Reporters on the Job

FINAL EDITION? Scott Peterson has learned that few things are as important to Russians as their roots - and their history. Events such as the anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II are treated with the greatest solemnity. All the memorabilia are dusted off, tears form.

So imagine Scott's surprise when he arrived at Obshaya Gazeta and asked to see a copy of the first-edition newspaper that was published during the coup (page 1). He expected the front page to be framed above the editor's desk.

"There may be one around here somewhere," a deputy said, rifling through a mountain of papers. Then he stepped out and returned: This newspaper's only record of its most important moment in history, when it helped usher in the collapse of the Soviet Union, is a copy printed in an academic volume - published in Minnesota.

SKOPJE, SHOWERS: For the past two weeks, Albanian rebel Xhavit Hasani has proudly claimed responsibility for the land-mine explosions that killed several Macedonian soldiers last week (page 1). He said he was eager to meet with foreign journalists, so Elizabeth Rubin set off with a few colleagues. They passed relatively easily through two Macedonian police checkpoints north of the capital, Skopje. "But at the third, they inspected our cars and asked us, with much laughter, if we were sure anyone could guarantee our safety beyond their post," Elizabeth says.

"After about 15 minutes, we expected to encounter our NLA contacts, but instead we startled a young Macedonian soldier showering with a plastic water bottle behind a shallow wall of sandbags. No one had told us there was an army post here. We tried to cajole the officers to let us through. But they said, 'No chance.'

"When we called Mr. Hasani later to explain what happened, he said, 'I didn't expect you'd make it through.' And he promised that if we went back that night, he'd guarantee our safe passage."

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