The Breakfast Table

Mayors and Ministers

My older daughter did a year in a late period Soviet school, so I remember those horrible, coarse brown dresses really well. The description we were given of the school before she started made it sound like the straightlaced British grammar school I had attended–standing up when teachers came in, etc.–and I was quietly hoping Emma would find herself in an atmosphere of calm, academic rigor. Then one day I went there, and found the older kids smoking outside the front door, and terrorized teachers in the main corridor flattening themselves against the wall to avoid a local variant of Australian rules football.

I wrote maosochistic? Very nice. Pity I hadn’t intended to at the time, though this could be further proof that my subconscious is in better working order than the conscious part of my brain. I agree that Luzhkov is a creepy phenomenon, with that fascist approach of his to exterior appearances–seeding the clouds to stop rain falling over the Luzhniki stadium during the world youth games, and closing down a Medecins sans Frontieres free clinic so people would not be offended by the sight of the diseased poor. But we may be seeing a lot more of him if he does finally decide to run for president.

I found the papers pretty barren today, except for the announcement of a meeting to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of Dmitry Kholodov. That’s another story I fear non-Muscovite readers will either not ever have known about or will not remember by now. Kholodov was a young investigative reporter who specialized in the military for Moskovsky Komsolets, a paper that combines British-style tabloid journalism with some interesting off-beat stuff. Kholodov wrote extensively about military corruption, and in particular about the alleged involvement of the Defense Minister of the time, the odious Yeltsin favorite Pavel Grachev. Almost certainly because of this, he was blown up in his office by a booby-trapped brief case–a very professional bit of explosives work, the investigators said. After three years or so of investigation, a couple of airborne officers have been arrested (Grachev is from the airborne himself), but the Prosecutor’s office somehow cannot come up with any leads as to who might have put out the contract on Kholodov. Moskovsky Komsolets says that the Prosecutor’s office has been invited to today’s meeting, but is still thinking about it. I’ve just been told the power is going to be cut off in the office now–not sure whether we have failed to pay the bill or if someone has been experimenting with the microwave again. We may have to communicate by pigeon this afternoon. Bye.