November 24 in Russian history. Duel of the four. Griboyedov and Chavchavadze

(12 November Old Style)

One of the first articles I wrote here mentioned Avdotya Istomina, famous ballerina. Here's a story where she became the cause of one of the most famous duels in Russian history.

Avdotya Istomina


Istomina was eighteen and she was beautiful. Well, you see her portrait and it would be better to say that she was considered beautiful, for some reason. Like many other eighteen-years old beauties, she was frivolous, puerile and a little bit cruel. By that time she had been living with 21-years old captain of cavalry of the Horse-Guardsmen Regiment Count Vasily Sheremetev. Sheremetev was hot-tempered and jealous. On 3 November 1817, Avdotya left him and moved to live with Maria Azarevicheva, her good friend. What caused this break-up is not known. Perhaps, it was just another scandal. She told later that she had planned to leave him for a long time. Rumors said that the young count was running out of money. On 5 November, one of her numerous acquantances, Alexander Griboyedov (the author of the magnificent play Woe From Wit), after an evening in the theatre, offered her to visit his good friend, Count Shakhovsky, who had something to do with the show business (the theater, ballet, and so on). Instead, he brought her to his friend Count Alexander Zavadovsky, kammerjunker (Gentleman of the Bedchamber). Griboyedov explained later that he just wanted to find out what happened between her and Sheremetev, but since he lived at Zavadovsky's, it was the only place where they could talk, and Zavadovsky arrived later.

When Zavadovsky came back, he, an egotistic playboy, thought that, of course, she must have come to see him. Later, during the investigation, Istomina confessed that during this evening Zavadovsky had offered her his love, but she didn't know whether he was serious or not. Something went wrong, so she left disappointed Zavadovsky and Griboyedov took her back to Azarevicheva's apartment. Soon Sheremetev came there, begged her to pardon him for his jealousy and then they departed to Sheremetev's. When they came back, though, he started inquiring where she had been, with whom, what did they talk about and what did they do and so on. When he finally learned that she payed a visit to Zavadovsky, he went mad. His friend, cornet of Life-Guard Alexander Yakubovich, being just as zippy as Sheremetev, convinced Sheremetev that Griboyedov was also guilty, that he had played the role of a pander in this affair. Yakubovich also told later that the cause of the duel between Sheremetev and Zavadovsky was some ungentlemanlike act of Zavadovsky, but refused to tell what it was, saying that he promised to Sheremetev not to disclose this matter.

On 9 November, at 4pm, they came to Zavadovsky and challenged him to shoot right now. Zavadovsky asked them to wait for a couple of hours, because he hadn't yet had his dinner, so they decided to postpone the duel to tomorrow, 10 November. Friend of Zavadovsky, second lieutenant of artillery baron Stroganov tried to reconcile the duellists, but failed. On the next day the place for the duel was not yet agreed upon, so they postponed all deaths till 11 November. On 11 November, it was snowing and windy and the duel was delayed again. On 12 November they came to the Volkovo cemetary. The distance was 18 steps and they agreed that the one who shoots first will have to come to the barrier in the middle.

Sheremetev, annoyed by Zavadovsky's lentitude, shot first, but the bullet only tore away a piece of Zavadovsky's collar. Sheremetev cursed and said that if Zavadovsky would miss, they will shoot again. Zavadovsky took aim for a long time, then his pistol misfired, then it misfired again, and finally he shot. The bullet hit Sheremetev in the belly. The duel between Yakubovich and Griboyedov was postponed and they took wounded Sheremetev to his home where he died on the next day.

Sheremetev's father asked emperor Alexander not to punish Zavadovsky. The emperor gave an audience to Zavadovsky and concluded that it was a lawful self-defense.

Alexander Griboyedov

Playboy Zavadovsky was sent away from Russia. Yakubovich was arrested and transferred to Caucasus. Griboyedov was also sent away from Russia. He was offered a choice: he could join the Russian embassy in the USA or in Persia. He chose Persia. On his way there, in Tiflis, Griboyedov met Yakubovich and the postponed duel took place. The bullet of Yakubovich hit Griboyedov into his palm, damaging forever his pinkie. "At least, he'll stop playing piano", said the implacable Yakubovich.

Nina Chavchavadze

Griboyedov became a good diplomat, he often came back to Russia and then returned to Persia to continue his work. In 1828, on his way from Russia to Tehran, he stopped in Tiflis again. There he met the beautiful Georgian duchess Nina Chavchavadze, daughter of his good friend, poet Alexander Chavchavadze, and fell in love with her, just like she did. They married and the happy couple went to Tehran. A week later Nina stayed in the city Tavriz on the border and Griboyedov went forward to prepare his apartments for the arrival of his lady.

There was an Armenian eunuch in Griboyedov's retinue, Mirza Yakub, and the rumors said that he planned to convert from islam to christianity. The leaders of the Tehran muslims decided to kill the apostate. The fanatics attacked the Russian embassy and killed everyone there. The body of Griboyedov was identified by the mutilated pinkie.

More about Griboyedov in a small, but well written article by Philip Henscher in the Spectator: The playing fields of Persia, review of "Diplomacy and Murder in Tehran: Alexander Griboyedov and Imperial Russia's Mission to the Shah of Persia" by Laurence Kelly

From bookstores

My family's gone to Moscow for some days and I feel a little bit lost and forgotten :). Probably, this is why I decided to take a walk to a nearby bookstore. It's been quite some time since I was there. Could be six or seven months, I think. The reason for this neglect was not that I quit reading. Quite the contrary. In April, I received a gift from my wife. It was an electronic book, called LBook. LBook is, actually, yet another brand name for the device generally known as Hanlin eReader. LBook is distributed by the Ukrainian company MUK. In some other countries the device is known under other names: Walkbook, papyre, BeBook, EZ Reader or just Hanlin eReader. To see how it works, check this video at YouTube. My LBook works even better, because it runs firmware, modified by some Russian enthusiasts, so, unlike the original Hanlin, it renders HTML, CHM and Epub in a quite readable way.

