Last time we got to meet some Moscow residents and attempted to engage them in conversations with little success. Today, we will meet some Russian professionals engaged in the “judicial” system and visit a Russian court. We will also take a break to have fun Russian style with a group of young Russians at one of their disco haunts.
Our first official meeting took place in the Kremlin with two attorneys, one an attractive woman lawyer and the other a man. They represented the branch of the communist government that provided some semblance of a legal system. They spoke excellent English and had received formal legal training in both France and England. This pair described their duties as ministerial in nature. Judging from the paltry compensation that they received, despite the fact they occupied high positions in the legal system, we concluded the judicial system sucked hind tit even worse in Russia than it does in America. This congenial, very open couple explained that most of the issues that we would resolve in our courts would be handled by the local Committee of the Communist Party. I have often wondered if these delightful, intelligent, highly-educated people ever got to a country where their talents could be better appreciated.
Sonia took us to visit a local Trial Court. The court, situated in a shabby part of town, occupied a portion of a run-down warehouse. No frills here. No wasted public money here. The physical structure clearly stated that the “Judicial System” stood somewhere near the bottom rung on the ladder of priorities in the USSR in 1982.
After about an hour with our pleasant “judge,” who was obviously well-connected with the “Party,” we concluded her main function was to present an appearance of representing a judicial system. After all, according to her, Russia had no crime or social ills for her to deal with anyway. The local Communist Party leaders could take care of any other needs the citizens had. Our study of the Soviet judicial system had been brief and unrevealing. We now had time to explore what we could of Moscow.
After my visit to Russia, occasionally I met with civic groups and individuals in our country who complained that our judicial system was inefficient, and slow at resolving issues. I agreed with them that our system of justice does not work like well-run factories, especially when dealing with criminal cases. I assured my American citizens that we could really speed up the process if we got rid of this troublesome, antiquated concept of individual liberties and due process as the Russians did.
Despite their paranoia and sternness, our Russian hosts wanted us to see their better side so they treated us to a visit to the University, a folk ballet at the Kremlin, and a lavish dinner–complete with live entertainment–at one of the grand old hotels in downtown Moscow. They arranged a night at the famous Moscow Circus.
When we walked the street of Moscow late at night returning from these events I felt safe from crime. I knew that the person in a long leather coat and pulled down hat who followed us home each night meant only to insure that we didn’t stray into areas we were not supposed to see. Two weeks after being in Moscow, I had occasion to be in New York and decided to take in a play on Broadway. Afterwards, I decided to walk to my hotel on 44th Street. What a mistake. I had felt no fear walking the streets of Moscow at night two weeks earlier, but now I feared for my life and cursed myself for being so stupid.
Some of us went to the disco at our hotel on Saturday night to see young Russians in social action. In action they were. They arrived en masse when the doors opened at eight sharp, put their bottles of chilled vodka on the tables, downed four or five quick straight shots then vigorously danced to loud music that attempted to sound somewhat like our jazz. They frequently returned to the bottles on their tables and promptly got soused before the midnight curfew arrived. Precisely at twelve o’clock, uniformed police officers stood at the doors and ushered all patrons out. I am sure the crowd went elsewhere, but we were not invited to tag along. In those days in Moscow, you had to play hard and drink fast for enjoyment.