People: Rostropovich heads home

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The Independent Online
Another famous Russian may be following Alexander Solzhenitsyn home. Mstislav Rostropovich, the cellist, conductor and defender of democracy, is leaving the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington after 17 years and is considering a move to St Petersburg, where he is buying a home, because 'my heart is there'.

Rostropovich taught in a Moscow conservatory until October 1974, when he was expelled and stripped of his Soviet citizenship for defending Solzhenitsyn. But unlike the Nobel Prize-winning author, Rostropovich has been back to Russia on visits since 1991, speaks English well and has immersed himself in American life.

Rostropovich gave two concerts in St Petersburg last week to help build houses for troops returning from the Baltic states. 'These are the officers who won the war against fascism,' he said. 'I am in their debt.'

And as one star fades from the Washington firmament, another rises: Placido Domingo is expected to be named artistic director of the Washington Opera.

AH, PARIS in the Springtime] Like so many visitors to the city, one American couple took a romantic, moonlit walk across the Pont des Arts in the wee hours of Wednesday. Bill and Hillary Clinton strolled across the Seine bridge, enjoying the views of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral.

Mrs Clinton complained earlier of being kept on 'a very short leash', saying: 'I have a feeling we'll break out and do something to feel like we're out in Paris, even if it means going out at 2 or 3am.'

THE MAN who taught Indira Gandhi to practise yoga, Dhirendra Bhramachari, died in a plane crash yesterday on the runway at his Hindu religious retreat and yoga school in Mantalai, a village in Jammu-Kashmir.

Known as 'the Flying Swami', he became politically powerful in 1975-77, when Mrs Gandhi dissolved parliament, declared a state of emergency, suspended civil liberties and ruled India. Bhramachari helped her to reach decisions and make appointments, and carried out some of her orders.

Despite press censorship during the state of emergency, word leaked out that Bhramachari owned a gun factory in Jammu-Kashmir. Raiding the building, the police seized 615 weapons. He was charged, but never tried, for allegedly buying an aircraft in the United States and smuggling it into India without paying customs duties. Yesterday, both plane and man met their end.

THE Pyongyang press constantly showers Kim Jong Il, son and anticipated political heir of the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, with extravagant and fawning praise.

He has been described among other things as 'an extraordinary giant general in the art of leadership, the utmost reincarnation of faith and will . . .'

'But he isn't,' say the analysts at Merit Communications, a Seoul consultancy. 'He's a spoiled, overweight playboy who loves the fleshpots but can't cope with the limelight. Lacking any military or wider political experience, he makes lousy decisions . . . Whereas his father is at least a halfway believable case for charisma, Kim Jong Il manifestly is not.'

(Photograph omitted)