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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Memories of Shchekochikhin's Early Days

From personal experience, I can say that Yury Shchekochikhin was not an easy person to talk to, even when in a friendly, informal environment. Once, right at the end of the 1980s, during a party at my home I called him a "hero of the era of stagnation." He held it against me for a number of years afterwards.

Insulting Yury Petrovich, of course, could not have been further from my mind. What I wanted to say then and will repeat now is the following: There would never have been any perestroika or glasnost had it not been for the fact that, during what we now refer to as the Khrushchev thaw and the Brezhnev stagnation, centers of free-thinking and opposition to the system had sprung up in society -- in official bodies, including the mass media -- not attacking official ideology but the system's more loathsome routine features.

One such center was Komsomolskaya Pravda, an organ of the Komsomol Central Committee and officially the third most important daily after Pravda and Izvestia, where Shchekochikhin launched his journalistic career back in the days when my father, Boris Pankin, was the editor.

The KP of the 1960s and 1970s that I remember was like one big family. Journalists not only worked together, but they also socialized together, had picnics, went to watch soccer or ice hockey matches together -- and wherever they went, they took their children with them. Older children got on easily with the younger KP journalists, and many of us went through the school of "Aly Parus."

Today, I can't even remember whether I first got to know Shchekochikhin through his articles or in person.

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Inna Rudenko, a KP columnist and member of the paper's editorial team in those days, describes what Aly Parus was: "In the mid-1960s, a secondary school teacher visited the newspaper and brought with her three senior pupils who had put together a 'scandalous,' in her view, stennaya gazeta, or wall newspaper.

"People started to read it, and on the spot they decided to hire one of them, 10th-grader Alexei Ivkin. He became the 'captain' of Aly Parus, a page in the paper especially for school children. It was produced entirely by school children and, moreover, not a single grown-up article went into the paper, unless it had the children's stamp of approval.

"Shchekochikhin came to Aly Parus right at the beginning of the 1970s. He was always on the move, attending hippy gatherings; he knew all the leaders of all the youth groups and brought them to our editorial offices. He had a column in Aly Parus titled 'Letters From Behind the Bike Sheds.' I remember how your father used to type up the letters himself on his typewriter, he was just itching to get them on the page posthaste."

My father recalls: "The strongest recollection I have of the young Shchekochikhin is that after almost every publication of 'Letters From Behind the Bike Sheds,' I would be summoned to the Komsomol Central Committee and told to stop publishing the ideologically offensive column. Paradoxically, the person who dragged me over the coals was later trumpeted to the world as one of the main architects of perestroika."

And to conclude, the recollections of Alexei Ivkin, whom Shchekochikhin replaced in 1972 as captain of Aly Parus, when Ivkin was called up to serve in the army: "From a very early age Yura, through his journalistic passions, became acquainted with the seamier side of life. However, I cannot recall him ever using obscene language, even when in a state of some inebriation -- until he became a State Duma deputy."

Thank you, Yura, for being a friend to us all.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (