Tag Archive: USSR


During the course of your author’s life there have been four seminal events, each prompting the question: ‘Where were you when you heard … ?’

For Baby Boomer Almost DailyBrett, these were the four history changing news stories of a lifetime: JFK’s assassination (1963), Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon (1969), the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the September 11 attacks (2001).

Ironically, it was a fatal PR mistake 30 years ago that triggered the final inevitable fall of the Wall, and with it the ultimate demise of Soviet Union-style Communism.

East Germany’s Günter Schabowski was tasked with announcing the planned travel policy easing of the so-called German Democratic Republic’s (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR). When he was asked if the changes applied immediately … his assumed “as far as I know” response without reading the policy paper …  was affirmative.

Unintentionally he ignited the storming of the DDR’s borders, and most of all the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

Today ein Stück der Mauer prominently sits beside the elbow of your author, accompanying the futile search for the appropriate English words to recapture the global significance of this epochal event.

Tomorrow will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the monstrous Berlin Wall (1961-1989), leading directly to the reunification of Germany and the end of the Communist menace in Russia and Eastern Europe. The world is a safer place as result of overjoyed Ossies walking and driving with their sputtering Trabants  across East Germany’s borders to freedom, one of them being a woman by the name of … Angela Merkel.

She started the evening consuming a beer in a sauna east of the wall, and ended the evening drinking a celebratory brew from a bottle with a label she had never seen before on the west side of the wall. Today, she is the Chancellor of the reunified (Wiedervereinigung) Federal Republic of Germany.

Giving Proper Credit For The End Of Communism

“Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” — President Ronald Reagan speaking before the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall

If you ever travel to Berlin to touch the remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, be sure to take the time to check out The Checkpoint Charlie Museum. The visitor can stand without fear on the very spot on the Friedrichstrasse in which American and Soviet tanks went eyeball to eyeball with each other. A critical miscalculation could have triggered a nuclear World War III.

Former Wall Street Journal Berlin bureau chief Frederick Kempe’s “Berlin 1961, Kennedy, Khrushchev And The Most Dangerous Place On Earth” vividly recounts the tension of the superpower standoff. The museum also recounts these days, and the ingenious plots to escape East Germany and its hideous wall.

A separate wing of the museum is devoted to Reagan, his Tear Down This Wall speech on continuous loop, and his pivotal role in ending the Cold War.

And yet there is a debate to this day about who should take the lion’s share of the credit for putting together the plan, which led to the demise of the wall and the end of Communism.

The names in alphabetical order of Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl, Pope Paul II and Margaret Thatcher all played a role in this transformation, and each should take a bow.

For Almost DailyBrett and those who despise historical revisionism for purely political purposes, Ronald Reagan will always take center stage in the eyes of history. He rejected detente or merely accepting Communist domination from Berlin to Vladivostok. Instead his policy was simple: “We win, they lose.”

The USSR lost.

Another winner was Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930-2017), who skillfully linked and achieved feared German reunification with the success of the European Union.  “German and European Unification are two sides of the same coin.” („Deutsche und europäische Einigung sind zwei Seiten einer Medaille.“)

Today, Germany along with France are the de-facto leaders of Europe … regardless of when Britain leaves the EU. Germany has acknowledged, addressed and atoned its dark past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), particularly the 12 horrid years of Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust.

“The thought that a great nation (Germany) that had run amok should repent its crimes to the world. What other country has ever done such as thing?” — The character “Ed” quoting himself in John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field

And “Ed” speaking about yesterday leading to today:

“Germany was the cat’s whiskers. It’s citizens were simply the best Europeans ever. No other nation holds a candle to Germans, not when it comes to understanding what the European union is all about.”

Naturally, the point of emphasis is made by literary master John le Carré.

And it all started The Night The Wall Came Tumbling Down.

https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/10/31/germans-still-dont-agree-on-what-reunification-meant

https://www.forbes.com/profile/angela-merkel/#71bd54c022dd

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/cool-calm-and-collected-germany/

“For the American generation which has grown up since the downfall of the USSR, socialism is no longer the boo word it once was.” The Economist, Feb. 16, 2019

The youngest of all Millennials were gestating in 1980.

Reagan called upon Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall” in 1987.

The Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989.

The Soviet Union collapsed under its sheer weight in 1991.

The last of the Millennials arrived in the millennial year, 2000.

The largely overlooked question: How many Millennials personally remember the USSR?

Alas, the answer is very, very few.

Only the oldest Millennials may have any memory of the Wall coming down when they were nine or the Soviet Union imploding without a shot being fired when they were 11.

