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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Readers on Guns, Turkey and Teletubbies

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In response to "The School Where Putin's People Learn to Rule," an essay by Gleb Pyanykh, Nov. 15.


I found Pyanykhs essay very amusing. Sounds like old times. Or perhaps a strange future. But Im afraid it gives an inaccurate impression of the state of public administration education in Russia today and the policy of the Putin administration in this area.

The premier public administration school in Russia today is not the bizarre school Pyanykh profiles, but the School of Public Administration at Moscow State University, or MGU. Founded in 1993, MGU teaches future public servants how to apply serious social science training to the service of public ends. Your readers will be relieved to know that this school also has Putin advisers on its faculty. Indeed, President Vladimir Putin supported the MGU School of Public Administration receiving a large grant from the U.S. State Department to establish a partnership with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, one of Americas oldest and best schools of public administration. The program was announced at the summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton earlier this year and enjoys the support of both presidents. The future of public administration education in Russia is a serious issue, demanding attention from top levels of the Russian administration and the donor community.

I have been teaching in the MGU program this fall and have been deeply impressed by the work of the faculty and administration in building this new school at a very difficult time. The School of Public Administration was launched as an institute of MGU in 1993 by rector Viktor Sadovnichy, under the leadership of Dean Alexei Surin, and has been growing by leaps and bounds around a new model of public administration education for Russia. The school now has approximately 700 undergraduate students and 150 aspirant candidates of science. Both programs have graduated their first classes and are steadily improving. Applications to the Candidate of Science degree program leapt dramatically last year, making it more selective and demonstrating student recognition of the value of the degree. The school is busy refining its curriculum and methods of instruction, and with the help of the U.S. State Department grant is purchasing new computer technology enabling high-tech distance education from branch campuses in Tolyatti, Yaroslavl and Yoshkar-Ola, as well as access to Internet library resources in Russian and English.

Serious schools of public administration in Russia face major challenges. One of them is resources. A second problem is the state of public administration in Russia itself. Graduates of the School of Public Administration sometimes have difficulty finding jobs in public administration and instead face widespread suspicion of their modernizing attitudes and questioning minds. For now, many top graduates take jobs in Russian companies that better employ and reward their skills.

There will likely always be a diversity of public administration programs in Russia. Russia does not have a single, national school of public administration linked to the government, as in France, and probably never will. Therefore, different schools will take different paths and some less well-established than others. But with the dedication of individuals, such as those running MGUs School of Public Administration, and the support they are getting from the Russian state and thousands of parents seeking a serious public administration education for their children, anything is possible in fact, more than we might expect.

Mitchell Orenstein
Assistant Professor, Syracuse University
Visiting Assistant Professor
MGU School of Public Administration

Monkies & Teletubbies

In response to "Monkey to Host a Celebrity Talk Show," Nov. 25.


Recently you seem to have a front-page fascination with the latest happenings on Russian television. While reading about the new developments in television is sometimes interesting, one surely does not expect to find most of the front page and a lot of the second page dedicated to the subject.

In my opinion, these things just are not front-page news. Does The Moscow Times employ monkeys on its editorial team?

I was also surprised to read an editorial about the "subversive" messages of the Teletubbies [ "Sinister Ideas Lurk Behind Teletubbies"] while the Middle East is going up in flames and the U.S. presidential election system has become a worldwide laughing stock. Nonetheless, you chose to give over your front-page space to a piece about the Russian version of the Teletubbies [" Tinky-Vinky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po Debut, Nov. 11"]!

Any monkey of an editor should see the logical thing to do is create a dedicated television review section or supplement instead of just a lonesome program guide. Stop treating your readers like 15-year-olds!

Viktor Romain

Wanna Buy a Gun?

In response to "Forget Order: We'd Rather Be Suffering," a column by Anna Badkhen, Dec. 5.


I can sympathize with Anna Badkhens description of her disorderly Russia. It may very well be the first modern nation that requires traffic signals on the sidewalks and overpasses across potholes. Nonetheless, there are some aspects of Russian life that remain orderly.

For example, how many sensible people would risk their lives hitch-hiking in the United States? This has become a regular and orderly part of my daily morning routine here, but when I go back home to Pittsburgh I must endure hour-long bus rides or wait until an official taxi arrives. In fact, I have only had one bad experience in a Russian gypsy cab and this was due to my poor understanding of the native language.

It happened one day when I hopped into an ordinary Zhiguli. After setting out, the driver suddenly turned down the volume on the radio and gave me a coy smile, revealing a handsome set of gold teeth. I smiled back at him, which I have found is the smartest thing to do in such circumstances. He then reached down under his seat and produced the largest handgun I have ever seen. Charles Bronson would have had gun-envy, I can tell you that.

The smile never left his lips, but mine became significantly less natural. He then began speaking rapidly while waving the hand cannon in circles between us. Even if I spoke fluent Russian, it wouldnt have mattered at this point. My head started spinning and the only thing I could think about was how to fling my body from the moving car while sustaining the least possible bodily damage.

Then my gun-waving companion did an incredible thing: He tossed the gun into my lap. It lay there for several seconds like a dead cat. Then I realized that I had my would-be assassin exactly where I wanted him. I picked up the heavy instrument and slid my index finger into the trigger slot. I must admit, it felt pretty good.

I was just about to take a couple practice shots at the glove compartment when my abductor began speaking again. "Hes stalling for time," I thought. Perhaps he realized the folly of his action and was trying to bargain back his weapon. Then he asked me in English: "So, do you want to buy it or what?"

