Monday, October 27, 2014

KGB Survelllance, Embassy Moscow 1977

With the renewal of some aspects of the Cold War, articles are once again appearing describing the increasing harassment and surveillance that our personnel at Embassy Moscow are experiencing.  None of this, of course, is new, but we still have some way to go before the treatment of our diplomats descends to the levels it reached under Brezhnev, Khrushchev, and especially Stalin.  Here are my own memories of my first few days in Moscow back in July of 1977, which included my first encounter with the KGB.

George Kennan once wrote that “The Moscow police…are instructed to view with suspicion diplomats found to be anywhere except in an automobile, in a museum, or at the Swan Lake ballet.”  I quickly learned the truth of this statement from firsthand experience.  On one of my first evenings in town, I was invited to a party at Kutuzovskiy 7, one of the huge apartment complexes across the river from the Embassy.  K-7 was mainly populated by foreigners, and closely guarded by the Soviets.  Since it was close by, I struck out on foot from the Embassy, figuring I could walk the distance in twenty or thirty minutes.  It was dark when I started out, and I soon lost my way.  I found myself walking in the middle of a small park in the direction of the Kutuzovskiy Bridge, when suddenly I realized that a couple of cars were shadowing me.  Both were black Volgas, and clearly official-looking, with rather unusual antennae sticking out of their roofs.  One Volga stopped about fifty feet in front of my position, the other in back.  I pretended not to notice and just kept on walking until I was able to find a sidewalk and get back on track.  I later learned that the KGB tailed most people when they first arrived, in order to determine the pattern of their activities.  Usually, once they had decided that the new arrival was no threat, they would stop the surveillance.  In my case, overt surveillance stopped after a very short while.

I was far from the only American under KGB scrutiny.  Just a few days later, on July 15, 1977, the KGB picked up another Embassy Officer, Martha Peterson, at the Krasnoluzhskiy Bridge, and accused her of servicing a dead drop for a Soviet agent.  The incident was hushed up at the time, but became public in June, 1978, in retaliation for the U.S. arrest of Soviet spies in the United States.  Izvestiya published a picture of Martha sitting defiantly next to our very dejected-looking Consul General Cliff Gross, with spy paraphernalia spread out before them.  Izvestiya even accused her of being an accessory to murder, which was a complete falsehood.  Martha later wrote about her experiences in her memoir, “The Widow Spy.”

The KGB liked to promote the impression that it was all-seeing and all-powerful, but even the massive counterintelligence assets maintained by the Soviets did not have enough resources to follow everybody.  They stayed on obvious targets, of course, like Gardner “Gus” Hathaway, then Moscow Station Chief.  Gus reported that most of the time he was more escorted, than followed, by a flotilla of minders.  Such activities were a waste of time, however, since others were doing the real field work.  For example, one of my contemporaries, legendary Case Officer John Guilsher, seemed to be able to evade Soviet surveillance when the need arose.


In later years, I came to realize that KGB physical surveillance came in many forms.  There was the invisible cocoon, which I was in when I first arrived in Moscow, that could collapse in on a target with frightening speed, and then there was the lockstep surveillance that was endured by obvious targets like Gus, or by those the KGB felt needed some corrective harassment.  And there were many stages in between.  I experienced many kinds of physical surveillance during my Foreign Service career, and, at least when the KGB was behind it, things were done very professionally.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The "Star Wars" Premiere, Spaso House, 1977

Most recently, the Russian Ministry of Culture designated "Star Wars" as a classic film recommended to Russian viewers http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/506015.html .  At the initial showing of "Star Wars" at Spaso House in 1977, however, this was definitely not the prevailing attitude of Soviet officials invited to view the film.  Glad to see that times have changed, at least in this small respect.




The Star Wars Premiere.


In mid-1977, our PAO Ray Benson received an offer from Jack Valenti, who at the time ran the MPAA, to show a great new first-run movie at Spaso House: "Star Wars."  Neither Ray nor Ambassador Toon were fans of Science Fiction, but they took Valenti's recommendation, and a few weeks later, the movie arrived in Moscow.  In those days, it was very difficult to get Soviet officials to come to Spaso House, but a first-run movie was a sure draw, and so on movie night quite a few members of the Soviet Government, including relatively high-ranking officials in the MFA such as USA Desk Director Komplektov and Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko, were in the Spaso Ballroom awaiting Moscow's first view of the George Lucas hit.  The movie played without intermission, and I was enthralled.  I thought it was great!  Looking around me, however, I noted growing looks of disapproval appearing on Soviet faces, and looks of horror on the faces of Ambassador Toon, and, especially of course, poor Ray Benson.  The problem was not with the production values of the film, which were good for the time, or with the plotline, which was intentionally scripted like a comic book.  The problem was with the villains of the piece.  It seemed like all the bad guys, who eventually wound up getting blown away by their own wonder weapon, wore costumes alarmingly similar to Soviet Army Commissars, or Nazis, or a combination of both.  It was clear to the Soviets in the audience (no doubt suffering from a guilty conscience) who the bad guys were meant to be.  Ambassador Toon apologized for the "quality" of the film, saying he had no knowledge of its content before it was shown, but the Soviets were not mollified, and many walked out.  I wonder if this was where the Soviets originally developed their visceral animus towards Reagan's "Star Wars" policy (knowing them, I'm sure they would have hated it anyway).  The one hopeful sign was that the younger Soviet diplomats in the crowd, and of course our human rights contacts, just loved the film.  Be that as it may, it was a long time before Ambassador Toon had another "movie night" at Spaso House.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

KAL007

Unfortunately, the destruction of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine brings up terrible memories of the shootdown of KAL007 in 1983.  Let's hope that we get to the bottom of the MH17 tragedy faster than we were able to in the case of the Korean airliner. 


KAL007, September 1, 1983.
The day after KAL007 was shot down off Sakhalin, the State Department formed a task force to deal with the inevitable Consular issues arising from the shootdown.  I worked on the task force for over a week, talking with and consoling relatives of the 269 passengers and crew, many of whom were Americans.  We all suspected the worst: that the Soviets had cold-bloodedly shot down a civilian airliner in full knowledge that it was not a spy plane.  Subsequent release of the flight tapes in 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union, revealed that the Soviet shootdown of the plane was a paranoid mistake, but in the immediate aftermath, the continuing denials by Soviet Marshal Nikolay Ogarkov, particularly his press conference on September 9, proclaiming that KAL007 was a spy plane, enraged everyone on the task force, and we were all looking for ways to retaliate. 

One immediate thought that came to mind was to deny Aeroflot landing privileges in the United States.  Aeroflot had previously been threatened with a suspension of its landing privileges in the U.S. when, in contrast to KAL007, which made an innocent navigational error, Aeroflot planes actually did divert their flight tracks out of New York so that they could overfly the U.S. submarine base at Groton, Connecticut.  After several such incidents, we told them to stop or they would lose their flight privileges altogether.  Aeroflot did stop, but by then events had overtaken the whole fly/no fly controversy, and a decision to stop Aeroflot from landing in the U.S was inevitable.  The first immediate result was that Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko's visit to the UN in mid-September was cancelled, since he refused to fly on anything but Aeroflot.

