Christian Caryl

Stories by Christian Caryl

  • LIGHTING A FUSE

    In the end it all came down to a moment of near absurdity between two of the most powerful men in Japan. On the evening of Aug. 6, Yoshiro Mori, a senior parliamentary leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, sweating in the muggy summer heat, arrived for a parley at the residence of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The two men had urgent business to discuss--namely, whether the upper house of Parliament, the Diet, would pass crucial legislation approving the privatization of Japan Post, the vast public corporation whose reform Koizumi has declared the make-or-break issue of his government.Mori, a former prime minister himself, was bringing bad news. The votes weren't there, he explained, and he pleaded with Koizumi to back away from his threat to call a snap election if the privatization bills failed to pass. But Koizumi held his ground. If the legislators couldn't make it happen, he said, he had no choice but to place the issue before the voters. "You are more than a weirdo...
  • SAMPLING THE SAKE

    Fumio Kamiya lifts the lid from a metal vat and a sweet, yeasty smell wafts up. Inside, an ivory-colored mash seductively bubbles away--a fermenting mixture of rice, water and the special rice malt known as koji, the ingredients that have been used for centuries to make sake, Japan's national drink. The place is Yachiya, a 377-year-old sake brewery in the West Coast city of Kanazawa. This isn't the usual brewing season--it runs from October to May--but Kamiya has a persuasive explanation: "This is a special batch that a customer ordered from us," he says. Yachiya enthusiasts, it turns out, can order small amounts tailored to their tastes.That's just one of the ways Japan's sake breweries are waking up to the potential of their trade. The country's 1,500 active sake breweries are deeply traditional, redolent with history and culture, and they make a delicious, high-quality product that--though it is losing ground domestically to wine and beer--is increasingly popular in some...
  • THE GHOST OF MR. TOJO

    Yuko Tojo, sitting at a table in a Tokyo cafe, unpacks a small box and removes a set of family mementos: two pencil stubs, an improvised paper cigarette holder, a few locks of hair in an envelope--relics of her famous ancestor's final days in prison. Holding up a cigarette butt, she explains: "This is the last one he smoked before his execution."The man in question was her grandfather, Hideki Tojo, Japan's most notorious wartime prime minister and one of 14 top-ranking war criminals whose spirits are honored at Yasukuni Shrine, the Tokyo war memorial that continues to vex modern-day Japan's relations with its neighbors. For decades Ms. Tojo, like the rest of her family, preferred to keep a low profile about Japan's war legacy and the role her famous relative continues to play in it. But these days she's taking a stand. In recent weeks a growing number of leading Japanese politicians have criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for his frequent visits to the shrine. Ms. Tojo, 66,...
  • Is Three a Crowd?

    President George W. Bush and his South Korean counterpart, Roh Moo Hyun, exchanged diplomatic pleasantries at their summit in Washington last Friday. Bush noted that both countries "share the same goal" of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear-weapons program, and that both agree that the long-stalled six-party talks are "essential" to that process. Roh said that the United States and South Korea had "one or two minor issues" about how to deal with North Korea's nuclear program, "but I'm certain we'll be able to work them out with dialogue." Before leaving for Washington, Roh had sought to reassure observers that all was well in his country's alliance with the United States. Roh invited a delegation of American generals over to lunch, where he talked glowingly about U.S.-Korean friendship. Diplomats and pro-government parliamentarians were similarly enthusiastic. The day before Roh's trip, his office issued a statement expressing the hope that the summit would "reinforce" the...
  • OFF BALANCE

    Japan and China just can't seem to kiss and make up. When Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Wu Yi arrived in Tokyo on May 17, the visit was billed as part of a new move toward reconciliation after recent feuding between Asia's two biggest economies. Needless to say, it didn't work out as the optimists had hoped. Shortly before a scheduled meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Wu suddenly announced that she was heading back to Beijing--an unprecedented affront. The Chinese blamed the mess on Koizumi, who, the day before Wu arrived, suggested that he might yet again visit Yasukuni Shrine--the Tokyo war memorial that, for many of Japan's neighbors, symbolizes the country's unwillingness to assume genuine responsibility for its invasions and atrocities during World War II. Just before she boarded her plane, Wu described relations between the two countries as more "difficult" than they've been since the establishment of diplomatic ties 30 years ago.The effects of the split...
  • CULTURE SHOCK