So, back to the story. I came to the bookstore, hoping to find some synoptic history of Germany and Italy. I did find a couple of books, Histoire de l'Italie by Katherine Brice and Kleine Deutshe Geschichte by Ulrich Herrmann, Andreas Gestrich, Ulf Dirlemeier et al. I had a look at the prices and put the books back to the shelf. $13-16 for a book is a little bit more that what I hoped to spend. Then I found another great book. It was La civilisation de L'europe des Lumieres by Pierre Chaunu. I checked the table of content, browsed through some pages and was ready to run for the cashdesk, when I saw the price. I used to buy the books from this series, like The Byzantine Civilization by Andre Guillou (I wrote about the book before) or the Civilization of Renaissance by Jean Delumeau or The Civilization of the Classic Islam by Dominique and Janine Sourdel and they cost me about $10 (250 rubles). But that last book costs 650 rubles! Even now that RUR/USD rate has plunged from 24 to 27 rubles, it's still 24 dollars, which is more than 3% of my monthly salary. So, I had to place it back ruefully.

No, I didn't just go away empty-handed. I bought a copy of The course of Russian history of 19th century by Alexander Kornilov. He was another historian from those last free thinkers who worked in the early 20th century, like Sergey Platonov or Dmitri Ilovaisky or Vasily Klyuchevsky. A great book. I'm afraid that we won't see a comparable work on 20th century for a very long time. Not from the Russian historians, sorry.

Now, some conclusions. Firstly, Russian business is Russian business, the prices go only one way, up and up. In the 1990s the sellers used to say: "Of course, the prices grow. You know, the dollar's rising", or "Of course, the prices grow. You know, the dollar's falling". No matter what, they said it with the most sincere faces and the expression of deepest conviction. I'm sure that now they will tell us: "Of course, the prices grow. You know, deflation..."

Secondly, once again I thank the Ukrainian sellers of that ebook device, my wife and so called "pirates", who scan books and make them available to those who can't catch up with the prices. Taking into account the digits I saw today, my LBook has already payed off its cost in six months.

Update: (2008-12-02 11:28:42) Follow-up: En passant: answer to Larussophobe


November 23 in Russian history. The man who raised Soviet children


One hundred years ago Nikolay Nosov was born in Kiev. He wrote many children's books, read by hundreds of millions of Soviet children for decades. Those who haven't read his stories about Neznaika, heard the audio recordings or (in the late Soviet years) saw animated films. The trilogy about Neznaika, Vitya Maleev at School and at Home and short stories are his best known books.

You can find the full text of the first book about Neznaika here: The Adventures of Neznaika and His Friends. See also a very brief review of the trilogy here: Nikolay Nosov: Neznaika trilogy. The author of the review, Layla AbdelRahim, qualifies the books in the following way: the first book is a socialist anarchist utopia of Flower town, the second, Dunno in Sun City, reminds one of the communist state and the third one, Dunno on the Moon, describes harsh realities of the capitalist society on the moon. This is true, but this is not why we loved the books. I recall one of my friends (we were, probably, 7 or 8 years old then), who had borrowed my copy of all three books (and they were not easy to buy in the USSR!), once whispered to me in a conspiratorial way: "You know what? The third book is about America!". Well, we didn't like the way people lived on the capitalist Moon, but the books were incredibly popular. Most of all I loved the second one, about the communist Sun City :).

As for the other books, I strongly advice that you check the translations of some short stories by Nikolay Nosov made by Svet from Windows to Russia:

The crucian carp
The crucian carp (part 2)
Mishka's porridge
Mishka's porridge (part 2)
The Pistol
The Pistol (part 2)
Garderners (part 2)
Laddy (part 2)


November 22 in Russian history. Death of Mikhail Yaroslavich, nephew of Nevsky


In the chapter on the rise of Muscovy, Sergey Platonov wrote:

The two first knyazes, Daniil Alexandrovich and his son Yuri, took the lands along the whole river Moscow, tearing the towns Kolomna from the Ryazan principality and Mozhaisk from Smolensk principality. Also, Daniil inherited Pereyaslavl-Zalessky from the childless knyaz of Pereyaslavl. Yuri Daniilovich became so influential that he decided to ask the Golden Horde for yarlyk to become the grand knyaz of Vladimir, competing with the knyaz of Tver Mikhail Yaroslavich (Mikhail was a nephew of Alexander Nevsky and an uncle of Yuri Daniilovich). Since the political struggle in the Horde was led by all means, including conspiracies and violence, both knyazes were murdered in the Horde.

The principality of Vladimir was about 3-3.5 times larger than the duchies of Tver or Moscow. The owner of the title of knyaz of Vladimir became also the grand knyaz, the chief ruler among all the knyazes of the North-Eastern Rus. He defined the joint foreign policy and was the chief military commander in the case of war. Even the free principality of Novgorod recognized the grand knyaz as their supreme ruler. But to become the grand knyaz, one had to obtain the yarlyk from the khan of the Golden Horde. So, since the times of Alexander Nevsky Russian knyazes competed for the yarlyk. In the early 14th century the knyazes of Muscovy and Tver were the strongest candidates.

In 1304 the grand knyaz of Vladimir Andrey Alexandrovich, or Andrey of Gorodets, the third son of Alexander Nevsky, died. His three sons had already died and his heritage produced a huge turmoil among the other knyazes. As a matter of fact, he had bequeathed the principality of Vladimir to his cousin, Mikhail Yaroslavich of Tver. In 1305, Mikhail left to the Horde for the yarlyk.

Yuri Danilovich, knyaz of Muscovy, a grandson of Nevsky, might think he was very unlucky. His father, Daniil, died just one year earlier, 1303. Had Daniil lived a bit longer, the complicated laws of accession would make Yuri Danilovich the grand prince. He was not a legitimate candidate for the princedom, but his principality was stronger than Tver. So, he decided to interfere. As soon as Mikhail of Tver left to the Horde, Yuri followed him. The Moscow boyars and even the Maxim, the metropolitan of Vladimir, insisted that he should stay. He said that he goes to the Horde on his own business, having nothing to do with the yarlyk and departed for good.

When both of them arrived to the Horde, khan Tokhta, a very practical ruler of the Golden Horde, said that the yarlyk will go to the one who offers a larger tribute. Yuri and Mikhail raised the stakes till Yuri gave up. Mikhail stayed in the Horde for some more days, while Yuri hurried back to Moscow. Having arrived there, he immediately sent his army to Pereslavl Zalessky, a town that used to belong to the knyazes of Moscow, but recently adjoined to the domain of the grand knyaz of Vladimir. The excuse used by Yuri was that the deceased knyaz of Pereslavl was an old ally of Moscow. Legally, though, it was a treason and the army of Tver moved to Pereslavl. Mikhail, though, was still absent and Yuri defeated the Tverians. As a matter of fact, the Mongols had to interfere and restore the law. But they were not interested in the rise of one strong grand prince, so they left the two to solve their problems. Besides, who knows who of the princes might offer more money? Having returned to Tver, Mikhail attacked Moscow and forced Yuri to abandon Pereslavl.

