History, Liberty, Politics, War and peace

A plea for Russo-American Friendship: a grandmaster’s trek from Stalin to Putin

A few days ago I received a very welcome e-mail from a Russian chess grandmaster Lev Alburt (he has an excellent website for chess enthusiasts – www.chess-news.ru) . I instantly recognized Mr. Alburt’s name because I had quoted him in my book, “Grand Deception” and fully share his sentiment about the importance of preserving and cultivating a relationship of friendship and constructive cooperation between Russia and the United States. This question could be of decisive importance for the future of humanity and I would ask you to please read Mr. Alburt’s thoughtful words:

A plea for Russo-American friendship

One Grandmaster’s Trek From Stalin to Putin

By Lev Alburt

The Day Stalin Died was the happiest day of my life. Lessons had been cancelled and, ignoring a strict order to return home immediately, I strolled the eerily empty streets of Odessa (a port city on the Black Sea). I was elated, feeling in my bones that things would change for the better. I was seven years old.

In the lobby of my school there was, of course, Comrade Stalin’s statue, and our teachers lived in constant dread lest some kid sneezed at the statue, touched it, made a rude gesture in sight of it. (Whole families disappeared in those days for lesser crimes.)

Fast-forward to 1956, The Year of Hungary. To keep the populace vigilant, our local bosses spread rumors about the looming NATO invasion. Excited, we – a small group of pre-teens, decided to help our Liberators – to greet them with maps featuring Army barracks. KGB and CP (Communist Party) HQs. Later I found out that many adults shared those – naïve?! – hopes. After all, isn’t Western safety best guaranteed by our freedom? Helping us, they help themselves. So we thought.

Alas, the Liberators never came. Still, I – and many others – continued to love the West, and especially the United States of America.

At 14, a Soviet youth was expected to join Komsomol, and to stay there until 27, at which point the most ambitious would try to join the source of all privileges, the Communist Party. The proudest feature of my “Soviet” life was that I’d decided to avoid Komsomol and, for many years, despite many pressures and some temptations, stuck to this decision.

Unknowingly I was trying to follow Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s future appeals: “Do Not Lie! Do Not Participate In Lies! Do Not Support Lies!”

As a 19-year-old chess master, I was able to earn good money without constantly lying like CP hacks, and without risking jail like underground entrepreneurs. Several years later I was allowed to travel abroad to play there in chess tournaments. My door to freedom began to open.

Unlike Andrey Sakharov or Vladimir Bukovski (now under some idiotic persecution in England), I am not a hero. I didn’t dare to fight the Soviet regime from inside. The utmost I could do was “Not To Live By The Lie”, and that, I felt, wasn’t enough. I had to go to America to join “my team.” (Today, American victory in the Cold War appears predestined. In the 70s, however, the opposite movement prevailed, as country after country went red.)

Finally, I decided to defect in June 1979. On an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Frankfort, I began to waver. I was already missing my family, my friends. Perhaps I would, after all, come back – one more time, just one? To stiffen my resolve, I grabbed a copy of Pravda; it worked!  A day after my chess team’s arrival I took a cab and said firmly “Köln, Polizei-Presidium” – the Cologne police headquarters. I announced to authorities that I was a Soviet defector, seeking asylum. After a couple of days in Germany, I decided to travel to the United States. The process was very simple, helped by my then-perfect “Deutsch.” For chess, Germany was excellent; I’d chosen the U.S. as the best place for my “fight” against the USSR.

A month later I traveled on to John F. Kennedy Airport  All my belongings easily fit into a small bag; I had $80 in my pocket. Ergo, I had to win tournaments to make a decent living. Soon, I was the #1-ranked US chessplayer.

The life was more or less as I expected – as I already had been to “capitalist” countries before. Besides, Americans are quite close to Russian mentally (look at our histories, how both countries expanded toward the Pacific). Unlike Europeans, both Russians and Americans – to give just one example – cross streets on the red light!

I was able to stay in touch with mine via Soviet chessplayer travelling abroad. I became a citizen in 1985. New York City is my home since 1980; being a conservative person, I love my home. Besides, in NYC there are many Russians! I am culturally both Russian and American.

Predictably, my life centered on politics. My goal was to bring together Russian and American anti-communists. (Sometimes my chess fame helped in my political endeavors).

The autumn of 1989, with Soviet satellites exploding one after another, was magnificent! Then, on August 21, 1991, came my best-ever birthday gift; the pathetic end of the Back-to-Communism 3-day Putsch.

During those hectic days I spent many hours on the phone, giving interviews, answering questions, consulting with friends. I remember one such conversation – with Garry Kasparov, then Chess World Champion, and my close ally in politics. “Twenty years hence,” said Garry who, optimistically and correctly, expected the Putsch to be over in a day or two, “We’ll remember this time as the happiest, and the most meaningful, days of our lives.”

