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(From The Moscow Times)
Back in the early 1990s, when hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews were pouring into Israel, people used to joke that three out of every four people who got off the airplane were carrying musical instruments. Every fourth, of course, was a pianist.
Needless to say, cultural expectations for the new arrivals were high. Over the 1970s, some 140,000 people had emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel, swelling the ranks of orchestras, dance troupes and theaters. But the real rush of immigrants began in 1989, when the borders of the Soviet Union opened up again. Israel's population currently numbers about 6.6 million people. Of those, a million are Russians who came over the last 14 years.
"The Russian diaspora is a catastrophe in the Greek sense of the word [a sudden overturn]," said prominent Israeli poet Meir Wieseltier, here in Moscow for last week's Moscow Poetry Biennale festival. "It is an awe-inspiring process. The iron borders that compressed all those people in one country suddenly burst into all corners of the world."
Wieseltier was one of a handful of Israeli poets who made the trip to the Moscow poetry festival, which was dedicated in large part to Russian-language poets no longer living in Russia. Author of 12 books of poetry in Hebrew and a new collection in English entitled "The Flower of Anarchy," the tall, white-haired Wieseltier was given Israel's highest award for lifetime achievement, the Israel Prize, in …