But the competition was not over yet. Yuri's brothers, Alexander and Boris, refused to support him, but he still conflicted with Tver time to time, raided his neighbors and his rather aggressive policy increased the strength of Muscovy. In 1306 he killed the knyaz of Ryazan Konstantin, but failed to adjoin Ryazan and had to suffice with Kolomna. In 1307, Yuri attacked Nizhny Novgorod, conflicting with Mikhail once again. In 1308 Nizhny Novgorod Mikhail became the prince of Nizhny Novgorod, but Yuri did not give up. He found a good ally for himself – the new metropolitan of Russia, Peter. In 1312, when khan Tokhta died and khan Uzbek became the new khan of the Golden Horde, Mikhail of Tver went to the Horde to pledge allegiance to the new khan, and Yuri attacked Nizhny Novgorod, where the situation was very similar to what had happened in Pereslavl in 1305. Mikhail wanted to send his army, but the metropolitan Peter intefered and banned him from attacking Yuri.

Uzbek, rather annoyed by that little restless pain in the neck, demanded that Yuri visit him immediately. So, in 1315, the two swapped their places: Mikhail came back from the Horde, and Yuri came there to talk to Uzbek khan. Mikhail took back Nizhny Novgorod and was pretty sure that he could sleep well, even though the Novgorodians didn't like him and revolted now and then. But Yuri did not waste the time. He made acquaintance with Konchaka, the daughter of Uzbek khan and very soon married her. It was a great move. In 1317, Yuri came back to Rus with a large Mongol regiment, led by Kavgadiy, with Konchaka, who was baptised and got the name Agafya, and with the yarlyk of the grand knyaz!

Mikhail immediately made peace with Nizhny Novgorod and went with his army to meet Yuri. They met near Kostroma. Long and tiresome negotiations followed. It seems that Mikhail Yaroslavich agreed to give up his claims. He understood that Yuri will never leave him alone and upon his return to Tver he began to enforce the city and to train the army. The conflict ensued and in December 1317 Yuri attacked Tver but was defeated and fled to Novgorod (not Nizhny Novgorod, but Great Novgorod). Konchaka-Agafya, Yuri's brother Boris, many knyazes and even Kavgadiy were captured. Kavgadiy, though, was soon released with many gifts. Yuri gathered a new army in Novgorod and Pskov and returned to Tver, but this time there were no battles. The knyazes met and agreed to ask the Mongols to end their strife.

In theory, Mikhail had good chances to win. He was richer, he had good contacts in the Horde and he had better support in Russia. Right after the truce, he sent his son Konstantin to the Horde to make arrangements for the dispute.

Suddenly, still imprisoned Konchaka died. Yuri accused Mikhail of poisoning her and left to the Horde. Mikhail didn't plan to follow him, but soon a messenger from Uzbek khan arrived, demanding that Mikhail go with him. By the time Mikhail came to Uzbek, the khan had already learned from Yuri and Kavgadiy a lot about the "evil" deeds of the knyaz of Tver. The slander worked and Mikhail was put on trial. Kavgadiy was both the prosecutor and the judge. On 27 October Mikhail was put in chains and on the next day he was chained to a heavy log. After the trial that took place on 20 November, though, Kavgadiy promised him that he would be released soon. On 22 November 1318, 690 years ago, Kavgadiy, Yuri and a large group of their people assaulted Mikhail in his tent. They threw him down and started kicking him. Then someone Romanets fished out his knife and stabbed Mikhail in his heart.

His body was sent to Tver and on 6 September 1319 a huge crowd of people attended his funeral in the Tver cathedral. They were so frightened by his death that soon they forgot Mikhail's feuds with other knyazes, the ransack of the civilians in Torzhok in 1316, forgot how he had brought the Mongols and so on. They even began worshipping him as a saint.

In 1319-1320 this story was written by hegumen Alexander, Mikhail's father-confessor.

On 21 November 1325, almost exactly 7 years after the death of Mikhail, Yuri of Moscow was killed in the Golden Horde by Dimitri Mikhailovich, knyaz of Tver, son of Mikhail of Tver. Dimitri was also killed on spot.

To make the story just a little bit easier to read, here's the family tree of Rurikids, the Russian knyazes:


November 18 in Russian history. Ekaterinburg.


(7 November Old Style)

285th anniversary of Ekaterinburg, a legendary city near Urals mountains.

As it often happens, the date is conventional, but not totally arbitrary. The first village, Shartash, was founded there in 1642 by Starovery. Now a district of Ekaterinburg is called Shartash. In 1704 copper processing facilities were built on river Uktus. In 1720 Vasily Tatishchev inspected the facilities and proposed to relocate them to Shartash. In 1721 preparatory works began. The exact dates are not clear, but somewhere in January-March 1723 a regiment of soldiers arrived from Tobolsk and the construction works on the new factory were started. By November the first factory floors were ready and on 18 November the first two hammers were put to test. This day became the birthday of Ekaterinburg.

Since 1726 Ekaterinburg became the primary source of gemstones for the Russian Empire. In 1807 the city officially became the first and the only "mining city" and was granted certain freedoms and privileges.

The area was extremely rich in metals and gemstones: copper, gold, malachite, amethyst and all other kinds of quartz, agate, aquamarine, beryl and so on. When I was a boy, I was interested in geology and visited the a hobby group at the city Pioneers Palace. By the way, these palaces were a wonderful thing, a brilliant invention of the Soviets. We had a very good teacher, geologist Yuri Melkozerov (two years ago by sheer chance I found his grave on the local cemetery :( ). I don't remember when exactly it was, perhaps in 1981-1983, we went to Ekaterinburg (it was called Sverdlovsk then, after Yakov Sverdlov). I brought from that trip a lot of interesting minerals: jasper, quartz, tiny garnets and many others. A piece of raw, uncut and unpolished malachite from that trip is stil lying right now on my table. As far as I remember, I was not deeply impressed by the city: it was just another industrial town, just like Samara, a bit dirty, with its own little attractions, but the nature of the Urals was magnificent.

