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Brezhnev Remembered Fondly 100 Years Since Birth

Published: December 19, 2006 (Issue # 1231)


Many remember Leonid Brezhnev as a mumbling dotard with dark bushy eyebrows and a cuirass of medals pinned on his broad chest.

But more Russians today would rather live under Brezhnev, who would have turned 100 on Tuesday, than any other Soviet or post-Soviet leader, with the exception of President Vladimir Putin.

Brezhnev himself lived well, and he allowed others to live, said Marina Pukhalskaya, a Moscow pensioner who received free higher education, a relatively prestigious job as a civil engineer and, eventually, a free apartment during an 18-year rule that some quipped would never end.

People who knew Brezhnev or studied his leadership describe him as an apt bureaucrat but poor economist who had little regard for civil liberties or human rights. Acquaintances recalled astonishing displays of fairness and generosity, such as the time Brezhnev stood up for a sleepy conscript who accidentally hit the French presidents plane with a snowplow.

The protagonist of a zillion anecdotes, Dear Leonid Ilyich, as Brezhnev was known, is still remembered for the unprecedented stability that allowed ordinary people to plan out their lives. He also raised the Soviet Union to new levels of power and prestige.

For 18 years, the country lived in clover, said Andrei Brezhnev, the grandson of Leonid Brezhnev. He was 21 when the Soviet leader died of a heart attack in 1982.

Granddad was very intelligent. Otherwise, he would not have been allowed by others to run the country for so long, he said.

A nationwide survey last year indicated that 31 percent of Russians would prefer to live during the Brezhnev era, while 39 percent picked Putins time. Only 1 percent of the 3,200 people polled by the state-run VTsIOM longed for Boris Yeltsins 1990s.

Critics of the Brezhnev era and there are many focus on the prolonged stagnation of the 1970s, when authorities ignored fundamental economic problems and allowed the political system to decline. But even they agree that Russia is managing to live well by exploiting the biggest legacy of the Brezhnev era the vast infrastructure that connects the gas-rich bowels of Siberia to the ovens of residents in Munich, Germany.

Developing those oil and gas fields was the most serious achievement of the Brezhnev era, former Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar said. And although it was never discussed openly at that time, the country had set its hopes on oil and gas exports.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Nov. 26


AmChams Public Relations Committee will meet this afternoon in their office in the New St. Isaacs Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha at 4 p.m.


Zoosphere, an international exhibition focusing on the pet industry, opens today at the Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island. Not only will items such as toys, terrariums and accessories be available for purchase, but animal enthusiasts can also learn about the latest in veterinary medicine and behavioral training thanks to the conferences and presentations that are part of the event.



Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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