A Specter Is Haunting Moscow!


The Moscow News

© RIA Novosti. Yevgeny Biyatov

This fun, fragile world

by Nathan Gray at 10/01/2013 18:57

Sandy Krolick came into the world in a fragile state. Born with congenital heart disease, he has had to undergo a series of surgeries during his life, two when he was very young and the most recent just three years ago.

His illness has not prevented him from taking on an energetic and varied career, however, from academia to some of the highest levels of American business, but his life has led him to distant Barnaul, the capital of Siberia’s Altai region, where he assesses the fragility he sees in human civilization.

“On the one hand, I spent my life at the top of American business, and I understand how it should go and what should happen, customer service, all this stuff,” Krolick said. “But I also recognize that American-style business and capitalism and, if you will, the American lifestyle is counter-productive to the maintenance of life on Earth.”

His experiences have resulted in several books, most recently a collection of essays, “Apocalypse of the Barbarians,” then a novel just coming out in Russian, “Veronika.”

A musician in academe

Krolick, who was born in New York in 1953, spent much of his career in consulting and management training. His intention in high school was to become a musician, but his mother forced him to go to college, so he found himself at Hobart and William Smith in upstate New York, and followed his first degree with a master’s in humanities at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in religious studies at the University of Virginia.

“First I was studying Buddhism, but they wanted me to practice Buddhism, and I wasn’t interested in practicing any religion, so I switched over to the Christian studies program,” he said.

While writing up his thesis in 1983, he moved to Colorado, which was his base for 25 years, to teach humanities to budding mining engineers at the Colorado School of Mines.

Publication of a management training program followed, starting off a health care consulting career that included stints as a partner in Ernst and Young, as a vice president of General Electric, and as president of Alliance One until his retirement from business in the early 2000s.

“It was a career that went like a ski slope, straight up,” he said. “I was very fortunate – I participated as very few people can, in that ‘one percentile’ that is getting all the bad publicity in the U.S., I lived that big, big life. It’s one of the reasons why I really wanted to downshift to Siberia, because that big life was too stressful, too abusive of not only people, but resources.”

Links to Russia

His connection to Russia originated when he and his first wife – who are now divorced – decided to adopt a child, eventually taking in a boy from the Tula region.

Krolick visited Moscow again in 2003, after a trip to Cannes, France, and Odessa, Ukraine, and met the woman who would, a year later, become his second wife. They now live with their son in her hometown, Barnaul.

“Her family was in Barnaul, and she really didn’t want to stay in the United States,” he said. “She’s very attached to Siberia and to Barnaul and her family, so I was more than agreeable [to move there], because I needed a break from all that chaos.”

Krolick did make one effort to start his own business, a tourism consulting firm, though he soon found he had difficulty understanding Russia’s business culture.

“I had a lot of trouble just understanding Russians in a business context,” he said. “I didn’t understand their mannerisms, their behaviors, their language, their communication, so that got frustrating, and I still have problems.”

He eventually decided that he would prefer to teach and write. In addition to his books and his blog, he is administering a new exchange program between Hobart and William Smith and the Altai State Pedagogical Academy.


Krolick’s time away from business has allowed him to reflect on Russia’s development, which generates mixed feelings. The businessman sees Siberia’s potential for tourism, for example, and has ideas about how it can be fulfilled, but the philosopher wants to warn Altai’s residents about losing what they have.

“I think there are substantial infrastructure issues that they are trying to address, but again, this cuts both ways in my head,” he said. “I’m sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they ask my advice, ‘Well, this is what you should do, but I don’t think you should do it.'”

He counts himself fortunate to have had the career he did, but his view of the world has changed, especially in light of what he sees as the effects of Western capitalism, resource depletion and the conflicts that result – subjects that make him worried for the world’s future.

“I go into the forest and I hunt mushrooms, I go to the river and I fish… I work a little bit in the garden, because I think those skills, those things are going to become crucial,” Krolick said, “certainly not as much at my age because I may not be around when things get rough, but I think things are going to get rough in about 20, 30 years, and I think people are going to have to learn how to fish and hunt and till the soil.”

(But I still spend time in a city, with real people, doing what I do best, meeting folks, talking and writing.)

