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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


In response to "Russia's Little Contradictions in Cleanliness," Feb. 8.


If I were Russian I would take personal offense at Anna Badkhen's last column. I'm sure personal hygiene is a problem all over the world. I once read that some German men only change their underwear once every 14 days. (I do appreciate the issue about shoes on the bed that Badkhen highlighted. I won't allow that kind of thing myself.)

My newlywed St. Petersburg-born wife took personal offense at Badkhen's column. Not all Russians have a hygiene problem. The younger population (under 40) is very clean. Had I never visited Russia before and read Badkhen's column I'd be concerned about coming. In any case, it is unfair to judge the country on hygiene habits.

Often the choices come down to earning money for food or for hygiene products. In a country where average wages hover around the low $100 range, the choice is obvious.

As a journalist, I'd be more concerned as to why most homes can only be heated to a certain temperature due to utility or government regulations ... the colder it gets outside the colder it gets inside, like only 11 degrees Celsius. Why is that? Also, why do the utilities cut off hot water for one month in the summer? Aren't they in the business to make a profit?

I'm sure there's some logical reason, maybe the employees or politicians have to take showers that time of the year, leaving very little for the rest of the population?

Russia is a country of enormous potential, not just a stockade of smelly people.

If the country could eliminate just a small portion of its internal financia corruption and graft, you'd have American women wanting to leave the United States for Russia instead of the other way around. Your country would have a thriving economy and population.

Al Wagner, St. Petersburg

Translation Is the Secret

In response to "Shakespeare, Dickens ... and John Galsworthy?" Feb. 8.


Simon Patterson has vividly described a typical home library in this country. It has struck him as a foreigner that, along with collected works of Russian translation of what we call classics of English literature, such as Shakespeare and Dickens, one might see books "by such fourth-rate, dull and almost forgotten writers" as Galsworthy or O'Henry. Patterson wonders why.

The answer is quite simple. I agree that Galsworthy, O'Henry and especially Jack London are not on a par with Shakespeare, Dickens and Shaw, so it must be translation that levels off the differences in these authors' ability to write. The fact is that their books were translated by a team of excellent translators led by the well-known Wright-Kovaleva, whose translation of "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger is so brilliant some say it has even surpassed the original. The same applies to O'Henry's stories, translated with a subtle humor the author himself may have never had. As for Jack London, his ideologized stuff (e.g. "Martin Eden") was in the school curriculum in Soviet times, hence traditional love for this writer over here. And the English serial "The Forsyte Saga" shown on Soviet TV in the early 1970s (when we did not have much choice as to what to see) has made its author extremely popular, which may explain why he is so widely represented on our bookshelves.

Georgy Meyerovsky, Moscow

Totalitarian Authority?

Open letter from Russian journalists published Feb. 9.

For a week the Russian authorities have been lying about the fate of Andrei Babitsky, the Radio Liberty journalist.

Every fact concerning his detention, alleged exchange for Russian soldiers, and where he is now being kept provokes doubt. To this day it remains a mystery who traded Babitsky, a Russian citizen, for Russian soldiers, and how they did so; and how it came about that the prosecutor general freed Babitsky from orders that he not leave the city of Moscow (!); and how it was that acting President Vladimir Putin - who claims to have the situation in control - permitted this absurd "exchange."

It is absolutely absurd under these circumstances that the prosecutor general would demand Babitsky appear for questioning, declare him at large and threaten him with an arrest warrant should he fail to appear.

Not since the beginning of perestroika have they allowed themselves to deal in such a boundlessly cynical fashion toward the mass media. If Babitsky has done anything wrong in the eyes of the authorities, then the question of his guilt or innocence must be decided in an open and public trial.

If, however, the government's actions against Babitsky result from the contents of his reporting from Chechnya, then this is an open violation of the principles of free speech guarded by the Constitution of Russia.

Today, one thing is clear: Anonymous officials have been making decisions about Babitsky's life and the authorities have publicly absolved themselves of any responsibility for his fate. This will not work. Responsibility for Babitsky's life lies squarely with those who turned him over to now-famous masked men; it lies with those who made the decision to do that; and it lies with acting President Putin.

Until the Babitsky incident is resolved, we have all the reason to assert that Russian authorities not only refused to defend freedom of speech, but even disregarded elementary legality. Such authorities are known as totalitarian.

Among the 51 signatories were:

Yegeny Kiselyov, NTV

Yekaterina Andreyeva, ORT

Alexei Venediktov, Ekho Moskvy

Yevgenia Albats, independent journalist

Svetlana Sorokina, NTV

Mikhail Berger, Izvestia

Arina Sharapova, TV-6

Yury Rost, Obshchaya Gazeta

Irina Inoveli, Interfax

Anna Politkovskaya, Novaya Gazeta

Alexander Budberg, M-K

Sergei Parkhomenko, Itogi magazine

Irina Petrovskaya, Izvestia