"Graham has brilliantly encapsulated and interwoven the major features of Soviet and post-Soviet history in his riveting stories.... a splendid and extraordinary work." Edward Grant, author of God and Reason in the Middle Ages
"A very lively read, indeed a real page turner... Graham's discussion of pressing ethical dilemmas displays a sureness of hand and a refreshing candor about his own struggles with the issues." Susan Solomon, University of Toronto
The distinguished American historian of Russian and Soviet science Loren R. Graham recounts with warmth and wit his experiences during 45 years of traveling and researching in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia, from 1960 to 2005. Present for many historic events during this period, Graham writes not as a political correspondent or an analyst, but as an ordinary American living through these years alongside Russian friends and critics. Graham befriended some of the leading scientists and politicians in Russia, but his most touching stories concern average Russians with whom he lived, worked, suffered, and exchanged views. Graham also writes of the ethical questions he confronted, such as the tension between independence of thought and political loyalty. Finally, he depicts the ways in which Russia has changed visually, politically, and ideologically during the last 15 years. These gripping, sometimes humorous, always deeply personal stories will engage and inform all readers with an interest in Russia during this tumultuous period of history.
On his first trip into the Soviet Union, in 1960, Graham had to walk through the Finnish woods with his luggage after he was kicked off a train because his papers weren't in order. That's par for the course in this fascinating book recapping more than 40 years of visiting the Soviet Union and, later, post-Soviet Russia. Graham introduces a host of eccentric characters: the widow of a top Soviet official killed by Stalin; an American who fit into Soviet society because of his rumpled clothes and love of Russian dumplings; and a Georgian who cuts open a can of fish with his teeth as he and Graham share vodka. But the characters Graham encountered as a student and academic (he's a professor of the history of science at MIT) are only part of the story. These essays also depict the absurdities, both humorous and painful, of life in the Soviet Union. He recounts having to sneak back into the residence of the American ambassador in Moscow during one visit, how he was visited by the FBI and recruited by the KGB. Not only are the stories captivating but they are also well told: Graham's that rare academic who knows how to write for a popular audience. 13 b&w photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.