- - Thursday, June 5, 2014

Few American journalists know how life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia embraces the atmosphere of fear, secrecy and corruption that flourished in the Soviet Union.

But David Satter does. A Moscow correspondent who lived in the former Soviet Union, he was so successful in investigating Russian corruption that Moscow expelled him from the country.

Mr. Satter’s expulsion in December marks the first time the Kremlin has expelled an American journalist since the 1991 collapse of the USSR.

Since being exiled, he has worked with the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute and Radio Free Europe to release a 108-minute documentary based on his first book, “Age of Delirium,” which examines the fall of the USSR.

The film, which won the 2013 Grand Jury Prize at the Amsterdam Film Festival, explains how the Russian people were seduced by the promise of communism.

“We believed in a radiant future, we believed in the victory of communism,” a former Soviet soldier tells Mr. Satter in the film. “It turned out we believed in a big fairy tale.”

Mr. Satter told The Washington Times that Russia’s departure from communism has reduced its influence with foreign supporters.

“The Soviet Union had many supporters in countries around the world because people believed in the communist cause,” he said. “Foreigners were willing to commit themselves to the Soviet cause, but that cause is now gone.”

In the film, Mr. Satter delves into how the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) preyed upon the hopes and dreams of idealistic young Russians who were hungry for purpose.

“People seek some source of meaning for the short interval during which they are on this planet, and communism gave people a sense that they were living for some purpose — that their life had some higher meaning, that they were participating in a great endeavor,” Mr. Satter explains in the documentary.

“They were bringing enlightenment and justice and social equality, not only to their own country, [but] they were [also] working to bring it to the whole world, and that gave a sense of meaning and purpose to what were otherwise very miserable and impoverished lives.”

Mr. Satter was a 28-year-old police reporter for the Chicago Tribune who spoke fluent Russian when, in 1976, he was sent to the USSR by the Financial Times. He later reported for The Wall Street Journal.

Even then the writing was on the wall, he said. Mr. Satter recalled taking a ride with Daily Telegraph correspondent Christopher Booker during the 1980 Moscow Olympics, when he made a prediction.

“I told him this country won’t last 10 more years,” he said. “I was off by one more year.”

The film highlights some of the correspondent’s most intriguing experiences and encounters with Soviet citizens — and intelligence.

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