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uncovering the kursk cover up

Published: February 21, 2003 (Issue # 845)


Moore, relying on the British and Norwegian experts who joined the rescue operation, provides a vivid account of the last desperate efforts to open the hatch. At one point, foreign divers were struggling to open a key valve that would indicate whether there was still air behind the hatch. Russian experts at the surface insisted that the valve must be opened counter-clockwise, and they said it would break if turned the other way. The valve didn't budge. After debate, the divers tried turning it clockwise - and the valve moved. The Russians were wrong about a simple valve on one of their most technologically advanced ships.

Moore's narration is fast-paced, but he disappoints on sources and offers no footnotes. With few exceptions, he does not indicate to the reader what information came from his own interviews and research and what was taken from other sources. Overall, however, his findings parallel those of the official investigation, which was closed last summer.

Although Moore lightly sketches the role of President Vladimir Putin, who was acutely embarrassed by criticism of his slow reaction to the disaster, he does not delve into the implications for today's Russia. The tragedy was a telling example of how the Soviet legacy still lingers. The Kursk families and the Russian people were repeatedly misled by the authorities. In the absence of a strong civil society, Russian leaders still assume they don't have to communicate with the people they govern. Until they do, the most important lessons of the Kursk disaster will not have been learned.

David E. Hoffman is foreign editor of The Washington Post.

"A Time to Die: The Untold Story of the Kursk Tragedy." By Robert Moore. Crown. 271 pp. $25.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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