|About the Book|
During the Cold War our understanding of life in the Soviet Union was layered with so much ideology and competition that it was difficult to get a feel for the realities of daily existence there. The early 1960s were seen in the West as the height ofMoreDuring the Cold War our understanding of life in the Soviet Union was layered with so much ideology and competition that it was difficult to get a feel for the realities of daily existence there. The early 1960s were seen in the West as the height of the Cold War. In the Soviet Union, however, they were perceived as the Khrushchev Thaw, a warming trend in Russias political atmosphere. Few Americans had access of sufficient duration to paint a nuanced portrait of life there. A major exception was the group of American graduate students who lived in the Soviet Union for substantial periods of time under auspices of the US-USSR Inter-University Exchange. This book describes the experiences of a twenty-five-year-old Stanford medical student who participated in that exchange during 1961-62. In American Letters from Khrushchevs Russia he documents impressions gathered during a year of research at Moscow State University. From that unprecedented vantage point he shares candid insights on a vast range of topics. He describes a visit to the Berlin Wall the week it went up and the rousing Moscow State University reception of Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut who just months earlier had performed the historic first flight of man in space. And he describes shaking hands with Nikita Khrushchev during a Fourth of July celebration at the US Ambassadors residence in Moscow...an event that proved to be the setting for the first contact between a US Embassy attache and the Soviet military intelligence officer who tipped off the West to Khrushchevs plan to install missiles in Cuba. The author describes typical attitudes of Russian scientists, academics, and university students toward such topics as the Stalinist past, the threat of nuclear war, and the likelihood that peoples of the capitalist world could reach communism without bloody revolutions. He describes exasperatingly inefficient services and bureaucratic machinations intermixed with spontaneous acts of genuine compassion and goodwill. And he explores typical attitudes toward more personal aspects of life, such as dating, marriage, parenting, professional life, and religion. American Letters from Khrushchevs Russia will enrich scholars understanding of the interaction of the transient totalitarian Soviet societal model with enduring Russian familial, educational and religious institutions. The informal style will make the book a fascinating read for anyone who wishes to reconstruct the social atmosphere and conventional wisdom of Russians during the early post-Stalinist era. It provides a rare glimpse of life behind the curtain of a society unique in the political history of humankind.