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`This is my First Time to Talk to an American'

WE sat down to talk with Col. Gen. Alexei Mironov, the man in charge of the personnel affairs for the entire Soviet officer corps. But before we could get down to business, General Mironov, a tall craggy grey-haired man, had something he wanted to say:

I'd like to take this opportunity to say that, although I've talked to foreigners, mostly Europeans, this is my first time to talk to an American. I have always liked and continue to like Americans, but have never in my life had the chance to meet one.

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Before talking about military reform, I'd like to say that it's no secret that this country is going through a difficult time. I am a military man - out of my 64 years, I have spent 49 in the Army, so a sense of patriotism and love of my motherland will go with me to my grave. I personally believe that it's the business of politicians, economists, and scholars to choose a political system, but the military man has to perform his duty - that is, to defend his motherland. This is the right of every individual, and of every country.

As you know, Russia has a millenium-long history. Paris is about 2,000 years old. Rome is 3,000. Cairo is 4,000. I am saying this because we have always had to catch up with European civilization. But beginning with the 11th century, there hasn't been a single century that Old Russ or Russia was not attacked. Teutons, Swedes, Tartars, French, Poles were among the attackers.

By the way, the US and Russia have something in common, since neither of them ever possessed colonies. Unfortunately, the fate of our people was such that they were enslaved during serfdom, but we never had any colonies or Negroes overseas. That's the honor and dignity of our people. We never had them, and as a matter of fact, that affected our national character. Having such a history, someone like me, or just any patriot, has every reason to be proud of his motherland.

Compared to the total sweep of world history, we leave only a slight imprint. Therefore, we must shoulder the burden of responsibility for the labor, blood, and sweat of dozens of generations that lived here and built the country before us, and carry on.

Please try to believe me, without any particular proof, that when people talk about Russian chauvinism (which of course has been displayed stupidly by certain circles and individuals) one should keep in mind that Russians always loved their freedom and the freedom of other peoples. It isn't accidental in the historic sense that Russian Man has appreciated not only his own achievements but also the accomplishments of others, such as Americans' business-like attitude, German practicality, the French liberal way of thinking, the British reticence and tact, and so on.

I am saying all this because when I mentioned that I love my motherland, I felt it was necessary to explain why I love it today, under the present circumstances. I will love it until my last day, even in hell or heaven. Your and our priests say that both hell and heaven exist. Although I have great respect and love for believers, I don't go to church myself. I can't even think of it. Although I like religion and church services, I can't make myself believe in church dogmas. I read a lot about Americans and I know that although you support religion, you still prefer science and technology.

I apologize for this interjection, but something really moved in my soul.

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