BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Eleanor Randolph, author of "Waking the Tempests: Ordinary Life in The New Russia," in the middle of your book you have a scene at the Bolshoi Ballet when your daughter catches you with a tear in your eye. What's that all about?
ELEANOR RANDOLPH, AUTHOR, "WALKING THE TEMPESTS": Well, I grew up in northwest Florida. I took ballet lessons. I was the one sort of thumping along on the back row, never able to turn at the right speed or put my hand the right way or anything like that. And I never thought I'd actually get to go see the Bolshoi in the Bolshoi Theater, so I decided to take my daughter to the Bolshoi. And we got tickets.
We were up in one of the really top rows of the balcony, and you could sort of look down. You would see the parts in the dancers' hair at that point. And this was her first ballet. And I kept thinking, "All my life I've wanted to be here, and my daughter is 5 years old and her first ballet that she sees ever is "Swan Lake" at the Bolshoi Theatre." And I was so excited for her. And the music started playing, and the next thing I knew I was just in tears, watching these beautiful dancers and this wonderful music. And my daughter turned around and looked at me, and she was just horrified. And she reached up and she touched this tear and said, "Mommy, Mommy, what's the matter?" And it was the first time I explained to her that you could cry when something was beautiful and really touched your soul instead of that it hurt or made you miserable.
LAMB:What year was that?
RANDOLPH: That was 1991 and...
LAMB:So that makes her how old today?
RANDOLPH: She's 10 -- less than 10.
LAMB:If you were to go back to the Bolshoi Ballet today, what would you see there compared to what you saw in '91?
RANDOLPH: Well, it's a different Bolshoi now. In the first place, they don't have the money from the state that they used to have. And in the second place, they have a new ballet master now. Vasiliyev has taken over. He was one of the primary dancers before. And when I saw it in '91, Grigorovich was the head man, and he was fired just about a couple of years ago or he retired, we could say.
But the Bolshoi now is struggling to survive, and the dancers are no longer -- by the time I'd gotten there, this had already started to happen, but during the Soviet years, they were the heroes and heroines of the society, and they were like superstars, like rock stars or movie stars or something like that. But now they're, in some ways, workers. It's odd that this is what has happened, but the new directors put them on contract and they're no longer privileged people. They're struggling.
LAMB:What's this picture?
RANDOLPH: The publishers found it. It's a picture of a demonstration. And what we think it is is a father and daughter who have gone to a protest, a demonstration, probably for the Communists. But what's strange about that picture, what sort of, to me, is appealing is that the little girl has this sort of diamond earring on. And so you don't know which part of the new Russia it is -- whether this is somebody trying to turn back to the old Communist era or whether these people have benefited from some of the material rewards, at least, from the West.
LAMB:What's the scope of your book?
RANDOLPH: What I tried to do was to explain to people what it feels like in Russia, what the Russians that we met were like, how they survived this upheaval. For me, one of the hardest things to understand was how you could survive when a society just is turned on its head. And that's what I've tried to do, not by looking at the politics, you know, the Kremlin because there are lots of people doing that, but by going out and talking to people. The books says "ordinary people." I have to admit that most of the people I found I thought they were ordinary when I started interviewing, but I found usually that they weren't. And so, in some way or another, they were always incredibly interesting and compelling, in one way or another.
LAMB:Why did you go there in the first place, and when did you first go there?
RANDOLPH: I went there with my family in March of 1991, and I was scheduled to go there a year before. But I didn't go. I think -- I hate to say this, but maybe in part because my husband was afraid that if I actually saw where we were going to live, and where we were going to take our daughter, that I might not go. So I didn't go that time in 1990. So I saw Russia for the very, very first time in 1991. And so what I did at that point was start taking notes immediately as a journalist about everything: how it felt, what it looked like, with these eyes that were, at that point, really fresh.
LAMB:What's your husband do?
RANDOLPH: He's a journalist as well, and he was the Moscow bureau chief for the London Independent, and I was working for The Washington Post. I was supposed to cover life -- you know [Russian spoken] "life" in Russia.
LAMB:Where did you live?
RANDOLPH: At first we lived in an apartment in a Russian compound, and it was, I have to say, one of the most miserable places to live that certainly I've ever lived. And it was very, very hard for us to take our daughter in and out of a place that was right over a vodka shop. And so there would be drunks sort of milling in and out. And it was a very, very difficult transition at some level from the pleasantries of Washington to this apartment.