Gromyko Gets Snubbed.
The following year, the Department decided to allow Gromyko's plane into JFK on an exceptional basis so that he could attend the UNGA.  He flew in on September 19, 1984.  Unfortunately, it was not the greeting ceremony that he or the Soviets were expecting.  Primarily for security reasons, his Il-62 was guided to the most remote area of JFK, so far away that the rest of the airport was out of sight, and it took almost ten minutes to get there via back roads from the main terminal.  In order to impress upon Gromyko just how ill-favored he was, it was decided that the U.S. side should greet him on arrival at an insultingly low level.  It was in that manner, therefore, that I was delegated to be Gromyko's official airport greeter.  Gromyko's Il-62 taxied up to the parking area and the entire Soviet brass lined up in protocol order all the way up the landing stairs and a considerable distance out onto the tarmac.  I was there with the FBI and a couple of USUN officials at the far end of the line.  Gromyko stepped out, greeted all his high-ranking cronies, and began looking around for the highest-ranking American.  He eventually found me at the end of the line.  Looking even more like a cold fish than usual, and sporting his usual grimace that rapidly turned into a frown, Gromyko gave me a limp-wristed and somewhat clammy handshake as I welcomed him to the United States.  He never bothered to look me in the eye.  Then he and his minions loaded themselves into the first limousine and trundled off.  My FBI escorts thought it was all very funny, and so did I.  I would not see him again until Codel O'Neill visited Moscow the following year.  By then, fortunately, US-Soviet relations were changing decisively for the better.


In late 1992, a few months after I came on board ISCA (the ex-Soviet Desk), I found myself off to Moscow again to discuss a familiar subject: KAL007.  Despite repeated Soviet claims that they had never recovered the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Digital Flight Data Recorder from KAL007, we long suspected that they had, and were covering up the fact because the “black boxes” would provide a conclusive refutation of the bizarre Soviet assertion that KAL007 was a spy plane.  We suspected it would also prove conclusively what many already believed, that KAL007 was shot down in international waters.  With the fall of the Soviet Union and the advent of the Yeltsin Administration, the logjam on many long-held secrets began to break, including KAL007.  On October 15, 1992, Yeltsin handed over the black boxes to South Korea.  However, the tapes were either absent or unreadable, and the resulting hue and cry led to a hurried call for negotiations to turn over the original tapes to ICAO.

Talks to negotiate the handover were held on December 8-10 at the Osobnyak in Moscow, a site I knew well from my last tour in the Soviet Union.  The negotiations, which were led on our side by Jim Collins, and on the Russian side by Presidential Administration head Yuriy Petrov, Deputy Defense Minister Kondratyev, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov, dragged on interminably, even though everyone knew what the ultimate outcome had to be.  Around 9pm on December 9, with everyone getting very tired, Jim left me in charge to work through the final details with the Russians, as well as with local diplomats representing Korean, Japanese and other victims of the crash.  The negotiations continued at a snail's pace, with a number of Russian players from the security services interposing all kinds of frivolous objections.  I remember in particular Tatyana Anodina, a chain-smoking general who represented Aeroflot -- she was especially hardline.  Fortunately, others, like Interstate Aviation Committee head Rudolf Teimurazov were anxious to come to an understanding, and we eventually achieved final agreement at about 4am the next morning.  Last minute changes in the document were viewed with some misgivings by the Japanese and Korean delegations, but as the changes were not substantive in nature, they decided to go along.  The signing ceremony took place that day, and the handover was scheduled for January 8, 1993 at ICAO headquarters in Paris.

The following month, I flew off to Paris to witness the handover.  Janet Speck, the desk's civil aviation officer, accompanied me.  We were met at Charles de Gaulle airport by the local FAA Representative, who proceeded to take us on a tour of his favorite bars and restaurants while complaining incessantly that he was tired of “being stuck in Paris for the last nine years.”  Janet and I, who had been stuck for years in considerably less pleasant locales, could scarcely refrain from bursting out laughing.  The fact was, Paris was a complete paradise.  All my previous visits there seemed to have taken place during heat waves, with no air conditioning in the hotels, and fights literally breaking out in the streets.  This somewhat cooler and gentler Paris was a definite pleasure to visit.  Our hotel, the Maillot, near the Arc de Triomphe, was strictly two-star, but quite pleasant as well.

The next day, Janet and I, and about fifty other officials from all over the world watched as Yeltsin's chief of staff Yuriy Petrov handed over the tapes in a ceremony at ICAO's modest headquarters building. A preliminary analysis revealed the tapes to be intact and in good condition.  Later detailed analysis would reveal that most of our suspicions about the Soviet cover story on KAL007 were correct.  The plane had flown off course due to an error in setting the autopilot, which had been programmed to fly the great circle route and not a specific set of waypoints that would allow it to skirt the Soviet border.  At no time were the pilot and crew aware they were being chased by Soviet fighters.  A few mysteries remained, but the biggest ones were solved, ten years after the fact.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Valeriya Novodvorskaya (1950-2014)

+      

Valeriya Novodvorskaya passed away on July 12, 2014.  I met Novodvorskaya for the first time in front of Embassy Moscow during the anti-Iraq war demonstrations in March 2003.  She was one of the more reasonable and likable Russians I ever knew. Strangely enough we were on opposite sides of the issue.  I was officially supporting our Iraq policy, while privately being against it, while she was actually leading one of the few Russian demonstrations in favor of the Iraq war. 

                                                                                                                       
                                                       
                                                        U.S. Embassy Moscow

                                                                                                                                    
                                  Russia Update: Thursday, March 27, 2003  

                                        No. 040 Reporting from Moscow


                            Turnabout is Fair Play: For Once, a Pro-U.S. Demonstration

On Thursday afternoon, followers of two miniscule political movements, the Trans-National Radical Party and the Democratic Union, took their turn to demonstrate across the street from the Old American Embassy Building.  In contrast to nearly everyone else, however, the twenty followers of Democratic Union leader Valeriya Novodvorskaya (Note 1) and Radical Party leader Nikolay Khramov (Note 2) actually demonstrated in favor of U.S. actions in Iraq. 

• A pro-American demonstration, for once.  There were only 20 of 
them, but I suppose short help is better than no help at all.
The day started off normally enough.  At noon, about a dozen LDPR volunteers and half a dozen "Working Russia" supporters took up their customary positions at Novinskiy Bulvar 18 to conduct an unsanctioned protest against the Iraq war.  The Communists (Note 3) were once again absent.  Around 2:00 p.m., however, the Radical and Democratic Union supporters arrived and began putting up their banners.  LDPR and "Working Russia" were miffed: first, because the competing demonstrators were outnumbered by cameramen from the local TV stations, and second because the militia came up to the unsanctioned demonstrators and told them they would have to leave.  The LDPR protesters did so quietly, but the more fanatical "Working Russia" types hung around outside the barriers and hurled insults at the Radicals and Democratic Unionists.  On their way out, a couple of LDPR protesters turned to one Radical and asked snidely, "Who paid you to do this?" to which the Radical replied, "Who paid you?"

With the situation under firm police control (there were lots more of them than everyone else put together), the Radicals and Democratic Unionists got their show on the road, unfurling banners that read "There is no peace without democracy," and "No to Saddam."  While giving TV interviews at a mile a minute, Novodvorskaya stood with a sign around her neck that said "America is fighting for humanity, including Russia."  Other demonstrators, including Khramov, carried American and British Flags or Radical Party banners.  Both parties also passed out "manifestos" that stated their support for the United States and the United Kingdom, and condemned all those who had conducted anti-American and antiwar protests, and thus given Saddam Hussein false hope.  The demonstration broke up peacefully at 3:00 p.m.



Outside the narrow confines of Novinskiy Bulvar 18, antiwar demonstrations have continued in other parts of Moscow as well, though not with the same pace and fervor as in the first week of the war.  On March 25, Gennadiy Raykov's pro-Putin "People's Party"  (Note 4) conducted an antiwar protest on Slavyanksaya Square.  About a thousand people watched as ten demonstrators dressed in camouflage uniforms covered a large globe with the American, British and Spanish flags as other demonstrators yelled out "Occupiers!" and explosive sound effects reverberated through the square.  The American/British occupiers were then "ousted" by other demonstrators, who carried placards proclaiming "Stop the Expansionist War in Iraq" and "What Goes Around Comes Around." (Note 5) Another demonstrator bore a placard with a picture of President Bush.  Unfortunately, the demonstrators had also thoughtfully painted a beard and a white cap on the picture to make the President look like Osama bin Laden.  The placard included the caption "Terrorist Number One."  In keeping with the demonstrations run by pro-Putin organizations, the protest meeting appeared to be well choreographed and lacked most of the inflammatory rhetoric that characterizes LDPR and Communist Party protest meetings.

