thing in the next century, it m;i}- be thernlast basdon of resistance to the forces ofrnnnhmitcd immigration —so long asrnplaces like Baldwin keep having “Let’srnGo Dutch” Days.rnOne sign of hope: Eileen, in her 70’s,rnwas the oldest member of the KlompenrnDancers.rnSean Scallon is a reporter for a weeklyrnnewspaper in Ellsworth, Wisconsin.rnLetter From Russiarnhy Denis PetrovrnWhen Will It Snow Again?rnIt’s late September in Russia, and Muscovitesrnare already placing wagers onrnwhen the first snow will come. Thernweather has simplv been too good to berntrue; the sun has been shining and therntemperatures mild, which, to the Russianrnmind at least, is a bad sign. The Russiansrnhave never trusted good fortune or happiness,rnand they naturally suspect that thernpleasant weather is simply serpentine faterntoying with them, instilling uncharacteristicrnoptimism in Russia’s heart, whilernwaiHng to turn on her eventually, strikingrnlike a stealthy adder, hr Russia, life andrnhistorv are merely a series of disasters brokenrnup by brief periods of quiet.rnSome Russians have alreads’ been remindedrnof their cruel fate. The fire at therngigantic Ostankino TV tower, whichrntemporarily knocked out Russian television;rnthe Kursk tragedy (as well as thernclumsy cover-up by the usual bureaucraticrnsuspects); the endless war in Chechnya;rnand the bombing in the pedestrianrntunnel at Moscow’s Pushkin Square havernkilled the hope some Russians had forrntheir future. The “system,” they believe,rnhas outlived the series of rogues and foolsrnwho have occupied the Kremlin, and itrnwill inevitably defeat any attempts tornchange it. For many others, however,rnhope —tempered by foreboding —remains.rnFor the first time in anyone’srnmemory, a man who appears to be generallyrncompetent sits in the Kremlin. ByrnRussian standards, he is even relativelyrnclean, probably having stolen no morerntlian his rank allowed on his climb to therntop. Even his loyalty to the Yeltsin “family”rnmay be a good sign, since betraval isrnthe usual currency of Russian politics.rnThe Russians who remain hopeful don’trnblame Vladimir Putin for the recentrnspate of disasters—at least, not yet. Givernhim time, they say; mavbe things will getrnbetter. But the doubts remain.rnOn a bright, sunnv’ dav- at a park overlookingrnthe Moscow River, with the wallsrnof a 16th-century church towering abovernthe trees, I share a drink with a friend,rnand we speak of Russia and the Russians.rnIn the past, he has identified himself withrnthe “democrats,” but he has become increasingl}’rnpatriotic, his hopes forrn”democracy” tailing, perhaps, just as hisrnfaith in the West did. Fie is hopeful:rnTrue, Putin has not gone after certain oligarchsrnwho appear to be untouchable,rnbut maybe he is biding his time, waitingrnfor the right moment. Putin might bernable to combine elements of Westernizationrnwith patriotism, something mostrnRussians seem to want. I express myrndoubts about Putin, who was brought tornpower by the “family,” riding a wave ofrnpublic anger after last vear’s terroristrnbombings, which the Kremlin blamedrnon the Chechens. Circumstantial evidencernsuggests, however, that the Kremlinrnhad a hand in the affair. The specialrnservices did not attempt to stop thernChechens, and the Russian military appearsrnto have had foreknowledge of thernChechen plair to reignite the war in thernCaucasus. My friend lights a smoke andrnsays that I have very high standards; Russiansrnexpect lies and political games, hrrnanv event, it niav all come to nothing:rnRussians have never had a strong workrnethic, and manv now make their livingsrnbv selling vodka and candy bars in thernmarkets. Flow can Putin, whose admirationrnfor Peter the Great and German culturernis well known, make Germans out ofrnthem? My friend gazes at the river, wonderingrnif it is too late for Russia.rnF.verywhere there is hope and disappointment,rnand the suspicion that allrngood signs are harbingers of disaster. Arn”patriot” friend, who voted for nationalrncommunist Gennadi Zyuganov in thernlast election, is also hopeful: Putin isrnstanding up to the West; the davs of grovelingrnunder that drunkard Yeltsin arernover. Puhn will destroy the oligarchs andrnfinish off the Chechen rebels. At least,rnhe might.rnAnother patriotic acquaintance, however,rnis less optimistic. Yes, Putin hasrnmore or less subsumed the patrioticrnmovement and is giving them some ofrnwhat they want—but not all. He suspectsrnthat Putin is too dependent on Westernrnaid and is merely using the patriots.rnPutin acknowledges Russia’s demographicrnproblem (the populahon is decliningrnby nearly a million people a year), but herndoes not appear to understand the depthrnof Russia’s crisis, which is more one ofrnspirit than of economics or polities. “Wernonly have one generation to save ourselves,”rnmy acquaintance sighs. He isrnone of the few patriots v’ho opposes thernwar in Chechnya. Russia cannot affordrnto lose her young men, but the patrioticrnmovement on the whole supports thernwar, and he has no alternative but to workrnwithin it.rnI walk down Tverskaya Ulitsa from thernKremlin to Pushkin Square and pausernbefore entering the pedestrian tunnel.rnOfficially, the authorities say that thernPushkin Square bombing, which killedrnand injured dozens of people, was part ofrna struggle between mafia groups for controlrnover the tunnel kiosk trade in everythingrnfrom TV sets to vodka andrncigarettes. Most Muscovites, however,rnare certain it was the work of Chechens.rnA crowd has gathered in front of arnmakeshift memorial to the victims of thernbombing. The people pray, light candles,rnand gather to read the poems postedrnon the walls of the tunnel. They arernlamentations, cries for retribution, yearningsrnfor order, and, in a very few cases,rnpleas for Russia not to give in to despairrnand hatred. One is sad:rnYou see Fm crving againrnMy tears flow freely.rnFhey’ve stolen nrv- friends from mernAnother is angry^rnI long for the Iron Curtain,rnWlien traitors were punishedrnAnd Moscow was not torn apartrnAnother laments Russian impotence:rnNash your teeth RussiarnThev are betrav ing us once more.rnOne even calls for an end to the war inrnChechnya:rnThe killing must stoprnDo we need tiiis war?rnAn old man complains to me that hisrnson is lazy and only comes home whenrn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn