Friday, December 15, 2006

Brezhnev at 100

RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Tatar-Bashkir, and Ukrainian services have all contributed to a report on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonid Brezhnev. Excerpt:

Golzada Rzayeva is a 58-year-old living in Chally in the republic of Tatarstan. Also known as Naberezhnyye Chelny, the city between 1982 and 1988 enjoyed a brief period under a third name — Brezhnev.

Rzayeva, the longtime head of the local cultural center, says she has good memories of the Brezhnev era.

“This was a very good, youthful time, we lived with youthful enthusiasm, without problems. There was just one problem at that time: finding nice clothes,” Rzayeva said.

Vyacheslav Komarov, a 69-year-old pensioner, is similarly enthusiastic. Komarov lives in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine’s third-largest city and a key industrial center in the Soviet Union that is also a short distance from Brezhnev’s birthplace of Dneprodzherzhinsk.

Under Brezhnev’s rule, Komarov worked at a restricted weapons facility. But even such a serious occupation, he says, did not prevent employees from taking time to enjoy themselves at work.

“Under Brezhnev, feasts and parties were permitted. On any holiday, even on Paris Commune day, we got together, set the table, and had a nice party at work. We were always having some kind of celebration,” Komarov said.

Russia’s ORT television station is marking the 100th anniversary of Brezhnev’s birth by broadcasting a film depicting the Soviet leader as a kindly soul who loved his wife, fought for the common man, and was ultimately duped by sinister associates like former KGB head Yury Andropov.

And there are the jokes:

“After a speech Brezhnev shouts at his speech writer: ‘I ordered you to write a 15-minute speech, but it took me a whole hour to read!’ ‘Sorry, Leonid Ilyich,’ he answered, ‘there were four copies, and you read them all.’

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