Outside the capital, other anti-war demonstrations were also held.  In Vladivostok, Independent State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov and the People's Deputy Club led a demonstration paralleling that of the larger "People's Party" demonstration in Moscow on March 25.  American and British flags were burned, and passersby were asked to kick a dummy representing an American soldier.  Cherepkov, who is known for his eccentric behavior and his short-lived but successful term as Mayor of Vladivostok, is very popular in Primorye's capital city but is unpopular almost everywhere else in the Maritime Province.  He has taken numerous trips to Baghdad in recent years, and has been an outspoken critic of U.S. policy toward Iraq.  

While Cherepkov and his supporters were protesting, a group of veterans in Vladivostok was making trouble in its own way by preparing a legal complaint against President Bush for presentation to the Hague War Crimes Tribunal.  The veterans were apparently unswayed by arguments from media representatives that the Tribunal was created only to consider war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, and maintained that they would demand that the Tribunal consider their "case" against the President for his war crimes against Iraq.  Apparently, folks in Vladivostok have nothing better to do these days.

Interfax also reported that on March 25 there was a large antiwar demonstration in the city of Cherkessk, the capital of the heavily Moslem republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia.  According to Interfax, the demonstration was organized by local youth groups, including the Republic's own Commission on Youth.  Reportedly, over 5,000 students marched down the main street of Cherkessk to Lenin Square and then to the Republic Government building, where they chanted anti-U.S. slogans and held up protest signs.  Organizers said that actually more than 15,000 participated, but in all likelihood the protest was far smaller than the 5,000 originally estimated by Interfax.  Virtually no one in this country can count, and when they do, they are prone to guess high.

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Note 1. Valeriya Novodvorskaya.  Novodvorskaya is a well-known dissident from the Soviet era.  Born in 1950, she first came to the attention of the Soviet authorities at the age of 19, when, as a student at the Maurice Torres School of International Languages, she organized an underground student group calling for the overthrow of the Communist regime.  She was convicted under the all-purpose Article 70 (anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda) and sent to a mental institute where she was "treated' for schizophrenia.  After her release from psychiatric detention, she helped publish and distribute samizdat materials.  In 1977 she was one of the founders of  the "Free Interprofessional Union of Workers" (SMOT).  As a result of her political activities, she and other SMOT activists were repeatedly sent to psychiatric hospitals for additional treatment, and she was convicted for dissident activities in 1978, 1985 and 1986.  In 1988, she helped found the Democratic Union, a human rights group, and took part in numerous unsanctioned protests against the Soviet authorities.  In May 1991, she was jailed for seeking the overthrow of the Soviet regime, but then released on August 23, following the failure of the hardliner coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, Novodvorskaya continued her human rights activities, succeeding in earning the ire of Russia's new rulers.  In 1996, she was charged under Article 74 ("incitement of public discord") for her strident anti-Government statements on Chechnya.  In July 2000 she participated in a demonstration protesting the raid on Media-Most, the crown jewel in Vladimir Gusinskiy's financial empire, calling it an "anti-Semitic act" and comparing it to Kristallnacht.  Novodvorskaya has also endeared herself to the FSB, calling it "our Gestapo," and she has urged people to oppose President Vladimir Putin since he is a "butcher, murderer and fascist" who is "carrying out a genocide of the Chechen people."  In 1995, one of Novodvorskaya's friends characterized her as a perpetual revolutionary, and cites this as the reason why she and so many other dissidents of the Soviet era have been unable to adapt and prosper in the New Russia.  For additional biographic information on Novodvorskaya, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeriya_Novodvorskaya 


Note 2.  Nikolay Khramov.  Some bio information, but not much, is available on Nikolay Khramov at the Trans-National Radical Party's website: http://www.radikaly.ru.  Often the site is blocked in Russia.   

Note 3. Communists.  KPRF officials have explained to media representatives that they have decided to continue their protest "by meeting with constituents," rather than by standing across the street from the U.S. Embassy.  

Note 4. People's Party.  Raykov's party controls the 53-member "People's Deputy" faction in the State Duma.  The faction is one of the centrist groups that make up the pro-Kremlin coalition in the Lower House. 


Note 5.  What Goes Around Comes Around.  This is the nearest I can get to the feeling expressed in a very colorful slogan "Как Иракнётся так и откликнётся."  

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Kennedy Assassination, November 22, 1963.


Excerpt from Chapter 6.5
 
St. Louis Country Day School

I have many great memories of my eight years at Country Day.  Almost all of them are pleasant, but a few most definitely are not.  One such memory is from the day that President Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963.  Almost everyone of my generation remembers where they were when they first heard the news, and I am no exception.  I was at school having lunch in the dining hall with the rest of my classmates when the Headmaster, David Pynchon, came to the microphone unexpectedly to make an announcement.  We were all kids and in high spirits, talking and laughing noisily as usual, but something about Mr. Pynchon's manner silenced us quickly.  In a very solemn voice, the Headmaster told the school that President Kennedy had been shot.  Then he led the school in a prayer for the President.  We all exchanged looks of surprise and shock.  The whole dining hall was hushed, and no one could quite believe what they had heard.  A half an hour later, a little after 1pm, we had finished lunch and were going to our next class when we heard that the President had died.  I can't remember whether classes were cancelled that day, but the flag was lowered to half-mast almost immediately.  I sat glued to the television for the next several days, tuned in primarily to Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and Walter Cronkite on CBS, watching the aftermath, including the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald and the funeral in Washington, all the while trying to make sense of it all.  I couldn't.  I am not a particularly emotional person, but I do remember that as the funeral cortege made its way to Arlington Cemetery, I suddenly started crying, and couldn't stop for several minutes.  The enormity of the event had become too much.  It was an emotional time for everyone, and it was a day and a time burned indelibly into my memory.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Leningrad 1985-1987 (Part One)


Draft Chapter 11.8

 

Leningrad 1985-1987
 (Part One)
 

After four years on the Soviet Desk, I was sent out to Leningrad to be Deputy Principal Officer at our Consulate General.  At the time, the post was staffed by 26 Americans and 25 Soviets.  I restructured and reorganized the post in the wake of the retaliatory Soviet government withdrawal of all of our Soviet employees, and the expulsion of several American employees, in October 1986.  At the same time, I significantly improved the Consulate’s political and economic reporting in a part of the Soviet Union first affected by Gorbachev’s policies of perestroyka and glasnost.  Awards:  Group Distinguished Honor Award for performance under conditions of extreme hardship.

 
Munich Interlude.
My last day on the Soviet Desk was July 2.  Rather than take leave, I decided to head out immediately to Leningrad, following an intermediate stop in Munich to celebrate July 4 with friends at the Consulate General.   On July 6, I arrived in Leningrad on the weekly Pan Am flight -- as the only passenger.  In those days, Pan Am had a unique arrangement with the Soviet authorities.  Pan Am could fly to Leningrad, but only via Moscow, and while it could let passengers off at Moscow, it could take no passengers on board, since it was technically an “international” flight.  The net result was that flights to Leningrad were virtually empty.  On my flight, I was the only passenger on the entire 707, and was waited on hand and foot by numerous stewardesses.  Is it any wonder, with such routes, that Pan Am went bankrupt?

