being able to contact the Australian Embassy or his waiting relatives.

He was freed with no explanation, except that of the hotel manager who commented: "See, perestroika is working."

Mr Patrushev said he was shocked by the "sea of chaos" that is the Soviet Union today - a land struggling to forge a market economy and at the same time overcome its former world isolation and immense social problems ranging from alcoholism to outright hunger.

"Moscow seemed like a giant derelict orphanage," he said. "There's a sense of gloom. It's as if there had been a war.

"The country is becoming more like India than any other place I know.

"There's a culture of professional young beggars that's emerging, as there already is in developing countries and in the Asian sub-continent.

"There are children in the Moscow subway - babies left by their parents, with a little kitten next to them - for people to give them money."

Mr Patrushev said there were severe shortages of food, power and basic goods and services, including medical services. People looked malnourished.

Rapidly growing unemployment was another problem - "people are talking about 25 per cent in the next six months".

Mr Patrushev said that as capitalism took over, he believed there was the danger it would be "the tooth-and-claw capitalism of the industrial revolution, that doesn't even exist in the west any more" and that a growing number of minority groups such as the aged would need protection.

"I think they will have to create soup kitchens or a system where people will have to give part of their income for these people, otherwise it will be like India," he said.

"The paradox is that the socialist structure gave the illusion of you being taken care of by the powerful State.

"The reality of it was that the predatory elite had been bleeding the resources of this very rich country and very large and relatively welleducated population, for its own benefit, and now the country is bled dry." Mr Patrushev found the Soviets were keen to befriend Westerners, as they had been starved of such contacts for so long.

Many also wanted to leave the country. A massive "brain drain" was already seeing some of the best-educated snapped up by Germany and the United States.

"But the largest malaise is the sense of moral vacuum - their lives are lacking purpose," Mr Patrushev said.

"To have the market as the new god is not sufficient yet for the Russian soul - it's not sufficient yet to make people work, and work compassionately and in the way that's going to create a true welfare society.

"People are frightened, people are greedy - the whole thing is operating at the level of fear and greed. There is not yet the emerging courage, the 'yes, we can do something and we can do something better than it was before'.

"That's what needs to come when there are some role models of courage, but they are not there, even at the highest level."

Mr Patrushev said there was a religious revival in the Soviet Union and a burgeoning environmental movement.

"Perhaps it's this new ecological consciousness, combined with the good aspects of Orthodoxy and Christianity, that will provide the impetus for spiritual revival in Russia."

 

TELL US HOW, BEG SOVIET CITIZENS

Author: By SHEILA BROWNE
Date: 25/07/1990
Words: 980
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Northern Herald
Page: 1
Will you be so kind to send us some methodic material on the subject of the crisis situations' way out." - Aleksander R., Zaporozhye .

"Our designers' group from Kharkov city (USSR, Ukraine) had get acquainted with your article published in the newspaper Pravda ... wholeheartedly we support your idea of creating the society without destructive conflicts." - Eugenia A., Kharkov.

"I and a couple of friends are going in the close future to launch activities on organising a centre dealing with problems of inter-ethnical contacts in the USSR. I think that information and knowledge you possess could be invaluable ... " S.K., Sevastopol.

THE glasnost spirit has found its way to Sydney's north following the publication in Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, of an article about the Chatswood-based Conflict Resolution Network.

The network, which teaches conflict resolution skills under the auspices of the United Nations Association of Australia, has been inundated with hundreds of letters from Soviet citizens.

Chatswood Post Office has had to make special arrangements to sort the flood of mail, and the Conflict Resolution Network has had to hire a professional Russian translator to go through more than 700 letters that have come from throughout the Soviet Union, from schoolchildren up to high-ranking bureaucrats. All have expressed a need for information about conflict resolution skills.

Even the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr Shevardnadze, has heard about the network and is said to be interested in its techniques.

"We had no idea any of this would happen - it's like the ultimate for us,"said the network's program director, Ms Helena Cornelius.

"We're trying to shift people's consciousness in Australia and all over the world from seeing people who are 'different' as adversaries, to seeing them as partners in a problemsolving process.

"The next step will be setting up conflict resolution workshops in the Soviet Union."

Early last month Ms Cornelius approached Pravda's Sydney correspondent, Mr Alexei Ivkin , to see about "the remote possibility" of an article.

On June 12, an article about the network appeared in Pravda, along with its address (a Chatswood post office box). A month earlier, Pravda had published an article by a Soviet psychologist commenting on the urgent need for such skills in a society becoming increasingly democratic, yet torn by ethnic strife.

By yesterday Conflict Resolution Network's Russian translator, Mr Pyotr Patrushev, had read nearly 700 letters.

"Chatswood post office has been asking us what's going on," Ms Cornelius said.

The letters include invitations for Ms Cornelius to visit the Soviet Union with her mother, Mrs Stella Cornelius, convener of the network. The mail has come from lawyers, teachers, psychologists, factories, trade unions and government departments. A nuclear research worker made the point that unresolved conflicts in his industry could be "tremendously dangerous".

"There are letters from people working in co-operatives but moving into new areas of business where they're trying to create management courses using conflict resolution skills," Mr Patrushev said.

"One woman wrote a heart-rending letter saying her husband had gone with another woman, and asking for advice.

"It makes you realise human problems are the same all over the world."

The Conflict Resolution Network has for four years run courses in co-operative problem-solving and team building. Skills taught include negotiating, understanding the other's point of view, maintaining objectivity, treating each other as equals, attacking the problem rather than the person, and finding solutions which respect everyone's needs.

It is all part of the "win/win approach" - an expression Ms Cornelius says is now increasingly being used by world leaders.

"Our ultimate purpose is creating a consciousness that there is a better way than violence," she said.

"When you have a society like the Soviet Union that is opening up, and where criticism and difference of opinion are more allowable, then of course you need conflict resolution skills."

Mr Patrushev, who fled the Soviet Union at the age of 20 by swimming 30 kilometres across a treacherous corner of the Black Sea to Turkey, plans to translate into Russian the book Everyone Can Win: How to Resolve Conflict, written by Ms Cornelius and her colleague, Ms Shoshana Faire.

Next month he will visit the Soviet Union to make contacts for the network

 
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