Issue #05/86, March 18 - 30, 2000  smlogo.gif

Feature Story

You are here
Book Review
Other Shite

Come Back, Boris!
Three Eyewitness Reports on the Eve of the Putin Coronation

Planet of the Apes


March 8

By Matt Taibbi

The minutes ticked by. I'd been sitting alone at a table in the casino restaurant for more than a half an hour while ten paces away my host, scary local mobster Igor Varov, played out game after game of Russian billiards with the casino cashier. After grimly drinking down two beers by myself I started to nod off, the sound of clacking balls in my ears.

Varov had asked me on the way in if I was a good billiards player, and even though I said I wasn't, I expected him to offer me a game. He didn't. Instead, he sat me down in a dark circular booth over a dull marigold-colored tablecloth, instructing the waiter to bring me my choice of the mid-priced standard fare on the place's menu. I ordered meat Swiss-style and regarded the scene with astonishment. Sober gangsters in lifeless rooms playing endless games of billiards. This was Russia's future under Putin, without a doubt.

Varov personified Russia's future in more ways than one. As the head of the now-famous Fund for a City Without Drugs - a powerful vigilante group backed by the Uralmash industrial group, the Sverdlovsk region's reigning mafia gang - Varov is leading a pioneering effort in the realm of extra-legal policing. A compact, medium-sized man with lifeless eyes and a big automatic pistol on his hip, he brags openly about his organization's activities, which include chasing down heroin addicts and users, beating them with baseball bats, even burning their homes. When I asked him if his activities included murder, Varov shrugged.

"Of course, no one is about to take any credit for anything like that. But things happen."

Scary mobsters are nothing new to post-communist Russia. But what's different about Varov and his gang is that they have added an unsettling note of activist civic pride to the standard flathead gangster profile. Critics of
Varov's group have described the Fund's activities as mere political posturing in service of the election campaign of this or that Uralmash candidate, which lately means Uralmash chief and Duma hopeful Alexander Khabarov, but if you spend any time at all with Varov you'll quickly realize that this anti-drug thing is no act.

He and his partner Yevgeny Rozman are extremely well-organized; they have a computer database which takes in tips from anonymous callers about drug-dealing activity and files them automatically by neighborhood. Ask Varov about any street in Yekaterinburg, and he'll punch the name into his computer and come up with a list ten pages long detailing the dates, times, and names of drug dealers and their reported activities. And they really do do what they say they do - just ask and they-ll take you on a tour of all the houses they've burned, all the heads they've busted.

They are very proud of the extremism of their methods, proud of the fact that after ten years of Russian leaders who've done nothing but steal from the people, they're the first ones who are actually doing something. "The police won't do anything. They won't even make a dent," he said. "We're making a difference."

Another example of the Fund's method is the technique it employs at its rehab center. It takes addicts, usually voluntarily but sometimes not (at the behest of parents, usually), and handcuffs them to beds until they get through their withdrawal. At the entrance to the handcuff room there is a peculiar monument to the Fund's success - a green macaque monkey Varov's people took from a dealer's apartment they'd tossed. The addicts were all smiles for my visit - big surprise - but it was hard not to imagine the horror that must usually go on in that room. Bad enough to be handcuffed to a bed without sheets for up to twenty-one days, stuck in a room packed with other men just like you suffering though various stages of psychic and physical agony; but to have to listen to that fucking monkey screeching all day long… it made me shudder to think about it.

"Is the monkey loud?" I asked one of the addicts, a 23 year-old named Sasha. He had AIDS and was on day six in handcuffs.

"Yes," he said.

The kid in the next bed had a big bandage on his head, a big white cloth wrapped all the way around.

"What happened to him?" I asked.

"Him? Oh, he fell," Sasha said.

"Handcuffed to a bed?" I asked.

"On the way to the bathroom," he said, shrugging.

I spent the whole day with Varov and at the close of it he let me in on a surprise. The regional administration under Governor Eduard Rossel, he said, was about to sign off on a plan to give the group carte blanche to prosecute the drug war according to its own methods. Not that there had ever been any protest before; in order to start a criminal case against Varov's group, a specific victim would have to come forward to file a complaint, and, as Varov said candidly, "Nobody's been that stupid."

But now the tide has apparently swung around from de facto acquiescence to de jure empowerment. In a very short time, the Fund will be officially operating in place of the police and the prosecutor. By way of proof, he said, he was going the following day to argue for the prosecution in a case against a heroin dealer whom they'd caught selling just over half a gram.