I was met at Pulkovo Airport by Nick Burakow, the man I was to succeed as Deputy Principal Officer.  Nick was a very serious fellow, and quite a decent person.  He took me under his wing from the start and tried to help me learn the things I would need to know in order to function effectively as Deputy Principal Officer.  Nick was very anti-Soviet.  His family was of Eastern European extraction -- from Belarus, I think -- and he had spent his early childhood, at the end of World War II, in a DP camp. 

Nick told me, among other things, that the Leningrad KGB were even more active than their brethren in Moscow.  I had some idea of this, since I had followed Leningrad closely from the Soviet Desk.  After two incidents in 1984 in which one of our Consular Officers, Ron Harms, and a Marine Guard, Sgt. Ronald Campbell, had been beaten by gangs of KGB thugs, we hit on the novel punishment of putting out a travel advisory for Leningrad.  It had the desired effect: the tourist trade plummeted in the Leningrad area, and harassment of our Consulate personnel lessened as the Soviets attempted to clean up their act to get the advisory lifted.  Nick noted that there were plenty of other ways the Soviets tried to get to us as well.  He briefed me on the bugged typewriters affair, which at the time was still classified, and noted that because of that incident a whole new system of freight handling had been developed to guard against the possibility that the Soviets might bug other more innocuous-looking items. 

Millionaire's Row.  
Nick put me up at his place, which was soon to become mine.  The apartment was very luxurious by Leningrad standards: a three-bedroom flat on Ulitsa Sofiy Perovskoy.  It was located right in the center of Leningrad's historic district, one block from Nevskiy Prospekt, the Kazan Cathedral and Dom Knigi, and just across the Moika canal from the Hotel Yevropeyskaya and the Russian Museum.  In earlier times, the street had had a more normal name, Malaya Konyushennaya, and in Czarist times, it had been called “Millionaire's Row” due to its fine townhouses and posh apartments.  But after the Revolution, the street had been renamed in honor of Sofiya Perovskaya, the girlfriend of the ringleader of the bomb plot that resulted in the assassination of Czar Alexander II.  As for Millionaire's Row, it had been turned into communal apartments.  My new apartment was one of the first to be returned to its former status.  Nick told me that five families had once lived in our apartment, sharing a common kitchen and bathroom.  It seemed hard to believe, but as I got to know my neighbors the truth of Nick's remarks sunk in.  Most Leningraders still lived in squalor, although they were much better off than they had been during my first visit to the city in 1972.  I had initially thought that the neighbors might resent having an American living so close by, but no one seemed to mind.  It might have been that they appreciated the extra security afforded by the Soviet militia guard posted at the stairwell entrance, but more likely it was due to the fact that the KGB was also present in the building, and the local residents preferred not to be conspicuous in such circumstances.  I never actually identified any surveillance inside the building, but I could never shake the thought that agents were watching me all the time from the apartments above and below.  I found a few boreholes in the ceiling of the master bedroom, large enough for a miniature camera lens.  I plugged the holes and put a sheet over the ceiling, and felt somewhat better as a result.

Surveillance. 
When I first arrived in Leningrad, I had no car, so I had a choice of taking public transportation or walking to work.  My apartment on Sofiy Perovskoy was only about a mile or so from the Consulate, and it was a pleasant walk, over the Moika Canal bridge, past the Church of the Spilled Blood (the site where Alexander II was assassinated), through the Field of Mars and the Letniy Sad, past the residence of Peter III, across Liteyniy Prospekt and then just a couple of blocks to the Consulate on Ulitsa Petra Lavrova (now Furshtatskaya).  Not knowing my way around Leningrad at first, Nick drove me to work on the first day, and I decided to try and walk back.  I left the Consulate, took a wrong turn, and immediately got lost in a back alley.  It took me a couple of minutes to find my way back to the main street again, and when I did, I noticed a very funny thing.  I was surrounded by eight walking men, all trying not to look like they were keeping an eye on me, all about 20 feet away on every side.  I pretended not to notice and eventually a few of them dropped back.  I passed by the last follower at the corner of Liteyniy, as he coolly lit a cigarette and pretended not to notice me.  Apparently, Leningrad treated diplomats the same way Moscow did, and followed them around the first few days to get their pattern.  My departure from the expected route had caused some alarm, and my surveillance package closed in on my position so rapidly that I noticed them.  It was a bizarre experience.  Walking to work the next day, I studied the map carefully so that I would take no unexpected detours.

The Consulate General Building. 
The U.S. and Russia officially established diplomatic relations in 1807, but American diplomats had been working in St. Petersburg on and off for a quarter century before that, ever since 1781.  Over the years, more than a dozen different sites were used as the American Embassy.  When relations were broken off in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, most traces of America's diplomatic past were erased.  For example, the first time I visited Leningrad in 1972, I went into the biggest bookstore in town, Dom Knigi, on Nevsky Prospekt.  You could still see signs that it had once been the headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine company, but I had no idea that it had also been the location of the last pre-revolutionary U.S. Consulate in Petrograd.

When U.S. diplomats finally returned to Leningrad in the early 1970s, an entirely new building had to be found for the Consulate.  Eventually, the site at Ulitsa Petra Lavrova 15 was chosen, just down the street from the pre-revolutionary U.S. Embassy.  Our new Consulate building had several advantages.  First, it was close to the historic center of the city and to local governmental bodies.  It was also in a relatively quiet location.  Finally, the building itself was large enough to accommodate the 20 American Consular staff, six Marines and 25 Soviet employees that eventually worked there.

The building was a recently restored turn-of-the-century office structure, U-shaped, with four stories.  The bottom of the U, which fronted on Petra Lavrova, consisted of offices, while the left side of the U contained the Marine House and staff housing, and the right a small American grade school and staff housing.  The first floor contained the Consular section and the Branch Public Affairs offices, while the second floor housed the Administrative and GSO sections.  The third floor was occupied by Post One and the Executive section, while the fourth floor contained Communications and the Mail Room.  Everyone had fairly good working conditions, at least by Embassy Moscow standards, although the building itself was constantly in a state of “remont” (remodeling) due to its aging structure.  Just before I got there, the front façade of the building had been restored, and Consul General Charlie Magee was very proud of its improved appearance (Under CG John Evans, the façade was restored again in the 1990s, and it was later found that the Soviets had implanted bugs.  I suspect they did the same thing during Charlie's restoration efforts).

Consulate or Kontslager? 
While the physical condition of the building was reasonably good, the security situation was catastrophic.  The building was one of the most vulnerable to technical penetration and surveillance that I have ever worked in, and I doubt if there was any part of the building that was entirely safe.  A little over a year into my tour, as an experiment, I decided to walk around the neighborhood and take a look at the Consulate building from the point of view of our neighbors, and do a short cable on the results.  What I found shocked even me, and I was prepared for some unpleasant surprises.

It had been generally accepted that the Consulate was in a very poor position in terms of technical security.  It had common walls on two sides, and it was generally assumed that listening devices infested the walls.  I even suspected that there might be drilling going on between the floors of the Consulate.  I never found proof of this – it’s just what I would do if I were in the Soviet position.  The Consulate was also overshadowed by tall buildings front and back, from which it was assumed the KGB manned observation posts.  I was told that when the Consulate site was first selected, a window had suddenly appeared in the solid brick apartment wall bordering on the Consulate courtyard.  In addition, the Consulate was in a bad neighborhood, at least in technical security terms.  The local KGB headquarters, aka the “Big House,” was located on Liteyniy Prospekt, just around the corner and two blocks away from the Consulate.