Ekaterinburg was the home town of Pavel Bazhov, Russian writer. In childhood, he lived not far from Ekaterinburg, in a little town called Polevskoy. In 1939 he published his wonderful collection of Urals legends and fairy-tales, The Malachite Casket. These legends are absolutely different from any other folk tales. They somehow remind of Die Bergwerke zu Falun (The Falun Mines) by E.T.A. Hoffmann, but at the same time they are in a class of their own. The stories of the Mistress of the Copper Mountain or the Stone Flower are just amazing. Unfortunately, they are written in such a vivid folk language that it's very difficult to translate them into English preserving the charms of the text. Anyway, here's a brief retelling of the Mistress of the Copper Mountain (please, disregard the awful pictures :)).

You can find some photos of Ekaterinburg here. The picture in the top was taken from here. Find more here and here.


Political mathematics

How come the politicians find the most stupid explanations for their controversial decisions? Some years ago, when Putin abolished the governors' elections, he explained that it would make the anti-terror campaign more effective. Now, the presidential and the parliamentary terms have been increased to six and five years correspondingly. From Moscow Times:

The bill ensures a difference in time between the presidential and parliamentary elections, allowing for "calm preparations," United Russia's first deputy chairman, Vladimir Pekhtin, said in a statement released after the vote.

Does it take a PhD in mathematics to understand that no matter which integer M and N you take, the elections will coincide at least every M*N years? Is it that me and Grigori Perelman are the only Russians who understand that the only way to "ensure a difference in time between the elections" is to make the terms equal?

As if to make things even more hilarious, the bootlicks from the Liberal-Democratic party proposed to increase the presidential term to seven years. Sergey Ivanov, member of the State Duma, says (link in Russian) that "the proposed five and six years long terms will cause one electoral campaign to immediately blend into the other". I just want to know: HOW CAN A MAN BE THAT DUMB? It's an insult to human intelligence, in my opinion, the penalty for which should be 20 years in primary school, as a habitual idiot.

They say that those who know nothing, teach. Those who can't teach, manage. Seems like those who can't manage, become politicians. We just can't cope with them. Isolate them, somehow, or automatically proclaim invalid all laws approved by parliaments and adopt those they had declined, maybe?

Okay, I've heard about someone G.W.Bush and I assume that my compatriots are not really outstanding, but, please, I beg you, name just three politicians who would be brilliant enough to avoid such blunt errors?



Dear readers, I have enabled the rating menu on this blog. There are some checkboxes at the end of every article. Please, click one of them when you've read an article. I hope, it will let me know what kind of articles you like best. Thank you :)


Russian and Soviet press on the outcome of the US elections and the financial crisis.

5 November 1908

(From starosti.ru)

Newspaper Russkoye Slovo on the results of the 1908 elections in the USA, 100 years ago:

Taft was elected the president of the republic by the majority of one million voters.

The presidential campaign has ended with the victory of the republican party. Taft is elected the president. Taft is 50. He is a typical business-man who made a fast and diverse career. It's hard to name a profession where he hasn't tried his hand. He was a judge and a professor of law. He was the governor of the Philippines and the Secretary of War. Right before becoming a candidate in the presidential campaign, Taft traveled around the world. He visited Russia, too, and gained reputation of an ingenious diplomat, who was charged with the high mission of preparing the international agreements and various political combinations to mitigate probable complications on the Far East.

Taft is a "real politician" in the broadest sense of this word. He belongs to those Americans who consider practical and useful actions, trenching upon unscrupulousness.

Russkoye Slovo also reports from Tibet:

On 20 October a revolutionary movement sprang up in Tibet. 10,000 lamas totally defeated the Chinese. Amban asks the Chinese government for reinforcement and demands that dalai-lamas return to Tibet.


In November, issue 13 of one of the best Soviet/Russian magazines, Vokrug Sveta, was published. Vokrug Sveta is still the oldest Russian magazine, printed since 1860. Wikipedia writes:

Vokrug sveta (Russian: Вокруг света, literally: "Around the World") is the oldest magazine in the Russian language still being published (and one of the biggest magazines in modern Russia). The first issue was printed in St. Petersburg in December 1860, almost thirty years before the establishment of the National Geographic Magazine. It is thus one of the oldest popular science magazines in the world.

The magazine was conceived by a Warsaw-born entrepreneur, Boleslaw Wolf, who defined Vokrug Sveta as a lavishly illustrated yearly publication dedicated to "physical geography, natural sciences, the most recent discoveries, inventions, and observations".[1] Its roster of authors included Alfred Brehm, Camille Flammarion, Nikolai Przhevalsky, and Nikolay Miklukho-Maklay.

The Wolf edition was discontinued after 1868 for unclear reasons[2], but the project of a popular geographical journal was revived in 1885 by Ivan Sytin, a printer who directed his periodicals toward a wider audience. Sytin's Vokrug sveta was issued monthly and featured original translations of popular adventure fiction from such authors as Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Russian Revolution brought this period of the magazine's history to an abrupt termination. Like every other periodical of Imperial Russia, Vokrug sveta suspended publication for ten years. It was back in print under the auspices of the Young Communist League, specifically targeted toward the youth audience. Contributing editors included some of the finest Soviet science fiction authors, including Vladimir Obruchev and Ivan Yefremov. In 1938, the magazine's headquarters relocated from Leningrad to Moscow, and its publication was altogether suspended during World War II.

For Soviet readers, Vokrug sveta represented a rare source of authentic, fully-illustrated information about foreign cultural attractions. Unsurprisingly, the Komsomol bosses insisted that the magazine cover domestic tourist attractions rather than those situated outside the USSR.[3] In the 1960s and 1970s, the magazine continued to grow in popularity and increased the circulation to 2,300,000 copies by 1971. A television subsidiary was also popular, particularly in the early 1990s. As of 2007, Vokrug sveta ranks third among Russia's popular monthlies, with a circulation hovering around 250,000. The free archives of past issues (starting from 1970) are available on their website.

I always loved this magazine, but only recently found some old issues from 1928-1933. This issue, number 13, 1933, begins with a story titled in the best Soviet traditions: The Two Worlds. Below is a translation of some excerpts.

When sixteen years ago the socialist revolution of the Russian proletariat won, the dogs and pigs of the bourgeois society (note a reference to Pink Floyd here. DM) insisted stubbornly that the proletariat is able to destroy only, but cannot build something new. When the Soviet country after the civil war set a task of creating the economic basis for the classless socialist society, the theoreticians of the bourgeois society proclaimed our plan was a delirium, a utopia.