"I want to explain to the judge why this motherfucker shouldn't be sentenced just for dealing," he said, his eyes glowing faintly with genuine zeal. "He should go in for murder. Because drug-dealing isn't just a simple felony. It's genocide of our people."

We made arrangements for me to attend the trial the next day. That night I went downstairs in my hotel to the gift shop on the first floor and ended up downing a bottle of cognac with the store staff. I asked the clerk, a forty-something single mother named Olga who'd been in the bag since noon celebrating International Women's Day, what she thought of the Fund.

"The thing is," she said, "these things don't concern us that much. Because, after all, we're not drug addicts."

Due to a mix-up I missed the court case the next day. But Varov phoned late at night to tell me the results. "The prosecutor didn't show, so we did it ourselves," he said. "It was a success. The judge gave him eight years. Now that bitch is going to sit."

Good thing I'm not a local drug addict, I thought. Or a Trotskyite. Or an Social Revolutionary. I forget which. Now as much as ever, it's easy to get confused about who you shouldn't be in this country.


Fear of an SPS Planet


March 10

By Mark Ames

I was on Ulitsa Kuibysheva in the quaint old town center of Samara last Friday, hunting for a travel agent. I'd arrived to do a piece about life in the heart of SPS country.

Samara oblast is ruled by presidential candidate and Kiriyenko cohort Konstantin Titov - so ostensibly there's an election story there. Titov is the warm, fuzzy, avuncular reformer fond of Swedish sweaters, one of the last Russian politicians glorified by the Western press as "one of us," a man-of-the-people reformer who has turned his region into a budding paradise of daring Western experiments. Yeah, right. And I'm a Chinese butt-pilot.

I walked into a depressing pre-Revolutionary building where the travel agency claimed to be and spotted a paper sign crookedly taped to the wall in the entrance way: "Group Supporting Titov For President: 3rd Floor." Not exactly the kind of Western-oriented marketing tactics I'd expect from a Kiriyenko-ite, although then again, maybe it was an example of Titov's can-do, make-do reform-inspired young votaries in action. I walked up the filthy stairwell, where a dezhurnaya barked at me… it was already getting too familiar. On the second floor, a greasy, hungover male dezhurny stared blankly at me, grimly clutching a crossword puzzle newspaper.

"Is Titov's campaign headquarters up there?" I asked.

"This is a union office," he growled. He was guarding a union office. From whom?

"Not Titov? Not his campaign for president headquarters?"

He glared wearily, like some Abe Vigoda of the Volga. I left him alone.

On the third floor, I found the tourist agency - but they didn't sell airplane tickets there. Across the hall, I spotted another A4 paper sign, taped to a door, reading: "Group Supporting Titov For President."

A wave of nausea overcame me as I realized that professional duty obliged me to go in there. Ugh, I gotta talk to these people! I expected to be cheerily greeted by a bustling room full of vile SPS types: you know, short-haired womyn in fitted gray business suits and quirky boutique glasses, prematurely balding young men in cornflower blue French dress shirts, chirping cell-phones in hand.

I opened the headquarters door and entered a dingy room cluttered with old Soviet cabinets whose doors were knocked off the hinges, desks asymmetrically crammed one on top of the other, completely devoid of paper or computers, no posters, no glossy literature, no nothing. Not even people! The absence of papers struck me in particular. It looked more like a storage space for throwaway Soviet office furniture than the plotting grounds for Russia's new generation of Western-oriented political movers and shakers. It looked that way because it was that way: Titov is in fact a throwaway Soviet piece of furniture with a paper "Reformer" sign taped to his forehead. He is "running" for one reason: to make the elections appear valid. His "participation" adds just one more layer of the kind of comfort that Western leaders and journalists are seeking to maintain their mendacious "The jury's still out on Putin's democratic credentials" spin.

No one I spoke to in Samara took Titov's campaign seriously. Even the local Samarskaya gazeta led with a front page article that day: "Samara's Metallurgy Industry Supports Putin." No one there plans to vote for their governor. As if it would matter. As if even Titov is any different from Putin. Titov is part of the game, cut from the same cloth. He is the regime.

OLGA WAS the only member of the Titov "group" in the office that day, even though it was early afternoon. She was kind-looking, red-hair modestly coifed at nape-length, healthy, with big eyes. She sat at her desk, a glossy mag on her lap, a worn-out cream-colored Soviet telephone on the dingy desk. You could see the dust and faded smudge on the phone. It wasn't exactly ringing off the hook.