For the vast majority of Millennials including all of the younger members of the Y-Generation, none of them remember the USSR and most of all, its authoritarian brand (being charitable) of socialism/communism.

To top it off, they are thus easily impressionable for exploitation by politicians, entertainers and academics who absolutely adore all things Karl Marx including some wearing red star hats and sporting Che Guevara t-shirts and posters.

Instead of “We the people” and liberty, it’s “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

When someone says government can provide a whole cavalcade of goodies – government-paid health insurance, college, jobs — for free, including Universal Basic Income (UBI) for those “unwilling” to work … don’t you just know there will be Big Brother Orwellian strings attached?

Back From The USSR

“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R. (Yeah)”
– Lennon (Not Lenin) & McCartney

For Almost DailyBrett, a 1981 two-week trip to Leonid Brezhnev’s “Evil Empire” was an eye-opening, life-changing journey.

Kevin in Moscow – 1981

The flood-lit Wunder of Red Square (Красная площадь) in Moscow, the Swan Lake performance of the Bolshoi, the splendor of the Czar’s winter and summer palaces in St. Petersburg (Leningrad at the time) are all must see for any student of history and politics, let alone art.

Your author has placed a return-venture to modern-day Russia on his Bucket List, particularly what has changed and unfortunately what has remained the same (tyranny).

It’s safe to say that Russia has transformed itself after attempted Glasnost and Perestroika into an authoritarian oligarchical capitalist state with widespread corruption.

You can take the Vladimir Putin out of the KGB, but you can’t the KGB out of Vladimir Putin.

Looking back to your author’s trip to the Soviet Union, there were the wonders of Russia. There was also the socialist/communist police state reality of the USSR.

There were the jammed horrible motor coaches,

There were the lines for food and the basics of life.

There were well-stocked Beriozka or “little birch” stores, which accepted all currencies except for Russian rubles. It must suck to be you, Ivan and Tanya.

There were the tiny little cars with lawn-mower engines for the fortunate few (10 years wait), while Zil limousines carried Communist big shots to their exclusive dachas.

The Most Equal Of The Equals

“In an ideal socialist society, “the people” own the means of production. Everyone’s basic needs are met. Leaders are elected democratically. When implemented, however, human nature intervenes. Powerful elites take charge.” – Alex Berezow. USA Today Board of Contributors

Bummer.

There is so much discussion about the haves and the have-nots of American society.

There are cries for social justice: Translated some all-powerful state entity must level the playing field.

The question, which remains: Did socialist/communist USSR really even the score for everyone?

Whattya think AOC? How’s Venezuela working out? Is history repeating itself?

Even more to the point: Do Millennials in their lack of deep direct knowledge/remembrance of the USSR appreciate the stark dark truth of government provided socialism?

Karl Marx may be turning over in his grave but sorry to say, his idea did not work, and will not work regardless of the nation. Too many people want to achieve, and to do better for themselves and their families.

And yet there is hope for Millennials, and proof that many have not consumed the red cool aid.

It’s called Buy Low Sell High, and that beautifully simple concept applies to Millennials too.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/14/millennial-socialism

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/02/14/millennial-socialists-want-to-shake-up-the-economy-and-save-the-climate

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/21/cnn-thinks-socialism-cool-my-grandparents-ussr-would-disagree/349830002/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/millennials-communism-sounds-pretty-chill-2017-11-01

Meet the baby of the family, the unexpected/unplanned baby of the family.

This coming Saturday, Pi Day, the mathematically inept, right-brained baby will “celebrate” the successful navigation of 60 years on the planet, and look forward to hopefully plenty more.kmb2

Much has changed since the decade of Ike, Elvis, Disneyland, Sputnik, U2 (not the band) and “Senator, have you no sense of decency?”

The author of Almost DailyBrett has always been a tad vertically challenged; in time became follicly challenged, and still vows to never-ever be horizontally challenged. Looking forward to Saturday’s cross-training with Nike+, charting the results.

Tempted to mimic a lyric, “Oh, what a long, strange trip it has been,” but I was never into that kind of “trip.” When it comes to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, always been a big fan of the first, still dig the latter (never was a Dead Head), and never understood the appeal of the “medicine.”

Baby Boomers are supposed to wax nostalgic for the 1960s and the demonstrations in the streets of Chicago and arrests on the quad at Berkeley. What the heck happened to your author? Instead, he pleasantly recollects the 1980s, when he tied the knot for the first time, became a father to Allison, when it was Morning in America.