As I started my walk around the block, the evidence that we were under very close surveillance mounted quickly.  I tried to get into the adjoining buildings, but could not.  Apparently, the local residents valued their privacy.  Around the back of the Consulate, I got into a nearby apartment, following a local resident, and climbed the stairwell to the top floor.  From this vantage point, I was able to look out a window onto the roofs of nearby buildings.  Every roof that bordered on the Consulate was barricaded with barbed wire obstacles, and under obvious observation.  As I walked around the back of the Consulate, I came to the building where the window had mysteriously appeared and managed to get in behind a regular tenant.  I walked up the stairs as far as I could, but was stopped at the seventh floor by a steel jail door that blocked off the top two floors.  On the landing the next floor up, near the apartment where the window had appeared, I could see a guard seated behind a desk.  I had seen enough, and I descended the stairs and went back to the relative safety of the Consulate.  I was observed at numerous points during my odyssey, but none of our Soviet interlocutors ever mentioned the incident.  The title of my cable was “Consulate or Kontslager?”

Spy Dust.
In mid-August, 1985, Embassy Moscow and Con Gen Leningrad received a NODIS cable warning us of the possibility that the Soviets, specifically the KGB, had been using an invisible powder called NPPD (nitrophenylpentadienal) to track the movements of U.S. diplomats.  The powder was apparently sprayed on doorknobs, car door handles, and other spots that might be touched, and would fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet light.  We had of course assumed that we were being followed, and that the KGB was devoting special efforts to those Americans they suspected of working for the U.S. intelligence agencies.  The new wrinkle in the picture, however, was that the powder was being widely used in both Moscow and Leningrad, and was thought to be carcinogenic.  I called a country team meeting (our CG Charlie Magee was out of the country), and briefed everyone on the situation.  Most seemed to take the news well, although I heard later that a lot of the spouses were rather upset when told.  The news was out in the Western press quickly, along with Soviet denials.  We took what precautions we could, and tested likely areas periodically to see if we were being subjected to “spy dust,” as the press was calling it.  Eventually, the issue receded into the background as other crises took its place, and early the following year, the USG decided that NPPD was not carcinogenic after all, so there was nothing to worry about.  Still, it gave us quite a scare.

The Consul General in Leningrad. 
The position of Consul General in Leningrad had long been a prized assignment.  In the past, it was often viewed as a reward to old Soviet hands who had served loyally, and were on the verge of retirement, but had never made it to Ambassador.  Bill Shinn, Culver Gleysteen and Chris Squire all fit this mold, but the one who epitomized the “modern Consul General” was another old Soviet hand of my acquaintance, Tom Buchanan.  Serving at the end of the 1970s under his good friend, Ambassador Malcolm Toon, Tom was the quintessential Consul General of that era.  I remember meeting him in Moscow at Sheremetyevo Airport as he arrived in October 1977 to assume his new duties.  He got off the plane dressed to the nines in a tweed three-piece suit, accompanied by his attractive wife, Nancy, and his pedigreed Irish setter.  He had arrived in style, and his tenure in Leningrad would be equally stylish.  In those days, Consuls General were not expected to be particularly active in reporting on developments in the Leningrad area, although many tried.  The truth was that no one back in Washington much cared anyway, as all the political action took place in Moscow.  Leningrad was a backwater, although a very culturally advanced one, ruled by Soviet-era dinosaurs.  While political commentary was politely welcomed, what the Consul General was really expected to do was to run the Consulate with no controversy, put up a good front on the social scene, and provide a base for Embassy Moscow, mostly its Naval Attachés, to explore the points of actual interest in the Leningrad area, namely its military facilities.  It was not until the advent of Ed Hurwitz and Dick Miles in the late-1980s, and later on, the rise of Leningrad's native political power that this pattern was broken.

Charlie Magee was Consul General in Leningrad from 1983 until 1986, and was my first boss in Leningrad.  He and his wife, Maideh, fit the Leningrad mold perfectly.  Charlie was in his 50s at the time, tall and thin, with a slightly florid complexion and hair graying at the temples.  He usually dressed Ivy League casual, in a sport jacket, tie and slacks.  He was genial and friendly, and constantly went around with a big smile on his face, which tended to compress his eyes into slits.  He set great store by style and image, and not much on political reporting.  At the end of a long and honorable career, he had arrived in Leningrad determined to fulfill the image of a proper Consul General.  He held frequent receptions at the CG Residence, a former nobleman's mansion, and did so in great style.  He became an aficionado of the Kirov Ballet, probably the best ballet company in the world, and entered into a friendly competition with his Japanese colleague to see how frequently one could attend Kirov productions at the Mariinskiy Theater.  From his staff, he demanded little, other than that the Consulate be kept operating smoothly, and the steady stream of official visitors to Leningrad be given good service.  Charlie was a committed liberal Democrat, and personally took charge of visitors to whom he was politically attuned.  When former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro came to town, he squired her around in high fashion, and treated her with a certain adulatory respect.  Similarly, when San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein paid a visit in late 1985, Charlie took personal charge of visit arrangements, ensuring that she got the best possible exposure to Leningrad's cultural life.  All other visitors Charlie left in our capable hands. 

 Charlie's wife, Maideh, was from the Iranian community in Baku.  She had exquisite taste, and amassed vast collections of headgear, Palekh boxes and other souvenirs during her three years in Leningrad.  She did not have a security clearance, which led to some uncomfortable moments with the Marine Guards from time to time, but all in all, she was the perfect match for a person of Charlie's temperament.

Charlie and I became good friends and colleagues during the year that we served together in Leningrad.  My role was clear:  I managed the Consulate, took care of visitors, and oversaw our reporting, such as it was, and Charlie represented the Consulate to the outside world.  We had a perfect partnership and my year with Charlie fairly whizzed by.  Before I knew it, on July 29, 1986, we were seeing him and Maideh off at the VIP lounge at Pulkovo, and I was already getting ready for my next Consul General.  As for Charlie, I got the impression that his years in Leningrad were some of the happiest of his career, and that he very much regretted leaving.

After Leningrad, Charlie did a short stint in Mayor Feinstein's office, and then moved on to retirement, which included leading a few tour groups on ship cruises to St. Petersburg.  I would imagine that if Charlie had any regrets about his career, his biggest might have been that, while he had headed a Mission as Consul General, he had never been an Ambassador.  If so, this matter was rectified a few years later.  In the mid-1990's, Charlie was appointed to head the OSCE Mission in Latvia, a position which carried with it the rank of Ambassador.  In 1996, while I was serving as DCM in Kiev, Charlie was appointed to head the OSCE Mission in Ukraine, which dealt with Crimean Tatar matters.  During our first meeting in Kiev, Charlie proudly presented me with the largest visiting card I have ever seen, with the word “Ambassador” featured prominently on it.  He seemed very happy to be an OSCE Ambassador, although the Mission itself was not particularly active, and was closed down in 1999, to be replaced by the OSCE Project Coordinator's Office in 2000, which I was eventually appointed to head.  After my return to Kyiv in 2005, Charlie turned up in Ukraine every now and again when I was the OSCE's Ambassador there, and I had had him over for dinner quite often.  He still looked the same, and had the same irrepressible smile.  We remain good friends. 

The Consul General's Residence.  
The Residence, located at Grodnenskiy Pereulok 4, was just a short walk from the Consulate General.  It was built around the turn of the century, and its last imperial owner, Grand Duke Konstantin, reputedly housed one of his lovers there.  According to legend, a secret door connected it through a common wall to the neighboring mansion at Grodnenskiy Pereulok 2, so that the Grand Duke could come and go discreetly.  In our time, the Residence had just been restored, and in many ways, it was a far better place for receptions and parties than Spaso House, the Ambassador's residence in Moscow.  Charlie took maximum advantage of the opportunity to entertain his Soviet hosts, and with the help of the Public Affairs section, he also screened first-run movies in the large basement theater.  On the first floor, there was also a separate apartment, dubbed the “Nixon Suite,” because the former President had reputedly overnighted there once, and Charlie invited all high-ranking American visitors to stay there.  The second and third floors of the Residence were the private quarters of the Consul General.