"Is this the Titov For President headquarters?" I asked.

"Who are you?" she asked politely-suspiciously.

"A journalist…"

"Please, take a seat."

I sat down in a rickety wooden chair, facing her, and tried explaining the eXile to her. She seemed annoyed.

"So, this is the Titov For President headquarters then, right?" I asked.

"We are just one group of many that are supporting his candidacy for president," she said, as if reading rehearsed lines. Then she clammed up. "Normally this office is very busy, you know, but today is Friday. Well, Friday, you know, people don't work… But normally it's crazy busy here."

Right then a thought flashed through my mind: should I try to fuck her in the ass?

The idea of sodomizing an SPS party member first came to me the previous night, on the ride from the airport into Samara. We were pulled over after crossing a bridge; according to my driver, every car entering Samara city limits between midnight and 6 a.m. needs to register with the police. I've never seen that kind of naked state surveillance in any other province, but I'm sure it exists. That was annoying, but not as annoying as the atrocious condition of the roads, in spite of Samara being the car capital of Eastern Europe.

I've never said this before because I always get annoyed when pampered Westerners lodge this complaint, but since they'll never lodge it against their man in Samara, I'm going to just come out and say it: Samara oblast's roads were in shockingly horrible condition. There, I said it. Had Titov been a member of the KPRF, I guarantee that Samara would be known as the "pothole capital of Europe."

Further into Samara, we passed a heavily guarded forest roadway and respectfully slowed down.

"This is where Titov's dacha is," the driver told me. "Titov doesn't see much of our roads. He races from his government office to the dacha and back in his Mercedes or Jeeps. Or off to the airport. He spends most of his time in Moscow. What does he care?"

The government office is called "The White House," an imposing white granite Soviet-era building in the same style as the MVD headquarters on Moscow's Kaluzhskaya ploshchad. It's practically the only clean, well-kept building in Titov's personal fiefdom. The pre-Revolutionary old town center, whose size and scope is an architectural rarity in provincial Russia, was in ruins. It wouldn't take much to fix it up - just steal a bit less here and there from the regional budget. Lvov in Western Ukraine looks like Geneva compared to Titov's Samara. Which is wrong. Samara should be filthy rich by Eastern European standards. Most of the country's automobiles are produced in nearby Togliatti; a huge part of the country's industry is situated right here in Titov land. It should be passably wealthy, but it's not. It's a depressing dump, Ivanovo with a McDonald's. It's not too difficult to figure out why. I swear, if Titov's people haven't been stuffing every last kopeck of the state budget and shaking down every social fund, pension fund and public works fund for their own Cote d'Azure benefits, then I'm going to retire from this job and devote the rest of my life trying to free Mumia.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, in a recent interview, reminded people that although Titov may be a decent guy, his Samara oblast has the only city in Russia whose police headquarters were burned to the ground in an "unsolved" arson attack. Zhirinovsky claimed the reason it hasn't been solved is because the police had files on Titov's son's business activities.

It's hard to find a reason why anyone should distinguish Titov from any of the other regional henchmen. He may not be an out-and-out thug, but he's cut from the same cloth as every typical Soviet or post-Soviet boss: fat-faced, venal, totally removed from and instinctively contemptuous of the citizenry, and most of all, fiercely devoted to his perks.

Every provincial town in Russia has one, usually two pathetic discos: usually some cheaply converted Dom Molodyozhi or an old restaurant fixed up with a PA system, a rack of lights, and a go-go dancer or two. If there's a babe in bumfuck, you can bet she'll be there every weekend. That's the nice thing about trawling provincial discos: the weeding out process is done for you. Beautiful girls go to discos to dance and be seen; they're attracted like moths to cabin porch lights. The entrance fees at these provincial discos hover in the 20-30 ruble range, which locals find prohibitively expensive; if you can spot for the 40 cent beers and 1 dollar cocktails, you become an instant regional oligarch.

In Samara, SPS country, things are a bit different. They have two main discos that everyone proudly boasts of: Zvyozdy and Iceberg. Zvyozdy isn't just a disco, but a brand-new entertainment center: movie theaters with Dolby sound, a fairly modern video arcade, lots of billiards, and yes, a disco. Everybody, from the bar girl in my hotel cafe to the taxi driver to the drunken man on the street knows about Zvyozdy. And yet on a Friday night, at midnight, the "best" disco in this city of 2 million was dead. With a 100 ruble cover charge, it was no wonder. One hundred rubles in the provinces is like 400 rubles in Moscow, or 800 rubles, when you compare relative incomes. Who the hell can afford that? I counted about twenty people, but of those, most either knew an employee or had a free club card. Not one person was enjoying themselves; most were grimly dancing alone beneath a huge wall-sized TV showing top French models.

