Dear Barack, From Dima

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Moscow's version of Obamamania reached new and intriguing heights last Thursday, when RIA-Novosti announced that effective immediately its readers could "send a message to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama."

This didn't mean joining a youthful rent-a-mob making hand gestures at the U.S. Embassy or signing a mass petition to free some new Angela Davis -- like "outraged workers" in the bad old days. We are talking about individual letters, any number of them, with delivery "guaranteed" by the news agency. Readers can write Obama "about anything," the project managers maintain, but may wish to exercise some discretion for maximum effect: "If you want to assure that your message is read, please be careful in using emotionally intense language."

Come again? Who the [bleep] wants to be "careful" when laying down a nice patch of emotionally intense language? This isn't "Children's Letters to God."

Or maybe it is. Pondering the curious phenomenon of Russians urging other Russians to mass-mail a non-Russian president, one Moscow commentator opined that with the globe in crisis, Obama is effectively president of the world -- a "miniprophet" with "a special mission on behalf of all humanity." Which means Muscovites should probably send their traffic complaints to the White House instead of the Kremlin.

But wait -- will Russian letters really be that trivial? This is a nation renowned for writers who Think Big. Granted, nobody's likely to send Obama a post-Soviet "War and Peace," but I'll bet some early missives on this new Epistolary Hotline will show Russians rising commendably above the mundane:

"Respected Mr. President! Happy inauguration, which I watched live on laptop with friends (not really on laptop, sitting next). My question: When supreme justice Roberts flubbed up swear-in, Americans are calling him 'oaf of office'! – did repeating his mistake in vow secretly make you Freemason? I am thinking you had fingers crossed! But fine if not, Pierre Bezukhov was Mason and he turned out OK. Sincerely, Fedya M., School No. 14, Tula."

"Greetings Obama B.H.! Wow, that Cadillac is some presidential limo! Now how about bailing out General Motors? OK, only if it doesn't fall apart after two years or 30,000 kilometers. Either way, please bring this Caddy with you in April for the summit with Dima. If my Hummer's in the shop again, I'd like to talk short-term leasing. Happy motoring, Yuri L., Moscow."

"Dear President Obama: Thank heavens for RIA-Novosti, which guarantees you'll get this note. My letters to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have been coming back stamped 'Address Unknown.' Anyway, to business. Despite various rumors, be aware that: 1. I am the president here. All the time. 2. Though I am shorter than the prime minister (slightly), that has nothing to do with who's in charge. 3. If this place does go ka-blooey during the economic crisis -- which is not your fault, I admit -- the blame should fall squarely at the feet of the prime minister, let's agree. See you on the tarmac at Sheremetyevo! Dmitry M., Moscow. (P.S.: I'll be the dark-haired one with the bigger entourage.)"

"Dear Mr. President! Listen, if RIA-Novosti starts forwarding you letters from a 'Dmitry M.,' who is both shorter than myself and temporarily -- repeat, temporarily -- in public office here, ignore him. I do. Now to cases: Our two great nations have some disagreements, as you know, over which you'll start offering concessions in April, I assume. Relax, this won't go unrewarded: I will forego looking into your soul during the entire summit, even though I have a gift certificate from your predecessor entitling me to do so. OK, see you at Sheremetyevo. (I'll be just behind Shorty.) Vladimir P., Moscow."

"Dear Mr. President: As a veteran U.S. expatriate in Moscow, I ask you to mention one little item at your meetings with Putvedev: the [bleeping] visa regime! Sorry for the emotionally intense language, but what other country hands would-be contributors to its economy an official "one-year" business visa -- and then says ha-ha, it's only good for 90 days! 'Reciprocity' my [bleep]!

"Hey, I feel better already! Oh, one other thing: Could you have the FBI look into an identity theft here? Some obnoxious loudmouth named Teeter is running around town claiming to be me. Thanks, Mark H. Titer, Moscow."

Mark H. Teeter teaches English and Russian-American relations in Moscow.