Chapter 1: First Visit to the USSR
1. I should add that never again, in six years of living in the USSR and dozens of visits,
did I bring in illicit rubles so, perhaps, the border guard’s lecture did some good.
2. For a description of life at mgu by an American gradu ate student who was much
more deeply immersed in Rus sian life and language than I was at the time, see
Moscow Stories, by Loren Graham (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006),
who went on to become one of the foremost American scholars on Soviet science.
When he arrived at mgu Graham found in his room a long list of forbidden activi-
ties, including eating, drinking, singing, rowdy be havior, and keeping pets. Graham
soon discovered that raucous, alcohol- suffused parties occurred almost every
eve ning, with the Komsomol (Young Communist) activist who was supposed to
enforce the rules usually locking himself in his room. Graham concluded that “this
divergence between official policy and real life was my first lesson that existence
under Soviet ‘totalitarianism’ was not quite as regimented as we in the West were
led to believe.”
On the interest in JFK and the Beatles in late 1960s Rus sia, see Donald J. Raleigh,
Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Rus sia’s Cold War Generation (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2012), a fascinating study of the lives of sixty Soviets who
graduated from two elite English- language high schools specializing in Moscow
and Saratov. Raleigh found that for this generation, JFK and the Beatles occupied a
special place. Despite the tough US- Soviet confrontations of that era, Soviet people
tended to find JFK “irresistible.” As for the Beatles, one of the individuals Raleigh
interviewed said simply, “The Beatles are sacred. . . . We grew up on them.” For this
generation of Soviet youth— the first not to experience war, revolution, or mass
purges— interest in the Beatles was a way of identifying with a larger global youth
culture as well as a first, cautious way of stepping away from the official ideology—
with consequences that became more evident later.
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