California even balanced its budget, raised zero taxes and maintained a $1 billion for emergency. Almost sounds quaint when compared to today’s oceans of red ink for our children’s children to pay. Yep, the 1980s worked; they always will; historical revisionism be damned.

Come to think of it, during my life a Wall went up in 1961 (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and it came down 28 years later (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”). O.J. sliced up UCLA’s defense in 1967 and Nicole Brown a generation later.

Nothing has ever been permanent, particularly disco, hem-and-tan lines.

Brady Bunch Neighborhood

Growing up in lily-white Glendale, California in the age of Hogan’s Heroes and the God-awful Brady Bunch, your blog writer will always be grateful for those priests and nuns who taught writing, reading and literature. They also transformed me into the rotten Catholic I am today with their unique combination of arrogance, boorishness and corporal punishment.

Sorry to say Padre, you were wrong: Mary Magdalene was not a whore.

There was the bitter divorce of 1967, but with it came life-long lessons about how to and how NOT to treat the fairer gender. Monogamy with a special one is best; you should try it and stick with it, fellow hombres.ibmselectric

My love of writing began at eight-years old, the very same year in which the school loud speakers told us about the death of a young president. This same infatuation with the pencil, pen, IBM Selectric, work station, PC, and now the mobile device continued as man walked on the moon, a president resigned, our diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, and planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Growing up, always thought that Nixon’s first name was “Damn.” Came to appreciate that Tricky Dick and Slick Willie were spot-on names for my least favorite presidents. Thankfully, Nixon abolished the draft. There was no ‘Nam for me, University of Oregon instead.

The Earth Shook

Eventually graduated from the University of Southern California with a Rose Bowl ring and no loans. Yes I was fortunate, but a long career laid before me. Cut my teeth covering the Proposition 13 tax-revolt earthquake in 1978. Toured the Soviet Union in 1981, seeing the Evil Empire and its grip on people up close and personal. Recruited to serve as the press director for the Deukmejian Campaign Committee the following year. We won the governorship of California at 5 am the day-after-the-election. We recorded the biggest landslide in blue state California’s history four years later.

Sacramento has two seasons: Hot and Cold. Served as the Governor George Deukmejian’s press secretary as the earth shook San Francisco (e.g., Loma Prieta Earthquake). Was told “The Bay Bridge is in the Water.”  Whew, it was not true, even though the Cypress Structure mysteriously came down.cypressstructure

Next was trees, owls, chips and Japan, which led to the fifth most famous person from Liverpool, Wilf Corrigan, and LSI Logic. Saw the Internet bubble rise and inevitably it exploded, resulting in seven rounds of layoffs and a company on the brink. We survived and yet it was time for Wilf to retire … The world moved on to social, mobile and cloud.

Faced mortality twice, first with prostate cancer and then with Valley Fever/Meningitis. Fought off the first and battled the second to a draw, and yet it was my first wife, Robin, who lost her battle to cancer. Life is unfair. Life is fickle. Life is finite.

Attained the so-called “Holy Grail” of public relations, vaunted agency experience with a life-changing side-effect; subbing at Santa Clara University. Could I teach at the college level, maybe even at the school that caused time to stop with “Kenny Wheaton is going to score; Kenny Wheaton is going to score”?DSC01171

Accepted a fellowship to the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and earned 15 months later my master’s degree. The attainment of a second career was complete with a full-time instructor position at UO, and now a tenure-track assistant professor gig, teaching public relations/advertising/corporate communications/investor relations at Central Washington University.

And best of all, the author of Almost DailyBrett turned his attention away from his blog long enough to survey the field of contenders on Match.com. The result was a love affair with Jeanne, fireworks on the Fourth of July, and trips in the little green chariot. Next up is our long-overdue romantic honeymoon to Bavaria and Tuscany, Mad King Ludwig’s castles and Under the Tuscan Sun.

I am one lucky dude.

Today, I am inspired by Mick and Keith at 71, Ronnie at 68, and geriatric Charlie at 73 on worldwide tour. To use more than a few metaphors, there is still plenty of gas in the tank and the engine continues to rev every morning. It’s pedal to the metal time.

“Oh what a long, strange trip it has been.” Looking forward to continuing the ride with the top down and my few remaining hairs flowing in the breeze.DSC01421

 

Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” – Winston Churchill

My maternal grandfather never wanted to go to two places: Hell and Russia.

He lived to the century mark and slightly beyond. I doubt he went anyplace, but heaven. I’m certain he never stepped foot inside Russia.

kevinrussia

The author of Almost DailyBrett visited the USSR in 1981, when Leonid Brezhnev and the Politburo were calling the shots. That was 33 years ago.

