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Dear FRONTLINE,

How can you demean the people of Russia by completely ignoring how they voted in two presidential elections? You pretend to support democracy but then can't handle who the people actually vote for in three presidential elections. Do you really think money and power do not effect all democracies, our's included? It seems to me that Russia is acting very much like a democracy --- perhaps just going through its own period of robber barons. However, since this was one of the least objective "Frontline's" I have viewed, I am not even given a chance to make any kind of judgement on my own about the "family," as you call it. Did you have even one Russian defender of the power elite on the program? No. How awful it is that in your self-righteous position as reporters you forget to report and become nothing but an opinion-giver in the guise of history-telling. It is far too early to know which way Russia will end up going.

Also, sadly, you did not mention so much as one word about the spread of all kinds of religious freedom throughout Russia. I suppose that is because it has absolutely no meaning to you though any credible historian knows the important part various religions have played down through man's history. Finally, no matter how quickly you skipped over them, you can bet your sweetems that the the presence of neon advertising in downtown Moscow IS signficant. From the tone and the writing, I think a few people with very big anti-capitalist bones to pick prepared the piece. I have to wonder if some of the people who lost their jobs when Pravda failed, went to work on "Frontline." I don't believe Stalin or Hitler could have contrived a more blantant piece of propaganda. Putin may end up being "another Czar," but if so, it will be because you helped him get there by discouraging further Western investment --- spiritually and materially -- in Russia. I hope and pray, however, that this man will be able to do what we hope every American President we have ever elected can do: work with the establishment for the ultimate betterment of the people.

In 1864, before Lincoln was assassinated and became an eternal American icon, there were many, many detractors. Hugh sections of the country had been burned and destroyed, lots of African Americans were suddenly free with no place to live or work and 500,000 Americans --- of all races from north and south --- had just died. Grief was felt throughout the land, even with the victory. What would "Frontline" have said about Lincoln at that time? Before the fruit of his labor and sacrifice could possibly be fully known? I hate to tell you, but, there is NO shining city on any hill, not in this life, at least.

John Hanke
Chesapeake, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The fundamental notion that Democracy would replace Communism, and this was the primary wish of western powers, was foolish to say the least. The U.S. expected free market policies to rid communism and if successful to gloat & reap the benefits economically! Let's be honest, hasn't our dabbling worldwide caused enough destruction to many of the "fledgling" democracies! Leave the countries alone, show them the model of democracy, let them decide & let us not support the "businessmen & reformed Generals" in the name of democracy. The people who bleed know their motherland better than us! Who decided the fate of the 13 colonies! The colonists did. Get the picture!

Boban Oonnoonny

Dear FRONTLINE,

I feel great sadness for the Russian people. I believe that the Clinton administration failed Russia. The failure to nurture the Russian people as a society will probably be a greater negative in Clinton's legacy than his impeachment. Clearly, East Germany's conversion with the support and sensitivity of West Germany's leaders could have been and should have been an example for Strobe Talbott and the U.S. Treasury Department.

John Kimball
New York, N.Y.

Dear FRONTLINE,

The Yeltsin Era highlights two important facts. First, it lends more credance to the Chinese method of moving from the failed philosophy of socialism to a free market economy by transforming the economy then the political system. Second, it reaffirms the fact that the Clinton administration completely squandered the opportunity to transform Russia into a potential ally by backing a person, Yeltsin, instead of the will of the Russian people. President Clinton, Strobe Talbot, Madeline Albright, and the rest of the State Department may leave office in less than a year, but the ramifications of their foreign policy ineptitude will haunt the rest of us forever.

Walter Sykes
Fairborn, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

How could we send billions to Russia and not know how our money was being used? Unless the money was being used as we wanted it to be used! No one can make me believe our experts are as ineffective at administration as the tv program made them. Sooo there has to be more to this story.

Reid Benham
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

It seems clear now, in retrospect, that U.S. policy towards Russia during the Yeltsin era was cynical, heavy-handed, and ideologically deluded. Coercing Russia to turn into a U.S.-style casino capitalist polity overnight was a foolhardy strategy that only promoted massive corruption, social chaos, capital flight, and mind-boggling levels of impoverishment and devastation. What did Washington think would happen?

Robert Niemi
Burlington, VT

Dear FRONTLINE,

We must remember at what cost America's democracy was forged. Russia is dealing with much the same, just a different time. I suspect the Roman Empire and others did likewise and for similar reasons. Especially interesting to me was the way that wealth and industry was divided among the elite and governing during Yeltsin's tenure; reminded me of reviews of the Vanderbilts, Morgans, Rockerfellows and others who controlled America's wealth. Sadly, it appears little was learned from the past as Russia's wonderful and bright people suffer through their Grapes of Wrath. It is so very sad to see hope so misguided. People so exploited.

Carol Casey
st. louis, mo

Dear FRONTLINE,

Russia's problem is not unrestrained, laissez-faire capitalism. The essential political-economic problem in the Russian Federation is the gross politicalization of the economy, the creation of an elite criminal oligarchy of government-privileged businesses and corrupt state-officials: FASCISM.

Charles Burris



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