    On a warm spring day, a small boat is maneuvering down a narrow tributary of the Yalu River that marks the border between China and North Korea. The sightseers in the craft are in search of an unusual quarry. "Look, there they are," says the boat's Chinese owner. And sure enough, coming down the opposite bank are two young North Korean border guards in olive-drab uniforms, both bareheaded, one of them toting a Kalashnikov rifle. The prow touches the shore, and one of the passengers--a NEWSWEEK journalist--steps out briefly onto North Korean territory to shake hands with the two soldiers, who nod and offer greetings. The Northerners happily accept a gift of South Korean cigarettes and Chinese cash in return for allowing the brief foray into their country. But there's something else they'd like to have as well, they say: movies and TV shows from South Korea. Videotapes or DVDs? Either one, say the soldiers. "Comedies or action?" asks the visitor. "It doesn't matter," answers a soldier...
  • DANCES WITH ROBOTS

    Norihiro Hagita recently put a 3-year-old girl and her mother into a room with a robot and kept them there for two hours. At first, the girl and the robot chatted and played. When the robot asked her to give him a hug, she happily complied. But after a time the two of them ran out of new things to do, and the little girl plopped down on the floor for a nap. The robot waited to make sure the girl had truly lost interest, then approached her mother and struck up a conversation. "Now here's the interesting part," says Hagita, pointing to the girl on videotape. "See how she sits up and watches? The robot is interacting with her mother and that's got her upset." He can't help but grin. "The robot has made her jealous."While engineers in most of the world try to make robots that perform specific and usually unpleasant tasks, from fighting wars to performing deep-sea salvage, Japanese engineers are obsessed with making the machines more human. Having put the country squarely in the lead of...
  • HOMEBOUND JAPAN: THE RISING SONS

    If anyone is going to change Japan's stay-at-home investment culture, it's probably Shinsei Bank. In 2000 the U.S. boutique investment firm Ripplewood Holdings bought the remains of Japan's Long-Term Credit Bank and revived it as Shinsei, which means "new life." Since then Shinsei has been leading a quiet revolution in Japan's staid retail banks. It's opening stylish new branches with teleconferencing screens and Internet access. Already Japan's seventh largest bank, with $10.6 billion in assets, Shinsei claims to be the top Internet mutual-fund provider in a nation that began to allow banks to sell mutual funds only in 2000. Its surprise best seller doesn't even target Japan: it's an India equity fund.For ordinary Japanese investors, this is the financial equivalent of bungee jumping out of an airplane. Japanese are the most provincial investors of any rich country. The nation's households hold a mere 0.5 percent of their assets overseas, and institutions hold 5 percent. U.S. Fed...
  • The Kid V. the Man

    Japan's establishment has many reasons to hate Takafumi Horie. He wears T shirts, not ties. He is 32, and voices disrespect for his elders. He's written best-sellers that preach a gospel of greed. Horie dropped out of elite Tokyo University and went on to create a billion-dollar Internet portal, Livedoor, outside the old boys' network. And last week Livedoor won a high-court ruling that greenlights a hostile takeover now shaking the foundations of Japanese business.Horie is the consummate outsider, and his unprecedented battle to seize control of the $2.2 billion Nippon Broadcasting System (NBS) has provoked a national uproar over what is proper Japanese corporate behavior. Hisashi Hieda, the head of NBS affiliate Fuji TV, wondered snidely whether Horie's tactics could be classified as "American style"--"but then I wouldn't know because I'm Japanese." The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper warned of a future in which foreigners "harvest Japanese companies at will," and circle like "vultures"...
  • NORTH KOREA: RELUCTANT PARTNERS

    The White House emissary was packing heat. As Michael Green, senior director of Asian affairs on the U.S. National Security Council, made the rounds in Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul last week, he confronted his counterparts with the diplomatic equivalent of heavy weaponry--a handwritten note from U.S. President George W. Bush. It was Washington's latest effort to convince governments in the region that North Korea has been peddling nuclear materials to nefarious customers. U.S. officials last week claimed Pyongyang appeared to have supplied uranium hexafluoride to Libya, which gave up its own nuclear-weapons program at the West's urging.Increasingly, however, the calculations of Pyongyang's neighbors may differ from Washington's. All the heated headlines about North Korean nukes have obscured a more subtle shift in the local dynamic, in particular the country's blossoming economic relationship with China and South Korea. In July 2002 North Korean leader Kim Jong Il signaled the end of...
  • Law of the Land

