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Roger L. Simon

Sochi, Mon Amour

February 6th, 2014 - 8:59 pm

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The news from the Sochi Olympics — poisonous yellow water in hotel faucets, hackers and spies at every turn, the unsurprising dearth of foreign tourists — brought back memories of my three trips to Russia, twice when it was still the Soviet Union and once in its quasi-captialist current incarnation.

The first visit — as it often is — was the most interesting, with the most powerful memories.  On that trip, in the late eighties, I was with a delegation from the International Association of Crime Writers,  the first writers’ group with members on both sides of the Iron Curtain.  Only most of the members from our side of the curtain, including me at that time, were lefties.

Lefty though I was, however, it didn’t stop me from seeing the USSR, almost from arrival, as a giant jail.  Minders, i.e., spies, were everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE.  It was practically the national occupation. It was how they solved their unemployment problem.

I remember sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Cosmos, a decaying pseudo-futurist joint replete with model sputniks for chandeliers, when Laura Grimaldi, the Italian delegate, leaned over to me and said, “Watch this.”  (We had been talking about the plethora of spies.)  She then proceeded to stand and walk across the huge lobby toward the rest rooms.  Three babushka ladies with brooms and buckets, each one in separate  corners of the room, immediately stopped what they were doing, propped their brooms against the wall, and headed after her straight into the ladies’ room. As soon as Laura was finished, they followed her out again and duly resumed sweeping. It was sort of like a silent comedy, but it was the Soviet Union in a nutshell.

Top Rated Comments   
When it comes to literature and music Russia is near the top, and they shouldn't be dissed when it comes to tech either.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Under the Tsars Russia had an unquestioned dictator with a scary secret police. The communist revolution replaced that with an unquestioned dictator with a scary secret police. Putin is seeking to change that to a system of an unquestioned dictator with a scary secret police.
Russia will not change. It's a waste of energy hoping for a change.

Back in college, probably around 1985, I picked up a copy of a secular humanist magazine (might even have had that title) to read an article about a bunch of them touring the Soviet Union. They spoke in glowing terms about how wonderful life was in the USSR. That was probably the moment when I realized everything on the left was lies.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Behold the Virgin Prostitute. The American Communist.

Our small c version loves to byotch about America (and Israel, for some reason)in denouncing the vulgarity of American excess. And, they shout it from the balconies...of their mansions.

Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, George Soros, Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, Billy Ayers....oh, how our Virgin Prostitutes love them some Che/Fidel revolutionaries. They adore Mother Russia and Mao's China...from here, though...with our clean running water and stocked grocery stores and organic farmer's markets.

They drive their ultra luxury cars to their ultra luxury abodes while spitting venom on American "greed".

And decry American "values" and "lifestyle" from the rehab center on their 8th visit. The Virgin Prostitute tells us how unhealthy the hamburger, fries and Coke is....before dying at 46 with a heroin needle stuck in their veins.

And how it takes a commune village to raise our children, to be unemployed and still living at home at 30, unable to produce anything with their Gender Studies degree.

It is important for them to lecture us on misogyny, while cheating on their 7th spouse with their best friend's wife or adopted 17 year old stepdaughter.

And the Virgin Prostitutes do it...from here...not there. Because the freedom of their hypocrisy isn't available there...and heaven forbid they should ever pass a mirror that would show the clown's face, bathed in hypocrisy and lies and slander. No, that wouldn't do. The Virgin Prostitutes all live in glass houses, with no mirrors. Here...not there.

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9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (49)
All Comments   (49)
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I went in 1989 and stayed at the cosmos as well!
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only one visit to Russia in 2006. My impression was that it was run by oligarchs and most of the people had limited opportunities. Mostly wonderful people that I met or interacted with. But I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. They were soldiering on without much hope of things getting better. It's a country with such incredible natural resources. If they had private property laws backed by courts, an openness to free markets, and less corruption (Much business only proceeds when the right palms have been greased.), they could be a wealthy country. At least that's my impression.

That visit made me ever so much more appreciative of the fact that I was born in the USA.

9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
THE SPIES WERE EASY TO SPOT.
Ah, the good old days. However, today, in the good ole USA we have reporters in a dying industry who want nothing more than to work for the administration they're supposed to cover. They suck up with what they write. They suck up with what they don't write. Basically, they just suck. But their lefty views and their subtle lies are not so easy to spot. Especially by a unsuspecting citizenry who've never heard of Arthur Koestler.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nothing illustrates the divide between old line Repubs and their under 40 acolytes and younger generation conservatarians or even liberals like Mark Adomanis better.

Old guys: Russia -- same ole' USSR, despite the fact that the hacking story from NBC turned out to be fraudulent, the computer wasn't even in Sochi it was in Moscow hundreds of miles away, and the NBC techie downloaded the attacking Android app himself. If the Narrative has some falsehoods peppered with true hotel room problems, well print the Narrative. Because Putin bad, who needs the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Young guys of the Manosphere - damn, Russian girls are hot. What happened to women like that in America? And I can say whatever un PC stuff I want as long as I don't carry a rainbow flag or tell kids the gay is awesome? Not bad.

Bottom line: the old farts hate Russia and always will, anything less than total groveling submission to whatever D.C. or London elites have cooked up this week is pure anti-American hate and is intolerable -- even when Moscow does America a favor by keeping the U.S. out of yet another stupid Mideast war (in Syria).

