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How to Break Even (or Almost) in the Soviet Union

To enjoy a thing requires that it be approached in the proper mood. A woman who has been promised a luxury suite at Miami Beach won't cheer at the thought of roughing it in the north woods, especially if her husband pulls this switch after the vacation has started.

But, with proper pre - conditioning, it is possible to enjoy anything - some people are addicted to parachute jumping. To experience the Soviet Union without first getting in the mood for it is too much like parachute jumping when the chute fails to open. The proper mood for the Soviet Union is that of the man who hit himself on the head with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped.

This article assumes that you have already, for good and sufficient reasons, decided to visit the USSR, one good and sufficient reason being a wish to see for yourself this Communist paradise that Khrushchev has promised our grandchildren. But to set out for Russia in the holiday spirit in which you head for the Riviera, Las Vegas, or Rio is like going to a funeral for the ride.

You can avoid the worst shocks to your nervous system by knowing in advance that you are not going to get what you have paid for; then you can soothe the residual nerve jangling with your favorite pacifier. I used small quantities of vodka - "small" by Russian standards, as Russians also use it to insulate themselves from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune but they dose to unconsciousness. Drunks, passed out in public places, are more truly symbolic of the USSR than is the Hammer & Sickle.

My wife found methyl meprobamate (Equanil, Miltown) more useful. For you it might be yoga, or silent prayer, but, whatever it is, don't neglect it. Travel in the Soviet Union is not like travel anywhere else in the world. My wife and I have visited more than sixty countries on six continents, by freight ship, helicopter, dog sled, safari, jet plane, mule back, canal boat, etc.; as "seasoned travelers" these are our credentials. To visit the USSR we prepared by extensive reading and my wife learned the Russian language. Nevertheless, again and again we ran into surprises, difficulties, and maddening frustrations.

You can travel all through the Soviet Union without knowing a word of Russian - which will suit Khrushchev just fine because you will thereby be a prisoner of "Intourist," the state - owned travel bureau, seeing only what they want you to see, hearing only what they want you to hear.

But the Russian language is difficult; it took my wife two years of hard work to master it. The alphabet is weirdly strange, the pronunciation is hard for us, and the language is heavily inflected - a proper noun, such as "Smith" or "Khrushchev," has eighteen different forms.

Obviously most tourists can't take two years off to master Russian. What then? Depend entirely on Intourist guides?

No, no, no! Better to save your money and stay home. With no Russian at all you'll be as helpless as a bed patient. Instead you should prepare by learning a smattering of Russian. Forget about grammar; grammatical Russian is found only in formal literary compositions. Khrushchev has never learned to speak

Russian well and Mikoyan speaks it with an accent thick enough to slice - so why should you worry?

First learn the alphabet, capitals and lower case, printed and written. This alone is half the battle. You can now find the men's room (or the ladies' room). The men's room is marked with "M" (for "muzhcheen," but think of "M" for "men") and the ladies' room is marked with a letter which looks like two capital K's, back to back: You are now past the greatest crisis confronting a traveler: finding the plumbing.

You now know many of the most useful Russian words just from knowing the alphabet. Hungry? Watch for a sign reading: "PECTOPAH." Sound it in your head as "restauran" - and it is! - the same word as in English save that the final "t" has been dropped.

There are hundreds of words which turn out to be the same as the English, or near enough. If you know French or German, your immediate vocabulary is further enriched, as, despite their boasts, Russian culture is very backward and most of their vocabulary for anything more complex than weeding a turnip patch has been borrowed from French, English, or German by converting the foreign word phonetically.

But don't stop with the alphabet; get a set of phonograph records for teaching Russian. Play them while following the lessons in the book - and play them without the book while bathing, shaving, cooking, gardening, etc. A few hours of this will pay off to the point where you will no longer be dependent on an Intourist guide; it will triple what you get out of a trip behind the Iron Curtain. For a few dollars in records and a little work you change it from a losing game into one in which your investment will be well repaid in education if not in pleasure.

But to get fun out of it, too, you must understand the Intourist game, play it, and win. Winning consists in outwitting the system so that you get more than they intend you to get; it does not mean fair value in the fashion (for example) that a traveler invariably gets his money's worth in any Scandinavian country. It is not possible to get fair value in the USSR; the game is rigged against the American tourist. But there are ways to minimize the expense and maximize the return while having quite a lot of fun.

All travel in the USSR is controlled at every point by Intourist; you must buy from it all travel, all automobile and guide service, all hotel rooms, all meals - or if you buy a meal not from Intourist you simply waste a meal already paid for.

You buy from Intourist at four rubles to the dollar - and you are licked from scratch as the value of the ruble is closer to forty to the dollar (which is the rate the Soviet government gives to favored visitors such as Asians they are trying to woo into the Communist camp).

You can cut costs by ordering cheap accommodations. Three grades are offered: Luxe, Tourist A, and Tourist B. A single man might risk Tourist B if he did not mind public toilets and baths of uncertain cleanliness, plus sharing sleeping space, dormitory style; a couple might risk Tourist A, which is supposed to be (but is not) equal to first - class travel elsewhere. But I cannot honestly urge anything short of "Luxe" class because even the best in Russia is often shockingly bad by our standards - bathrooms without baths, even hotels with no baths, tubs with no hot water, plumbing that is "quaint" or worse, poor cooking, dirty utensils, maddening waits. The lodging for Luxe class is often a huge and fantastically furnished suite, but a first-class double room & bath in any other country is more comfortable.

Luxe class costs $30 per day per person (3 Dec 79 - Kremlin rate $182.40 - World free - market rate $370.29) and includes lodging, meal coupons, and three hours of guide and automobile service per person (thus six hours for a couple) - if you get it. It does not include any train, plane, or bus fares. Add these in, plus round trip air coach fares from New York, and a month in the Soviet Union will cost an American couple at least $4500 (3 Dec 79 - Kremlin rate $27,360.00 - World rate $55,543.50), plus spending money and extras.

You will get at least twice as much for your money in any other part of Europe, but the real problem always is to get what you have paid for and Intourist has contracted to furnish you.

Start by realizing that Intourist is not really a travel service in the sense in which Thos. Cook or American Express is. It is a bureau of the Communist government and its function is to get those Yankee dollars in advance, channel you through a fixed route, then spill you out at the far end almost as ignorant of their country as when you started. P. T. Barnum's famous sign "This Way to the Egress" anticipated the basic Intourist principle: Get the sucker's money first, then get rid of him with the least trouble to the management.

So treat it as a game and don't fret when you lose. Try to get a good night's sleep - the bed may be awful but it will be quiet because there is almost no traffic - and try again the next day.

For example: the guide is not there to guide you, the guide is there to make sure that you see the stadium - so try not to see a stadium anywhere in the Soviet Union. Surely they have stadiums; any people so devoted to "Togetherness" have stadiums - how else could they display ten thousand people all doing physical jerks at once? (A "Spartakiad") But remember that your fixed cost is about $20 just to look at a stadium (with no football game thrown in) and that, in diverting you to the stadium, Intourist has kept you from seeing something of real interest, a factory, a slum area, or a school.

Stadiums haven't changed much since the Romans built the Coliseum; if you have seen Yankee Stadium, Soldiers' Field, or the Rose Bowl - or even the football stands of Podunk High - you've seen enough empty stadiums to last a lifetime. So refuse!

But the guide has orders that you must see the stadium; no other theory will account for the persistence with which all Intourist guides insist that you see the local stadium. If you manage to get in and out of the Soviet Union without visiting a stadium, award yourself the Order of Hero of Soviet Travel, First Class.

(We saw a lot of them - nobody had warned us.)

Each Intourist hotel has a place called the "Service Bureau." "Service" in this usage is an example of Communist semantics comparable to "co - existence," "peace - loving," "democratic," etc. Here most of your battles with Intourist will take place. Second only to the passed - out drunk, the most typical sight in the Soviet Union is an American tourist seated in a service bureau, his expression getting tighter as the weary, expensive minutes trickle away.