    Japan's twentysomethings don't have much of a reputation for caring about politics. But Mitsunori Shigeno, 27, is a fine example of how that's beginning to change. First he and his classmates at Phoenix English College in Tokyo began hearing in the media that leading politicians wanted to revise the Japanese Constitution. Then a delegation of Phoenix students--most of whom hold full-time jobs and reserve their weekends for language study--sought an audience with a member of Parliament to discuss the issue. (To be polite, they brought along a cake.)Next, armed with new arguments, they held a class debate on a question that is preoccupying growing numbers of their countrymen: whether Japan should renounce Article 9, the famous constitutional clause in which the nation swears off war, and the means to wage it, for all time. The students' debate ended in a draw, but, says Shigeno, it fulfilled its purpose--to get people talking. "Because we don't have military power, other countries are...
  • INSIDE THE HERMIT KINGDOM

    Call me crazy, but I've always wanted to go to North Korea. Impenetrable, enigmatic, a tantalizing blank spot on the map. As a longtime correspondent in Russia, I had watched the old Soviet Union open up. Could something similar be happening in the Hermit Kingdom?Of course, totalitarian North Korea makes Russia look like a human-rights paradise, even in the bad old days. The only way an American can visit is to sign on with an approved tour to Hyundai's resort at Mount Kumgang, renowned on the peninsula for its scenic beauty. Since the venture was founded in 1998, more than 800,000 South Koreans have shelled out up to $500 a head for the privilege of spending 48 hours in an ultramodern hotel complex, cordoned off by security fences and guards in Russian-style uniforms. You get there by bus, crossing the fortified DMZ and bumping north along a carless road lined with barbed wire and, natch, more sour looking guards.As recently as a few months ago, we heard, Northern tour guides would...
  • An Army Adrift

    Two decades ago, South Korea's military had a clear enemy. Stalinist North Korea had triggered a fratricidal war that led to the death of millions. The South's cold-war-era leaders, all staunch anti-communists and former generals, painted the Hermit Kingdom as paranoid and bloodthirsty. Yet today, several South Korean officials say a government white paper on national defense due later this month may do away with the traditional description of North Korea as Seoul's "main enemy." Political leaders are calling for closer friendship with Pyongyang and more independence from Washington. The only security many younger Koreans are worried about is financial. Once a pillar of society, to which every young Korean male owes two years of service, the military is adrift. "Sometimes," says one regimental commander, "I wonder in what direction our guns should be aimed."He is not the only officer in South Korea's 690,000-man military bewildered by political and social changes on the Korean...
  • THE TWISTS OF FATE

    The Indian port of Chennai (formerly Madras) stood in the path of the wave, and disaster beckoned. The city is both the nation's second largest container terminal and an automaking capital known as India's Detroit. Its destruction would be a huge blow to one of Asia's most vibrant economies. Yet, protected by breakwaters and quirks of natural geography, Chennai got off lightly. A few ships were damaged, and the harbor filled with sand, yet within 24 hours cargo was moving again. Port spokesman Vajiravel Loganathan says it will take "one or two months at the most" to restore full operations.This was the part of the tragedy that didn't happen. Despite the horrible death toll, the economic impact looks to be miraculously low. Giant waves inundated more than 33,000 kilometers of coastline on three continents, according to an estimate by ESRI, a satellite mapping company, yet there are no reports of catastrophic damage to any major port or industrial facility. Economist and natural...
  • NATION OF MISERS

    A couple of weeks before Christmas you'd expect Yukie Ushijima, 38, to be gearing up for some serious holiday shopping. She's not hurting for cash, after all, since her husband is a successful architect. What's more, she lives in Japan, a country rich in clever strategies for separating people from their money. But Ushijima has taken something akin to a consumer's vow of chastity. "It's become my natural habit not to spend unnecessarily," she says. "I hardly buy things at department stores--just window shopping." When the family has cash to spare, she usually invests it instead to prepare for a secure retirement. Her preferred vehicle: Australian government bonds.Japan has long been legendary for its tightfisted consumers, whose stubborn refusal to get out and spend has plagued the economy like a lingering nightmare. Yet this was the year that was supposed to change all that. The optimists had plenty of weighty arguments on their side. Corporate profits were reaching new highs....
  • HE'S THE ANSWER

