mania. Lebed seems to be the kind of leader that many Russiansrnwant; strong, competent, straightforward. Even Russiansrnwho dislike his political positions concede that he is both honestrnand intelligent—not the impression one receives from thernAmerican press. A Russian friend in England observes cynical-rn1 that if Lebed is all that he seems, then the KGB—and itsrnfriends Yeltsin, Gorbachev, and compan)—will never let himrnget anywhere.rnIt is hard to judge a citv, much less a country, on the basis ofrna week during the worst month of the year. Moscow is coldrnand dirtv, and the people are less than friendly. Every interactionrnwith a Russian, whether he is a professor chairing a sessionrnor a hotel clerk answering a question, seems to turn into a powerrnstruggle. The American attempt to ingratiate with a smilerndoes not go over even in postcommunist Russia: they interpretrnour grin either as a sign of idiocy or a gesture of propitiation—rnthev are probably right on both counts. In either case, they feelrnjustified in treating “the grinning idiot” (as a Yugosla’ once describedrnall Americans) with contempt.rnI am surprised to see signs of prosperit}’. Everywhere, there isrnconstruction: roads, churches, office complexes are all beingrnbuilt or rebuilt. The shops, when I peek in, are full of things forrnsale, and there is plenty of food in the stores and restaurants.rnThe profits may all be feeding the Mafia, for all I know, butrnMoscow is booming. I ask a Moscow sociologist about the economicrnand political reforms. “Perestroika,” he says, “and thernother reforms were a kind of bribe offered to the Russian peoplernto console them for privatization.” Not quite understanding,rnI ask for clarification. So-called privatization, I am told, wasrnsimplv the policy by which the communist elite looted therncountry of its resources. Stupid bureaucrats who could neverrnhave run a shoe franchise ended up as managers and directorsrnof multimillion-dollar enterprises.rnThe most creative aspect of Soviet economic reforms, itrnstrikes me, is inflation. The ruble, which used to be on par withrnthe British pound, is now almost ^,000 to the dollar. By thisrnsimple expedient the neocapitalist nomenklatura wiped out itsrndebts to the Russian people: loans, pensions, fixed salaries—rneverything. Russians are not stupid, and many of them loathernMikhail Gorbachev for what he did to his country, and thernhottest political candidates—with the exception of the liberalrnYavlinksv—are nationalist communists like Zyuganov andrnnationalist militarists like Lebed.rnIn the first blush of democratic capitalism, the grim pronouncementsrnof Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were ignored, but asrnRussian society, left in ruins bv communism, is subject to thernstrains of rapid modernization, some Russians may begin tornlook back into their own traditions. When I return to America,rnI am interviewed on a major ex’angelical talk radio station, andrnthey want to know if the Russians are encouraging Protestantrnmissionaries. I try to be polite, in explaining that Orthodoxy, asrna distinctive religious tradition, is at least 1,500 years old. Whatrnwould give Calvinists the notion that their peculiarities couldrnbe grafted onto Russian stock? Why not reconvert Scandinaviarnand Gcrmam’ and leave Russia to its own priests?rnThis subject of Orthodoxy comes up in con’ersation withrnIgor Shafarevich. One of Russia’s greatest living mathematicians,rnShafarevich contributed an essay to Under the Rubble,rnSolzhcnitsyn’s collection of dissident writings. He is much admiredrnin Russia but—to say the least—controversial in thernWest. Wanting to take the measure of the man, I had dinnerrnwith him, in company with a few of his followers and severalrnmembers of our “delegation.” We meet almost clandestinelyrnat a Metro station and walk to the restaurant, which turns outrnto be Moscow’s premier businessman’s club run, inevitably itrnsomehow seems, by Serbs.rnThe proprietor is very attentive, and when he is asked if hernever has any problems, he laughs and tells us that every week, itrnseems, ambitious thugs will scout the place out, saying it wouldrnbe a shame if anything happened to such a nice place. Hernthanks them and then mentions two or three of his patrons.rnThe blood drains from their faces and they quickly excusernthemselves. Forget the so-called Mafia: the real gangsters arernthe political and business leaders who run Moscow.rnMost of what I know of Shafarevich, apart from one essay, isrnsecondhand. Knowing that he believes he has been unfairlyrntreated by Western journalists, I ask him if he objects to my takingrna few notes: he does. I must rely, therefore, on my memoryrnof conversation to make a few generalizations. Although hernsaid nothing that could possibly reflect badly upon him, itrnwould not be fair to report the details of the conversation.rnFor the most part, his views seem compatible with those ofrntraditional and religious conservatives in America. In the UnitedrnStates he has been widely accused of anti-Semitism becausernof a number of things he has said about international bankingrnand )ewish influence in Russia. He asks me about the Christianrnright, if they can really be as uneducated and obscurantist asrnthey are portrayed. I try to explain that although there is all toornmuch truth in the negative stereotypes created by the New YorkrnTimes and the Washington Post, conservative evangelicals are forrnthe most part decent and well-intentioned people—piousrnpeasants, as it were, whose ‘ery ignorance has made them lessrnvulnerable (by no means immune) to the liberal toxins that arerninjected into the veins of students at major universities. Hernremains puzzled that scientific questions, like evolution, shouldrnbe subjected to a priori theological assumptions.rnNow that the subject of the kook right has been raised, Irnsound him out on the question of holocaust revisionism. Hernsmiles wanly and says that no one whose country had been occupiedrnby the Nazis would make the mistake of underratingrntheir brutality. Of course the events of World War II should bernsubjected to historical serutin-, but even if parts of the standardrnaccounts were discredited, one could scarcely deny the Nazirnatrocities against Jews, Slavs, and gypsies.rnLike Solzhenitsyn, whom he so much admires, Shafarevichrnbelieves that the solutions to Russia’s difhculties lie within herrnown history and traditions. We do, after some discussion, agreernthat Russia is neither unique nor isolated: it is a part of Christendom,rnand in this sense truly a part of the West. Unfortunately,rnthe EastAVest schism between Constantinople andrnRome continues to mislead many Catholics and Protestants.rnBecause of our religious difference, we in the West abandonedrnthe great Christian city of Constantinople to the Turks, andrnEuropean powers like Britain, France, and Austria—brutallyrnwriting off the Orthodox Christians of the Balkans—shored uprnthe failing Ottoman Empire.rnNow, America and Germany are playing the same gamernagain, betraying the Orthodox Serbs to the Muslim fanaticsrnwho control the government in Sarajevo. In eariier times, thernSerbs could call upon the Russians for help—successfully onrnsome occasions. Would the Russians respond, even diplomatically,rnin the current crisis? That is what I mainly wanted to hndrnout by going to Russia. I still do not know. – ernMAY 1996/11rnrnrn