Intourist rarely uses the blunt refusal on this unhappy creature; instead the standard tactics are please - sit - down - and - wait - for - just - a - moment (which usually turns out to be at least an hour), I'm - sorry - but the - Director - is - out (and won't return as long as you keep hanging around), come - back - later (when the desk will be closed), and go - to - that - desk - at - the - far end - of - the - room (where, after more delay and much consultation, you will be sent back to the desk from which you started).

When facing this, to get part of what you have paid for (and anything over 70% is a triumph, with 50% par for the course) you must stick to pre - planned defensive tactics and never, never, never lose your temper, or you will wind up a fit candidate for wet packs and sedation.

Their first weapon is politeness. You must resist this soporific politeness or you will not get anything.

First - Stage Defense: Be just as polite as they are - but utterly stubborn. Above all, don't sit down when invited to. If you do, this retires you from the game for an indefinite penalty period. Hold your ground, standing firmly against the desk and taking up as much space as possible - lean on it with hands spread wide to double your combat frontage. Say firmly and politely:

"No, thank you, I'll wait right here" - then monopolize that desk and clerk, making it impossible for business to be transacted until Intourist has honored your contract on the point you have raised.

Keep talking. It does not matter what you say nor whether the clerk understands English - keep talking! Your purpose is to take that unit of Intourist out of the game until your request has been met, not with promises but with immediate action - whereas their purpose is to get you out of the game by persuading you to sit down away from the desk.

So hold your ground and be softly, politely stubborn. Usually someone with authority will arrive in a few minutes and satisfy your request.

Defense in Depth: Be prepared to simulate anger at any instant. It is much better to pretend to lose your temper before things have grown so unbearable that you actually do blow your top; it saves wear and tear on your ulcers and enables you to conduct your tactics more efficiently.

(And I must say a word on behalf of Intourist employees. About three quarters of them are young women, girls really. They are nice people, polite, harassed, overworked, and underpaid. They are prisoners of a system which automatically frustrates the traveler, and they are more imprisoned by it than you are, for you will escape (we hope) on the date set forth on your exit visa. They can't. These poor kids did not invent the silly red tape and mountains of useless paperwork and those in the lower ranks have no authority to vary from it. So don't be too harsh and try not to lose your temper in fact.)

But be prepared to simulate anger whenever the log jam does not break under the pianissimo tactics of the first - stage defense. When you refuse to sit down and wait, the clerk will sometimes turn away and ignore you.

It is then time to throw a fit.

You must (1) hold your blocking position, (2) make lots of noise, and (3) show that you are bitterly and righteously angry and cannot possibly be shut up short of complete satisfaction.

Keep shouting. It helps to cuss a bit and one all - purpose word will do: "Borjemoi!" This is a phonetic approximation of two words meaning "My God!" - which is merely an expression of disgust in this atheistic society. Another good phrase is "Yah Hawchew!" which is the abrupt way of saying "I want it!" (The polite idiom is "Mnyeh Khawchettsuh.")

You can shout, "I want to see the Director!" - or, in Russian, "Yah Khawchew veedyets Direktora!" She may possibly answer, "The Director's office (or desk) is over there," but she is more likely to give you what you want rather than let you complain to the boss.

But if she does, don't move. Hold your ground, keep on being unreasonable, and let the boss come to you. If you let them chivvy you into his office, away from spectators, and you yourself sitting down and being polite, you've lost that round. The Director will be polite, apologetic, and regretful about "shortages" - but firmly unhelpful. The place to win is in public.

For most of us it is not easy to be intentionally rude. I think one should never be impolite unnecessarily - but we can do much to uphold our national dignity and to improve our relations with the Soviet Union by never keeping quiet when we are cheated, by answering the great stubbornness of Russians by being twice as stubborn, and by being intentionally and loudly rude whenever Intourist refuses to keep its contract despite polite protest. Intourist is an integral part of a government with a forty - three year record (now 63 years - R.A.H.) of not honoring its most solemn commitments; one must assume that its blatant cheating is planned from the top and that every employee of

Intourist is schooled in his role, right down to the sweet little girl who insists that you must see the stadium.

