Posts

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 […]

Consul – Council – Counsel: What’s the Difference?

Russian consulate in San Francisco The latest round of tit-for-tat “undiplomacy” between the U.S. and Russia was in the news this past week. The State Department ordered the closure of three Russian diplomatic offices, including the Russian consulate-general in San Francisco. This reminded me of the time, back in the 1970s, when I was serving […]

Russian Drinking Tales – Round 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about my initial exposure to vodka, back in 1967 during my first stay in Leningrad/St. Petersburg, when a friend and I sat on a park bench and shared a bottle of “the white stuff” with a partially – and soon to be totally – inebriated Russian guy. On that […]

Russian Drinking Tales – Round 1

In my junior year of high school, our history teacher began the year’s first lesson by telling us that “America is a hard-drinking nation.” We may well be, but in my experience, Americans don’t hold a candle to the Russians. I’ll come back to tales of Russian drinking prowess in a future post, but today […]

Just Across the River From the Czar’s Palace

  Dormitory No. 6, Leningrad State University (Neva River hydrofoil in foreground) (Photo: Michael Alberts) Here’s a bit of color about a little-heralded aspect of life in the bad old days of the USSR. The story comes from my first visit to the Soviet Union – as a graduate student – in the summer of 1967. […]

Ever Lingered So Long After Dinner That the Restaurant’s Emptying Out?

Yeah, that’s happened to me. Several times. But the time I’m about to describe takes the prize. Like a few other stories in this blog, this one took place when I was working at the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad, 1976-78. One fine early summer evening, my wife and I went out to dinner with Ilya, […]

Have You Ever Run Out of Gas?

Troitsky (Kirovsky) Bridge I have. Probably more often than you. I believe it’s in my genes. My dad told me he was notorious, as a young man, for returning home on fumes after an outing in his father’s car. On at least one occasion, according to these stories, when my grandfather went out in the […]

Membership Has Its Privileges

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an item from the time I was working at the U.S. consulate in Leningrad. It was about my very young daughter Naomi and her friend Perry. Today’s post is a story told to me back then (probably in early 1978) by Perry’s father, whose name I regret I […]

‘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 […]