June 01, 1997

Mother Russia's "Difficult Kids"

Russian folk wisdom has it that, the more difficult the child, the stronger you love him (or her). And so, in honor of International Children’s Day, this year’s first summer issue is dedicated to Russia’s difficult kids, greatly loved.

Interestingly, this bit of folk wisdom does not seem to apply to Sergei Stankevich, who the Russian press has christened “the sick kid of Russian democracy.” Once loved by millions, the recently arrested Stankevich will now be despised and — if Russia has its way in negotiating his extradition with Poland — tried for bribe-taking (see page 5).

Of course, the $10,000 this former deputy mayor of Moscow allegedly accepted for facilitating the 1992 Red Square Moscow Opera Festival is peanuts when compared to Russia’s multibillion dollar capital flight, or to the ‘going rate’ of today’s apparatchiks. But the moral damage Stankevich inflicted on Russia’s fledgling democracy can’t be measured in dollars. For such impropriety (or even the impression of impropriety) is grist for the mill for those who say that Russia’s new democrats are only good at destroying things and taking bribes — that what we need is an iron hand, a Stalin.

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