You may prefer to think that this horrendous swindle is merely an unintentional by - product of a fantastic, all embracing, and incredibly inefficient bureaucracy bogged down in its own red tape to the point where it can't give service. Either way, a contract with Intourist works exactly like that long list of broken treaties. You start by making a contract with the Soviet government; you are required to pay in advance and in full. Then you attempt to collect what you have paid for - and discover that a Communist contract is worth what it usually is. "Room with bath" turns out to be without, "jet planes" become prop planes, guide and auto service is less than half the time you have paid for, dining rooms are locked at meal hours, and your extremely expensive time is wasted sitting, sitting, sitting in "service" bureaus.

Unless you raise hell about it, right at the time. No use complaining later, you won't get your money back.

If neither polite stubbornness nor noisy rudeness will work, use the insult direct. Shake your finger in the face of the most senior official present, simulate extreme rage, and shout, "Nyeh Kuhl - toornee!" ("Uncultured!") Hit that middle syllable and roll the r's.

Subordinates will turn a sickly green and pretend to be elsewhere. The official will come close to apoplexy - but will probably make an extreme effort to satisfy your demand in order to shut you up. This is the worst insult you can hand a Russian, one that hits him in cracks of his armor. Use it only as a last resort.

I do not think you will be in personal danger as the officials you will meet will probably not be high enough in the hierarchy to punish you for insulting them. But if anything goes wrong and you wind up in Siberia, please understand that you use it at your own risk.

If"nyeh kuhltoornee" does not work, I have nothing more to suggest but a hot bath and a sedative.

But the above campaign usually wins in the first or second stage and rarely fails in the third as it is based on Russian temperament and Communist social organization. Even the most arrogant Soviet citizen suffers from an inferiority complex when faced with free citizens of the western world, especially Americans. The questions they ask most frequently are: How much money do you make? How big is your house? Do you own an automobile? Each one is a dead give - away.

So if you make it clear that Intourist service is contemptible by free - world standards, a Russian may want to take a poke at you but he is much more likely to attempt to restore face by meeting those standards. The rest of the picture has to do with socialist "equality," another example of Communist semantics, because in the egalitarian paradise there is no equality, nowhere anything like the easy - going equality between an American taxi driver and his fare. In the USSR you are either on top or underneath - never even.

An American does not fit. Some Soviet citizens react by subordinating themselves to the tourist; grandmothers sweeping the streets will scurry out of your way, taxi drivers will rush to open doors, porters and waitresses and such are servile in a fashion we are not used to. But an employee of Intourist is in an indeterminate position vis - а - vis a tourist. Dominant? Or subordinate? It must be one or the other. Often there is a quick test of wills, then an immediate assumption of one role or the other depending on how the tourist responds. For example, we were met in Kiev by a guide who gave his name as "Sasha." I asked his surname; he told me quite arrogantly that there was no need for me to know it.

We had been in the USSR several weeks and I had had my fill of arrogance; I told him bluntly that I was not interested in his name, that I had asked out of politeness as practiced in all civilized countries - but that if good manners were not customary in his country, forget it!

An American or other free man might have given me a rough answer or icy silence; he did neither, he groveled. When he left us at the hotel he thanked us effusively for having been so kind as to talk with him. His manner was cringingly servile.

I don't like servility any more than the next American - but if there is going to be any groveling done it won't be by me. Nor, I hope, by you. In dealing with Intourist people you will often run into situations where one of you must knuckle under - and many are much tougher cases than this man. It will be a clash of will and all too often polite stubbornness won't be enough to get them to honor your contract - then you need to model your behavior after the worst temper tantrums you have seen Khrushchev pull on television; this they understand. In the USSR only a boss ever behaves that way; therefore you must be entitled to Red Carpet service. The Intourist functionary knows you are just an American tourist, to be frustrated and cheated, but his conditioned reflex bypasses his brain; a lifetime of conditioning tells him to kowtow to any member of the master class.. . which you must be, even though his brain tells him you are not.

It usually works. In a bully - boy society often nothing but bullying will work.