The results of the five-year plan have demonstrated that the capitalist system is ineffective, that it is dying. The new industrial regions have changed the map of our country. From an agrarian country, Russia turned into an industrial one, and the socialist industry is the only kind of our industry. The collectivisation has made our country the country with the largest agriculture in the world. Millions of workers are now building the classless socialist society.

This is what we've got. And what have they got?

They have the mortification of industry, and we have an unprecedented industrial growth. They have the degeneration of culture, and we have the propspering new socialist culture. We read in the newspapers: "The White Sea channel. Not just an industrial victory. The victory of the man over the dirt within, the dirt brought by the repellent capitalist reality. A cast-off, a pariah, a thief today brings his dream to life: through labor – to become a man, a surgeon, an engineer, a writer.

The flight of the aerostat. The world record of altitude. Oh, the glory of science and creation! And it dances in our blood even stronger when we recall that, probably, right now Einstein in his exile is reading yet another poison-pen written by a blackguarding fascist: "We will kill you, Jew".

The distant sands of Kara-Kum desert and the march of our cars there. Ours! From our Soviet Detroit, which will never close its doors and fire the workers, but instead will increase the production, inspired by the victory of the quality!

The world conference on physics in USSR. The storm of the atomic nucleus! Solving the mysteries of the matter! New victories of the materialism that does not burn in the Hitler's fires and does not drown in blood and dirt.

But let us remember: "The class of exploiters will not give up other than after a desperate, merciless fight" (V.Lenin).

Of all the industries of the capitalism only one is not in crisis – the military industry. The shares of the military enterprises started growing after Germany quitted the League of Nations. Of all the arts only the art of square-bashing and nationalist chauvinism keeps clanking its armor.

The fascism is the most concentrated representation of the attempt of the exploiters to solve the controversies of the capitalism by a new war, directed against the conquering socialism.

"We will die under Verdun, but we will never give up!" – with these words in prose and in verses, in movies and in songs, the German militarists brain-wash the German people.

Elevators with wheat burn in Chicago! The trader at the exchange nervously clutches the phone receiver, then relaxes and orders: "Do not extinguish the fire! Glory to the all-destroying fire! Perhaps, it will help to keep the prices higher." Oh, how many thousands of the working families could live on this wheat! Have you got money? No? Go away, then.

The salt waves of the Atlantic are licking fresh cream. Thousands of tanks with good milk are standing on the ocean shore. A milk trader is disposing of the surplus of milk, as it is appropriate in the times of a crisis. "This baby needs milk. Go buy some at the market" says an equanimous doctor, looking at dying baby in rags. You've got no money? Then you'll die, you little scion of the miners. Alas, babe, the ocean has drunk you portion of milk.

What strong, healthy, beautiful sportsmen live in the sunny California! The umpire gives a signal and the strong hands throw white balls and the skittles fall, hit by... the eggs! Hundred after hundred, thousand after thousand. At least, the eggs market can sleep well, the surplus has been eliminated.

All these are not our fantasies, these are the stories from the bourgeois press. This is the reality of the devastating world economic crisis, the strongest and deepest ever.

The fable about the capitalist "prosperity" has burst like a bubble. Industry and agriculture are intertwined in the crisis. All the controversies of the rotting capitalist system are layed bare. The bourgeoisie has developed the productive forces so strong that it cannot control them anymore. Ford has cut the production in Detroit. The English bourgeois economist Bowker is terrified by the lamentable situation in Liverpool, Mahchester and the surrounding regions. The export of fabrics, the key part of the English export, has dropped. The sea port in Hamburg looks like a huge cemetary. "From electricity we are moving back, to the civilization of dried gudgeons," writes the Warsaw newspaper Rabotnik. "The railroads are displaced by buses, the buses are displaced by horses, boats and human feet. In rich Poland the peasants of Polesye light their houses with the candles made of dried gudgeons."

Only recently, the bourgeois enterpreneurs dreamed of building an electric "Pan-Europe", interlinked by the copper wires. But the private monopolies fought for the markets and "spheres of influence" and now – the gudgeons.

The capitalist world is moving back, to the Middle Ages, under the strokes of crisis. The prophecies of the Marx's Das Kapital come true: "The monopoly of the capital becomes the fetters of the mode of production it has fostered and brought to the peak. The centralization of the means of production becomes incompatible with the capitalism. The end of the capitalist private property is nigh!"

The world economic crisis gave birth to the crisis of the culture. The technics and science are not worshipped anymore. A French writer Georges Duhamel offered to ban all inventions for some time. In Michigan, USA, the city authorities prohibited all machines in the road construction. A hoe and a pickaxe. American statisticians wave the figures, arguing that the potters and shoemakers in the Nero's Rome were happier than the modern people.

Science has fallen out of fashion. There are 8,000 unemployed teachers in New York alone. In New Jersey the people with higher education dig ditches. People with PhD degree sell goods in supermarkets: "Would you allow me to show this cloth to you, lady?"

Terrible must be the streets of the European small towns where the people whose brain is accustomed to the treasures of the culture are touting the clients into buying cigarettes.

The school year in America was shortened to three months. And 8.5 million American boys and girls simply have no way to receive education.

Great physicist Dittorf has to build the equipment for himself, because his job is not payed for.

The theaters are closing. The painters from Monmartre do not sell their new paintings, they trade them for food.

But the fall of the real science is accompanied by the rise of obscurantism, occultism and spiritism and other pseudoscience. Only in Germany there are 50,000 officially registered wizards, clairvoyants and prophets. "I am bored by all things intellectual. The printed words make me throw up", writes famous Goebbels, the minister of propaganda in the Hitler's government. But he lies! The anti-semitic leaflets make him feel quite well!

It seemed that the damned past of the saint inquisition with its gloomy fires will never return. But Hitler came to power and burned the new fires. "Heil Hitler!", and the degenerate youngsters assaulted the masterpieces of art, culture and science. "Burn them!" – and one of them threw the works of Marx and Lenin to the fire, and the second one burned the books of great Heinrich Mann, Heine, Maxim Gorky.

The "Brown Book", book about the atrocities of the fascists, is bleeding. Hundreds of the most outstanding people in Germany are exiled or sent to concentration camps. The Middle Ages are coming back, but in the even more disgusting form.

