The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Year I was Peter the Great, 1956–Khrushchev, Stalin’s Ghost, and A Young American in Russia” by Marvin Kalb, published in 2017.
Born in 1930 in the Bronx, the nerdy author tutored Puerto Rican students for free at his high school, and in exchange, they became his bodyguards against the Irish kids who tried to bully him. The author attended City College and covered sports for its college newspaper. In the early 1950’s, a sting operation caught 32 basketball players from seven colleges across the country in a point-shaving (sports-betting) scandal.
Passionate about all things Soviet, after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, the author was afforded the opportunity to do post-graduate, independent study in Moscow in 1956. He also became a translator of news articles for the American embassy there.
In February 1956, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, through delivering a famous speech, signaled that the political times were changing in the Soviet Union. The indoctrination of people born under the rule of his predecessor Josef Stalin, could be described thusly: “For much of their lives, they had been moored to rigid Communist dogma, trained to worship Stalin’s genius, dedicated to the Soviet system.”
At the time, the author was hopeful that Khrushchev’s speech was going to be ground-breaking, and reported to the American embassy, his personal observations of students’ rebellious behavior in Lenin Library and Historical Library. Unfortunately, it took about thirty-five (!) more years of the inhumane political system of pure Communism to collapse in a large portion of the world.
Read the book to learn much more about the author’s experiences during, and reminiscences of, a very exciting year in his life.