But then when you felt that, you know, you were sort of just on the verge of whining and complaining about how you didn't have everything, you looked around you and you saw that you probably had one of the best apartments and one of the best situations that you could have at that point. We finally moved a year later to an apartment building in the university section of Moscow, and it was very nice. And...
LAMB:You write a lot about people in here. Who's the character that you met or individual during your time over there that you'll most remember?
RANDOLPH: You know, Probably the one that I'll remember the most, for very odd reasons, is this woman Olga Romashko. And in many ways, she symbolized what could happen; sort of the best possibilities for a Russian at that stage. When I first met her, she was a university professor. She'd had many of the benefits of the society. She actually knew a lot about skin -- the biology of the skin. She'd been helping some of those who'd had radiation burns at Chernobyl, and she had written lots of papers on this sort of thing. And she was head of the university women there in Moscow. And she decided that -- she looked around at her institute, and she said, "Wait a minute. Nothing is happening here. Absolutely all the goodies that we had from the Soviet state are disappearing, and right now we have a phone and that's about it. So what can I do?"
So she remembered that her grandmother had made this face cream. And she said her grandmother, who was a -- "babushka" is the word for grandmother -- that it was like a magical event when babushka made this face cream. And she said it came from Catherine the Great, and she would recite poetry while she made the face cream and all that sort of stuff. So she decided that that's what she'd do. She would make Olga's face cream, and take the babushka's face cream recipe and get in the face cream business.
So she went from being this member of the intelligentsia, an elite, turned immediately into this entrepreneur, sort of the Estee Lauder of Moscow. And I watched her go through this whole process, and she went up and down. And she said at one point that she was trying to get a larger building to put her stuff in. She said, "I couldn't get it." I said, "Well, why not, Olga?" And she said, "Because there was a line of people a block long with their hands out." And so she just decided that she wasn't going to pay everybody off to get this other building. So she made her face cream in the kitchen. She made 10,000 jars of face cream a month in her kitchen, and she's now doing quite well. She's...
LAMB:What does she call it now?
RANDOLPH: She calls it Olga. In fact, a couple of entrepreneurs have tried to adapt it and make it more salable in other parts of the country, and they wanted to change the name. No way. This is going to be called Olga.
LAMB:Has she made money?
RANDOLPH: She has -- yes, she has made some money, but she's also now part of a bank. And so she's making more money now because, as a director of a bank, she now gets a better rate on her credit. And so she's just beginning to be a businesswoman.
LAMB:Speaking of Estee Lauder, you tell a story about an Estee Lauder store that was taken over by the employees.
LAMB:How did that happen?
RANDOLPH: Well, a lot of what happened in this period was that the Russians realized that they were, in some ways, the perfect mark. You know, they'd been taught all these years that the way you get something is that you go to the head guy and you either, you know, give him a cake or you take him to dinner or you do something to actually get the head guy to give you something. And, suddenly, these people were asked to choose, you know. They were asked to choose products; they were asked to choose jobs; they were asked to choose how they were going to operate with these Westerners who were coming in.
And at first there were a few people who really ripped them off. And I tell a few stories about how people just -- they were just such innocents in the face of Ponzi schemes and things like that. I mean, so are we sometimes. But they hadn't really been warned about it, and there was nobody saying "Let the buyer beware" or anything like that. So these women who ran this Estee Lauder store felt all the time that they were being cheated by the by the company, even though it sounded to me, when I read the papers, that they were not; that they had a pretty good deal going on there.
And what happened was Estee Lauder came in and fixed the store and made it look beautiful. And when it started looking really beautiful, the employees took over and said, "OK, now it's our store. Just because you put the money in, you're a partner, but we're in control." It was sort of a discussion about who was in control. And I always liked this story because one group went to one court, and one group went to another court. And they were really battling it out in court. And to me, that was very promising because lots of other people were battling it out on the streets, you know, and using Kalashnikovs for solving problems instead of paper.
LAMB:Do you speak Russian?
RANDOLPH: Sort of. I can understand it and I speak it, but I murder it. I mean, you can see a Russian's ears sort of bend when when this Southerner tries to adapt to the Russian language. I don't think it's beautiful to listen to.
LAMB:You mentioned the Ponzi scheme, and anybody that watches this network
over the last couple of years and has seen the "Moscow Evening News" used to see the commercials. The first commercials that popped up on the screen were for MMM.
RANDOLPH: Well, that's the big one.
LAMB:And I don't know if I pronounce it right -- Sergei Movrodi?
RANDOLPH: Movrodi, yeah.
LAMB:What's the story on him?