The young folks don't understand what all the hate is for, since conservatives seem more willing to forgive and forget with Germany or Japan, though if the Germans start making noises about NSA hacking them you can always call up Jamie Kirchick or the other half dozen FDD guys inexplicably based in Berlin like it's 1964 and call them Nazis...
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
It would seem to me you could have just as well described the Berlin Olympics, and what you say would be true. And they also had their dupes in the West.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well heck, ain't we stupid? Tell you what though, in case you haven't been paying attention long enough, the difference is Germany and Japan, with a little persuasion, gave up their old ways. The Sov ... er ... USS ... er Russia never did. They just morph into something similarly hideous. But hey, you know best.
Where have all the commies gone, long time passing? Where have all the comrades gone, long time ago. Where have all the commies gone, gone to social democrats every one. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Simon: Do you think the ridiculous mess of Sochi is a cry for help by the Russian workers under the thumb of their dictator? Are they screwing everything up on purpose to send a message to the world that life in Russia is still crap, kind of like a message sent out in a Chinese fortune cookie?
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
CFB, good to read you again.
I did some work in the USSR in 1973 (under Breznev).
Czars, dictators or nomenklatura, nothing changes.
I've been to Cuba several times. Under Batista it was just like southern Florida in many respects, and was treated as a 49th State as far as travel to/from the US was concerned.
The last two times it was just like the USSR. Watchers everywhere. Harrassed for anything.
And now the Soviet USA is coming (or has come?).
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've visited Russia three times, traveling alone, since 1998. Foreigners who speak Russian usually get taken aside for questioning, but my Russian is very poor, so they just let me pass. This story illustrates my impression of post-socialist society:

America's political system in 2024 has come to resemble Russia's. We still have elections, with the National Unity Party winning 90% of the vote and the Libertarian, Constitution, and Green Parties dividing up the rest. No one's really sure where the NUP stands on the political spectrum. When asked about it, most people shrug and say they don't follow politics.

In 2021, Congress balanced the budget and ended hyperinflation by voting unanimously to abolish Social Security, Medicare, and all welfare programs. They plan to introduce a "new dollar" equal to 1000 old dollars, bringing prices roughly back to 2014 levels and the national debt to a manageable $100 billion.

After a few "accidental" deaths, the news media quickly learned to treat the NUP with the same deference they once gave Barack Obama. Drugs, guns, and prostitutes are illegal but very easy to get. So many men in various uniforms carry high-capacity assault weapons that one hardly notices them.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
I should add that I've traveled to many places in Russia and spoken freely about many topics (when asked what I thought of communism, I called it a "crime against humanity"). No official ever followed me, or showed even the slightest curiosity. You really have to do something to get arrested, like scream obscenities in church or try to board a floating oil rig.

Russia is not a police state, it's just a poor country with a lot of social problems.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only most of the members from our side of the curtain, including me at that time, were lefties.

Warms my heart that people can change.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's said that Soviet occupation forces tended to start to lose their faith in communism when they first encountered post-War Poland, a country devastated by years of war, genocide of the Jews and nazi atrocities on a vast scale. Poland, in 1945, was still a nicer place to live than Russia, the communist paradise.

I remember an unnerving run-in with communist spooks in Romania during the Cold War. My parents had let slip that they were intending to take us to Moldavia, the province adjacent to the present country of Moldova, which is ethnically Romanian, for the most part. For some reason, the Romanian authorities (actually, ethnically Hungarian) were determined that we weren't going to go that way. As we left the Transylvanian town where we had been staying, we noticed a very big, black car following us. We had to stop for petrol, so pulled into a petrol station which happened to be on the corner where we would have to decide whether to go to Moldavia, or to Wallachia (the bit of Romania where Bucharest is). The big, black car lurched on to the pavement and its four occupants waited, to see where we went next. Once we had headed about ten miles towards Bucharest, they turned round. We may have had a more discreet escort after that, too, although the general rule in Romania was that the countryside was much less tightly controlled than the towns and cities. (Ceausescu used brutal tactics to try to fix that in the eighties.) I was only five at the time, but the memory really sticks with me.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
"tended to start to lose their faith in communism"

Probably because to have faith in communism you need to be either incredibly naive and stupid or so isolated and indoctrinated that you know of nothing else. It seems so fundamental that when the state owns everything, there will always be those who pursue personal power, fame and wealth by taking control of the "people's" resources. Somebody has to and it never ends well for "the people". The only thing that works is for individuals to own their own property and have access to common resources under a system of constitutionally protected rights and laws, free markets and checks on government excesses. Our founding fathers have foiled the appetites of our own would-be dictators, totalitarians, control freaks and assorted thieves for over 200 years. But alas the barriers are breaking down now from unrelenting pressure of those who want control us and the puzzling tendency of so may people to believe the Utopian claptrap that they use to come to power.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Guys I hate to break it to you, but Communism died in Russia 20 years ago. And the USSA is getting pretty damn Commie with every passing day.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tell that to the Chinese. And the Cubans. And the North Koreans. And the...
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Soviet "international" communism was always just old fashioned Russian imperialism in a new suit of clothes. Hitler figured that out pretty quickly and that's why he developed his own brand, "National Socialism". The more things change ...
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
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