Gilbert Doctorow: When your taxi driver is a retired Russian Foreign Intelligence officer…
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Several months ago, when talking about the way everyone in Russia faced economic hardship immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Vladimir Putin spoke for the first time about how it affected him: for several months he had to take work as a taxi driver just to be able to feed his family and pay bills.
Those days of generalized destitution in the Russian population during the early 1990s are long gone. But formerly well placed officers in the Soviet intelligence community and in other branches of the siloviki still turn to taxi driving to make a supplemental income and to fill their days with interesting conversation. I know this from first-hand experience, such as what I am about to share with you.
I observed long ago that for me taxi drivers have always been a major source of information on how people really live here. That goes for our “regulars,” meaning individual drivers who may work for taxi fleets but become attached to us when we are here for several weeks and take us on our longer trips – into downtown Petersburg or out to the dacha. It is all the more true of the drivers sent to us by automated dispatchers of the big fleets when we are out and about in Petersburg. In the context of complete anonymity, given that we will never meet again, these drivers are often especially chatty and informative.
Yesterday was a case in point.
Our driver from the fleet in ‘green livery,’ Taksovichkoff, turned out to be a retired officer of the Soviet/Russian Foreign Intelligence (GRU), as he told us towards the end of the ride. He picked us up during rush hour. The downtown traffic was slowed to a crawl by bottlenecks and we spent close to 40 minutes in his car in a conversation that at least initially was intriguing.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.....Martin Luther King '63
It takes all the technical proficiency our system can provide to make up for the woeful lack of popular support and political savvy of most of the regimes that the West has thus far sought to prop up.........Bernard Fall
May 13, 2022 at 11:09 PM #486858
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