Disappointed, I took a taxi to Iceberg, another almost-state-of-the-art disco with overhead girders for that early Õ90s industrial effect. This was the tsar of Samara's discos. The proof: a 150-ruble cover charge. And boy was it working. At 12:30 a.m., I counted eighteen clients. About six of them were dancing. They were probably so depressed about dropping a week's salary on entering this shitty disco that they couldn't muster the enthusiasm.

The SPS way. Better to overcharge - or pay too much - for a shitty imitation of Western leisure than to invest in simple things that everyone can appreciate. Like roads. Better to sink the unstolen budget funds into something eksklyusivny. That way, everyone can boast that his town has an entertainment complex. They love their pafos.


So, getting back to my point. What better way to send a message about the eXile's position on the SPS-ization of Russia than by fucking one of their campaign workers in the ass? I had to at least give it a try. Even the Jew Broad was a sport about it. "Why don't you use your rope on some girl down there," she suggested when she called my hotel room. She was talking about the Belarussian rope I'd recently purchased, twenty meters for 28 rubles. But I'd left the rope in Moscow. There was no choice: I had to go for the ass.

I introduced myself to the Titov For President volunteer and shook her hand.

"My name is Olga," she said assertively.

"Nice to meet you, Olga," I said. I reached over and shook her hand, but she recoiled at my clammy touch. We were quite a pair: While I thought about that first pop and screech she'd make, Olga worried about the bad impression that this poorly disguised faux-political movement's headquarters would produce on a noble Westerner.

"Normally we have more people here," she insisted. "Normally it is full and busy. Today is Friday though…"

"But there's only two weeks left until the election," I said.

"Well, we had a lot of work last week, so today…"

I asked her if hers was an SPS organization.

"What do you mean?" she snapped.

"Well, Titov's a leader of the SPS, and you're supporting him."

"We, yes, well. We have connections with SPS. You know, it's too bad you missed the congress for Titov last Saturday. It took place in a very large hall. We all nominated him for president. There were students there, student groups. Many students. And many journalists, too."

I could tell that getting her to roll over for me wasn't going to be easy. "Students, wow," I said. "Sounds like I really missed out."

We went on like this for several minutes. I wasn't getting anywhere. An SPS functionary doesn't just lift ass for anyone. They're responsible people. Boring people. I asked her out, but she said she was married. Jesus, a Russian girl who won't cheat on her husband? What is the world coming to!

I pushed it a little farther. Call me Vijay Maheshwari, but I thought I detected an interest, an opening. But it wouldn't be a fun affair. Rather, one of those melodramatic European things, hours of listening to her babbling about her dream of vacationing in a sunny island resort… The only way I'd be able to sodomize her would be with the aid of a blunt instrument or a sprinkle of GHB.

I gave up. There was no story here, no story at all. I was in SPS-controlled territory, and it wasn't any different from any other bumfuck Russian province. Except for the empty entertainment complex. And the empty, overpriced disco. Empty, overpriced, and overmarketed by the Western press. And worst of all, just as sexless as home.


Smash Your Television!


March 11

By Matt Taibbi

There was an atmosphere of comedy hanging over the entire demonstration, an atmosphere that, when you considered what the occasion was, probably wasn't all that appropriate. But you could sense it from the start. The group of penniless reporters and political activists who'd organized the protest had somehow found two old television sets they could afford to smash. But they hadn't brought anything to smash them with.

"We are going to have to think of something," sighed Ivan Zasursky, one of the leaders of Soyuz-2000, the group organizing the protest. He didn't seem all that worried, though.

Meanwhile a small crowd was forming. At least half were journalists, and most of those were TV journalists, who'd come specifically to tape the TV-smashing incident. ORT and RTR were both there, even though the whole point of the demonstration was to protest pro-war propaganda on their channels. Soyuz-2000 was calling for a boycott of the two state-controlled networks. They were also calling for a boycott of the upcoming presidential elections, making the reasonable claim that they were a fraud, that a Russian could only humiliate himself by participating in them. The delivery of the TV sets was followed a few minutes later by the arrival of a single file of protesters carrying placards that read, among other things, "Don't Vote - It's Humiliating" and "Vote Against Everybody, or You'll Lose." They appeared from behind that set of columns on the north side of the Moskva hotel, the place where the pimps for the area's street hookers usually park their cars at night, and marched deliberately to the spot where we were standing on Teatralnaya Ploschad, under the Marx statue. On cue they lined up with semi-military precision and held their placards up for the cameras. Zasursky, a former Union of Right-Wing Forces political operative (former because he quit over the party's decision to support the war), had clearly organized demonstrations before.

