Russian Politics Through the Looking Glass

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Russia essays. Several days into my trip, I had a meeting with Vladmir Zhirinovsky, one of the most famous, infamous Russian politicians of the past twenty years. In 1990 he founded the Liberal Democrat Party (LDPR), the first real independent political opposition to the Communists. In the 1993 parliamentary elections, the LDPR gained about 23% of the vote. Zhirinovsky had positioned himself as a kind of Huey Long of Russian politics, with a comic touch. He once promised to give out free vodka to one and all if he were elected president.

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The Future Empire

Read Part 1 of the Russia essays. On the thirteen hour flight from Los Angeles to Moscow last month, I ignored the various entertainments that Aeroflot was offering, and concentrated on two things: finishing a book I had started on Russian history (Russia: The Once and Future Empire, by Philip Longworth) and looking out the window at the strange and impressive sights. In the history book, I had arrived at the 20th century and the catalog of tragedy and catastrophe (compacted into a few hundred pages) was almost too much to take. First there was the story of the Russian

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