RANDOLPH: Well, what was astonishing about that was that he sold all his stock and then when the government essentially shut him down and put him in jail...
LAMB:What was the deal? What was he doing?
RANDOLPH: Well, he was basically selling stock in his corporation, and then you could -- they would pay you off. And then they would try to encourage you to take that payoff and put it back in. So they'd pay you off at 30 percent or 40 percent. And then if you got the payoff, you bought stock again. So, I mean, people who actually took their 30 percent and went home did OK, but most people didn't do that. And the belief was that somehow you could keep turning this money around and you could be a millionaire by the end of the year. But at some point, of course, it hit gridlock, and the government put him in jail.
And what astonished me about that was that at that point, a lot of the people -- his stockholders started picketing the jails and the government, saying, "He's our friend. He's our friend." So he got out of jail. Nobody's quite sure how he got out of jail, although we could have a guess or two. And at that point he said he wasn't going to buy back all the shares, so then they started picketing him. But he managed to get elected to the Duma of Parliament, and then ...
LAMB:Like our Congress? Elected representative?
RANDOLPH: Well, it's not quite like our Congress, but then, you know, they can't prosecute him when he's exempt from prosecution at that stage. And so people learned about a Ponzi scheme, a lot of them, the hard way.
LAMB:You wrote a lot about all kinds of different lifestyles: lesbians and homosexuals -- the bridal agency. I mean, we'll go back to some of that, and the way it changed in that society. What's the bridal agency?
RANDOLPH: Well, what happened, when I was talking about Olga, you know, on almost every level, people were saying, "What have I got to sell?" You know, "What can I sell that I've got?" And in the very beginning, when the society first changed, people were out on the streets. They were selling the reserves from their apartments. You'd see people with a watch that was still curved around as if it had just come off the wrist and that sort of thing.
So a lot of women -- young women -- started looking around and said, "You know what? "I'm beautiful. I'm young. This is really what I've got to sell. My face is my fortune." A very old and uncomfortable system. And in a lot of different ways, they would try to sell the face. The worst, of course, was prostitution, and you began to see more and more prostitutes on the streets.
But I got fascinated by the bridal agencies because it was clear they weren't really -- I mean, while there might have been a lot of sex involved, they weren't really prostitutes. It was more like the mail-order brides in our country, you know, or the Sears Roebuck brides in the 19th century. So ...
LAMB:Did you go to the agency?
RANDOLPH: I did. I went to the agencies and talked to -- I actually sat in on one event when there were about 30 women and there were four American men, sort of trying to pick which one they wanted. It was, I have to say, it was one of the most uncomfortable things I've witnessed in a very long time.
RANDOLPH: Well, because it felt like an auction. You know, it felt like he -- they were judging these women by their cheekbones and how they looked, what their figures were and that sort of thing. And it was hard to imagine how these intelligent women could tolerate this. They were basically -- there were people who were trained as scientists. There were people who were trained as secretaries. But they were all looking for a ticket out. And they had this image of the American man as a very, very nice person who was going to take them back and put them in a very nice house and let them live a very peaceful and secure life. So...
LAMB:What were the men like?
RANDOLPH: The men were -- one man looked to me as though he really was looking for a wife. And he looked like a sort of young Rotarian from anywhere in America. And he was very nice, and he sort of, for some reason, took over the group and started sort of interviewing the women. Another one of the other guys looked like an old frat man. He had on a T-shirt and he sort of had a -- I hadn't seen this, actually, in a very long time. He had a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt, and I don't think he was looking for a wife, frankly. I mean, he was, but he was certainly in there patrolling.
And the other two were just very quiet, sort of with their heads down. I never knew, actually, who they picked. But the young Rotarian -- he ended up going out on a date in with a woman who spoke English better than some of the others. She was not the most attractive, but she was clearly nice and she spoke English and he liked her.
LAMB:What did it cost them?
RANDOLPH: Well, it cost the Americans -- the cost changed week by week, but by the time I was there it was, oh, about $3,000 to $4,000.
LAMB:You told some story about a Russian woman that ended up in California, and...
RANDOLPH: Well, she was wonderful. Her name was Valentina, and the head of that particular bridal agency hooked me up with her. But she said, "She's really almost too old to find a husband for. We don't know really what we're going to do about her." And I said,
"Well, how old is she?" They said, "Well, she's 48." So I said, "Oh, that's rough." So, anyway, I went to see Valentina, who was this wonderful woman who was full of cheer. And she had all these cats -- these Persian cats that were around her all the time.