"What?" I said.

"The gun, do you want to buy it?"

"Oh no," I said as nonchalantly as I could. "Its far too small for me!"

Soon after, I got out of the car and staggered to a nearby tree where I vomited in peace for ten minutes before continuing on my way. The moral of this story is: Yes, some things here are disorderly, but they probably wont get you killed. If youre lucky.

Robert Bridge

Holiday Gravy

In response to "More Than Turkey and Cranberries," a column by Peter Ekman, Nov. 24.


Good job on your article about the spirit of Thanksgiving. It was a great summary of why all peoples everywhere really should have a count-the-blessings day reserved for that kind of spirit. You adequately demonstrated how Russians are justified in sharing this spirit and I especially enjoyed your summary of the blessings that have come to most expatriates who work here interesting work, inspiring people to work with and a very significant place in which to live no matter what interests you culture, architecture, art, history, politics, etc.

Thanks for the entertaining piece. I certainly got my two kopecks worth.

Gere Gaige

Matter of Opinion

In response to "The Global Eye," a column by Chris Floyd that appears on Saturdays.


I cant believe The Moscow Times includes articles by Chris Floyd in its otherwise fine newspaper. I am all for editorials, but Floyd comes across as a high-school writer who is so extreme as to offer almost no intelligent discussion on any issue. His recent virulent slamming of the Bush family belies a partisanship that seemingly knows no barriers or else refuses to grapple honestly with difficult issues. Why is he considered worthy to editorialize in your paper?

Mark Harris

Labor Solidarity

In response to " Proposed Code Has Labor Up in Arms ," Dec. 1.


This was a good article, thank you. Im the Human Rights Representative for local 947 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and, needless to say, we are 100 percent for the Russian worker. Having spent almost two months in your great country in the last couple of years, my heart goes out to the average worker there. For your information what the people are paying for eggs, meat and milk is more than in America! If these items are now a strain on the budget of the average Russian worker, what will weaker labor legislation do?

As for a reduced working week, on May 1, 1886, labor blood was spilled on the streets of Chicago so that American workers could have a forty-hour working week. I hope you will print this so any money-grubbing American businessmen over there will know that we care and are watching to see if our Russian brothers and sisters will be further exploited. Of course that goes for any hooligan politicians you have as well.

John Wallace Hazouri
Jacksonville, Florida

How Many Bridges?

In response to "Canal Walk," a stand-alone photograph, Nov. 30.


I regret to inform you that you made an error in the description of your photograph. It would certainly be hard to imagine how to arrange the life of a city that has as you report 242 rivers and only 242 bridges!

For the record, St. Petersburg is located on 42 islands. It has 350 bridges, including 22 drawbridges. The number of rivers and canals is 65.

Natalie Terekhova
St. Petersburg

Time for Flex Time


Trying to get into the metro wagon this morning (like any other morning) I had to miss two trains and then at last! was literally smashed into a carriage filled with bodies in unnatural postures. Someone far behind was pushing his way persistently not noticing that the doors were closing: "Just exhale, everyone!" he said. That didnt really help.

The nervous voice of the driver said, "Dont hold the doors! The wagons are not elastic, you know!"

During the long trip, being absolutely unable to move my limbs I started to think how the problem could be solved. Can it be solved indeed? When my smooshed body was finally spat out, I came to the conclusion that the only thing to do is to reduce the number of passengers.

No, Im not talking about physical termination. Perhaps different organizations can have a more coordinated working-hours schedule, especially state organizations. For my part, I have begun leaving home half an hour earilier. But Im not sure that will help.

Varvara Kazarian

Pope Travesty

In response to "Pope Sentenced to 20 Years for Spying," Dec. 7th.


The outcome of the Edmond Pope trial does an injustice not only to Pope but also to all people of Russia. I was very saddened to see such an outcome when there should not have even been a trial in the first place.

Why arent the people who made the decision that the information Pope received was not classified on trial? Why isnt the Russian government not on trial for being such a poorly organized institution? Why doesnt one bureau not know what the other is doing, or what the policies of other bureaus are when they share jurisdiction over matters or items at hand?

I have great fondness for Russia and the Russian people, and respect for the fact Russia is one of the more literate nations on this planet. So I wonder, where does such an idiot as Judge Nina Barkina come from? This is one judge who apparently has no idea of what justice is all about. I have heard that Russia has a literacy rate approaching 99 percent. I guess the rest have government jobs.

David Tubbs
Memphis, Tennessee

Watch Your Language

In response to " Lanuguage Lobby a Lot of Hot Air," an editorial on Nov. 23.


You editorial on the Russian language is so politically charged and confrontational that it baffles the reader and questions the political and cultural motives of your editors.

Straightforwardly, the article questions no less than the value of the Russian language and adversely compares it with English. I was amazed to be instructed that Russian is in fact not elegant enough and that "defolt" sounds in Russian much more elegant than the inelegant "nevypolneniye obyazatelstv."

I was struck with your articles firm assurance that the Russian language is over-complicated, with Pushkin brought to defend this statement. Incredibly, the article assures us that the great Russian poet himself, and in full seriousness, advised women not to speak Russian, as the "complexities of Russian overheated their [womens] fragile brains."

Why such an assault on Russias culture and language, which are tenderly loved by most of your readers and are the native culture of at least some of your staff?

Such aggressive and chauvinistic publications are totally destructive to any common good.

They provide perfect support to the conspiracy theories about foreign-owned media on Russian soil supporting radical opposition and foreign values and points of view.

Georgy Ivanov