    Two questions loom large in the minds of Japan's political class in 2005. One concerns the economy. Recent indicators suggest that a full-scale recovery remains elusive, and whatever happens, it's clear that the year to come holds plenty of nerve-racking moments in store. And then there's leadership. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has declared that he's stepping down in 2006. That raises the issue of who will succeed him and carry the torch for Koizumi's program of reform.The answers to both questions intersect in an unlikely character by the name of Heizo Takenaka. A former professor who came to prominence as a TV commentator on economics, Takenaka entered the political arena in 2001 at the age of 50. These days the soft-spoken economic-reform czar is riding a reputation as a hard-nosed reformer who's not afraid to take on the establishment. "I'm not committed to any vested interest," says Takenaka. "I'm not financially supported by any special groups or special companies. In...
  • COMING OUT OF THE COLD

    For the past 30 years Hiroaki Kushioka has languished in corporate Japan's equivalent of Siberian exile. In 1974 he put his own conscience above company loyalty by going public with revelations about his employer's involvement in a price-fixing cartel. But because of the cozy relationship between government watchdogs and the industries they regulated at that time, the firm escaped punishment. Its managers were quick to take action against Kushioka. They derailed his sales career by transferring him to a provincial training center, where he spent most of the next three decades tending the flower beds.Yet these days, in an odd twist of fate, Japan's veteran whistle-blower is coming in from the cold. His book about his experiences, published two years ago, has earned him nationwide prominence. He filed a lawsuit against his company, which he claims is close to being resolved in his favor. And in perhaps the most striking sign of his new status, the onetime outcast now finds himself...
  • EVERY REASON TO BE AFRAID

    In October 2001 the White House found itself scrambling to respond to a threat that could have made 9/11 look like a pinprick. Just weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush administration received a tip from a CIA source that Al Qaeda had smuggled an atomic bomb into the United States. As Graham Allison tells the story, the government took the warning so seriously that it sent bomb hunters from its supersecret Nuclear Emergency Support Teams into New York City to look for the presumed device using radiation detectors concealed in backpacks and briefcases. The Feds didn't even inform Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But, says Allison--a former assistant secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs--they were right to keep mum. "A news flash about an Al Qaeda nuclear weapon in Manhattan," he notes, "would create chaos."That time around, luckily, the threat turned out to be a dud....
  • TYCOON TAKEOVER

    It's no secret that a handful of "oligarchs" dominate the Russian economy, but until now the details have been murky. No one knew all the names in the oligarchy, exactly what they own, how many industries they dominate or to what effect. Are oligarchs leading the modernization of Russia, as they claim, or crippling progress? Answers have been hidden behind the thicket of shell companies that still obscure Russian accounting. "This is an absurd situation," says the World Bank's chief economist in Russia, Christof Ruehl. "It is one of the biggest countries on earth and no one knows how concentrated the economy is."The World Bank dispatched dozens of researchers to cut through the murk and produce the first clear view of just who controls Russia. Last week it released the surprising findings: the 23 biggest oligarchs control 35 percent of industrial sales, high by European standards but less than the 50 percent claimed by earlier estimates. The oligarchs do dominate the heights of the...
  • NO MORE EXCUSES

    In the halcyon days when Vladimir Putin visited his aunts and uncles here, the tiny village of Pominovo was a place of hope. "There was a store, a bar, a club," recalls Vladimir Kuvarin, himself once married to a now deceased cousin of the Russian president. "We were clothed and shod and well fed. We were happy here."That was in the early 1960s. Sixty souls lived in Pominovo then. These days there are 14--and no stores, not even a kiosk. "We lived better under communism," Kuvarin says, glancing around his dying village--and not even trying to conceal his disappointment in its most famous son.Surely, one might think, Kuvarin's discontent is misplaced. By all indications President Putin is cruising smoothly toward an overwhelming victory in Russia's March 14 presidential elections--a fitting reward, boosters say, for his remarkable success in rescuing his country from the chaos that threatened to engulf it just a few years ago. Russia (with plenty of help from national TV networks...
  • PULLING FOR PUTIN

