First lady talks democracy with Siberian family
November 16, 1997
Web posted at: 10:25 p.m. EST (0325 GMT)
From Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty
AKADEMGORODOK, Russia (CNN) -- On Sunday in Siberia, U.S.
first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton showed up for tea at the
home of the Alexandrov family to find out firsthand what life
is like in the post-Soviet Russian frontier.
Vladimir, the grandfather, works at the Institute of
Mathematics in the town of Akademgorodok, or "Academic
Township," a suburb of Novosibirsk. His wife, Olga, is a
Economic reform in Russia, she tells Mrs. Clinton, has meant
chaos -- that the soul of Russia is lost.
Daughter Svetlana says crime is her chief concern. As for
reform, she says she can't decide whether things are getting
worse -- or better.
And yet, the wife of U.S. President Bill Clinton found little
bitterness at the table. Instead, there was a kind of
wistfulness for a more stable time, in Russia and in
During Soviet times, this was a brainpower center, attracting
the top scientists and academics. Their work -- their
research and development -- was paid for by the central
government. Now, that government is broke.
Yet Mrs. Clinton told the people of Akademgorodok they
already have many of the skills they'll need in the new
"The scientific process and democracy have a lot in common,"
the first lady said. "Both ask that you sacrifice today for
results tomorrow. Both demand a patience, stamina and
creativity. Both require faith. I have that faith."
In Russia right now, as in the Alexandrov family, there is
something of a generation gap. The majority of older people
think things got worse over the past year. The majority of
young people believe things got better.
Akademgorodok is a young town, and so are its people. And
that could make a difference.