According to Wikipedia, Russia is a transcontinental country stretching over two continents, Europe and Asia. It spans the northernmost edge of Eurasia, has the world’s fourth-longest coastline at 23,396 miles and is the largest country in the world. The smallest bordering nation is Norway with 121 miles of border; Kazakhstan is the longest at 4,668 miles. Those are impressive numbers.
As I stated in my previous commentary, Russia presents a formidable foe or friend for the United States, depending on how one views the two countries’ relationship. I thought things were better after the Cold War; however, any compromises or agreements seem to have disappeared with the problems associated with the country of Ukraine.
I have only visited two Russian cities, St. Petersburg and the capital city, Moscow. The visit to St. Petersburg was for pleasure and the visits to Moscow were a combination of business and pleasure.
St. Petersburg is a beautiful city. My visit there was the only time there was no snow on the ground during my visits to Russia. There was always snow on my visits to Moscow.
The former capital of Russia, St. Petersburg emitted a much different feel than Moscow. It felt more liberated than Moscow, yet they both suffered under the same regressive regime.
St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703. It was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years until the capital was transferred to Moscow after the Russian Revolution in 1917. It is second only to Moscow in population with about 5.3 million residents.
The Russians were a lot more friendly in St. Petersburg than in Moscow, where they seemed mad at the world.
From a business standpoint, the Russians were tough negotiators. But once the deals were set and the contracts signed, out would come the vodka bottles and the partying began.
Russians were like everyone else when enjoying personal time. One thing I remember from my time in the United Kingdom, all the Russians I met had drop-dead gorgeous wives who spoke perfect English. Not the British version of English, but the American version — and there is a difference. I suspected they were associated with the KGB, the Russian intelligence service.
Connie, my wife, and I were invited to a reception/dance at the Russian Embassy. On the date of the reception, Connie was obligated to visit the continent with American friends, so I attended the reception without her. It was a black-tie affair with all the trimmings.
My Russian host was one of those men who had a drop-dead gorgeous wife who spoke perfect American English. The evening started with the Scottish Drum and Bugle Corps marching on to the dance floor playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” I think I was the only person there who recognized the implications of the song.
I was seated at a table with two Russian couples and two unescorted Russian men. After we had been there a short time, and with the dance orchestra starting to play, Alina, the wife of my host, grabbed my hand and started pulling me toward the dance floor.
I have never liked to dance; consequently, I am a terrible dancer. I objected vociferously to no avail. I was trapped. In order to make a good situation out of a bad situation, I tried to dance as best I could. The next problem I had was how to make conversation with Mila, my host’s wife.
I asked her a simple question in order to not appear completely stupid. After I asked the question, she started crying with great verbalized emotion.
So here I was, in the middle of the Russian Embassy, with a very distraught Russian woman, who I figured was probably KGB, and I thought, “I am going to be shot by one of the many Russian military officers in attendance.”
While being very careful and considerate, I returned Mila to our table and immediately started apologizing to Andrei for whatever occurred. I told him I just asked her how long her posting in London was, and she broke down and cried.
Andrei said that was it. Mila had been in London for two years, had enjoyed the liberties it and democracy provided, and did not want to leave London and return to Moscow.
This is one of many examples of why I don’t want socialism.
John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions reflected are his own.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: More perspectives on Russia by John Floyd