Do you have baseball in Russia? Fumito Hokamura, Fukuoka-ken, Japan
Baseball is very little known in Russia, like cricket in the United States although I once read that some Canadian colleges do play cricket, which is an old British tradition. In 1989, some enthusiasts did start playing baseball in Russia, and today games for a Russian championship and cup are p1ayed every year. The champions take part in European matches. We also have an all-Russia team. We took fourth place in Europe, most likely because few people play it there.
Do many Russians take ho1idays abroad, and where do they go? Ian Morrison, Kilwinning, Scotland
More than 5 million take their vacations abroad, though that's only 4 percent. In Germany, it's 87 percent. They mainly go to places where it's warm, like Turkey, Cyprus and Spain, or farther away to the Bahamas.
Will the use of the Internet put an end to short-wave broadcasting? R.F.Gero, Pittsburg, U.S.A.
When movies appeared, people thought that would be the end of the theater. Was it? No. When television appeared, it was said that would be the end of the movies. Did the movies disappear? No. When the Internet became part of our lives, it was said it would end short-wave broadcasting. Did it? No, and it won't. Each has its own niche. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
How does Russia celebrate its day of independence?Dennis Roberts, Columbus, Georgia, U.S.A.
On1y 62 percent of Russians know that on June 12, 10 years ago, our Declaration of Sovereignty was adopted. Nevertheless, everybody knows that it is a day off. Hardly anybody celebrates it at home. Ce1ebrations take place in four places in Moscow. One is only a few minutes from my house where the museum dedicated to World War II stands. One hundred and twenty orchestras and performing companies from all over Russia take part. That's 4,000 people in all. Then, there is a march and demonstration down Moscow's main street, Tverskaya. Finally, there is a concert at 8 p.m. There are people who consider this a day of tragedy because they long for the old system, when standards of living were higher. This means we must show that our reforms were worthwhile, because we have adopted the system that most of the countries of the world live under. We must counter calls to return to the old system.
What is the history of the famous instrument, the balalaika?Patty Edwards, Si1ver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.
Mentioning the balalaika brings to mind the Hollywood movie tune, "At the Balalaika." In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was popular as a solo instrument, and often it accompanied a singer. In 1880, several instrumentalists perfected it. This new, perfected instrument became part of the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra. Several composers wrote large compositions for the balalaika alone, as well as balalaikas with orchestras.
Tell me about the annual weather in Moscow. Jacques Augustin, Bosny-Sous-Bois, France
In June and July the sun shines for between 270 and 291 hours. The yearly precipitation in Moscow is 700 mm, including snow and rain. We began recording Moscow temperatures in 1879. From February 3-6 this year we had the warmest temperatures for that period in all of recorded history. January 24 and 25 were the warmest in the past several years. The average January temperature is minus 10.2 degrees C. The first snow in Moscow usually falls in the beginning of November, and it permanently covers the ground from the end of November until spring. The average July temperature is 19 degrees, but it can easily get much hotter.
Why does your government not want the United States to get rid of Saddam Hussein? Jim Davis, Concord, U.S.A.
I agree, Iraq is a totalitarian state. But in a civilized world one country doesn't have the right to demote or get rid of a head of another just because his or policies are disagreeable. The United States does not possess information on whether Baghdad has or does not have weapons of mass destruction, which makes it difficult for Americans to explain to the world the need for another military operation. Some may view an attack on Iraq as an attack on the whole Arab world. Now, what should be done? Iraq has proposed talks on having U.N. inspectors return to the country, as long as its sovereignty is respected. The U.N. Security Council has reacted positively. As for Russian interests in Iraq, the two parties have an interest in continuing economic cooperation, not to mention the fact that Baghdad promised to return $8 billion in debt to Russia as payment for Soviet arms.
Are there a lot of cyclists in Russia? Are there special cycling lanes for them? Michael Peake, North Lancing, West Sussex, United Kingdom
There aren't too many because of the climate. I think you can see cyclists on the streets no more than five or six months of the year. Most of the cyclists view their bikes as a sports accessory, not as a means of transportation. I live in a suburb, and one thing that irritates me is that adult cyclists ride on the sidewalks where there are many pedestrians. There are no cycling lanes.
(E-mail Joe Adamov at firstname.lastname@example.org)