Cuneiform and Clay Tablets — the Only Thing More Cumbersome Than 3 x 5 Cards for Taking Notes

Cuneiform tablet This month marks the 70th anniversary of what, when I was studying there from 1966 to 1968, used to be called the Russian Research Center. Today, this modest corner of scholarship at Harvard University is known as the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and it is housed in a much newer, […]

Another Bombshell for Pearl Harbor?

Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Tojo (right) Wow! I’d always believed that the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that brought the United States into World War II, was the responsibility of the aggressive military clique behind Hideki Tojo, Japan’s wartime prime minister. However, after recently reading an article that describes a meeting between Tojo […]

Diving Into History: Williamsburg, Jamestown

Two of the three ships that carried the first English colonists to Jamestown in 1607 I wrote last week about Chincoteague and Assateague, Part One of the “just the two of us” vacation that Sandra and I took in May. Here’s Part Two. It’s about our visit to Virginia’s “Historic Triangle” of Williamsburg, Jamestown and […]

Bolshevik Revolution – A Somber Centenary

The defining moment of the October Revolution, as Soviet propaganda wished the world to see it. Like so much else in the Soviet version of history, it is a false picture. As a student of Russia, I find it impossible to ignore the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which took place this past Tuesday, […]

A Chilling Tale From a Cold Moscow Night

Lenin’s mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow In my blog post last week (about, in part, the words “consul” and “consulate”), I mentioned that while serving in the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg, Russia), I was involved in the case of an American who died there and whose body had to be shipped home. It […]

‘Horde’ vs. ‘Hoard’

The Mongol Horde From time to time I’ve seen the words horde and hoard confused. But they’re as different in meaning as in spelling. Horde, a noun, refers to a very large group of people – e.g., a swarm, an army. In fact the word is often used to refer to the much-feared 13th century […]

9/11/2001 – 9/11/2016

Fifteen years ago today, with the al-Qaida attacks that murdered nearly 3,000* innocents in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the world changed. Since that horrible day, perhaps even more ink has been spilled on those events than blood on September 11, 2001. I will waste little additional ink here. Readers can find plenty more on […]

‘You’ve Got Communism’

Soviet propaganda poster: “Forward. To the victory of communism!” Banner shows profiles of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin. Foreground figures are idealized representations of a laborer and a collective farmer in the “workers’ paradise.” On the eve of Labor Day, I’m reminded of an incident that took place back in early 1978, when I was posted to […]

A Linguistic ‘Insight’ That Was Not Terribly Insightful

An article recently posted by a Facebook friend about the “ancient kinship” of Sanskrit and Russian brought to mind a linguistic “insight” that popped into my head several decades ago. Ever since I learned, as a graduate student, about the great prehistoric migrations of people out of the Eurasian steppes, westward into Europe and southward […]

My Peculiar Little Footnote to Apollo 11

I wrote and published this item on Facebook on July 21, 2009, when the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon was triggering numerous reminiscences. The incident described here is a unique, if little-heralded, footnote to this landmark event in the history of the human species. All the attention to the 40th anniversary of the […]