A Snapshot of Soviet Life

Our intrepid travelers ventured behind the Iron Curtin, and have returned to report on general aspects of Soviet life.

| November/December 1978

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    A common scene from Soviet life: husky lady gardeners tending the parks in the Kremlin.
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    A church in Pyatigorsk. Despite official "discouragement of superstition," religion is still very much alive in the USSR.
  • Celestial Seasonings' Mo Siegel meets 114-year-old Tandell Jeopua of Abkhazia.

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"How long have you been here?" a young man asked on our last night in Leningrad. (This unusual fellow—without ever having left Russia-spoke perfect idiomatic English, had a sound track of Saturday Night Fever, was reading Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and talked me out of my last issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.)

"Three weeks," I replied.

"Ah, three weeks!" the youthful cynic exclaimed. "Just enough time to understand ... exactly ... nothing!"

He, of course, was right. No one can learn to "understand" Russia—a vastly beautiful, culturally varied nation—in just three weeks. But 21 days is a sufficient period of time in which to gather a bunch of surprising and delightful impressions of Soviet life. Here are a few of mine:

Nature in the Cities

There is an abundance of trees in the cities, and you're never more than a short walk from flower-filled parks lovingly tended by husky women gardeners. Over one-third of Moscow, for example, is devoted to "green space." In Sukhumi—the "garden city" on the Black Sea—each street is lined with a different species of tree, and in the Persian-seeming, Caspian Sea city of Baku—in addition to miles of parks and trees—grapevines leap up from balcony to balcony and building to building, providing shade and fruit for apartment dwellers.

Everywhere, you'll see people carrying bouquets of blossoms bought at the colorful flower stalls in city markets. And often during our tour of Russia, we were presented with gifts of flowers.

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