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The USSR… the first place, I immediately assumed, upon sight of that Cheshire-smiling trio, that they were there to bug my hotel room. And that is indicative of Great Soviet-American Truth No. 74: Americans in particular and Westerners in general are paranoid about the Soves, particularly while in their country. Great Truth No. 75 is that we have reason to be paranoid. As I see it, there are two possible explanations for the appearance of the trio. The first is that they were there to bug the hotel room, That is not an entirely illogical thesis. The Soves do in fact maintain an enormous surveillance apparatus and they do in fact trail around after and keep close tabs on foreigners in general and any foreigner visiting in an official capacity in particular. The trouble is, the apparatus frequently doesn’t work. Or more precisely, it doesn’t work right. Or even more precisely, it is distinguished by two typically Soviet characteristics inefficiency and lack of subtlety. There is an extent to which the lack of subtlety is almost endearing. Given these characteristics, it is not unlikely that the electronic trio arrived to bug the room after the buggee was already present. That kind of snafu would be genuinely their speed. But I think the far more likely explanation for their presence is that they came to turn on the television set. My theory is that they were a committee from Moscow Local #9 of the Soviet of Television Turners On and one guy was from the Party, one guy was from Komsomol, and the other guy was there to turn on the tube. Even if they did bug the room while they were there, I am sure the tapes were listened to by a committee of one guy from the Party, one guy from Komsomol, and one guy whose job it is to listen to the likes of M.I. singing “Honky-Tonk Angel” in the shower. Which, I think, explains a lot about the fact that there is no unemployment in the USSR and also about Soviet inefficiency. The matter of the television set was interesting on yet another count. I was one of the three members of our delegation who got not only a TV but also a small refrigerator in my hotel room. I am the only woman in the delegation, ergo, I assume the Soves are galant. The other two lucky recipients were Hodding Carter, editor of the Mississippi Delta Democrat Times, and Mort Allin of the White House. Carter is a honcho in the ACYPL and Allin, the only non-journalist among us, is in charge of preparing the daily news summary for President Ford, the same job he held under Nixon. Our hosts had Carter and Allin pegged as the leaders of the delegation and so indicated by carting them around in a separate car, rather than in the group bus. They further chose Carter and Allin for special exposure to Komsomol leaders and, in one case, to a tame, house “dissident” artist. They sought out Carter or Allin for special negotiations on the group’s program and generally deferred to them. The whole phenomenon was indicative of a wide cultural gap: the Soviets could not grasp that the delegation actually had no leader. Here in what they actually call their classless society, there exists the most rigid hierarchical structure I have ever come across, not excepting my experiences with an Algerian bank, a French university, and several American corporations. I have not yet read Joseph Heller’s new novel, which apparently treats of how folks one rung higher and one rung lower than other folks on a corporate ladder treat their superiors and subordinates, but I am ready to bet that it is nothing to the bootlicking, posterior kissing, and contempt for inferiors one sees constantly in the USSR. I don’t think I have ever so relished my inalienable right to stand up and say, “Gerald Ford is a horse’s ass, Dolph Briscoe is a chucklehead, and Ronnie Dugger reads as though he had been translated from the Latin,” as I have in the Soviet Union. Which reminds me of an R.D. story I must pass on to you. On one of our last days in Moscow, we met with the chief Amerikanski experts of Pravda, Izvestiya, and Tass, the Soviet news agency. All three are extraordinarily sophisticated men. At least two of them spoke English fluently and all were Soviet “liberals,” i.e., folks who are apparently concerned about civil liberties and tremendously anxious for US-USSR detente, at least in conversation with Westerners. The fellow from Pravda had taken several hacks at American journalism and was finally asked if there were any American journalists he approved of. “Ah, yes,” said he, “every year the number of those we respect is growing bigger. I was a personal friend of Drew Pearson’s and I like Mary McGrory and The Washington Post. I could name a lot of them I like: Robert Kaiser, Joe Kraft, Scotty Reston, and Ronnie Dugger.” At another point in that afternoon’s verbal melee, the man from Izvestiya cited the publication of the American Nazi Party as somehow typical of the “war-mongering, Jew-hating, black-hating American press.” When Allin interrupted with a heated defense to the effect that Storm Trooper was a piece of trash that had no standing, respect, or power in American journalism, the Soviet gentleman responded, “Well, I understand that The Texas Observer is also not very much a favorite in some of the ruling circles of Texas.” Nothing if not well-briefed, those Soves. but there are two kinds of differences between Russians and Soviets. If, like me, you have tended to use the two words interchangeably, take note. Difference A: not all Soviets are Russians, just as not all Americans are Texans. If you call an Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Armenian, Georgian, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, Kazakhstani, etc., etc., a Russian, he is likely to hit you over the head with the nearest vodka bottle. Russia is merely the largest and most populous of the 15 Soviet Socialist Republics. It is also politically and culturally dominant in the Soviet Union, which has led to no small degree of ill-feeling. Melting-pot-wise, Americans are way ahead of the Soviets, Patrick Moynihan notwithstanding. I was told by, of all the unlikely people, a Turk with Armenian friends \(the Turks have not stood too high with the Armenians since the Turks massacred 1.5 million Armenians Soviets has been their policy toward nationalities.” There seems to be a real horse race for the title of “The Soviets’ Greatest Crime” \(now don’t get puffed up: have we done worse by the Indians or by treatment of non-Russian nations in the Union is definitely in the running. Soviet-Russian Difference B: The Soviets have been around for 50 years. The Russians have been around for about 1,000 years \(and pikers they are, compared to the mess up American dialogue about the Soviet Union is our habit of confusing that which is Russian with that which is Soviet. I would guess, and it is a guess, that somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of what we Americans deem to be wrong with the Soviet communist system is not communist, but Russian. In fact, I suspect there’s a considerable ‘ degree to which Russian tradition has subverted communist ideology. For starters, the Russians have had a lousy history. Indeed, a miserable history. They were always being invaded, first from one side, then the other. And they suffered under the largest collection of nuthatch, autocratic rulers any European country has known. I seriously doubt that Stalin was even one-half as crazy as Ivan the Terrible: Stalin just had better technology going for him. And I think I’d prefer Brezhnev to Rasputin myself. Take, for example, the case of the KGB, the Soviet secret police, which is like a combination FBI-CIA multiplied somewhere between 10 and 1,000 times. It’s a direct lineal descendent of the Tsarist secret police, who operated in precisely the same fashion. Censorship and all manner of other local horrors predate the Soviet regime. Finally, I would offer the M.I. cloud theory of national personality. I honestly believe that gloomy weather makes gloomy people. The weather in Russia is grossly gloomy. Added to what is probably an intrinsically unjolly national personality, there are several exacerbating factors, the chief of which is waiting in lines. The Soviets have to wait in line for damn near November 1, 1974 3