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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taking the Time Out of Reading




By the time it takes most readers to get to the end of this sentence, Oleg Andreyev would have whizzed through to the end of the entire article.


Andreyev, who reads 30,000 letters a minute, runs the Oleg Andreyev School of Speed Reading. He has been teaching people to speed read since 1970 and can count much of the present day and past Kremlin administrations, Duma deputies and, he says, at least one present-day Cabinet minister among his alumni.


For less than 900 rubles, in 16 hours of lessons Andreyev will introduce you to concepts such as the algorithms of the text, the way your eyeballs move and the "beat of the text" - all essential ingredients to being able to speed read.


Andreyev says that with so much information flooding our world today, we need to be able to sift through it and separate the wheat from the chaff. The school trains readers to select the essential information and change the way they read.


Foreign techniques leave him aghast. "They were unbelievably primitive," said Andreyev, recalling a visit by foreign speed reading teachers. "They knew nothing. ... When I told them about our techniques, their mouths fell open."


With Andreyev, reading quickly becomes a kind of mystical experience.


Most evenings Andreyev's school, in the cellar of a prerevolutionary building on 4th Tverskaya Yamskaya Ulitsa near Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, is packed with students. Nineteen children sat patiently during one lesson last week as he guided them through the important parts of a text


He turned off the lights and put on a tape of his disembodied voice inviting them to imagine that they were walking in a forest or along a beach. All the while, Andreyev stood at the front of the class directing a series of hand and eye exercises with an unnervingly beatific smile.


Andreyev explains the meditation exercises by saying that students have to learn new ways of behavior, new ways of reading and for that they have to be calm. "They come here with a hundred worries," Andreyev said, "but leave relaxed."


"I read three times faster," said Boris Lipayev, 16, preparing for only his fourth lesson. "You study better."


"It's a very simple program. There's nothing difficult," said student Alexander Kulumbegov, 18.


At the end of the lesson the tape goes on again and Andreyev's voice echoes out some of the rules essential for good reading. Never go back when you read, never read lying down and always have 33 centimeters between your eyes and the book.


One graduate is Svetlana Arkhipova, listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the word's fastest reader, with a speed of 60,000 letters a minute. An average person reads 2,500 letters a minute.


A rotund, jolly man, Andreyev also dabbles in spiritual matters. Along with letters of congratulation from the Kremlin and Duma administration sit pictures of Andreyev meditating at the Buddhist monastery in Lhasa in Tibet and other holy places around the world.


After the first three levels - which promise to get the student up to 20,000 letters a minute - the school has four higher level courses which include instruction on all the major world religions, the development of cosmic knowledge, controlling your dreams, telepathy and tarot cards.


Andreyev gave up his job at a secret military institute with the advent of perestroika to concentrate on the school. A word with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov - Andreyev had taught some of the Moscow city administration - and he received the office off Tverskaya he now works in.


Other parts of officialdom haven't been so helpful, despite the present of textbooks he recently gave to the education minister.


But Andreyev has hopes that the new federal government will renew contacts with him and let him back into his former premises on the 13th floor of the White House. The sign is still there, he says - all he'd have to do is blow the dust off.