January 01, 2002

A Farewell to Shock Therapy

I will never forget the first two days of 1992. Boy, was it an adventurous time! By late in the previous December, I had realized that the fly-by-night private Russian news agency I had joined a year previous would not lead me and my family to prosperity: the agency’s management and strategic concept was wrong from the get-go, and hanging on would only take my journalistic career to where the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine had led the USSR that same month—down the drain. My savings had been wiped out in early 1991 by the first financial “reform” overseen by Valentin Pavlov (who later in 1991 allied himself with the August Coup plotters), and the promised price hikes of January 2, 1992 loomed darkly.

So I went fishing for something else. Some of my former TASS colleagues had joined the Associated Press or other respected news agencies, so the order of the day was to link up with a foreign media outlet.

Since I write in French better than in English, I distributed my resume “to whom it may concern” at various French media outlets. Just before New Year’s, a French correspondent for Le Sud-Ouest called me from Moscow’s Sofitel hotel, asking if I might like to come by to discuss the “services” I offered on my resume. The Frenchman looked lost in frosty, post-Soviet Moscow; he was clearly happy to have found someone who spoke his native language and who could help him come up with sensational reportage about the first weeks of independent Russia. We hit it off right away, yet we still had to agree on the daily fee his paper would pay me. Greenbacks were already circulating freely in Mother Russia, and given hyperinflation and the looming “shock therapy,” I was not going to settle for any rubles.

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