The breaking down of barriers between the United States and the former Soviet Union, and efforts toward democracy by the various nations therein give great hope for U.S.-Russian relations, et al. And hearing Helena Kazakova speak gives you even more hope.
Kazakova is living in St. Petersburg, Fla., with her husband, Sergei Novikov, who is teaching Soviet economics at Eckerd College. She spoke to 168 women gathered Tuesday at the Eckerd College Women's Forum on campus.
Kazakova has been an editor of the weekly Literary Gazette in Moscow for almost 10 years, a publication of the intelligentsia established in 1929. The magazine at one time had a circulation of 6-million.
The biggest change in Russia, said the Moscow resident, is in reading. "Book are being sold not only in bookstores, but at tables set up on the streets and in the subways, " she said. "You see 10 and 12 people lined up to buy them."
Selected U.S. authors such as William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry have been easily accessible to the Soviets, but it was not until glasnost that works by their own authors have become available, because many of them, such as Feodor Dostoevski, were considered revolutionary.
When the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn became available to her, "I could stand to read only a few pages at a time, it was so painful to me."
"We were not absolutely ignorant of what was happening," she said. "People would gather in the little warm kitchens of Moscow and drink hot tea and vodka and discuss philosophy and politics until dawn."
Although politics drove us apart, she said the Russian people never felt any animosity toward the American people.
She said we share friendliness, a curiosity and now an openness toward each other that will surmount past differences.