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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

They're Back: Now Where Do You Go?

I never saw the movie "Poltergeist II," but I have a clear recollection of the trailer, showing a rather irritating little girl communing with her television set, then turning toward the camera and chanting in a high, singsong voice: "They're back."


Russians, at least the Muscovites I tend to pal around with, seem to have become infected with the "Poltergeist" syndrome.


"The Communists are coming" has become something of a mantra among those mature enough to remember what the old regime was like, but young enough to have a stake in the new system.


The last time I saw Marina, a 40-something chemist who runs a thriving business in cosmetics out of a downtown parikmakherskaya, or hairdressing salon, she was furious over repeated inspections by city authorities who, she said, were seeking to increase their revenue by uncovering minor violations in the store. An unemptied wastebasket, a dusty mirror, a stray cigarette butt could run into millions of rubles in fines, she added, fuming.


While strict regulations were used and abused liberally in the Soviet days, she continued, her life recently had been blessedly free of such nonsense.


"For four years I have lived like a human being, used my knowledge and skill, and no one interfered," she said. "Now the powers-that-be feel that the Communists are on their way back, and they start reverting to the old methods."


And this, she felt, was only the beginning.


"No one has even come to power yet," she complained. "What will they do after the elections?"


Another friend, Natalya, a cultured woman with a rare sense of humor, asked a friend to have a copy of Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov's latest book, "I Believe in Russia," autographed by its author. Knowing Natalya's strongly anti-communist views, I was a bit surprised.


"I'm keeping it with me at all times," she laughed. "It could save my life some day."


I hope she was joking.


I have caught the fever myself. I was talking to my friend Nadya the other day, and unthinkingly remarked that this might just be a good time to think about getting out of Russia.


"Yes, you're right, but where am I going to go?" she said.


I know several Russians who have quit their jobs in Western firms out of fear of the backlash if the "wrong" side gets in. And an acquaintance, Ira, told me she was busy trying to convince her beau in America that it was time to get married.


Muscovites are seeing links with the old days even where none can possibly exist. Just the other day I passed a store with a long line snaking out of it. Those in line were waiting for access to a Western athletic shoe store, not queuing for butter or oranges, but the cabbie was appalled just the same.


"Look at that," he said in disgust. "The Communists are on their way back, and lines start forming everywhere."


What has surprised me is the sense of inevitability that hangs over my friends. Like turtles, they have pulled into their shells and reverted to survival mode. No one, certainly, is prepared to mount the barricades to keep Zyuganov and company out of the Kremlin. In the final analysis, Russian fatalism takes over.


"Well," said Marina, heaving a sigh, "We lived that way for 70 years, we'll get through it this time."