If We Had Really Known This About the Old Soviet Union…

…the Cold War would have ended a lot sooner:

In the early 1970’s, when the Brezhnev era seemed most full of promise, an elderly Frenchman travelled from Moscow to Khabarovsk on the Trans-Siberian railway.  After only a few hours at the eastern end of the line he boarded the train again for the long journey back to Moscow.  The Frenchman watched life through the windows of the train, commenting on what he saw to his wife and anyone else who would listen.  The sights, as he saw them a second time, seemed even more fascinating and puzzling; and as the train passed yet another straggling town he took off his spectacles and addressed the carriage.  ‘There are only two words in the English language to describe this country.  One is mesee and the other is sloppee.’ (Mark Frankland, The sixth continent: Russia and the making of Mikhail Gorbachov, p. 46)

Those of us who visited the Soviet Union in its last years certainly observed and experienced much of this.  And such should be a caution to people who would demonise/overestimate contemporary Russia.

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