March 01, 2002

Rubbing Elbows With the Stars?

Some Russian Life readers have suggested that we need to avoid the “glitterati” in our series on “100 Young Russians To Watch” (page 33)—we should write less about ballerinas and cinema stars.  I partially agree. Yes, we have featured ballerinas and cosmonauts (let us not forget the poetic Soviet slogan: “... we produce rockets ... and we are ahead of the whole planet in the field of ballet”), and I would love to profile say, a young genius of a Russian car maker. But unfortunately our car manufacturers (see Note Book, page 9) take Ilf & Petrov’s quote a bit too literally: “An automobile is not a luxury but rather a means of transportation.”

What we are good at is building izbas, even today (see page 22). But then master izba builders are well beyond this series’ 45-year-old age limit. But how about a top class Russian chocolatier (page 37), certainly a “species” not seen in Russia for many decades.

Now to reveal a secret. As this Young Russians series was my brainchild, I have seen it as my right to, as our jurists say, “use one’s official position for personal gain.” It’s a tough job, but someone had to rub elbows in the cafeteria of the Bolshoi with ballerina Nastya Volochkova, or walk down Tverskaya with actress Olga Budina after a couple of cappuccinos, or meet with Marat Safin. Not that this 40-year-old has ever been gaga over any star. But I do confess to having learned plenty from the success stories of other, often much younger, compatriots.

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