FIFTH COLUMN: Aksyonenko A Devotee of Krishnamurti

The government has always boasted one or two internal emigr?s. The early reformist Cabinet of Yegor Gaidar was chock-full of them. Even the later, compromise-based governments included English-speaking, smooth, well-groomed ministers whose primary purpose was to wangle money from Western creditors.

First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko is not one of them. Indeed, his halting speech and rough-hewn features would have disqualified him for the first Gaidar Cabinet regardless of his business qualities. Yet in a recent public appearance he gave himself away completely as a veritable easthead, a Russian whose thoughts are far to the southeast of the land where, not long ago, he ran the railroad monopoly.

A reporter asked Aksyonenko in St. Petersburg last week why he was so calm in the face of the latest government crisis. Was he sure he would keep his post? The former railroad minister and No. 2 man in Sergei Stepashin's government gave a reply that startled everyone present.

"I live by Krishnamurti," he said. "Read his books, and you will understand everything."

Apparently, he then checked himself just in time, remembering that it would not be a good time to ask for a donation on behalf of, say, the Krishnamurti Foundation of America.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in 1895 in Madanapalle, India, into a respectable brahman family. His father was a member of the Theosophic Society, run by English mystic Annie Besant. She noticed the boy when he was 14, finding his capacity for meditative ecstasy quite remarkable.

Besant adopted young Krishnamurti, took him to London and gave him an education. In 1912, he was declared by the Theosophists the new Messiah and put at the head of a newly formed Order of the Star of the East. He was given large amounts of money and real estate to run the mystic order.

But in 1929, Krishnamurti gave all that away, quit the order and declared that "truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. ... Truth, being borderless, cannot be organized."

He lived to be 91, spreading his teaching throughout the world. He wrote 200 books. "I want to see man free, joyful like a bird in the clear sky, unburdened and independent," he said.

This is the philosophy Aksyonenko professes to live by. Never mind all the malicious press about him being a puppet of the Yeltsin family and tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Never mind the slight contradiction between working in a highly organized structure such as the government and following Krishnamurti's teaching of absolute freedom.

Meet Aksyonenko, unburdened and independent, and thus unconcerned with whether he would be reappointed. Forget Aksyonenko the Berezovsky prot?g? who would keep his job in any Cabinet while the family runs the Kremlin.

One of Aksyonenko's predecessors in the Cabinet, former Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov, was also fond of oriental culture. It was he who helped the notorious Aum Shinrikyo sect get into Russia.

Generally, it makes more sense to track the Russian government's tradition of oriental mysticism than to accuse it of corruption. Accusations fall on deaf ears, while a discussion of philosophical preferences is as stimulating as a cup of Japanese tea.