    In most countries, presidential candidates tend to have the same concerns. How to formulate a program, raise money, get the voters' attention. But Vladimir Bryntsalov, a millionaire businessman, has something else on his mind. Campaigning for the job occupied by Vladimir Putin, he wants to make sure that his "rival" doesn't take him too seriously. "I'm not going to criticize Putin and praise myself," says Bryntsalov. "The country is on the right track."So why is he running? Mainly to air his own views, even if they're largely identical to Putin's. About one thing he's perfectly clear: "Only Putin can be president." Once Bryntsalov has collected the obligatory 2 million signatures needed to register his candidacy, he might drop out of the race altogether. "What's the point of wasting [the government's] money," he points out, "taking free television time and just repeating what Putin is saying?"Confused? Don't be. It's all part of another ignominious low to which Russian democracy has...
  • Iraqi Vice

    The trip from Ali's village to Baghdad takes an hour and a half by bus. As soon as he arrives, the 21-year-old Iraqi heads straight to Abu Abdullah's, just off Sadoun Street in an alley with a number instead of a name. "I don't have a wife," he says. "I don't have enough money to get married. So I come here." At Abu Abdullah's, $1.50 buys 15 minutes alone with a woman. The room is a cell with only a curtain for a door, and Ali complains that Abu Abdullah's women should bathe more often. But the young man says it's still a big improvement from Saddam Hussein's day. Back then, he says, the only establishment for a poor boy like himself was at a Gypsy settlement on the capital's western outskirts. "But now there are plenty of places." He grins. "Now we have freedom."Before the invasion, Iraq was one of the world's most tightly controlled societies. Only a few specially licensed stores could sell alcohol, and in recent years drinking was banned outright in restaurants and hotels. A...
  • With The Ghost Squad

    A boom echoes through the Iraqi city of Ar Ramadi, bringing the men of Bravo Company out of their bunks. "Mortars!" yells one soldier, and the members of Third Squad, First Platoon--they call themselves the Ghost Squad--ride out into the night, looking for the attack's source. Another blast rattles the city. "It hit the bridge," reports Sp/4 Patrick McDonald, always as calm as Canada, where he was born. "A big shower of sparks."The radio crackles: sentries at a Bravo Company lookout post have spotted the attackers in the darkness on the opposite bank of the Euphrates. The squad's two Humvees stop at a sheltered spot by the river, near the observation post. Everyone scans the far shore, some 400 yards distant, using night-vision goggles. "There they are," says one of the men. "I count seven."The enemy shoots first. The muzzle flashes of their AK-47s, invisible to the naked eye, show as flaring eruptions of light in the goggles' green view. The squad replies with M-16s and 50-caliber...
  • Bad Days In Baghdad

    It was Baghdad's bloodiest day since the end of the war. But for Tofan abed Al-Wahab, Oct. 27 turned out to be a moment of perverse good luck. Al-Wahab, who works for an Iraqi humanitarian organization, had just finished a meeting with a friend in the International Committee of the Red Cross. As he was driving away from the building, his car was jolted by an immense blast just a few yards behind. "There was an enormous boom and suddenly all this gravel was raining down on my car," he told NEWSWEEK 30 minutes later, his face still marked by the shock. "The car bounced up and down." Had his appointment lasted a few minutes longer, Al-Wahab might have ended up among the twelve Iraqis killed in the attack. And what about his friend? What happened to him? "I don't know," he says, shaking his head.That sense of consternation and uncertainty was mirrored in the reactions of countless Baghdadis in the wake of a wave of suicide bombings--six altogether--that struck the Iraqi capital on the...
  • The Real Sufism

    Enter Baghdad's leading Sufi mosque on a recent evening and the first thing that catches your eye is a man, sitting cross-legged in a corner of the courtyard. The blanket in front of him is filled with his wares, and clustered around are men young and old, busily buying, swapping and studying a bewildering assortment of pocket-sized pictures and postcards and CDs.There's something about the whole scene that recalls a gathering of baseball-card enthusiasts. But a closer look at the curiosities on offer quickly dispels the impression. Take the fuzzy picture of a miraculous forest, the white wobbly trunks against a dark background magically forming the Arabic letters of a verse from the Qur'an. Or the photo of a black-and-white cow whose side is emblazoned with spots that form the word ALLAH. Or a painting in lurid green and brown portraying the decapitated head of the great martyr Hussein, his head impaled on a spike.This is an interesting time to make the acquaintance of the Sufis of...
  • Another Bomb In Baghdad