Today, the Soviet Union is an unpleasant Cold War memory. Nonetheless, Russia remains a difficult and perplexing nine-time-zone nation on the geopolitical map, stretching from Belarus in the West to Vladivostok on the Pacific … and is just as fascinating as ever.

Putin or no Vladimir Putin, I want to go back and check out the changes before I meet Anastasia (“screamed in vain”) in the after-life.

Honeymoon in Stalingrad?

Even though I married Rachel Weisz’ twin, or at least Jeanne could easily be mistaken as Rachel’s sibling, we are not heading to the banks of the Volga for our belated honeymoon. The castles of Bavaria and the phallic symbols of Tuscany in summer are a smidge more romantic.

This is not to suggest that Enemy at the Gates was not a love story. Heck, you have all the elements of a great Casablanca love triangle: Jude Law (sniper Vassili Zaitzev), Joseph Fiennes (Commissar Danilov) and Weisz (Tania), the rubble of Stalingrad and the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in a battle to the death.lawweisz

Nonetheless Russia is calling, and it is a bucket list kind of summons. Some may want to jump out of airplanes. Others may swim with dolphins or sharks (hard to keep them straight) or march with the penguins in Antarctica.

Yours truly wants to walk across Krásnaya Plóshchaď (Red Square) one more time. The same applies to St. Petersburg (it was Leningrad back in 1981) with the Hermitage Museum (Czar’s Winter Palace) and the Summer Palace.

And of course, this time there must be a visit to the aforementioned Stalingrad, now named Volgagrad. It will never be Volgagrad in my mind; it will always be Stalingrad, the most decisive battle of World War II. Germany was finished after Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus surrendered his surrounded Sixth Army in January 1943.

Looking down at the Russian steppes 33 years ago from an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Vilnius, Lithuania, I could imagine the majestic Cossacks, Napoleon’s Grand Armee and Hitler’s Panzers all charging deeper and deeper into Russia.

Reflecting back on the trip, I was repeatedly asked when I was going “in and out” of Russia, not “to and from.”

A Trip Like No Other

“Take me to your daddy’s farm; Let me hear your balalaika’s ringing out; Come and keep your comrade warm; I’m back in the U.S.S.R.; Hey you don’t know how lucky you are boys; Back in the U.S.S.R.” – The Beatles

Living in Eugene, Oregon for four years, I was always amused by the city’s “community” gardens. These are patches of land where like-minded folks under the tender, loving guidance of the City of Eugene plant their sustainable and organic crops (if you don’t believe me, just ask them) and maybe even dream of a communal environment where everyone is truly equal.

Regularly driving past this garden on Amazon Parkway, I would reflect back more than three decades to my trip to the Soviet Union. Certainly, Russia was a “social” society at the time (e.g., prefab apartment blocks, jammed fossil-fuel emitting buses, foreign currency-only outlets, and empty store shelves), but I am not certain about the “justice” part.

There was this problem with the “most equal of the equals.” They were the ones in the fancy limousines being whisked to-and-from the Kremlin in their special lanes. These were the same “simple” folks in the fancy boxes at the Kremlin Hall of the Congresses for the opening night of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. Something tells me that the working Ivan never made it to the intermission buffet of caviar and Moskovskaya vodka.

collective

Coming back closer to home: Do the overly educated of Eugene and other cerebral towns really want to emulate the USSR and its collective farms and communal poverty? What is the attraction? Maybe the author of Almost DailyBrett is not smart enough to comprehend.

When asked if I have ever seen real poverty, I think back to my trip to at best, second-world Russia. As my friend and colleague who made the trip with me said” “They treat their people like (insert your favorite fecal material word here).”

Spending any amount of time in the USSR and contrasting it with 1980s Morning in America completed my own political metamorphosis.

Would I recommend Russia as a vacation destination? It all depends what you want to accomplish for your precious time away from the demands of the workplace? If you are looking for romance and your Corona con limon playa, go elsewhere.

If you are a buff on history, politics, suspense (e.g., LeCarre, Forsyth, DeMille novels) and intrigue, Russia may be just your brand of vodka.

Next time, I will remember to keep my eyes open for my photo in front of the onion domes of St. Basil’s in Moscow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_at_the_Gates

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Square

http://www.excursions-volgograd.ru/en/excursion/museum_battle_stalingrad_tour

http://listverse.com/2012/09/17/top-10-facts-about-the-battle-of-stalingrad/

http://www.eugene-or.gov/communitygardens

 

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