Frank Thoms

Why Me & the Russians?

Apr 07, 2023 by Frank Thoms

Childhood? Well, I remember vividly in fourth grade the My Weekly Reader wall maps with the USSR in red, the only color. And in that same classroom I had the Los Angeles Times (I was living in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, why I had it I don’t remember). In it discovered an article about two “Russian inventors”: Thomas Edisonsky as the inventor of the light bulb, and Alexander Bellsky, the inventor of the telephone. That was interesting. And later came Sputnik; Laika the Soviet dog in space; Yuri Gagarin, the first man; and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman. And my taste deepened from riveting lectures on the Russian tsars in college.

When the opportunity came in my second year of teaching to design a course on Marx, the Russians, and Soviet Communism, I jumped at it––and continued with various iterations for the next twenty-five years. With the coming of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, I knew I had to see Russians for myself. The rest is history, my history.

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