    It was another searing Baghdad day, and Mohammed Yassim was hoping to reap a better-than-average profit by selling cold drinks at a spot where there are plenty of Iraqis desperately needing refreshment: the police headquarters of the Iraqi capital.The 20-year-old Yassim was heading out the gate of the headquarters building when he noticed a police officer gesturing to him, an old friend by the name of Isam. "He wanted to buy something," said Yassim.But before Yassim could react, both he and his officer friend found their transaction cut short by Iraq's savagely unpredictable guerrilla war. The car directly behind the policeman suddenly exploded into an immense fireball. "There was a big bang, and I was thrown to the ground," says Yassim. The blast, just 20 yards away, knocked him unconscious. When he came to a few minutes later, someone was helping him to his feet and pulling him away from the scene of the attack. Somewhere along the way, as acrid black smoke gushed into the sky, he...
  • 'We Just Want to Live'

    Yusuf Gatta woke in confusion in the early morning darkness of July 13. Helicopters were thundering over his house. Loudspeakers mounted on jeeps issued booming commands.Stumbling outside, Gatta found himself confronting dozens of U.S. soldiers engaged in a search for Iraqi guerillas. The Americans worked fast, separating the villagers into men and women. Before Gatta, 17, knew it, the Americans had slipped a hood over his head and cuffed his hands. "If you told them that the cuffs were hurting you, they would tighten them," he says, holding out wrists that still bear the marks of captivity. "They kicked us and hit us."Even at that, Gatta was one of the lucky ones. He was released after nine uncomfortable days of incarceration in a U.S. Army prison, but 19 other men from his village of Al Bushnaydikh remain in custody six weeks after the raid. Their relatives have no idea where they're being held, why they've been detained or how to get in touch with them. All that would be bad...
  • Tycoon Takedown

    If anyone embodies Russia's transformation from financial pariah to new economic star, it's 40-year-old Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Not long ago he was just another post-Soviet business tycoon, getting rich quick in dubious privatizations and trampling on minority shareholders.Then he gave himself a makeover. He engineered a management revolution at his flagship company, the oil giant YUKOS, and watched production figures spike. He embraced good corporate governance, and foreign-portfolio investors piled in, raising the stock-market valuation of his company to unheard-of heights. Last but not least, he hired a host of Western experts to handle his PR. These days he's a welcome guest among the world's business elite--and in Washington, too, where he has contributed generously, among others, to conservative think tanks linked with the Bush administration.It's been quite a roller-coaster ride, and it's evidently not over yet. These days the man who should be basking in his newly acquired...
  • The Invisible War

    Suicide bombings are now threatening to become a fixture of Russia's war against the Chechens. Two weekends ago two suicide bombers killed 14 and wounded dozens of others at a Moscow rock concert. Then last week a member of the Moscow bomb squad died attempting to disarm an explosive device taken from the backpack of a young Chechen woman as she entered a restaurant in the city center.Indeed, the war in the separatist republic is as brutal as ever--despite Moscow's proclamations to the contrary. Vladimir Putin's generals long ago declared the conflict over, yet every week about a dozen Russian soldiers die in Chechnya in ambushes or remote-controlled mine attacks. Moscow's security forces counter by detaining anyone suspected of cooperating with the guerillas--and the detainees often end up missing for good. According to the Russian human-rights organization Memorial, Russian troops removed four young men from the village of Chechen Aul last week; they haven't been heard from since....
  • The Two Russias

    Five years ago, Moscow's Gorbushka Market was a window on the lawless Russian economy. Merchants trafficked pirated CDs under the trees or peddled smuggled stereos from the backs of trucks--dodging cops and tax inspectors. These days the Gorbushka (as Muscovites affectionately refer to it) has emerged into the light. A Soviet-era TV factory has been converted into an air-conditioned consumer-electronics mall--some 2,000 stores, ranging from stalls offering mobile phones to luxury boutiques featuring state-of-the-art viewing salons for flat-screen TVs. Sony and EMI are building official pavilions, and 75,000 people visit each day. "We believe we are the biggest seller of music and videocassettes, music CDs and DVDs in Europe," says Igor Tokar, a spokesman for the mall's biggest landlord, adding that the Gorbushka is no longer a window on the nation, or even part of it. "Russia is a separate country," says Tokar. "What can I say? Moscow is Moscow."Fifteen years after Mikhail Gorbachev...