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Vladimir Bernstein is riding on the crest of history. The Wharton and College junior, who transferred from Moscow State University last year, was one of the first Russians to study abroad in the wake of perestroika while retaining his Soviet citizenship. And last month, he was one of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who turned the tide of the rightist coup in Moscow. Although he now spends his time walking up and down Locust Walk like any other student at the University, just three weeks ago he was one of the dozens of Muscovites at the barricades in front of the Russian Parliament Building. Bernstein said when he first heard of hard-line politicians' attempt to take over the Soviet government, he was afraid many of the Soviet Union's recent progressive reforms would be eliminated. As a business student and an entrepreneur, Bernstein's life was altered by policies of openness and economic restructuring instituted by President Mikhail Gorbachev, and it may be affected even more significantly by recent events. Although this is only his second year studying at Wharton, Bernstein is a veteran guide and interpreter. He has led three trips to the Soviet Union this year, and he said the country's decentralization will open many new business opportunities. "I will feel much safer going there now, being able to come back and not being afraid of new regulations being proposed," he said. "I am trying to find people who are interested in my services." While business enterprises were allowed under Gorbachev's government, Bernstein said he was afraid the coup would end that freedom. He feared his business associates and friends who were interested in cultivating economic relations with the U.S. would be arrested. Bernstein now lives with two friends from high school, both of whom are currently enrolled at the University. Vassily Sidorov, a Wharton junior who transferred from Moscow State University this year, was at his parents' house in New York when the coup took place. Sidorov, whose father is a deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said he feared he would not be able to return home. He was also worried about his brother and girlfriend in Moscow. "For two days I stayed in front of the television," Sidorov said. "It was really hard to imagine the city you've lived in for so many years being occupied or under curfew." The third housemate, Ivan Schevlov, was at the University this summer. He said that although it was frustrating to be cut off from information about his home, the Russian community at the University formed a strong support group. A satellite dish at the Annenberg School of Communication received a news broadcast from Moscow every day at 2 p.m., and according to Schevlov, the room in which the program was shown filled with students and faculty discussing the events every day during and after the coup. "My days were spent listening to the radio, trying to get through to my family, and going to watch the news," the College freshman said. Bernstein telephoned Schevlov the morning of August 20, and the two students, who describe themselves as best friends, discussed the possibility that Bernstein would not be able to return to campus. Schevlov said he went to the admissions office to discuss the problem, but when he got there, he found out the coup leaders had been toppled. The three students have different expectations for the future of the Soviet Union. Bernstein said he supports independence for the Baltic republics, but hopes there will be some kind of union agreement among all the republics. He added that although he supports Gorbachev, he gained increased respect for Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who led resistance to the coup in Moscow. "Gorbachev is a smart politician and a big diplomat," he said. "But Yeltsin definitely was a hero those three days." Sidorov said he is concerned that excitement over the blocked coup will distract leaders from long-term economic and political problems that have not yet been solved. He added he does not yet understand the full impact of the coup, but he believes the people of the crumbling nation will have to adjust their attitudes to life in a non-communist system.

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