Note:  The actual story behind the “Nixon Suite” is somewhat at variance with legend, for it appears that President Nixon never actually stayed there.  Nixon did visit Leningrad on May 27, 1972 as part of his history-making trip to the USSR, but he and the First Lady did not overnight.  There was one Nixon who did overnight at the CG Residence, however.  According to Bob Barry, who in 1972 was one of four Foreign Service Officers preparing the Consulate for its official opening, Tricia Nixon Cox and her new husband, Edward, visited Leningrad in early 1973 while on a European tour, and stayed in the downstairs guest suite.  According to those who dealt with her at the time, Tricia displayed an extremely difficult personality, and hardly emerged from her room during the entire visit.  In “honor” of her visit, the room was sarcastically nicknamed the “Nixon Suite.”  Over the years, the true identity of the person who overnighted at the CG Residence was forgotten, and the assumption was made, erroneously as it turns out, that the term “Nixon Suite” referred to the former President.

In October, 2009, in honor of the 200th Anniversary of U.S.-Russian relations, St. Petersburg’s newest Consul General, Sheila Gwaltney, renamed the Nixon Suite the “John Quincy Adams Suite,” after the first American Ambassador to Imperial Russia (Adams is perhaps slightly better known as America’s sixth President).  This is of course a more appropriate name for the room, but it is nonetheless sad that in the process yet another Leningrad legend has bitten the dust.

The Leningrad Diplomatic Agency.
Our principal hosts were the staff of the Leningrad Diplomatic Agency, the branch office of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up in Leningrad to deal with locally-based Consulates.  The Agency was not very big, comprising just a couple of dozen people, but it performed a key function in helping us operate in the Leningrad Consular District, particularly in view of the fact that at this time most of the Soviet Government was still off-limits to us.  The head of the LDA was Mikhail Aleksandrovich Yefimov, an aging Communist warhorse.  Yefimov was a loyal party man, and extremely cautious in his contacts with us, but he still tried to treat us
fairly, and I always respected him, despite his rather hidebound views.  His principal deputy was Mark Vybornov.  Vybornov, in his early 40s, was a Leningrad native.  A German
specialist, he had spent some time in the GDR.  He and his attractive Central Asian wife spoke little English, but they approached Americans with a friendly and open attitude.  Yefimov’s secretary was Marina Kalinina, a beautiful young girl whom I never got to know very well, but whom I sensed was in some way well connected.

Although Vybornov was my opposite number in protocol terms, I found myself having much more contact with his younger deputies, Viktor Sukhanov and Yevgeniy Lukyanov.  I was much closer in age to Viktor and Yevgeniy, and we shared a number of common interests, hitting it off right away.  Some of my Consulate colleagues looked askance at my getting so cozy with LDA personnel, who were all assumed to be working for the KGB, but I found the contacts to be quite useful, not just because cultivating them was a part of my job, but also because “Mr. Lu and Mr. Su,” as they were nicknamed, were genuinely likeable characters.

Viktor Sukhanov, a professional diplomat,  lived with his wife and child at the diplomatic apartment block on Ulitsa Nakhimova, near the Pribaltiyskaya Hotel on Vasilevskiy Island, where many foreign diplomats also lived.  Viktor studied hard at MGIMO, and developed quite
good English.  His wife noted ruefully that for one whole year she “saw nothing but his back” as he studied English at his desk in the corner.  Viktor was good enough at languages to work for a time as a simultaneous English to Russian interpreter in Geneva, although he often told me he thought his talents were wasted there, as nearly every Russian speaker knew English quite well.  Every now and again, he would ask over the microphone:  Кто слышит перевод?”  (who is listening to the translation?).  Usually, only the Mongolian delegate would raise his hand.  Viktor returned to Leningrad and worked for a number of years at the Diplomatic Agency, and that's where I first met him.  Viktor had a ready sense of humor and a typical Soviet love for the Beatles (he knew several songs by heart, including “Back in the USSR”).  He also took a fraternal interest in my cultural welfare, teaching me such classics as “Мистер Твистор, Бывший Министр, Мистер Твистор, Миллионер!”  (Mister Twister, former Minister, Mr. Twister, Millionaire!).

Viktor and I became fast friends and colleagues during my tour in Leningrad and I kept up contacts with him after leaving for my next assignment.  In August 1993, Viktor pitched up on the State Department's doorstep, suffering from heat prostration.  He was in town on an exchange program, didn't have much money, and had wound up getting overheated and dehydrated while walking around town.  I was Deputy Director of ISCA (the former Soviet Desk) at the time, and sat him down in my office and fed him a few cokes to get him back in shape again.  That evening, I took him out to Kramerbooks and Afterwards, a restaurant-bookstore near his hotel on DuPont Circle.  It was clear that Viktor was saving his pennies, so when he wolfed down his dinner, I bought him another, which he finished off before I had gotten through my main course.  Just for form's sake, Viktor bought me a beer at a local bar before calling it an evening.  I lost touch with Viktor after that, although I heard through friends that he had had serious health problems in the mid-1990's.  Some years after that, Viktor was appointed the Russian Consul General in Geneva -- a tour of duty he would have certainly enjoyed very much.  In 2011, I received the tragic news from Sheila Gwaltney that Viktor had passed away from stomach cancer sometime in the early 2000’s.  He was a great colleague and friend, and will be sorely missed.

While there was no way that Viktor Sukhanov could have been working for the KGB, I was never quite so sure about my good friend Yevgeniy Lukyanov.  Yevgeniy, in his 30s, was a very gregarious and witty person.  Like Viktor, he spoke English quite well, and professed an interest in all things American.  He was also very helpful whenever possible in his work at the LDA.  

There were a few things about him that stood out, however.  The first was his lack of a Foreign Service background.  He had apparently never been overseas, at least to my knowledge.  The second was his occasional slips, which led me to believe that he knew a great deal more about what was going on in the Consulate than he should have, if he was just a diplomat.  One time, I was having a conversation with Yevgeniy about a Russian colleague's health, and Yevgeniy commented, “Well, yes, but at least he doesn't have Leukemia,” while giving me a wide-eyed quizzical look.  Just the day before I had been discussing my CLL diagnosis with Embassy Moscow's doctor, who was visiting the Consulate.  No one else knew about it, and the only way Yevgeniy could have found out was if he was listening to intercepts, or bugs in the wall of the Consulate. 

Some of my colleagues considered Yevgeniy to be a fool, and a bit hard to take.  Rivalries within the Diplomatic Agency often led to gossip and whispers of this sort.  One Diplomatic Agency official even remarked, in confidence, about Yevgeniy that "You can speak twenty foreign languages and still be an asshole!"  I never considered him so.  Despite his sometimes questionable behavior, he was my friend, and he was about as pro-American as anyone in his position could have been.  After my tour in Leningrad, I lost touch with Yevgeniy, except for one brief meeting in the CG's Residence during the Ron Brown visit to St. Petersburg in 1994.  He was out of the Diplomatic Service by then, and was in “banking,” or some such line of work.  

Dinners and Visits.
Viktor and Yevgeniy would come over to my apartment for dinner and drinks quite frequently and I was over at their apartments quite a bit as well.  One visit to Yevgeniy's apartment was memorable because we all drank about a full bottle of vodka each, and promptly got sick.  It was just as well -- I think the fishy zakuski would have made me sick soon enough anyway.  Yevgeniy and Viktor invited me out to Yevgeniy's dacha in the Leningrad countryside late in my tour.  Technically, I was not supposed to travel outside Leningrad unaccompanied, but I got permission from the RSO and spent the weekend with Mr. Lu and Mr. Su.  Our weekend turned largely into a drinking male-bonding exercise, but none of us got sick this time.  I later found out the dacha was in a closed area. 

