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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who's Who? New Book Gives the Answers

Who is a famous Russian politician whose mother was a milkmaid? Who, now a notorious firebrand journalist, was once a choir boy? Which prominent Gorbachev-era economist dropped out of school after ninth grade to work as a locksmith?

Don't know? The answers (Ruslan Khasbulatov, Alexander Nevzorov and Grigory Yavlinsky) can be found in the first edition of "Who's Who in Russia and the Former Soviet Republics".

The book, which was released Tuesday and is modeled on its more familiar Western counterparts, represents a sharp break with the Soviet traditions of equality for all and information for none.

Put out by the Novoye Vremya Publishing House and Vsyo Dlya Vas publishers, the compact 783-page hardcover directory of politicians, business people, scholars and artists lifts the curtain of secrecy that used to shroud the powerful and famous in this part of the world.

Now anyone can find out that Georgia's prime minister, Tengiz Sigua, enjoys whisky and "receiving guests like every Georgian; " that the former KGB spy Oleg Kalugin is an avid fisherman and hunter; and that Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov comes from a family of carpenters.

The book discloses that presidential spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov has a regular column in the Times of India; that Vice President Alexander Rutskoi's hobbies are weightlifting and sculpting; that Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk is an enthusiastic swimmer and chess player; and that the rock star Boris Grebenshchikov is a "very religious person".

The 1, 500 entries contain complete biographical information, including the number of medals the personalities listed have won.

Svetlana Polyutova, public relations manager for the Russian press service, which has exclusive rights to distribute the new "Who's Who", said that most of the information had come from the Itar-Tass archives.

"In the West there has been a tradition of these manuals", Polyutova said in a telephone interview: "We know the book is incomplete, but it is a start".

The new "Who's Who" - "Kto Yest Kto" in Russian - will go on sale for 1, 500 rubles a copy this week at Novoye Vremya kiosks outside the publication's offices on Pushkin Square and outside the Itar-Tass building.

In the preface of the book, the publishers write that their aim is to familiarize the reader with people who until not long ago used to be recorded only on official governmental lists.

"We wanted to emphasize that not only business people would be included, but other decision-makers and people who influence the arts", Polyutova said.

She added that the book was particularly important in these confusing days of changing faces and lives.

And after all, as the saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know".