Mikhail Iossel c/o the author
I was very surprised to find the very active twitter account of Mikhail Iossel.
I’m not surprised that he has one; I’m surprised that I actually made it to his story in the BASS while he is still alive! This, of course, is a critique of my lack of reading and writing.
It was nice to read Bologoye – to reach this story at about the half-way point in the anthology. It pulled me in and I think it’s going to propel me through to the end of the book.
Reading this story was like visiting an old friend.
My interest/casual study of Russia/The Soviet Union began back in the early 1980s. I can say that my interest came about with the addition to my family of a step-father who was very interested in American foreign policy towards the Soviets. He was a rabid news consumer – we always had cable news on in the house and we even received the morning and afternoon newspapers. During breakfast, before school, he would provide commentary on the latest news out of DC and Moscow. I was well aware of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the death of Brezhnev and the weirdness that encompassed the Andropov and Chernenko years. Gorbachev came along in ’85 and by ’86 I was in high school and my obsession with US/USSR relations was pretty well developed and growing. I sought out books, music and photos…the local university library even subscribed to Pravda (I can neither confirm nor deny several missing Pravda issues from 1989).
In 1990-early ’91 I focused on surviving my freshman year at Norwich. I did work in the library where their Russian collection was quite large given the summer Russian School program they hosted.
In the fall of ’91, I began my formal study of the language/culture and politics – changing my major and selecting courses that focused on my interest.
This was a great time to really focus in on the country because, by the end of 1991, the Soviet Union was no more.
I continued my studies and in the summer of ’93, as you may have read here before, I made a trip over to Russia. The early ‘90s in Russia was quite interesting.
In the years after my formal schooling, I still studied the country, (the first AOL news story I clicked on after we got a dial-up modem and the software disc at my father's was one of Yeltsin).
Of course, in the late 90’s I made it back over to that part of the world – Romania, and during my time there, I felt the ghosts of old influences that the Kremlin had on the country.
Now, today, as I read this story, I am taken back to those days. I can taste the shared warm beer, the shared bottles of wine drunk between the moving train cars (we drank ours on a train from Moscow to Volgograd). The endless shots of vodka - I can recall the smells of the Soviet apartment blocs – with their massive stairwells and the eyes of neighbors always watching. I can recall the feeling knowing that I was followed, that someone “inspected” my room from time-to-time.
I appreciate stories like this to transport me back to those days – stories by a writer that weaves the words to create scenes that transport you, the reader, having been there years before – right back there again.
This has happened so many times with the short stories in this anthology – their inclusion is justified by their power.