And I sort of followed her. Her first effort was with a German man, and she went to Germany and visited him and she said he was just awful. He was too old. He was in his 60s. And she said he'd only drink one beer a week and he didn't eat meat. And she said -- she called him a grasshopper. She said he was too brittle, too dry. So then the next one -- then she had one other in California. She went out to California. But it didn't work out. And then finally the third one worked out, and her daughter's out there now. So I think she's not blissfully happy, but she says she's going to be an American and she's going to be content.
LAMB:The troika ...
RANDOLPH: Ah, the ...
LAMB:... the three women that you say you remember and talked about for years. By the way, how many years did you live in Russia?
RANDOLPH: We actually lived there a little over two years. We lived
there the last year of the Soviet Union and the first year of the new Russia.
LAMB:Who was in charge of the country then?
RANDOLPH: Well, the last year Gorbachev was in charge, and then the first
year's Yeltsin -- Boris Yeltsin. Is that what you mean?
LAMB:Yes. Gorbachev was in charge after Yeltsin?
RANDOLPH: No, no, no.
LAMB:The reverse of that?
RANDOLPH: Well, actually, if you talk about just Russia, Yeltsin was elected president in early 1991. But it was still part of the Soviet Union until December of 1991, so Gorbachev was technically in charge.
LAMB:While you lived there in '91 and '92, what was the most significant
change you saw?
RANDOLPH: I think the most significant change was just the fear and chaos
and this quiet panic about people. They asked you all the time, "What am I going to do? How can I live? What am I going to do?" It was truly terrifying for people. And I had this one friend who said, "You talk to me about freedom all the time. Well, we're free. We're free to fly without an airplane." And that was sort of how a lot of them felt at that stage. You saw people continuing to do what they had done. They continued to go to their institute, or they continued to go to their factory. But slowly they began to -- they wouldn't actually leave the factory or the institute, but they'd begin to find other things to do, other ways to work.
LAMB:How many people live in Russia?
RANDOLPH: A hundred and forty-eight million.
LAMB:You refer at some point in here where the population actually goes down?
RANDOLPH: It's going down. That's true. More people die in Russia now than are born, and the health statistics are really quite frightening, especially for men. The life expectancy for a man now is around 57.
LAMB:What's the reason for that?
RANDOLPH: Well, there are a lot of reasons. One is that the accident rate is very, very high. Secondly, the medical system is -- there are a lot of very, very smart doctors and nurses over there, but the medical system is not very advanced. And a normal person usually cannot get really good medical care. And then the other reason, especially for men, is alcohol and alcoholism.
And I borrowed a quote from CNN that I really loved from a man who explained on some level about how Russians feel about their health, and he was a heart attack victim, and the doctors had said to him, "You've got to stop smoking, and you've got to stop drinking." And he just told them, "I'm not going to do that." He said, "I'm not -- I don't care about being healthy. Donkeys are healthy." And coming from our society, where we spend so much time making sure we're eating the right carotenes and things like that, it was just a revelation to see people who sort of felt, "This is my lifespan. I'm going to do what I want in it, and I'm not going to push at the edges very much."
LAMB:I want to come back to the troika, but you -- '91, '92, and then how often did you go back? Because you keep referring to the ...
RANDOLPH: Yeah, I kept going back. And the important trips were once in 90 -- '93, right after Yeltsin had bombed the White House, and ... I went back for a long time last year in May.
LAMB:And when was the last word written on your book?
RANDOLPH: Shortly after that. About six months after that.
LAMB:So who were the troika?
RANDOLPH: In April 1991, you saw the first loosening of prices on bread and other commodities, and The Post wanted me to go out and talk to people about how they felt about what was happening to their economy. And so I found this bread shop near where I lived. I lived in a workers' community there in Moscow. And I walked in, and at that point that was the period when people had to wait in line. And you remember all the lines and there were all these mostly old women standing in line, waiting for their bread.
And there were three of them standing together, and at first I remember thinking that they were sort of like barn animals, you know, waiting to be fed. They were sort of shuffling from foot to foot, trying to relieve their tired legs from standing there all that time. And I went up and started talking to them. And suddenly, for me, it was as if these three people could give you a history of what had happened since the great patriotic war, since World War II. Two of them believed that capitalism was going to bring greatness to the country and their children were going to be better off. And one of them believed that what was happening was probably going to bring more bloodshed and more heartbreak, as their society has known earlier in this century. To me, they showed how Russians -- if you just look, you know, as many tourists do, if you just sort of look at the people -- they always seem so either sad or formidable or angry. And if you sort of knock on that shell a little bit, this incredible person will come out and engage you.
