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#23 | December 4-17, 1997  smlogo.gif

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In This Issue
Feature Story
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Kino Korner

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By Edward Limonov

A Tale of Two Clowns

In November 1995 I was invited to presentation of Mr. Ryzhkov's book, "Ten Years of Turmoil," at hotel "Radisson Slavyanskaya." Ryzhkov was very last Soviet Union's Prime Minister, then later general director of Tveruniversalbank. He invited to his party all the flowers of nomenklatura, "Gekachepisti" (the failed August 1991 putschists) among them. I went there with my girlfriend Lisa, we just met week before. I wanted to impress her.

And I have indeed impressed her. Ex-KGB chief Krutchkov spoked quietly in a corner of restaurant with secretary of KPSS, fantoms-looking Mister Shein. General Varennikov talked to Mr. Poloskov. But the most impressive couple in the crowd were undoubtedly Marshal Yazov, ex-minister of Defense, and clown Yuri Nikulin. They been seating backs to the wall, looking at restaurant, drinking vodka, an old waiter serving them in dignified old Soviet style. I grabbed fat deputy of Duma Mr. Baburin as he was passing by. I asked, "Sergei, do me a favor. Introduce me, please, to Marshal Yazov, would you? I want to impress my girlfriend..."

Pengiun-looking Baburin walked me and Lisa to the table of two old-timers. From a close distance two Soviet legends were awfully-looking creatures. The forehead of Nikulin near his right eye was covered with a bluish spot, sort of spots that appear on corpses of a dead. Spot was large and spider-shaped. During his actor's career, Mr. Nikulin created dozens of an alcoholics characters. Now himself he was looking exactly as an old alcoholic. Marshal Yazov displayed large, hairy ears. Both have had a greenish, sinister-colored faces of a Halloween's clowns.

We muttered few words of presentation. We sat down in front of two sacred monsters, our backs turned to a restaurant. Lisa, fresh, elegant creature of 23 was a pleasure to look at, so old monsters smiled and drinked to her health. We stayed for about an hour at their table. I observed them and I went to conclusion that both—Marshal and clown—were interchangeable. Yazov with his large hairy ears and dense hairy brows could be a clown-actor playing an alcoholic. Nikulin, for his part, could easily transformed into Minister of Defense, just something should be done with a bluish spider-shaped spot on his forehead. It could be covered with a powder.

Mr. Nikulin have died last summer. His funeral was attended by President Yeltsin himself. In a last years of his life Mr. Nikulin was surrounded with an attention and enormous respect, in drastic disproportion with a size and character of his small talent. But unheroical types that he played, all the losers, failures, alcoholics went to the forefront of Russian life and history, as Soviet heroes of a war and work, Matrosov'' and Stakhanov'' disappeared, somewhere in the 1970s.

Marshal Yazov did not succeed because of Mr. Nikulin's characters. "Gekachepistes" failed in August 1991 because Soviet social scene was populated by personages of Mr. Nikulin. It is clear to me now. Then, three years ago, I was looking at two old clowns, I listened to their quiet talk. Fat hippopotamus of woman singer was singing from a podium something folkish. Tall Ryzhkov kissed fat hippopotamus of singer. Mr. Kryuchkov, Gorbachev's chief of KGB, went to our table, horn-rimmed glasses, bald head. He stayed for a moment with us, trinked his glass to glasses of Nikulin and Yazov. "Whole country has been laughing at your comical heroes," flattered Kryuchkov to Nikulin. "Sure," I thought," Nikulin made a small man, loser and failure, attractive. And that is exactly why "Gekachepists," you sirs, have failed. Soviet heroic man been destroyed, it was no Soviet men anymore in Russia in August 1991. Only anti-heroes of Nikulin been available. I asked waiter to bring me champagne and we drinked with Lisa to our unknown future. Waiter, he said, have read all my books, so he brought me a good champagne. Two old clowns have left shortly before.

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