This story almost ran away from me – the big game of hide-and-seek came to an end yesterday when Russian presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin telephoned his family and campaign staff in Moscow to say that he was alive and well and in a hotel in Kiev. That’s what I get for allowing myself to be distracted by the current controversy over George W. Bush’s performance of duty (or lack thereof) for the Texas or Alabama National Guard back in 1972 and 1973. But is the mystery over what happened to Rybkin really cleared up yet?
It’s too bad that I don’t read Russian very well. On the other hand, while gaining that facility would enable me to read Tolstoi, Dostoyevsky, Gogol and the like in the original (something worth being able to do, and I’m certainly not being ironic), it wouldn’t do much towards helping me read independent political commentary in the Russian press, since there’s precious little of that to be found anymore under Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime. The Polish press is therefore a substitute that may very well be better than the original. Poland is close-by (much too close, in the historical sense, most Poles will tell you) and certainly has a free press. An additional advantage may be that that history brings forth a suspicious, even hostile attitude towards Russian motives that can’t help but foster an ultra-critical perspective towards any Russian government pronouncements.
(A disadvantage, though, is that, once again, really only Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita have anything to say on the Rybkin case. Isn’t there any other national newspaper out there, and on-line, that will deal with events beyond Poland’s borders? Sorry, Zycie Warszawy just doesn’t seem to cut it. Grzybek! Help!) (more…)