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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 15, 2010 / 7 Tishrei, 5771

Our Man in Moscow

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's got to be the funniest or the saddest spy story of this post-Cold War period, or maybe both. The two, humor and pathos, blend inextricably in Russia. Like good and evil mixing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, becoming oh-so-philosophical and all too confiding, not to say confusing -- like most of the Russians I would meet on a three-week tour of the old Soviet Union back in 1983. What a country, empire and mystery wrapped in an enigma! My hosts would become quite talkative once the sun had set, the vodka started flowing and confidences were exchanged in a whisper. Or just with a hand signal. As when somebody would point at the chandelier in the middle of the ceiling, meaning: Beware, we're being recorded. The three great pastimes all Russians still seem to share are drinking, talking and secrecy.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought Communism would never end. A succession of geriatric figures sat in the Kremlin and pretended to rule as the whole creaking system began to grind down. But not many noticed much of a difference from the time when Communism was supposed to be in the ascendant, maybe because there wasn't one. Russia, under czar or commissar, remains Russia.

How much Russia has changed even now -- which is all too little -- was illustrated by a brief item in the news just the other day: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was quoted as warning any dissenters who didn't have government permission to "peaceably assemble," to use a good old American phrase from the Bill of Rights, that they'd keep getting beaten "upside the head with a truncheon." There in brief you have the difference between the Russian and American ideas of due process. What is a right here is a crime there.

After a few weeks in the old Soviet Union back when it was collapsing on itself, you couldn't tell whether you were lost in a tragedy or a comedy, probably both. The only sure thing was that you were lost. Much like Igor Sutyagin himself, the hero and goat of this spy story.

I'm not even sure if I should call his saga a spy story. A non-spy story would be more like it. It begins innocently enough. A researcher who'd been trained at the grandly titled Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, young Sutyagin had visited the West during the euphoric 1990s, when Communism was pronounced dead and Russia was going to be a free country like any other. Uh huh.

Attending a conference in England, Comrade and now Citizen Sutyagin was offered a sweet deal. A firm called Alternative Futures was interested in drumming up investment in Russia -- there were a lot of outfits like that around in the '90s -- and this one was in the market for some expert analysis. It would pay him $1,000 a month, which was more than his day job did, just to read the Russian papers and official government statements, then summarize them. Easy money, right? And who couldn't use a few extra rubles now and then?

Was this company a CIA front or legit? Who knows? To this day Igor Sutyagin doesn't. How would he? He's no spy. And did it matter who was putting up the dough? He wasn't going to do anything wrong. But of course that doesn't matter, either, not in a country where guilt or innocence change with the changing requirements of the state.

Maybe you had to visit the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies back in the '80s and interview its founder, director and reigning apparatchik, Georgiy Arbatov, to realize the depth of Russian naivete about the West. Comrade Arbatov was one of those English-speaking members of the Party who'd made a life's study of this country, learning every detail of the American system and absolutely nothing of its spirit.

At the time, Director Arbatov was warning that the current American president, a B-movie actor and capitalist tool named Ronald Reagan, was going to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust if re-elected. The experience wasn't unlike reading the New York Times' editorials back then. Or press releases from the Democratic National Committee. It was Clark Clifford, the party's grand old man, who had summed up Ronald Reagan as an "amiable dunce." Well, he got the amiable part right.

But how could anyone have known that this washed-up actor in the White House, far from ending the world, would wind up ending the nuclear arms race -- by the simple expedient of ending the Soviet Union? Comrade Arbatov, the Kremlin's official expert on all things American, was like one of those musicologists who know every note in a piece but can't hear the music. Confident he knew everything about us, he knew nothing.

Igor Sutyagin didn't know much about his own country if he thought Russia was about to change into another Western-style democracy, where he would be free to pick up a few rubles every month just by reading and repeating whatever was in the papers. By 1999, the Russian thaw was ending, a former KGB colonel by the name of Vladimir Putin had become prime minister, and Russia was becoming Russia again.

Soon young Sutyagin was accused of treason. And to be accused in Russia is to be convicted. Even if it took the KGB, now renamed the FSB, three trials to finally get him declared guilty as charged and sentenced to 15 years in the nearest gulag. For heinous crimes like repeating what had already appeared in top-secret publications like the Washington Post and Red Star, the Russian military's official organ. Some secrets.

A decade later, stuck in a labor camp near Archangel, our non-spy was suddenly told to throw his stuff together; he was being transferred to Lefortovo in Moscow, a Russian version of our own country-club prisons for white-collar types. He began to suspect something was up when he was told to change into suit and tie for an official photo. Turns out he was one of the zeks picked to be exchanged for the 10 real Russian spies who'd just been arrested in this country -- sleepers who were supposed to meld into American life. Lucky him.

All he had to do was sign a confession and board the plane. At first he resisted, but, offered freedom, he signed. "I was between a rock and a hard place," he told Peter Baker of the New York Times, "and if I didn't sign, the rock and hard place would have pulverized me." So it was off to London.

Once there, he was given a change of clothes, $3,000 and left on his own. He wants to go back to Russia now that he's been officially pardoned. (Breathes there the man with soul so dead/ who never to himself hath said,/ This is my own, my native land!) But when he asks old friends there if he should return, they have a word of advice for him: Don't. Something tells me he would do well to take it.

There was something vaguely familiar about Igor Sutyagin's saga. After a while, it came to me: "Our Man in Havana." Of course! The comic novel by Graham Greene. It's about a prototypical Englishman, one Mr. James Wormold, who somehow has landed in Cuba, where he's supposed to be a vacuum cleaner salesman. Only the poor nebbish doesn't seem able to sell many Phastkleaner vacuums. When he's offered a chance to make some easy money working for the British Secret Service, he takes it. Who couldn't use a few extra pounds now and then, right?

The catch is, Agent Wormold is supposed to be sending the home office top-secret info, only he hasn't any. After trying to palm off newspaper clippings and such as state secrets, he resorts to sending London drawings of rocket-launching pads he says he's discovered deep in the Cuban jungle. (Somehow they turn out looking like huge vacuum cleaners.) Talk about life imitating art, the book appeared only a few years before the Soviets actually did plant missiles in Cuba.

Graham Greene's comic novel may sound all too realistic by now, but Igor Sutyagin might get a kick out of watching the movie version, which is much better. Maybe because it's got Alec Guinness at his ale-dry best in the starring role. Homesick as he is, Comrade/Citizen/Mr. Sutyagin could probably use a good laugh, which remains the best response to all that is crazy in this world, East or West.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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