But not for long! The crisis of capitalism joins the army of the socialist revolution, which represents the interests of the humanity. And they join even closer, because "near with the capitalist system there is the socialist system, which grows, prospers and withstands the capitalism and demonstrates the putridity of capitalism and shatters its foundation." (J.Stalin).

Now, hundreds of millions of people can see who is killing the life and who is reviving it, making it flourish.


"The man who keeps inventing things all the time" is 89 today

Mikhail Kalashnikov celebrates his 89th birthday today.

See his biography on the AK web-site.


7 November. One lesson with Lenin

The topic suggests itself. Just for a little diversity i won't stigmatize the bolsheviks. I'll write something about Lenin without exposing his guile and wile.

Many years ago i had a wonderful book, called "Friendly encounters with the English language", written by Maria Kolpakchi. When speaking about English pronouns, she quoted a book "Four lessons with Lenin" by Marietta Shaginyan. What's the link between Lenin and English pronouns?

We know that in 1902-1903 Lenin lived in London under the name of Jacob Richter. Lenin studied the British workers' movement and English language, wrote articles for "Iskra" newspaper, which was published in London those years, and visited the attractions of London, including the Speakers' Corner and the British Library. On 21 April, Lenin sent an application, asking the director of the British Library to allow him studies in the reading room of the Library. The text of the application is:

30. Holford Square. Pentonville W. C.


I beg to apply for a ticket of admission to the Reading Room of the British Museum. I came from Russia in order to study the land question, I enclose the reference letter of Mr. Mitchell.

Believe me, Sir, to be Yours faithfully.

Jacob Richter.

April 21. 1902.

To the Director of the British Museum.

A recommendation from I.H.Mitchell, the General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions was enclosed in the letter:

April, 20

Dear Sir,

I have pleasure in recommending Mr. Jacob Richter LLD. St. Retersburg for admission to the Reading Room. My friend's purpose in desiring admission is to study the Land Question.

I trust you will be able to comply with this request. Yours truly

I. H. Mitchell

Gen. Secretary General Federation of Trade Unions

168, Temple Chambers

Three days later, when Lenin did not receive a reply from the Library, he sent another recommendation. Written by the same Mitchell, it was typed on an official blank:

General Federation of Trade Unions

Chief Office: 168 - 170,

Temple Chambers Temple Avenue

London, April 23d 1902


With reference to my recommendation of Mr. Richter for admission to the Reading Room, the difficulty no doubt arises through the street where I reside (Voltaire Street Clipham) being only recently buitl, and may not yet be in the Directory. I now desire to repeat the recommendation from the above address. Here again however you may not find it correct: in the Directory as prior to December 1901 the address was 40 Bridge House, 181 Queen Victoria Str. E. C.: that address will be found in the Directory.

Trust this may be satisfactory.

Yours truly

I. H. Mitchell

Lenin added his own little letter to this recommendation:


In addition to my letter and with reference to Your information N 4332 I enclose the new recommendation of Mr. Mitchell.

Yours faithfully

Jacob Richter

24. April 1902.

On 29 April Lenin for the first time entered the British Library and wrote his pseudonym in the journal. Marietta Shaginyan looked a bit closer to the original letters that i quoted above and noted one little detail of the Lenin's writing. Every time he had to write a capital `I', he pedantically put a dot above the letter. Shaginyan writes:

...The proud single letter `I' is a personal pronoun in English. And this `I' is always written by English speakers as a capital letter, while `you', the second person pronoun, which we usually politely capitalize as `You', Englishmen write in lower-case. The obtrusive pole of `I' is not only capitalized in English, but it cannot be omitted and replaced by a single verb, as in Russian: `ask' instead of `I ask', `speak' instead of `I speak', and so on; and in a story told in first person this `I' always sticks out as a fence. To omit it would be an illiterate English, and Lenin could not decrease the number of `I's in his letters. In the very first letter he had to write it thrice, and not in the middle of the sentences, but right from the start: "I beg", "I came", "I enclose".

And now we come to this little peculiarity of the Lenin's writing style. The capital `I' has no dot above, only lower-case `i' may be dotted. The Englishmen write the `I' in various ways, it may look like a large horn, a whip, a semi-circle, but, from my experience, nobody ever puts a dot above. And Lenin in his applications always puts a tiny neat dot. And I begin to think that the English suddenly grown up `I' made him uneasy, especially when he had to write `you' in lower-case? And by dotting the large `I' Lenin wanted to equal this pronoun to the other words?

If you think it is a total fantasy, then why, why did Lenin, who knew perfectly the rules of the English orthography, in his second application write `Your' with capital Y, in the Russian way?

Frankly speaking, i also felt some uneasyness for a long time before i learned to write huge I's and small you's. So, here's my little tribute to Lenin, the modest tyrant: in this article i capitalized You instead of i. Hope, You liked it, dear readers. And as for You, comrade Lenin, sleep well. Don't wake up, i beg You.


November 6 in Russian history. The "Second Front" in WWII.


During the meeting of the Moscow Council of Deputies with communist party organizations Stalin delivered a speech, devoted to the anniversary of the October revolution. Among other things, he said something that later annoyed the Western allies:

How can we explain the fact that the Germans managed to seize the initiative and to have victories on our front? The explanation is that they managed to collect all their reserves, throw them to the Eastern front and to build a numerical advantage on one of the directions. There's no doubt that without these measures they wouldn't reach their goals on our front.

But why did they succeed in building this advantage? Because the absence of the second front in Europe allowed them to to do so avoiding any risk.


Suppose, there would be a second front in Europe, as there was one during the First World War, and it would distract about 60 German divisions and about 20 divisions of the German allies. What would the situation look like then? It would become the beginning of the end of the German army, because the Red Army would have been somewhere near Pskov, Minsk, Zhitomir and Odessa instead of where it is now. It means that this summer the German-fascist army would have faced a catastrophe. But it did not happen because there was no second front in Europe.


In the First World War, when Germany fought on two fronts, 85 of 220 German divisions fought against Russia. If we add 37 Austrian divisions, 2 Bulgarian and 3 Turkish divisions, there will be 127 divisions. The remaining German forces fought against mostly British and French armies and served in the occupied countries.

Now, in total, 240 divisions are fighting now against us on the Eastern front. The other divisions are located in the occupied countries and some of them are fighting against England in Lybia and Egypt, and only 4 German and 11 Italian divisions are fighting on the Lybian front.

So, we have 240 divisions instead of 127 in the First World War, and instead of 85 German divisions we have 179.

