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Honoring a General Who is Silenced

Published: September 30, 2003 (Issue # 906)


MOSCOW - If asked the way to General Anatoly Romanov's ward in the Burdenko Central Military Hospital, almost any of the staff can give directions. The hospital's department No.18 has been home for almost eight years to the former commander of federal troops in Chechnya.

Here in the two-room ward, once the most respected of Russian generals spends his lonely days, sitting in a wheelchair by the window or watching television.

Having miraculously survived a deadly attack during the first Chechnya campaign, Romanov, who turns 55 on Saturday, does not talk or walk due to the severe brain damage he sustained.

The general's wife, Larisa Romanova, who has become his spokeswoman and representative, even stepping in to receive military awards for him, said she believes the attack was a political hit, since it came as he was negotiating with the rebels to try to end the war.

Romanova said she has many questions for his commanders, but sees no point in raking up the past. "What shall we win if I smear everybody? My husband will not rise to his feet and walk because of that," she said in a recent interview at the Biblio Globus bookstore, where she works as a commercial director.

Without pointing a finger, she said too many interests were involved in the 1994-1996 Chechen war, and not only Chechen rebels, who were blamed for the attack, would have had an interest in sidelining her husband.

Romanov was wounded Oct. 6, 1995, when a bomb exploded as his motorcade was passing through an underpass near Minutka Square in central Grozny. His bodyguard and driver were killed, and only a few pieces were left of the jeep that Romanov was traveling in.

The general, who narrowly escaped death, was rushed to Vladikavkaz and then to Moscow with numerous injuries. He remained in a coma for about a year.

The attack occurred at a time when Romanov was making progress in peace talks with the Chechen rebels and it was widely seen as aimed aimed at sabotaging the talks. After taking up the post in July 1995, he had traveled extensively throughout Chechnya to persuade rebels to lay down their arms in exchange for a promise of a partial withdrawal of federal troops.

After the attack, the peace talks stalled for almost a year until another general, Alexander Lebed, and separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov reached a peace agreement in the town of Khasavyurt in neighboring Dagestan.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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