And I felt about the babushkas that way. They were quite terrifying in a way. If you don't put your child's mittens on, they'll come up in the street and sort of grab you and say, "What are you doing? Why doesn't your child have mittens on?" So they were a
little bit terrifying. And so it was a great revelation to me that they, underneath, were so interesting. And, I mean, I should have known it, obviously, but there they were. And so they stood for me all the time. Anytime the bad vapors would hit me, I would think about the troika.
LAMB:Billy Graham came to town.
RANDOLPH: Sure enough.
RANDOLPH: That was 1992. And he started a campaign. It started out with these billboards that said "Why?" on them. And ...
LAMB:What was the word in Russian?
RANDOLPH: [Russian spoken] And the Russians really hadn't seen this kind of campaign before. I mean, to have a huge billboard with -- a slick billboard was something new anyway, but to have a billboard with the word "Why?" on it without an answer was really intriguing. And so Russians were really captivated by it. He also managed a mailing of, I think, three million letters, which most of the people I knew who had had some dealings with the postal system there in Moscow thought that it meant that he was in touch with a much higher authority to get all those fliers in all those mailboxes in Moscow.
It was an amazing event because this huge sports stadium was filled with Russians, and Graham would speak and he had the perfect translator. This man sounded like Billy Graham when he spoke, and so Graham would speak in that sort of North Carolina rhythm that he has, and the translator would speak in his rhythm. And people were entranced, and I think I said in there that for me, it was knowing what I knew about how people lived. I thought it was really interesting to see all these people who were really smiling and who were clearly happy to be there listening to Billy Graham.
LAMB:But you also say that he had a bunch of folks brought in on trains.
RANDOLPH: He did. I mean, he packed the house. It's not for nothing that Reverend Graham knows all these politicians. But there were still lots and lots of people who came off the streets, and some of them just came out of curiosity, obviously, but ...
LAMB:You quote somebody here who says, "I was there for the show."
RANDOLPH: Yeah, that's right. A lot of people came because they really wanted to see what a Western revival would look like. But one of the women I talked to said, "It's not my religion, and I don't believe in this, but it doesn't seem to be bad." That was her bottom line.
LAMB:Jerry Falwell also came.
RANDOLPH: Yeah, the Apollo.
RANDOLPH: Well, he came a little bit later, and he sort of -- I don't know whether he had the same advance staff that -- undoubtedly he did not. But by the time he got there, the fascination with things Western had begun to dim a little bit. And so there was a huge revival, and he got up to speak, but the sign behind him said, "An American Evangelist," and that's all, you know. It didn't even say which one it was. So poor ...
LAMB:Where did you get the title "Waking The Tempests"?
RANDOLPH: "Waking The Tempests" is part of a poem by a man named Fyodor Tyutchev, who wrote in the 19th century, and the exact line is, "Oh, do not wake the sleeping tempests. Beneath them, chaos stirs." And that's what I felt happened. The tempests were awakened, and what we really saw in that period was chaos. Chaos is a very important word in his poetry, at least, and in Russian. It means more than what we think, just a sort of confusion; it means a loss of spiritual base. It generally bodes ill, in fact.
LAMB:What's the story of Yuri and Elena?
RANDOLPH: Oh, Yuri and Elena in their apartment?
LAMB:Well, the death, the murder. You know, is it -- Domin? -- I haven't got the word.
RANDOLPH: Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, of course, Domina. Well, that was a trial that I covered. I wanted to watch just an ordinary trial, not a famous trial in any way, you know, not a multiple murderer, not a dissident, not anything like that, just an ordinary trial. And that was at the time when people were really beginning to worry about crime. I mean, they worry about it much more now than they did then, but this was just beginning to cut into the public consciousness.
And so this was a case of a wife and a policeman and a policeman's brother who were convicted of murdering the woman's husband, and he was an antiques dealer. And all these antiques are -- basically, you can't take them out of the country. It's illegal to take them out of the country. But he sold them mostly to Westerners and to foreigners. And so he was essentially very rich. The court testimony was about what a terrible man he was, and how he beat his wife and how he threw her out of the apartment, and that sort of thing. But what interested me about the the trial itself was that the accused were -- the assumption was, from the very beginning of the trial, that the accused were guilty and at that ...
LAMB:Who assumed that?
RANDOLPH: The state -- what they call a prosecutorial system. There are some systems like that out in Europe that work very well, but what the Soviet Union had given the court system in Russia was basically a system that said the state is right and nobody really has a right to question it. Once we've decided that you're guilty, you're essentially guilty." And the conviction rate was close to 99 percent.
In this case, the two men who were convicted -- the policemen got the maximum sentence of 15 years, but he was in some ways lucky because he was in a period when they weren't sure they were going to continue capital punishment. Now they tell me that there are many more people who are given the death sentence, and that they're not being commuted at this stage, at least very, very rarely.
LAMB:You mentioned, and I shouldn't even try to pronounce it, but is it Butirskaya prison?
RANDOLPH: Butirskaya, yes.
LAMB:"Stale air, gloom." You read a lot of that in your book, about dirt, dirty things are broken and all that. What was this prison like? What is prison life in general like in Russia?
RANDOLPH: Well, someone has said that there are no beautiful prisons, and I'm sure that that is true. The prisons are overcrowded. In this case, you might have two to three times as many people that belong in one room in a room. The people I went to visit were -- they were four policemen, and they were in a tiny room about the size of a railroad car, and there was almost no light. And the thing that I remember about that more than anything else was when the policeman pulled the door open, it was like pulling a cork out of a bottle, the suction of pulling the air out, and you could see the people in there just almost starting to breathe as air came into this tiny chamber.
The people who care about what's happened to prisoners over there are in a vast minority at this stage because the crime rate has gone up so much. The Russian Orthodox church has been working on it, and a few -- a number of Western organizations. It's barbaric.
LAMB:Cheating in school.
RANDOLPH: Oh. You know, I think this is one of the things that surprised me the most, was I went to see this American woman who was teaching at a school in Moscow, teaching English to a group of Moscow teen-agers, and she called me up and she said, "You really want to come see this because I can't deal with how these children cheat. I just cannot deal with it." And so I went over there and I talked to the kids, and she showed me papers. And she would make an assignment, and three or four of the kids would have the exact same paper -- word for word, mistake for mistake -- you know, misplaced comma for a misplaced comma. And she would say to them, "Why are you doing this? I want each one of you to give me a different paper." And they'd say, "Why are you complaining? We all turned in a paper." What I was looking at was, obviously, two cultures clearly not understanding each other here.
And so I talked to a number of Russians about this -- what is it? Why do people cheat in schools? And so they said to me, "Well, I don't think you understand that when kids in Soviet schools helped each other, it was the group against the school. It was the group of people helping each other out." And, in fact, Masha Lipman, who's now the deputy editor of a new magazine in Moscow called Itogi -- it's run by Newsweek -- she told me, "You know, the word is different. It's not 'cheat.' It's 'copy.' It means `copy' and so that
they would copy each other's homework."
And she said that when she grew up that she was very, very good in math. And so the teacher would write the problem on the blackboard, and she was a little bit nearsighted, so she'd have to get closer to the blackboard to see it, so she could help all her friends. But she was in the front row, and because everybody else, you know, wanted her help, the whole front row would move up together so that as they were working, you know, the entire front row would move up so that Masha could see the board. And then at some point the teacher would move them all back and say, you know, "OK, enough of that. Enough is enough." Then the teacher knew what was going on, the class knew what was going on.
But that was sort of the way the system worked. And then I have to say that I talked to a young woman about this, and she said, "Well, I happen to have gone to school in Connecticut for a year. I was stunned at the amount of cheating going on there." She said, "I would come out of a test and people would say, 'So what were the questions?'" And she said, you know, "We don't do that in Russia. If you go to a test, that's when you don't cheat because that's when they judge how you rank, whether you're going to go to the university or the technical school or the aviation school or something like that."
LAMB:Describe what you saw when you went into Catherine's Hospital.
RANDOLPH: Hospital number four in Moscow. Well, I think for anybody that knows about medicine in Russia, it shouldn't have been such a surprise, but as I said, I really wanted to go in as an American and look at it with these fresh eyes. And I was astonished that they could really heal people in a place like that. It was built at the time of Catherine the Great. The dirt is really swept into the corners, and the bed linens aren't changed unless people actually pay a little extra to get the bed linens changed.
And this was a hospital that had done quite well with -- there was a particularly well-known hand surgeon who, as recently as last year, has started doing major hand surgery, not only on people who've had accidents, but also people who have computer problems. And they managed to do hand surgery. Basically they had no painkillers to give people after the surgery, so they gave them aspirin after the surgery. And you just, you saw people really struggling to survive the hospital. That part was very difficult to watch.
