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Ball point pen on todays newsprint Those reading Russian tea leaves are still not certain who rules the Kremlin. Medvedev seems to have taken the Russian ruler training wheels off by firing political rival Yuri Luzhkov from his two decade position as Mayor of Moscow. But many believe he was slow to remove the thorn from his side because he needed to seek the approval of Putin who had a good rapport with Luzhkov. Stay tuned ...

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Ball point pen on the morning newsprint Natalya was a mother, lawyer, journalist and Russian human rights activist. She worked and reported on Russian civil rights abuses in Chechnya. Yesterday she was kidnapped from her home in Grozny. Her body was found dead nine hours later, dumped by the side of the road with two gun shot wounds to the head. She was 50 year old. ...

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Ball point pen on the morning newsprint If you've never heard of Ilya Repin, blame it on the Iron Curtain. Repin enjoyed more fame in his lifetime than any other Russian artist in the nineteenth century. A book on his life and work, Ilya Repin, Painting * Graphic Arts, translated from Russian by Sheila Marnie and Helen Clier is one of my prized possessions. When the cold war ended I had the great privileged to see his Barge Haulers masterpiece at the Guggenheim. Recently The Russian Museum, in order to increase art appreciation, is placing replica masterpieces like Repin's "Reply of the Zaporozhian to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire" around Moscow and St. Petersburg. What a great idea! I'd like to see that in the New York subways. ...

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Ball point pen on the morning newsprint Growing up, I had a Great Uncle Nick who would captivate us with the tales of how he and his family escaped from Russia as a boy; Alexander Solzhenitsyn wasn't as fortunate. Having survived eight years in a Russian gulag, his Nobel Prize winning books chronicle the horrors of Stalin's slave labor camps. Solzhenitsyn died yesterday. He was 89. ...

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