We talked about the second-largest Soviet city, Leningrad, which the staunchly anti-communist Mayor Anatoly Sobchak was “holding” for Boris Yeltsyn. Quite likely, Sobchak’s closest ally and deputy, Vladimir Putin, who persuaded Leningrad’s power structures (Police, Army, KGB) to stay neutral, i.e. to disobey the Putschists’ orders, also was mentioned.

Ever since. I have been Putin’s great admirer – and he continues to surpass my most optimistic expectations. While Garry became a leading member of the anti-Putin “irreconcilable opposition”. The end of the Soviet regime was followed soon by the collapse of the centuries-old Russian State. Putin called this a great tragedy; so did also Solzhenitsyn, who tried hard to stop the dismemberment of – at least – Russia’s Slavic core (alas, in vain).

At 45 I began to scale down my chessplaying and to dedicate more time to teaching chess, and especially to publishing chess books. The product was the unique, truly comprehensive Comprehensive Chess Course, a 27-volume set written by me in collaboration with seven world-class chessplayers, teachers, and writers.

My active involvement in politics was over, or so I (happily) thought, until the advent of the Second Cold War began to nudge me “If not I, who?”. Back to action.

Mr. Alburt’s letter ends there almost abruptly but poignantly: back to action, indeed. I took the liberty to complete the prose for him citing from “Grand Deception“:

Perhaps more than at any point in history, the future of humanity lies in the hearts and minds of the people of the United States and the people of Russia. Do we dare imagine the world we could all build together if we rejected the needless fear and hostility? What might we achieve if we turned our talents and energies toward improving our world rather than producing arms of destruction? What if we chose beauty and harmony over power and dominance? Do we dare believe that it is our privilege to move humanity forward to a new, better, more gratifying ways of living?

Life is a magical gift and our present experience in the world of artificial scarcity and manufactured hostilities may not allow us even to fully envision what life could be like in its full splendor. Like people in a never-ending sandstorm, we cannot see the beauty that surrounds us, let alone enjoy it. Each and every one of us is vaguely aware that some important part of the human potential, perhaps something divine in us, remains unfulfilled yet eager for its own realization. The future is in our hands and we ought to strive to find and fulfill that potential. That is the struggle worth all of our earnest efforts, which must begin in mutual respect and friendship among nations and peoples so that we may begin to rediscover humanity for what it potentially is.

As utopian as these musings may sound, there can be little doubt that warfare wastes more than just economic resources. It also wastes human lives, it stunts and misdirects our creative energies and destroys the foundations on which we could build a far better future.

We have the choice and obligation not to leave our children the world in this state.

Vladimir Putin, I believe, understood these things perfectly well and I think this largely explains his unwavering disposition to engage with his American counterparts in a friendly and constructive dialogue. In order for us to avoid making a massive mess of things, it would be important for the American side to reject hysterical demonization shoved daily down their throats and to reciprocate Putin’s disposition with friendship. As a human being and as a father, this is my fondest hope for the future. To begin with, this would be the first step toward thawing the new cold war and preventing the hot one from erupting. Furthermore, in absence of hostility, the two powers could take steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons and end the senseless and costly global arms race. That would free up vast resources that could be allocated to building a future with far more prosperity and freedom than ever before.

I don’t know whether we can attain utopia, but I do know that we don’t have to destroy the world. Perhaps, just like in the 19th century, the future lies in the hands of the Russian and American people. In 1944, American mystic and reverend Edgar Cayce said that, “In Russia there comes the hope of the world, not as that sometimes termed of the communistic, or Bolshevik, no; but freedom, freedom! That each man will live for his fellow man! The principle has been born. It will take years for it to be crystallised, but out of Russia comes again the hope of the world.” I believe that this hope depends on what the world does with it.

Still, the most important struggle perhaps, is the struggle to engage the American people who I believe hold the keys to the future of humanity. As Georg Friedrich Hegel prophesized, “America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World’s history shall reveal itself.

Alex Krainer@NakedHedgieis a former hedge fund manager, creator of I-System Trend Following and founder of Krainer Analytics. He wrote “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading,” rated #1 book on FinancialExpert.co.uk list of “The 5 Best Commodities Books for Investors and Traders.” His book “Grand Deception: The Browder Hoax” was twice banned on Amazon by orders of swamp creatures from the U.S. Department of State. He writes at ISystem-TF.com and occasionally also on his blog, TheNakedHedgie.com. In March 2021 he published “Alex Krainer’s Trend Following Bible.” His views and opinions are not always for polite society but they are always expressed in sincere pursuit of true knowledge and clear understanding of ideas that matter.

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