Thursday, July 7, 2016

Poets, Rats, and Public Diplomacy in our all-Security 21st Century World

Below Facebook entry amended

Administration officials have begun a series of briefings.
John Brown As a Cultural Affairs Officer in US Embassy Moscow (1998-2001), I often had the privilege to deal with distinguished Russian intellectuals/artists angered about getting the third degree" from Russian guards at the Embassy's entrance even if they had made an appointment to see an embassy "nekul'turniy attashe" [uncultured attache, not their term; I'm sure you get the irony].

I especially remember my encounter with the important, socially gentle, poet Andrei Voznesensky, who certainly did not intend to share profound thoughts about literature with a minor diplomat, but to get a visa to get to the U.S.

Voznesensky, a sensitive but not naive soul, was politely irritated when he finally made it to my office (where the occasional rats -- yes, the friendly rodents, bound by no national allegiances -- were allowed to enter without security/pesticide checks, despite my few square feet being a space supposedly showing the USA "at its best.") 

I "calmed" the distinguished poet "down" with cups of tea -- and by quoting, in my bad Russian, his verses from memory.

Of course, thanks to America's infinite generosity, Voznesensky eventually got his visa -- Another triumph for USA public diplomacy!

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A question: Who hires Russian guards -- outside and inside the USA Moscow Embassy?

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