I drifted backwards and tried to find a crowd to be part of, not easy given the number of journalists impurifying the scene. At this point I figured I was just a bystander. True, we'd met with Zasursky, Boris Kagarlitsky, and other Soyuz-2000 people before the demonstration, and we'd agreed to help them out by publicizing the event. We'd also been led to believe that we were part of the thing somehow, but in the weeks since our meeting we'd hadn't been in touch, and now this was looking like their show. As the cameramen shuffled around, Zasursky was getting his speechmakers in line, a row of five or six Soyuz-2000 guys who'd get their turn at the megaphone. I wasn't part of it, not by a long shot.

But when I went up to Zasursky to say hello, and he let me in on the TV-smashing problem, I made a mistake. I made a suggestion. "Why don't you just pick up the TVs and throw them on the ground?" I said.

"Good idea," he said. "I can count on you to help?"

Before I could answer, he disappeared back into the crowd. Meanwhile I noticed, standing next to me, a squat little patrol cop with a moustache - that kind of grossly conspicuous hypermasculine black moustache you often find on short men. He had a little notebook out, in which he was diligently copying down, word for word, the slogans that the Soyuz-2000 guys had written on their placards. Amazed that a common patrol cop would be doing this kind of domestic intelligence work, I walked over to him. "Excuse me, but what are you writing?" I asked.

He peered at me with a mean look and slithered away quickly without answering. In his place appeared one of the protesters, a young guy with a big woolen Cat-in-the-Hat scarf wrapped up to his chin. "I'll tell you what he's doing. He's writing down the slogans," he said. "The next thing you'll see is a little guy running around with a video camera, recording the scene for the authorities. That's standard for our Russian demonstrations."

Standing with me by then were Brian Whitmore of The Boston Globe and Owen Matthews of Newsweek. We all shrugged. Zasursky had commenced the demonstration by barking something into the megaphone when Matthews began a slow advance into my personal space. He was already a good eight inches inside my comfort zone by the time the second speaker came on. "I just sold my book yesterday," he said, his big British teeth shimmering. "For 45,000 English pounds."

"Congratulations," I said, shaking his hand, and at the same time turn my head sideways to try to catch what the demonstrators were saying. Owen's been selling this book for about a year. Last time I heard, it was Knopf who was buying. "Who's the publisher?" I asked.

"There are three bids. There's going to be an auction in New York this week for the American rights, also," he added.

"Have you finished it?" I asked, looking away.

"It's about half done," he said, backing off about one and a half inches.

That means about two chapters, I thought. He'd moved in again and started saying something else when Zasursky signaled for me to come over to the where the televisions were. "Excuse me," I said.

"Are you ready?" Ivan asked.

"Why don't we get the punks to help?" I said. Ivan had brought in a bunch of punks armed with guitars and shitty amps to play a musical accompaniment to the scene. It seemed to me that getting the guy with the bright green mohawk to help destroy the TVs would make a good spectacle.

"They'll help break up the remains. The actual smashing, we'll do ourselves, "Ivan said. "Let's you and me pick it up and smash it against the Marx statue."

"You and I alone?" I asked. But again, before I got an answer, he dashed off again. "Be right back," he said.

As soon as he'd gone, a Russian TV cameraman swooped in. "What are you doing? What are your plans?" he said.

"Um, we're going to smash the TV against the Marx statue," I answered.

He lifted the camera to his shoulder and shouted out to his microphone-wielding reporter. "You getting this?" he said. The reporter nodded.

I looked past him. Two more police wagons had arrived, prompting the thought: won't it be illegal to throw a TV at a public monument? Throwing it at the ground seemed bad enough. I rushed over to Zasursky and Kagarlitsky.

"Hey," I said, suddenly nervous. "Are you sure they won't arrest us for this?"

Ivan smiled. "I donÕt know," he said. "Let's go!"

