Dispatch from Saratov: Dire Results of Russian Economy, Politics

Editor's Note: This item is an excerpt from an e-mail received from Russia late last week. It's noteworthy that the US Congress has spent hundreds of days and more than $50 million investigating the President's adolescent shenanigans, while elsewhere in the world serious trouble is afoot. Leonid Korostyshevski is a computer consultant and audiophile in the university town of Saratov, on the Volga river 600 miles east of Moscow. His previous dispatch appeared here in March.----BW

20 degrees Fahrenheit here. I'm looking out the window. There, a mad dance of snow, a strong wind, not yet too cold, but a disturbingly cold wind with a lot of snow---myetyel' in Russian ("snowstorm"). Listening to Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter" (from 1973 album). It entwines with the wind's sounds---way cool! It may be strange, but Led Zeppelin is perfect for the Russian winter.

My Internet connection has become faster. Some people have stopped using the Internet because it requires dollars. So the remaining users of my provider take a wider channel. Nyet xhooda byez dobra ("Bad things can bring good things")---an old Russian proverb. I'm even able to listen to RealAudio!! It is a fantastic result for the city where I live.

But I'm afraid the communists will cut off our Internet connections. They become stronger every day. It is a sad fact. Senator Starovoitova was murdered. She was a big and real democracy leader. [The reform leader was assassinated in the doorway of her St. Petersburg apartment building several weeks ago.---Ed.] Communist meetings are on TV: the communists/nazis spout racism and nobody can do anything about it. The Senators in the Duma just talk a little and that's all.

It means more pressure will come from other nations. It [communism, oppression, bigotry] has never been stopped completely; it's all been hidden from the outside world. The rule is: Never talk about what everybody knows. As the problems get worse, the communists/nazis more and more blame "the number one inner enemy": Jews. But these "inner enemies" have almost all emigrated to the US, Israel, and Germany in the last 8-10 years. Germany welcomes Jews. Why not Russia? It's unbelievable. This very strange policy has existed as long as I've lived in Russia.

Our big CD store, Soyuz ("Union"), has closed. There are no original CDs in other music stores. CDs cost about $15, as before, but no one can afford them. The average worker makes about $20 per month. How can a man feel good about himself who receives such pay! $25 per month is good pay in Russia now. People don't buy music. People don't buy videos. Musical magazines have closed too. Most were printed in Finland---almost all closed now. Or maybe they've not arrived in Saratov.

Hi-fi stores have been seriously impacted too. Everywhere, there are only sets of minicomponents by Sony, Samsung, Pioneer. No more high-end equipment. I think within a couple of months we will return to 1990. Then we will have nothing. No news, no music, no books, no good hi-fi---nothing. Only communist ideas and talk. If communists return, one thing will be even worse than all that listed above: no artistic freedom. You won't be able to create freely. Create exactly as you wish and see what happens. Communist rules are very hard for humans to comply with.

Things in Russia are running bad. Notwithstanding, you can put it to very good use. If you need an inspiration for a novel or screenplay or something like that, Russia is the best place. It stops your mind from thinking the logical way. All around you is irrational. So if you want to see the dark side of the moon, you are welcome. Mi casa, su casa.