This is the main cause of the tactical successes of the German-fascist army in this summer.

Earlier, in the beginning of 1942, during the public opinion poll in Britain the majority of participants voted for the beginning of the offensive operation on the continent. In April, President Roosevelt wrote to Churchill:

Your people and mine demand the establishment of a front to draw off pressure on the Russians, & these peoples are wise enough to see that the Russians are today killing more Germans & destroying more equipment than you & I put together.

On 22 May 1942, Soviet foreign minister Molotov on a meeting with Churchill, Attlee, Eden and others reported on the upcoming extremely important and large scale battles on the Eastern front. He asked whether the allies will be able to distract at least 40 German divisions to Europe. If they will, said Molotov, Germany may be defeated in this year. Churchill gave no answer.

On 29 May, Roosevelt told Molotov that by the end of the year the USA will have an army of 4 million people and a fleet with 600,000 people and in 1942 they will be ready to open the second front. It was too late, but Roosevelt also promised to discuss with the general staff the possibility of sending 6 to 10 divisions to France in 1942. On the next day, during a meeting with general Marshall, admiral King and Harry Hopkins, Molotov said that postponing the opening of the second front till 1943 will present a risk to the USSR and be dangerous for USA and Britain, too. Molotov asked for the clarification of the allies' position. Roosevelt answered that "We want to open the second front in 1942. This is our hope." On 30 May Molotov reported to Moscow that "Roosevelt and Marshall said that they want to open the second front, but the actions are stalled by the lack of transport ships".

On 28 May Churchill sent a telegram to Roosevelt, explaining the reasons why the opening of the second front doesn't seem possible in 1942. George Marshall was also skeptical on the dates. However, on 1 June Present Roosevelt repeated that he hoped to open the front in 1942. On the same day, the British general staff voted down the operation Sledgehammer.

On 11-12 May a joint Soviet-American communique was published, where both sides said that they agreed on necessity of opening the second front in Europe. The same statement was in the British-Soviet communique. A bit later Roosevelt said to King and Marshall that he just wanted to raise hopes of the Soviet government. Churchill said that the British government does not commit itself to doing so on any certain date.

In July, the governments of USA and Britain decided that instead of landing in France, they will open operations in North Africa. In August 1942, 62% of Americans said in poll that they believed that the second front in Europe will be opened in two or three months.

Well, it went on and on and by November the Soviets were really tired waiting and in on 6 November Stalin continued his speech:

People often ask, whether there will be the second front. Yes, earlier or later, it will be formed. Not only because we need it, but because our allies need it. Our allies understand that after the defeat of France the absence of the second front against Germany might end badly for all freedom-loving countries, including the allies themselves.

The second front was not opened till 6 June 1944, when the Soviets liberated a large part of Russia and Ukraine, including Novgorod, Leningrad, Odessa, Sevastopol and began the offensive that would not stop anymore.


On a similar meeting with the deputies of the Moscow Soviet, Stalin mentioned for the first time "The ten blows of the Soviet army", which were promptly renamed into "Stalin's ten blows":

From Wikipedia:

1. Leningrad-Novgorod Strategic Offensive (14 January - 1 March, 1944). This, the second chronologically of the offensives, fully relieved the siege of Leningrad, which had started on August 30, 1941. Although the Germans resisted fiercely at first, having had years to prepare defensive rings including pillboxes and minefields around Leningrad, once the initial defenses were broken Soviet forces easily reached the border of Estonia. In Stalin's speech he called it the Lifting of the Leningrad Blockade. It was conducted by the Leningrad Front and the Volkhov Front.

2. Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive (24 January 1944 - 17 April 1944). This offensive was launched on Christmas Eve, 1943, the first chronologically of the 1944 offensives. It involved the clearing of Axis forces from Ukraine. It also resulted in the isolation of the German-controlled Crimea. It was called the Liberation of the Right-Bank Ukraine in Stalin's speech, and involved the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts, and the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts.

3. Odessa Offensive (26 March 1944 - 14 April 1944) which begun the third blow, and the Crimean Offensive (8 April - 12 May, 1944) which completed it. The third offensive cleared the Crimea of German and Romanian forces, and recaptured Sevastapol. Adolf Hitler had refused to allow Axis forces to evacuate, believing that retention of the Crimea was vital to maintaining Turkish neutrality. The Red Army attacked over the Perekop Isthmus, and quickly drove the German and Romanian forces back to Sevastopol, which surrendered on 8 May. Although Hitler had finally given permission for evacuation, the majority of soldiers were unable to escape in time and surrendered and went into captivity. Due to heavy casualties suffered by the Romanian forces, this battle was a major factor in their surrender. Stalin called it the Liberation of Odessa and Liberation of the Crimea in his speech. It was conducted by the 4th Ukrainian Front.

4. Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive (9 June - 9 August, 1944). This offensive against Finland recaptured the Karelian Isthmus and Vyborg. After having reached the 1940 border, the Soviet forces stopped voluntarily. It was successful in territorial gains, but due to Finnish fortifications, and German reinforcements was not as great a success as hoped by the Stavka. However, it was an cause of the eventual Finnish surrender on 19 September. Stalin dubbed it the Liberation of Karelia-Finland Soviet Republic. It was carried out by the Leningrad Front and the Karelian Front.

5. Operation Bagration (22 June - 29 August, 1944) Started exactly three years after the invasion of the Soviet Union, and named after Pyotr Bagration, a Russian general during the Napoleonic Wars, this drove the last remaining German forces from Soviet territory, recapturing all of Belarus. It inflicted extremely heave casualties upon the German Army Group Center, to the point of being called "The Destruction of Army Group Center,"and was undoubtedly one of Germany's worst defeats of the war. Soviet forces advanced past the Bobruisk-Mogilev-Vitebsk line, and nearly reached Warsaw before stopping. Almost 30 German divisions were encircled near Minsk, and the prewar border of East Prussia was reached. The Lublin–Brest Offensive is considered part of this operation. Stalin called the operation the Belorussian Operation, and liberation of Lithuania and significant parts of allied Poland, and advance to the borders of Germany." It was conducted by the 1st Baltic Front, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Belorussian Fronts.

6. Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive (13 July - 29 August, 1944). This offensive to the south of and concurrent to Operation Bagration advanced through Poland and past the Bug River. Although it made little progress at first, eventually it became successful, capturing Brody, Lvov, and Sandomierz. Called the Liberation of western Ukraine and crossing of the Vistula, it was carried out by the 1st Ukrainian Front. and, in conjunction with Operation Bagration, destroyed the German Army Group Centre

7. Jassy-Kishinev Offensive (19 August - 14 October, 1944). This offensive, beginning with the Jassy-Kishinev Offensive from 20 August to 29 August, and overlapped with the ninth victory by including the abortive East Carpathian Offensive. This offensive and its follow-ups were mainly conducted in the Balkans, and were targeted at German and Romanian formations in Army Group South Ukraine. About 15 or 16 German divisions were encircled with several Romanian divisions during the course of the Soviet advance. These operations, directly caused the capitulation of Romania and Bulgaria. It decimated the formations of Army Group South Ukraine, and Soviet forces advanced deep into Romania. In Stalin's speech, he referred to it as the "Forcing out of the war of Romania and Bulgaria, advancing to the borders of Hungary, and the possibility of offering assistance to allied Yugoslavia." It was carried out by the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts.

8. Baltic Offensive (14 September - 20 November, 1944). Recapturing the Baltic states, including most of Latvia and Estonia, this offensive isolated the Courland Pocket, where 30 divisions of Army Group North were cut off from Army Group Center till the end of the war in Europe. Stalin's speech called the offensive the Liberation of Estonia and Latvia, surrounding of Germans in Courland, and forced exit of Finland from the war. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Baltic Fronts, along with the Leningrad Front carried out this attack.

9. East Carpathian Offensive (8 September 1944 - 28 September 1944), Budapest Offensive (20 October, 1944 - 13 February 1945), and the Belgrade Offensive (14 September 1944 - 24 November 1944). These, the final of the successful 1944 offensives, resulted in the capture of Budapest, on 13 February 1945. Budapest was surrounded by Soviet forces on 26 December, 1944, and, after brutal street fighting, fell. The three offensives were regarded, and planned as a single continuous strategic advance that was also imbued with great political significance due to the participation of the Yugoslav communist forces in its final phase. Stalin called it the crossing of the Carpathian mountains, liberation of Belgrade and offering of direct help to Czechoslovakia, destruction of the Budapest group of Axis forces, and Liberation of Belgrade. It was conducted by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts.

10. Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive (7 October - 29 October, 1944). This, the first and only large-scale Arctic military operation started after German forces did not evacuate from Finnish territory by 15 September, as dictated in the terms of the Moscow Armistice. It involved Soviet forces chasing retreating Germans into Norway, and was very successful for the Soviet Union. It led to the occupation of the nickel mines in Pechenga, which had been producing metal vital for the German war effort. Stalin called it the Removal of the threat from German forces to the Soviet northern shipping port of Murmansk and entry into Norway. It was conducted primarily by the Karelian Front, with assistance from Soviet naval forces.


November 5 in Russian history. The Moscow Planetarium.


On 5 November 1929 the first planetarium in Russia was opened. The Moscow Planetarium was the 13th planetarium in the world, it was built only 6 years after the "Wonder of Jena" was opened in Munich. The Planetarium was an important ideological object. Its task was to spread the scientific knowledge and to become a centre of the anti-religious propaganda. One of the first lecture held there was titled "Was the world created in six days?". During the WWII, the planetarium was used as a learning center for pilots. Later, in 1960s, cosmonauts also spent a lot of time there, studying astronomy. In 1977, the new planetarium hardware made by Karl Zeiss Jena was installed. It included 119 lamps that produced images of 5400 moving stellar objects.

It was one of the largest planetaria in the world: 27 meters in diameter. In 1929, it took only one year to finish the construction. Now, the reconstruction has already taken more than 13 years and the end is not even near. The events that took place around the Planetarium, deserve to be described by Mikhail Bulgakov, so weird they are.

In the Soviet years, the Planetarium belonged to the All-Union Society "Znanie" (Knowledge). In 1994 a closed corporation "Moscovsky Planetariy" was established. The largest shareholder was a company named Twinz. It belonged to someone Mikitasov, a show-biz producer. It was the first time in post-Soviet Russia when an educational institution was handed over to a private company. In the next two years the building of the planetarium was sometimes used for fashion shows and paintball matches, but the planetarium itself continued its work. The hardware was in good condition, but the building was deteriorating. In 1994 the building was closed for reconstruction. The Moscow government questioned the rights of Twinz, but the court decided that there were no violations of the law and Twinz remained the owner of the building. In 1998, Twinz suddenly agreed to pass 61% of shares to the Moscow government. In 1999 the reconstruction plan was developed, but it was not approved by the Moscow authorities, who were afraid that too many entertainment might hurt the planetarium. It was planned that the reconstruction should be finished in 2006, but in 2006 (or 2007, it was difficult to find out exactly) the Moscow authorities stopped further financing. The work was frozen.

Now, a detective story begins. Of course, during all those years there was no profit from the planetarium. The Moscow government announced that the debt of the corporation "Moskovsky Planetariy" is 1.7 billion rubles (the sum invested by Moscow). On 11 March 2008, on a shareholder meeting, the authorities proposed to dismiss Mikitasov. It's not clear whether the decision was approved, because both sides demonstrate two different versions of the meeting's record. On 25 March the court decided the further examination is necessary and the decision should be postponed till May. On the next day, 26 March, a group of armed people in uniform attacked the planetarium, beat the guards and occupied the building. They confiscated all documents and computers. The web-site of the planetarium was down. Soon, a new director arrived. He promised that the reconstruction would be finished in 2008 and the planetarium will resume its normal activities. In May 2008, the corporation "Moskovsky Planetariy" was officially recognized a bankrupt. They appealed, but in October the court rejected the appeal, ruling that Mikitasov was dismissed in March by the shareholder meeting. The reconstruction is still frozen, the new owners are reviewing the reconstruction plan. Now they promise that the work will be over in September 2009, when the 80th anniversary of the planetarium will be celebrated. It's not yet clear, though, whether they will resume the work or the land lot will be simply sold. The site is located in one of the most commecially valuable districts of Moscow.

A conflict between "the spirit of free entrepreneurship" and the state? Or the war for money between two clans? Either way, this is one of those things why for almost one half of Russians the word "capitalism" is still insulting.

In the meanwhile, Russian ministry of education decided that our schoolchildren do not need astronomy and excluded this subject from the list of obligatory subjects in Russian schools.