I shrugged. What the fuck. It should have freaked me out even more to realize that none of the Soyuz-2000 people besides Zasursky were volunteering to do the TV-tossing, but I wasn't thinking very fast. The basic calculation in my head up to that point had been that it was appropriate for me, an American, to be taking part in this television smashing because the root of Soyuz-2000's beef with state TV was that its propaganda was funded almost entirely by advertising by Western multinationals, companies like Procter and Gamble, Wrigley's and Tchibo. If Russians were to know that some Westerners were funding their war effort, they ought to know that some other Westerners would have it stopped. But I hadn't gotten very far along this line of thinking before Zasursky had me hoisting one half of the an old Raduga TV and rushing at the statue. The cameras closed in around us from all sides; Ivan let go a step for I did, and then the TV was airborne.

The mild explosion of glass against the reddish marble (the TV landed just under the inscription, "Workers of the World, Unite!") seemed anticlimactic, but only for a moment. I'd barely had time to try to disappear away from the imagined rush of police before the punks had rushed over to the TV's remains. When I turned around, I caught two of them - including the one with the green mohawk - violently jumping up and down on the glass fragments as the guitarists cranked the distortion up on the amp.

I nodded in amazement - it was a fantastic picture, a great piece of political theater. For one moment the whole ridiculous scene crystallized into what it was supposed to be: an eloquent, righteous protest against the ascent of an unreasonable new dictator. With all these cops and bored-looking journalists hanging around, it was easy to forget that what this was all about was the imminent disappearance of all human rights from this country for the foreseeable future. Punks stomping on the Tsar's televisions were exactly what we wouldn't be seeing again for a long time to come.

We smashed the second television, which exploded much more spectacularly when one of its vacuum tubes popped, and then the whole thing seemed over. I high-fived Zasursky and then waited around with Krazy Kevin for the crowd to disperse. It didn't, and a few minutes later, I caught sight of a very unhappy-looking Boris Kagarlitsky standing in the middle of a crowd of cops, shaking his head. Soon all the Soyuz-2000 guys were in on the discussion. I pulled Ivan aside.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"They're going to arrest Boris," he said. "For vandalizing the statue."

I froze. "Only Boris?" I squeaked. "What about me? Are they going to arrest me?" Protest or no protest, I was not at all anxious, I realized suddenly, to taste the experience of a Russian jail.

"No," Ivan said, "they're only arresting Boris, because he's the organizer."

I shrugged. The negotiations went on. From time to time Ivan would come up to me and give me updates. The cops, he said, had tried to give Boris a way out, telling him that they had to arrest him if he stayed, but if he wanted to "slip through their fingers" they'd turn their heads. Kagarlitsky had refused, telling them he wasn't going anywhere. A few minutes later another Soyuz-2000 organizer, a stout intellectual-looking guy in glasses, was added to the list of people who had to be arrested. Then, a few minutes after that, Ivan came up to me with the bad news.

"Uh, actually, they're going to arrest all of us," he said.

"Even me?" I said, still a coward.

"No, not you, don't worry," he said. "Just the organizers. Listen," he said, pulling me aside and laughing. "I don't feel like going with them. I have things to do today. So I'm going to get out of here. Can you do me a favor and find out where they're taking them and give me a call later? I'll go get them after."

Zasursky wasn't chickening out - he'd obviously been through these things before and knew, as I didn't yet, that wherever Boris and the rest were being taken, they wouldn't be there for long. He just didn't want the hassle. Reassured, I went up to the cops at the wagon and found out that Boris was being taken to the Kitai-Gorod station around the corner, at 3 Ilyinka Street. I was vaguely aware that by waving my offending face in front of the cops I might end up in the wagon too, and at first I wasn't sure how I felt about that. But on the way back to Ivan with the news, I changed my mind.

"Listen," I said. "Fuck it. I'm guilty. If they want me, I'll go." At that point, I almost wanted to go. If there was no threat of reaction, it was meaningless. And this thing wasn't meaningless. But Ivan just laughed at me. There was no way they'd arrest an American. Upon reflection, I had to laugh - I should have knocked over a bank. With a blue passport, you can get away with anything in this country, it seems.

At Ivan's request Kevin and I went to the police station to check on Boris, but by the time we'd gotten there, they'd already been released after a brief "talking to." The event made the Russian TV news, where it was blasted by ORT as being an action undertaken by calculating enemies of the regime who were seeking to destabilize the political situation. But at least Russians saw that not everyone is rolling over. In any case, the next demonstration is scheduled for March 18, this Saturday, on Tverskaya Ulitsa, across the street from the Mayor's office. Come by if you want to smash a TV - they can use you.

Trading Cards
The Vault