Dinners at my place were a more sedate affair.  I would borrow the CG's cook, and we would have a great meal and then watch a movie or two.  It was during these dinners that Yevgeniy and Viktor loosened up and told me what they really thought.  At one point, during a discussion of U.S.-Soviet relations, they admitted freely that the Soviet adventure in Afghanistan was ill-advised and doomed to failure.  They were also relatively critical of the hidebound authorities that still ruled Leningrad.  One evening, just for fun, they gave me an oral exam similar to the one they took to get into the Soviet Diplomatic Service.  I actually did pretty well.  With work, they said, I might actually make a good Soviet diplomat!  I am pretty sure they were joking.

The Car Vandals.
Relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were pretty rocky during the last year of my tour, and paranoia on both sides needed tamping down from time to time.  People were predisposed to believe the worst about each other, and any little incident could set them off.  KGB harassment increased, particularly in Moscow, and many incidents that were just acts of common criminals often acquired a conspiratorial air.  One such incident occurred to me in the spring of 1987, when I walked outside my apartment and the guard sheepishly pointed to my car -- it had been vandalized during the night.  There was some sentiment for filing a protest, but I decided to take a little more low-key approach and talked to my friends in the LDA about the matter.  Yevgeniy and Viktor were not happy to hear about the incident, and vowed to check it out.  They came back a few days later and quietly assured me that it was just criminal behavior, and not harassment, and that the local police had opened an investigation.  A month later they accompanied me down to the local police station to get the final report, a thick dossier complete with pictures of my car, witness statements and confessions.  It turned out that two local Leningraders had gotten drunk and decided to have a good time taking an ax-handle to several cars parked nearby, and mine was one of several that were vandalized.  I told Yevgeniy and Viktor that I was satisfied and that I considered the matter closed.  Yevgeniy said that I might be compensated for damages eventually, but it would take some time to get money out of the two drunks.  I told him to forget about it.  I had already gone to Lappeenranta, Finland and gotten the necessary repairs done.  This was just a minor example, but illustrative of the general relationship we had at the time with the LDA.  Despite the cool climate in overall relations, we were still able to work quite well together.  It's a lesson I never forgot.

The Consulate had one Pol-Econ officer, Dan Grossman, whose main job was to do most of the Consulate's political and economic reporting, and to follow closely the human rights and refusenik scene in Leningrad.  Dan had been in the job for several months before I arrived, and he had proven to be a very good reporting officer who could be trusted to do his job with little supervision.  Dan was intelligent, spoke Russian well, and had developed deep contacts with the refusenik community, who viewed him sympathetically due to the fact that he was also Jewish.  I liked Dan from the start and was grateful to have someone of his talents working for me, but as time went on, I began to get the feeling that my sentiments were not reciprocated.  Dan was often sullen, and not particularly communicative.  Clearly, there was something wrong in our relationship.

One day, we had it out in the secure conference room, a soundproof bubble built out of Plexiglas blocks.  It turned out that Dan was in fact extremely unhappy with me because of what he perceived as my too-close association with Soviet diplomats.  In his view, they were the enemy, and we should have as little to do with them as possible.  My predecessor, Nick Burakow, saw this, and I should too.  I told him that my job and his were different, and that we had to have different approaches.  I had to get friendly with the Soviet authorities, because we depended on them, as our hosts, to ensure that the Consulate's administrative and other needs were taken care of, or at least not actively impeded.  I had to manage the Mission and keep it going, and a confrontational approach would get us nowhere.  Dan disagreed.  Although we never talked about it again, I got the distinct impression that he disapproved of me, and of our boss, Charlie Magee.  Truth be told, Dan probably put both of us down as time-servers more interested in a comfortable life than in helping the refusenik community, opposing the Soviets, or doing real political reporting. 

As our human rights officer, Dan had quite an adversarial relationship with the Soviet authorities, so it was no surprise when, in the wake of our October 1986 expulsions of numerous Soviet diplomats in the United States, he was on the list of those to be expelled in retaliation. He was packed out, along with the rest of our expellees, and left Leningrad on just a few days' notice.  It was the beginning of a real freeze the US-Soviet relationship that lasted until well into the following year. 

I only saw Dan one more time after our year together in Leningrad.  It was when I was just back from Kabul, having been evacuated with the rest of our Mission in a blaze of publicity.  Dan was working on the Soviet Desk then, and I believe he still had the human rights portfolio.  I stopped by to chat with him and he was civil enough, but it was clear that he still resented me.  This resentment was now mixed with jealousy, for while I wasn't exactly God's gift to the Foreign Service, my exploits in Afghanistan had enhanced my corridor reputation considerably.  It was not politic to criticize me at that point, particularly as Sandy Vershbow and John Evans were maneuvering to break my NEA assignment and get me transferred to Moscow.  A few months later, I heard that Dan had resigned from the Service, no doubt out of dissatisfaction that his own career was not advancing as fast as others who were less deserving.  He made out all right in the end, however.  He went to business school at Stanford, where he met and married his wife Linda.  They had two kids, and Dan founded the Wild Planet toy company in San Francisco, which, by all reports, has been very successful. 

Arkhangelsk Trip.
As DPO, I usually didn't travel much, but every now and again, a trip would come along that I just couldn't pass up.  In early February, 1986, Dan Grossman told me that he was going to Arkhangelsk to do some human rights business and meet with various refuseniks, and he needed a traveling partner.  Would I come along?  I considered his proposal, and quickly decided to accept.  Arkhangelsk is a bit off the beaten track, even for a Soviet specialist, but it did have an American connection that intrigued me.  From September 1918 to July 1919 over 5,000 American troops from the 85th Division had fought the Bolsheviks in and around Arkhangelsk in an attempt to safeguard stockpiles of supplies sent to the Czarist war effort, and to link up with the Czech Legion, which was busy fighting its way eastward through Siberia.  I was curious about what Arkhangelsk actually looked like, and wanted to see whether there were any traces of the American occupation that survived.

The flight to Arkhangelsk was bumpy all the way, as our Tu-134 fought its way through a snowstorm.  We landed at the airport and were met by our protocol minders, who escorted us to our dilapidated quarters in the local Intourist Hotel.  In those days, Arkhangelsk was a bleak city.  It was a typical Soviet concrete block high rise affair, with wide deserted streets, and very little to buy anywhere.  The temperature hovered around minus 25 degrees Centigrade the whole time we were there.  It was too cold to snow, but there was already plenty on the ground.  I saw no traces of the American occupation, although there was a monument to “Victims of the Intervention” on the embankment. 

The next morning we met with the Mayor, or the Chairman of the City Executive Committee, as he was officially titled.  As usual, meetings with party officials were out.  We were ushered into his office, and invited to partake of a banquet table groaning with hundreds of zakuskis no doubt set up to impress us.  We ate a little and made polite conversation (although Dan took the opportunity to put the Mayor on the spot with various human rights questions), and then bid farewell after the obligatory 30 minutes.  Dan went off to meet his contacts, while I inspected the one bookstore that we could find in the city, and then walked the deserted streets of downtown.  That evening, we went to the provincial ballet, which was very third-rate.  Even the locals seemed to realize how bad the ballet company was, and booed and whistled from time to time.  I felt sorry for the prima ballerina, who, 20 years and 20 pounds ago had apparently danced at the Kirov.  Now she was stuck in a provincial backwater, depending on a ballet company that was terrible, and a dancing partner who wasn't strong enough to lift her properly.  It was a fitting end to our visit.  The next day, we boarded our plane back to Leningrad, and I was relieved to get back to my comfortable apartment and normal life.  I never went to Arkhangelsk again.