LAMB:You say that doctors treat the patients differently than we're used to. For instance -- I just got a quote here: "Stop your howling -- this is what you get for having sex," a doctor said to a woman having a baby.
RANDOLPH: Right. Or sometimes if they -- abortion is really the birth control of choice. It has been for a long time. They're beginning to get some Western birth control pills and devices over there. But that often happens, at least that's been reported a great deal, and a number of Russian have told me that almost exact same story; about how you go in there and when you exhibit your fears or begin to cry out, the nurses, who were tired and they'd had too many patients, would just begin to say, "Stop it. This is the price you pay. This is the price you pay for sex, marriage and children."
LAMB:What town in Florida did you grow up in?
RANDOLPH: Pensacola, Florida.
LAMB:How long were you there?
RANDOLPH: Well, I was born there, and I left when I was 18.
LAMB:Where did you go to college?
RANDOLPH: Emory University in Atlanta.
LAMB:What'd you study?
LAMB:And did you get a masters degree in journalism?
RANDOLPH: No. I didn't study journalism. I mean, when I went to school, they advised against it. They said, you know, "Don't waste any of your time studying journalism. Study history or art or, you know, anything else." So I studied history. I really majored in modern American history.
LAMB:And where did you go for your first job then?
RANDOLPH: My first job?
LAMB:Your first job.
RANDOLPH: Well, I had several sort of early jobs. I sort of went to Europe for a while, and that was in the era when you had to go to Europe to find yourself. I don't know. Brian, you're too young to remember that. And then I worked at -- I went back to my hometown newspaper, the Pensacola News Journal, worked there for a while, and then I worked with the Saint Petersburg Times. I've worked for a number of other newspapers since then. I'll go through it all if you want me to, but ...
LAMB:You worked -- weren't you at the Chicago Tribune for a while?
RANDOLPH: I was. I was at the Chicago Tribune. I was at the Chicago Sun-Times for a while, and then the LA Times and Washington Post. And now I'm back at the LA Times.
RANDOLPH: In New York City ...
LAMB:And doing what?
RANDOLPH: ... with many Russians.
RANDOLPH: With many Russians. I mean, New York -- it's wonderful. You walk around in New York, you can hear Russian all the time. There are -- I'm not sure exactly how many Russians there are there because I don't think the Immigration Services know exactly, but there are many, many Russian speakers.
LAMB:Is this your first book?
RANDOLPH: It is.
LAMB:And I see you dedicate it here to somebody named Randolph.
RANDOLPH: My mother and father.
LAMB:Who are these people, and where do they live?
RANDOLPH: They live in Savannah, Georgia, and it's Marguerite and William
LAMB:What do they do?
RANDOLPH: Well, they're retired now. My father was in the Coca-Cola business, and my mother is a dynamo who does everything. She's 84, and the last time I talked to her she was just about to be president of two garden clubs. So she's really an amazing -- they're both wonderful. So...
LAMB:Where did you get your interest in journalism, in writing?
RANDOLPH: In writing?
RANDOLPH: Well, I had a great teacher in high school who encouraged me. I remember one of the things that she said to me -- well, not just to me, to the whole class. One day she walked in, she said, "OK, take out a piece of paper. All right, it's blank. Write about the blankness of this paper." And I remember to this day how I felt about taking a blank piece of paper and trying to make something that makes sense out of what I put on it, and I've always loved that.
LAMB:What do you want this book to do?
RANDOLPH: I really wanted people to come with me to Russia and to go around with me and to see what I saw. I really wanted to share that experience with people and to make them understand how wonderful and sometimes frightening the Russians are. There are many people -- I mean, obviously, there are 148 million people in Russia in 11 time zones, so I've only scratched the surface here. But to make people understand who the Russians are, who some of the Russians are.
LAMB:You named someone by the name of Kathy Lally, who -- Baltimore Sun?
LAMB:And you taught school somewhere, you two.
RANDOLPH: Well, we went to a town down on the Volga together, and it turned out we were the first Americans who'd ever been in that town. It was just sort of off the beaten path. Kathy's a fabulous reporter for the Baltimore Sun, and she's a great traveler, and she likes to get out and nose around. She went virtually all over Russia, places, I'm sure -- I'm sure she went to a lot of places where she was the only American.
But they asked the two of us to speak to their class, and it was such a revelation to hear questions like, "Do you still have missiles pointed at our school?" And this was in late 1992. So it's a huge country, and there are lots of places that are still exempt from the Westernization that you see in the big cities.
