From Lenin to Tyotya Asya

Due to popular demand, I've decided to continue the Hit Parade I began two columns ago, when I listed the capital's ten most talked-about personalities. That rating is averaged over a month. For a complete listing, see Itogi's "Top 100" list -- just kidding.

1. Alla Pugacheva. It's not a good thing, and even somewhat uncivilized, when there is only one truly popular woman -- albeit a big one -- in our huge country. But then, her glory completely eclipses everything around her on her birthdays ... And we had the Eurovision contest, when our monumental Borisovna went head to head with all of those lightweight European pop singers -- and placed somewhere in the double digits. There was lots of sniffling.

2. Anatoly Chubais. A junior partner in that multi-profile firm of Berezovsky, Gusinsky & Co. He manages the firm's Russian government department, its finances in particular. In contrast to the senior partners, he has the ability to speak convincingly and behave himself without looking about nervously. But for some reason no one trusts him. People love him only because they can curse him.

3. Jesus Christ. As with Pugacheva, his popularity is in part seasonal -- picks up each year around the anniversary of his resurrection. Plus, the people are having a very tough time right now; they're feeling low. You certainly can't call Chubais and Nemtsov saviors; there's little news of Lebed; you can't expect anything from the president; and NATO's no help. In short, God is our only hope.

4. Boris Nemtsov. A deputy prime minister. Nicest guy of the ten, not counting Christ. Only member of the current nomenklatura who would have a chance in a fair democratic presidential election. But that's the only thing he has. Question: Is the nomenklatura stupid, or has the idea of fair elections been thrown out for good? I lean toward the second, although I am absolutely sure of the first.

5. Alexander Lukashenko. President of the country next door. He's pretending to be the younger brother, which is probably why his voice is so high. He's for unification, which is why many people like him. His inability to understand the concepts of human rights and freedom of speech is sincere, which is why even more people like him. Interesting use of hair: had a mustache way back when, then during the Brezhnev years had eyebrows, and now the decorative growth has climbed on top of his head.

6. Fugitive Sergei Stankevich. Apprehended by the Poles. Of thousands of government bureaucrats who have pocketed billions, he's the one who gets caught -- with $10,000. The way out for the former Yeltsin and Luzhkov confidant is a simple barter: He keeps his mouth shut and gets to live -- outside Russia's borders. Go figure.

7. Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin. If foreign sources are to be believed, he could pay off all wage and pension arrears -- as well as bail out a few industries in crisis -- out of his own pocket. It's obvious he doesn't like to share, especially with the people. He's licensed to kill (animals), and does so at his own discretion.

8. Yury Mikhailovich Luzhkov. From all appearances, not much poorer than Viktor Stepanovich. As opposed to Chernomyrdin, though, he does share with the city -- for which he has the respect of the majority of his compatriots. Cunning and pragmatic, but recently burned twice. Needs art experts and a Crimean vacation.

9. Tyotya Asya. Television commercial activist. Forever looking for ways to show off her Ace -- pronounced "Ahss" -- detergent's whitening abilities. Television viewers see her as a necessary evil -- that is, they like her. Becoming a household word: "What do you think you're doing, barging into my kitchen like Tyotya Asya?" or "That's it, I'm going to hit you so hard, you'll turn white like Tyotya Asya."

10. Lenin and sculptor Tsereteli. Both hostages to monumental propaganda, there's no burying either of them -- Lenin physically or Tsereteli morally. Lenin's been dead for a long time, but Tsereteli is alive and people feel sorry for him. Why couldn't he have put his unfortunate monument to Peter the Great further north on the Moscow River, so guides could point him out to tourists as they cross the bridge on their way in from Sheremetyevo? Most importantly, the money spent would have been the same. Lenin costs us significantly less.

You can't help but feel frustrated taking a final glance at the list. Few of the contenders are brilliant, noble or popular people in any positive sense of the words. They're all more like subjects for condemnation and vicious gossip. As Tyotya Asya would say, boiling won't do any good ... And no tears!