JFK, Jr.  
Dan had apparently been friends in college with none other than John F. Kennedy, Jr., who came out to Leningrad in 1986 for a quick visit.  Dan invited us all over to his place for snacks and to meet his famous friend.  I had always been a fan of the Kennedys, unlike my parents, who were dyed-in-the-wool Republicans and were scandalized when I put up a Kennedy for President poster on my bedroom mirror.  I was also touched deeply during the Kennedy funeral, when John-John, then only four, had timidly stepped forward to salute his father's casket.  So I should have been looking forward to meeting the younger Kennedy, but in truth, I wasn't.  I preferred the myths of the past to the present-day reality.  A bunch of us spent the evening talking about Leningrad politics and other subjects, and John impressed me as someone who was polite and personable.  But it was clear that he didn't have the mental candlepower of his father, and that he would never be able to get out of his shadow.  He left Leningrad the next day.  It was the only time I ever met him.

Lyndon K. “Mort” Allin was the BPAO in Leningrad during my two years at the Consulate.  Built like a fireplug, Mort was a very gregarious fellow, the perfect person to be a Public Affairs officer.  He had a wide circle of contacts in the cultural and dissident community, and he and Mary Ann frequently entertained at their apartment on Ulitsa Gogolya.  Along with his able colleague, Ian Kelly, he conducted significant outreach activities that were even more remarkable in view of the hostile attitude adopted by local party and governmental authorities.

Mort had served as Deputy White House Press Spokesman under Reagan, and before that had worked for Pat Buchanan under Nixon.  According to Buchanan, Mort basically invented the
Presidential News Summary, which he prepared every day for Nixon. Mort was a real Reaganaut, and jovially supported his President against the “evil empire,” but in such a way that his Soviet contacts didn't really seem to hold it against him.  I remember one July 4, we all gathered out at the Consulate Dacha (formerly Finnish general Mannerheim's dacha), which was about 25 kilometers out of town on the road to Vyborg.  Mort showed up for the festivities dressed as the Statue of Liberty, much to the amusement of the rest of us.  On another occasion, a costume party at the Marine House, he showed up dressed as a cowboy, six guns and all.  He was a fun guy to know, and always good for a laugh.  After Leningrad, Mort resigned from the service and went into private business.  He passed away from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in 2000.  He was relatively young, only 59 years old.  Mort is long and fondly remembered by the Leningraders he knew.  Unlike many of us, he left a lasting, and positive impression.

Mort had two children, Lyndon and an older daughter Stephanie.  Lyndon, who was about ten years old at the time, went to a local Russian grade school, and acquired his own set of little Russian friends, as well as some very questionable textbooks still loaded down with Soviet propaganda.  Lyndon was by far the best Russian linguist in our group.  He was practically a native speaker.  In later years, he continued with Russian affairs, working in Moscow for Akin Gump Strauss, and starting his own blog “Scraps from Moscow.”  After two years in London at Skadden Arps, he returned to Washington, DC working as an attorney for Akin Gump.  Today, he is working in Chisinau, Moldova, and we are in regular contact on Facebook. 

The Capital of Finland is Stockmann.
Leningrad in the mid-1980's was still a pretty bleak place as far as creature comforts were concerned, with few restaurants and hotels coming anywhere near Western standards.  As a result, American diplomats still looked to Finland as a place of refuge, where they could take a weekend to relax and experience the pleasures of life in the West.  Every week, the Consulate would send one American family to Helsinki on the courier run, which meant that most Americans would get a morale-boosting trip out of the country two or three times a year, in addition to their normal R&R.  I took fewer courier runs than most, but I did get up to Helsinki two or three times during my tenure in Leningrad, taking the train to Helsinki, and then staying at the Intercontinental.  I can't say that I ever did anything that could be construed as exciting.  I would usually just relax in the hotel room and order room service, although every now and again I would go out on the town, as I had during my first Moscow tour.  I particularly liked to order Irish coffee at the Baltika Bar in the hotel.  It was the only time I ever drank Irish whiskey and enjoyed it.  I had a few friends at Embassy Helsinki, including my successor in Moscow, David Wagner, and so I would visit them too, and we would go out to dinner.  All in all, it was a very relaxing time.

Most people, myself included, always put the Stockmann department store on their list of places to go.  There were still no stores worthy of the name in Leningrad, and so shopping was done either by telex, or in person, with the ever-helpful personnel of Stockmann.  Sometimes, even the vaguest requests would meet with instant satisfaction.  For example, I once telexed Stockmann asking them for a small traveling alarm clock, without further specifying.  The next week, a red triangular Casio alarm clock showed up in the Stockmann shipment.  I have used it ever since, replacing the batteries about every five years, and I always pack it in my luggage when I'm going on a trip.  The people at Stockmann believed in service, particularly for those of us working in the Soviet Union.  Stockmann also had an excellent Russian-language bookstore, where you could buy rare items that were not available in the Soviet Union.  I got several books there, including Dahl's “Толковый Словарь” and the complete works of Pushkin.  In later years, Stockmann expanded to St. Petersburg and Moscow, and now the aura of the Helsinki store, which little kids at Embassy Moscow often called “the capital of Finland” by mistake, has faded.  But back then, Stockmann was something special.

Lappeenranta.
Finland was also the place I would take my 1979 Chevy every six months or so to get it overhauled.  Unlike today, there were no Western car dealerships in the Soviet Union, and getting even a basic tune up in Leningrad was a chancy business.  Fortunately, just across the border in Lappeenranta there was a GM dealership, and they were only too happy to take my money and put my car into tip-top shape, while I relaxed at the Hotel Lappeenranta and watched the denizens of this very small arctic town go about their business.  Getting to Lappeenranta was a bit of an adventure.  One had to drive for about four hours up the isthmus along a pitted and badly-marked road, where the only buildings one saw were the periodic GAI stations monitoring traffic.  About 25 kilometers south of the Finnish border, I would have to stop at the Soviet border post.  The car would be inspected inside and out, and my passport would be examined minutely by the border guards.  It reminded me of the scene in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” where Jim Prideaux was driving across the Czech border, and had to wait forever.  The only difference was that usually my car was the only one at the border station.  Eventually, I would be let loose, and allowed to drive across the 25-kilometer border strip to Finland.  This border zone was undeveloped, a wildlife paradise.  It was also the only place where I found the roads in the Soviet Union to be up to Western standards.  Crossing over to the Finnish side was considerably easier, a matter of a few minutes, and one knew by the friendly attitudes of the border guards that one had once again arrived in the West.

Driving in Finland had its unique aspects.  In Leningrad, there were few cars, and the drivers were often less than proficient.  Another unique conceit of the Soviet authorities was that cities were by definition well-lit, and so one was not permitted to turn on one's headlights at night, only the parking lights.  Needless to say, this caused more than a few accidents.  On the Finnish side of the border, entirely opposite conditions applied.  There were cars everywhere, and everyone had their headlights on, even in the daytime -- a sensible precaution in a country straddling the Arctic Circle, where it was often dark during normal working hours.  I found the change refreshing. 

Lappeenranta was a very small town, but all the same it had more restaurants and nightlife than Leningrad did, a city with a population about the size of the entire country of Finland.  Because of this, I found my semi-annual jaunts to Lappeenranta to be a real morale-booster, although, looking back on it now, I realize that Lappeenranta, and even Helsinki were quite gray and bleak when compared to similar cities in Western Europe and the United States.  It was just that in comparison with Leningrad, they were infinitely brighter and happier places.

End of Part One.