42 Responses to A Specter Is Haunting Moscow!

  1. Sector 19 says:

    Third Eye Blind was an unexpected treat! Yeah, 20 years is probably about right… Note to self: need to learn how to farm before zombie apocalypse. 🙂

  2. Those Ruskies all look so sceptical, (except the young pretty ones). “The American who presumes to write in the language of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekov! Hmmmph!” LOL

    Congratulations. There was even a line for awhile!


  3. Martin says:

    So, that’s who you are…?

  4. derekthered says:

    Greetings Comrade!
    “I think things are going to get rough in about 20, 30 years,”
    much as i hate to disagree, methinks things are already getting rough, and if the ruling class doesn’t get just a tiny bit honest about our monetary system, this country ain’t going to last another ten.

    everything looks so modern and up to date there in Mother Russia.

    • Disaffected says:

      Agreed. “Rough” will be a matter of local perspective for all of us on the trip down. Most of the third world today have had it “rough” by any reasonable standard for quite sometime now already.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Agreed; I was thinking of AMERIKA. And I would also agree that the bad times there already began several years ago…

        • Ivy Mike says:


          1 in 3 Illinoisans lives in or near poverty level: report
          CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) – A staggering one out of three Illinoisans today lives in or near poverty — the peak of a continued climb over three decades, a new study finds…

    • Disaffected says:

      …and if the ruling class doesn’t get just a tiny bit honest about our monetary system…

      Sorry, I missed your joke. Good one! Meanwhile, we’re still accelerating toward any and all available fiscal and natural resource cliffs. Five or ten years for the imaginary economy and ten or twenty more for the smoldering remains of the real economy sounds about right, although it could all easily go much faster than that as well.

      • derekthered says:

        one box of multi-grain cheerios $4.89, never on sale, never any coupons…………..
        of course “super sugar smacks” are on sale. if i were not such a typical norte’ americano, i might get myself up and cook myself some oatmeal, but hey!! why go to all that bother? when one can pop a couple eggos in the toaster.

        it is my sense that things are moving underneath the surface, hence the push for gun control, less to do with children being killed than an attempt to hose down the brush before the wildfires arrive. seriously it’s like i have that espn, a fifth sense. events are spinning out of control, but they aren’t going to tell us that on the nightly news.

    • kulturcritic says:

      derek – I tend to make conservative predictions, especially when I talk to the press. Often, they can make you look foolish.

      • Ivy Mike says:

        Yeah, the press! If making you look foolish–usually by trying to explain an idea that takes a minimum of 3 minutes to minimally flesh-out, in a 10 second soundbite–sells their clients’ ads, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.

        Our family interviewed for a series on the closest Big City tv station. They certainly have their own agenda of “spicing things up,” to appeal to a voyeuristic audience, even if we did look good (I was prepared for the cameras) and got “our message” out.

        Remember, the media only uses your story as a carrier wave to sell advertising.

        Same with FB. You’re providing them free reality TV show content to help grease them pushing their ads.

      • Disaffected says:

        I guess Kunstler would agree with that, although he keeps right on making ’em anyway.

  5. Disaffected says:

    “Teaching humanities to budding mining engineers,” eh? Talk about a thankless task. I take it that either your lessons didn’t resonate or if they did, not too many of your proteges made it into the field. As for the girls in the video, looks like The Beatles had it right (once again) after all. From memory:

    The Ukraine girls really knock me out
    They leave the west behind
    Moscow girls make me sing and shout
    That Georgia’s always on my m-m-m-m-mind

    But for God’s sake Sandy, whatever you do, don’t inflict wealthy American tourism on these people! They need that bullshit like they need our “military aid!” The goddamn blood sucking vampire squid of American capitalism needs to be put down first.

    • Disaffected says:

      Speaking of girl(friend)s, don’t go falling for any imaginary online ones – Russian or otherwise – either! Evidently that’s a major problem now here in the US. See Manti Gay’O. hate to see anyone get hurt out there!

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA – when my engineering students enjoyed my courses, they usually, transferred out to University of Colorado. And yes, the women of the former Soviet Republics are well suited to the camera, still or video… they like to be part of the spectcle. LOL The business about international tourism was something I engaged in 7 years ago, coincident with the Duma designating Altai Krai a Federal Tourism Zone; that was before the entire weight of the global situation really dawned on me. I have since changed my position 180%. You should really read my novel, VERONIKA. It says it all!!