LAMB:What is your sense, after going in and out of that country for the last five years, for folks that have never been there, and said, "If we can just defeat communism and give them democracy, they'll be like us someday: They'll love freedom, they'll have laws, they'll follow laws." Will it ever happen?
RANDOLPH: I don't know the answer to that question. I hope so. It's all there, you know. The ability to adapt, it's all there. They could do it. You just wonder. There have been so many catastrophes in that country over the last -- well, if you just take the last two centuries. I don't know whether it will turn in on itself. You can only go to Russia and come back with hope. Otherwise it can be quite disheartening.
LAMB:What have they changed, in the short time that you saw, that is...
RANDOLPH: That surprised me?
LAMB:Yes, or is more like us than you expected?
RANDOLPH: Well, I think they -- you know, I remember reading before I went over there that it would take 10 years before the Soviet mentality could change; that most people would think like Soviets for at least 10 years, or maybe 20. And I just found that that was not true. Obviously, people had to figure out how to survive, but the ambition, the desire to work hard, all those things that people said you wouldn't find there, it's already there for many, many people. And the last figure I saw was that as many as 60 percent of the population -- working population -- has got some sort of job outside the state, and that means they're working very hard to stay afloat.
LAMB:Did the country get cleaner? Did the paint come onto the buildings? Did people build better products?
RANDOLPH: Well, you know, one of the things, when talking about hoping for the future of Russia, one of the things you hope for is that there will be more private property because you could see, as people actually took control of their dachas or their homes...
LAMB:What's a dacha?
RANDOLPH: A dacha is a country house. Technically they sort of owned it, but now they really own it. And once you actually own -- they own something, and you own something, you basically take care of it. And the old saying in the Soviet days was, "What's mine is mine, what's yours is yours and what's ours is nobody's." And so, when I write about how the communal spaces are depressing, it was because people really didn't deal with it. There was somebody who was supposed to clean it up, but that was not a great job. And people often didn't do it very well, and you didn't have very much community spirit at that stage of people cleaning up the local park. But you could see it start to happen as people started to take more interest in their homes and their apartments.
LAMB:Chapter six is on sex.
LAMB:The first sex shop, 1992.
RANDOLPH: What a scene. I mean, to me, one of the most interesting things about it was that they charged a quarter for people to just go in and look around. I took a translator with me who was just horrified. I thought that he was going to disappear in a puddle on the floor at that stage. But there were people just gawking.
You know, in some ways, what you began to see was a link in people's minds between Westernization and a lot of these sex shops, pornography, videos, things like that, and a lot of the old people essentially feel that what came in from the West was basically decadence.
RANDOLPH: Home remedies. Well, you know, we're talking about how difficult it was to get good medical care, so people really use a lot of home remedies. And this one friend of mine, an American, tells a story about having a cold and going out on the street trying to ask people what to do. She actually had more than a cold; I think she had probably bronchitis or something like that. And she stopped about 20 people. Nobody said go to the doctor. Everybody said, you know, try hot mustard on your chest, vodka and tea with lemon. The one suggestion that none of us ever really tried was onion nose drops, so I don't know. But it might cure a cold. Who knows? We haven't tried it here yet. But if you feel you can't trust the medical system, you feel you can trust your grandmother, and that's essentially where all these herbal remedies came from.
LAMB:You said that early in the book, you said that it intrigued you when you saw a man on a horse on a six-lane highway with cars all over the place, galloping along. What was that about?
RANDOLPH: I'm not sure what it was about, but what I was trying to explain there was how you'd be going along and everything would seem sort of normal, and then suddenly, in the middle of a four -- six-lane highway, would be a man riding a horse. It was such a strange time. It still is a strange time. For anybody who missed the wild West or Chicago in the '20s, it's the place to go and watch it happening -- in Russia.
LAMB:Is this your first book?
RANDOLPH: (Nods yes)
LAMB:How would you describe the experience of writing the book?
RANDOLPH: Well, I told my editor that if I'd known how tall that mountain was when I started climbing it, I probably wouldn't have made it in the first place. Writing a book is the most painful joy I've ever experienced. You go in a bookstore, and you see these books and you think, "How do people spend that much time and work that hard to get all of that done?" I have to say, I don't think I can ever review a book in the same way. I think if I ever do another book review, I'll have to say it is amazing that this person has finished a
LAMB:And on that note, our discussion is finished. Here's what the book cover looks like. Our guest has been Eleanor Randolph, and the name of this book is "Waking The Tempests: Ordinary Life in The New Russia." Thank you very much.
RANDOLPH: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1996. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.