  6. Ivy Mike says:

    Congratulations on your new, more meaningful, less stressful, success.

    You make me feel good, and like I’m not a crazy man with my giving up all the supposedly glamorous but totally bullshit private jets lifestyle and finding some quiet sanity away from the velvet handcuffs.

    • kulturcritic says:

      does not seem like velvet to me

      • Disaffected says:

        That’s the iron fist underneath you’re feeling. Once again, The Sopranos resonates. The current world order as modern mafia is a connection too obvious to dismiss. They’re exactly the same, albeit of many orders of magnitude higher level of integration and sophistication. Don Obama. Who would have guessed?

    • Disaffected says:

      That link might be the perfect summation of daily life here in Amerika, and I think about 95% of the mature workforce (the young pups all figure it out too within a few years) realize it all too well Unfortunately, we’ve all since sold our soul for debt indentured “prosperity.” The only thing that keeps it all going is is the aforementioned debt bondage and the illusion perpetuated by the 5% or so who ride the upward income escalator that there’s actually a way out of the system from within the system itself. But even upper management professionals are finding out these days that it’s all a mirage; a meaningless “virtual life” hologram that is so removed from any real human experience that the only way to even partially cope is through ever increasing consumption of the hologram’s seemingly infinite variety of pathologies; food, sex, alcohol, fame, power, cars, mindless shopping, social media, travel, drugs, sports, guns and violence, etc. Pretty much by definition what’s on TV these days. All enforced by a star wars national defense establishment that has metastasized into an all-encompassing world-wide surveillance and enforcement arm for the financial interests of the new global elite. The biblical “end times” foretold by the ancients have indeed arrived, and true to form, the people caught up in the drama who should have recognized it first are mostly blissfully and purposely unaware of their own entrapment. But that’s the nature of prophesies in the first place. Their realization is almost never recognized until long after they come to pass.

    • Disaffected says:

      Well, but keep in mind, 99% of the world didn’t have the luxury of such an option (nor, dare I say, may you in the very near future!). I say that as one of the marginal 1% (personal worth <$100K US) who still have the wherewithall to cast such aspersions credibly. Very soon, velvet handcuffs or otherwise, we are all going to be in a world of shit!

  7. xraymike79 says:

    Sorry to hear about the divorce. Women are a double-edged sword.

  8. derekthered says:

    i would just like to say that following people’s links here has led me to some very interesting web sites that contain a lot of interesting articles people have posted. whatever the motivation may be, you all have done a real good job.

    • Disaffected says:

      Agreed. Where did you find that Ran Prieur blog Ivy Mike? Very quirky, original stuff there. The kind of offbeat original way of thinking that even I aspired to back in the day as a 21 year old living the good life in Hawaii after a hitch in the Army, before a societal induced fear of “winging it,” a regular j-o-b, and some meager debt fueled material possessions stripped such “youthful naivete” from me. In my opinion, the goal of everyone should be to live life through 18 year old eyes again, although considering the jaded/ambitious nature of 18 year olds these days, I might need to revise that figure downward by a decade or so.

      • Ivy Mike says:

        Where did you find

        It’s been so many years ago, I forget, but probably connected to reading Robert Anton Wilson at the time. Ran is interesting.

    • Disaffected says:

      Hey derek, where are you from (nationally) if you don’t mind me asking. For no particular reason.

      • derekthered says:

        i’m an Okie, but not from Muskogee, from the big bad city; home of the Mighty Thunder, owners of the best record in the NBA.
        here’s one of those links i found this morning.
        guy is trying to hang onto some optimism, i just don’t see it.

  9. derekthered says:

    just because it’s playoffs doesn’t mean you can’t take a little break, get some perspective.

    sure pappalardi starts off a little off a little slow, then before you know it, mr. west just rips for like minutes, the man is a monster, then the rare steve knight solo, more tasty licks from the leslie. there are some albums, if you know your vinyl which get half credit towards greatest rock album, or album of all time.
    there’s this for instance

    but then that’s not really rock is it?

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