The "Coupon Game": When you arrive you will be handed a lot of documents in exchange for your tour voucher; one will be a book of meal tickets, four coupons for each day. For Luxe class their values are twelve rubles for a breakfast coupon, twenty for a lunch, three for tea, thirty for dinner. If you and your spouse have contracted to spend a month in the USSR, your meal tickets have cost you one thousand dollars (3 Dec 79 - Kremlin rate $6,080.00 - World free - market $12,343.00) (281/2 oz. of gold). The gouging starts here, because Diamond Jim Brady and his twin could not eat a thousand dollars of Intourist food in a month. Intourist eateries range from passable to very bad. Hotel Berlin in Moscow is perhaps the best but even it would have trouble making the Duncan Hines list. There are three or four good restaurants in the Soviet Union but their prices are very high and they won't accept coupons.

You can minimize your losses in ways that Intourist does not tell you. You can combine coupons as you wish - a "lunch" and a "breakfast" to pay for dinner, for example. The possible combinations in rubles are 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, and all higher numbers - but the hitch is that too many of them take more than one "tea" coupon. So figure out the best way to work each combination and write it on the back of your coupon book; this will help you to decide whether to overpay for food already horribly overpriced, or to pay the difference in cash. Skill in the coupon game can save you many, many dollars.

There is nothing fair in the coupon system but it isn't meant to be; it is the prime fashion in which the Soviet government squeezes more dollars out of American tourists than they want or need to spend.

There are other ways to reduce your losses. You can swap coupons for liquor, candy, canned caviar, cigarettes, and bottled water. Tap water in Moscow and Leningrad is said to be safe but elsewhere it is wise to buy mineral water - get enough bottles at a time to come out even in coupons. Their cigarettes are corrosive but a brand called "Trud" is smokable. Candy is extremely expensive but a welcome change in a tedious diet (I lost twelve pounds); caviar is cheap and is the best buy to use up leftover coupons on your last day. Don't expect to find whiskey nor any imported liquor, but local "kawnyahk" and "chahmpahnskoyeh" are good. The vodka like ours is "vawt - kah stelleechnayuh" - the other sorts are very highly spiced. Their wines are good.

My favorite relief from a hard day with Intourist was a Bloody Mary - "Staw grahmvawt - kee, p'jalst, ee tawmahtnee sawk." This is "nyeh kuhltoornee" as the proper way to drink vodka is with beer (peevaw), or with black bread, sweet butter, and caviar.

In Moscow and Leningrad very few Russian waiters speak English and almost none elsewhere, but you will usually be handed a huge four - language menu on which you can pick out what you want in English and point to it in Russian. But only the few items with prices written in are offered and maybe half of those will be available - when the waiter says "Nyeh - taw" he means it's all gone. Allow at least two hours for dinner; I've never heard of any way to speed up the service. But, once you are served, the waiter may try to rush you out, claiming that the table is reserved ten minutes hence for a delegation or such. He may simply want to sell food to someone else - he gets a commission. Ignore him - you've waited a long time, paid a high price in advance, and are entitled to eat in peace.

Pick a table as far from the orchestra as possible. Some orchestras are good but most are very loud and sound like a fully automated boiler factory.

Tipping is never necessary but waiters, chambermaids, and porters are paid very little. Tips can be coupons or cash.

The dining room is often locked - for a political delegation from Asia or Africa, for a traveling theatrical troupe, or anything. Any service may be chopped off without warning in any Intourist hotel. Complain... but be prepared to fall back on the buffet (pronounced "boof - yet"). There are usually three or four on the upper floors of large hotels, open from seven a.m. to eleven at night and serving omelets, snacks, beer, wine, juice, coffee, tea, cakes, etc. The guides and clerks in Intourist often do not know about them because they have never been upstairs, so watch for the sign (BVDET) or wander the corridors saying inquiringly to maids and floor clerks: "Boof - yet?"

Buffets are cozy, friendly, little places run by cheerful, helpful, dreadfully overworked women. They won't know English and the menu will be in Russian - here a memorandum in English & Russian of your favorite foods is most useful. But even the buffet doesn't serve breakfast before seven and Russian transportation often leaves at such an hour that you must leave the hotel before then. Russian hotels have room service but not at such hours. If you have your own thermos bottle, room service can fetch you hot coffee and a cold breakfast the night before. (They've heard of thermos bottles - the word is the same - but the hotel won't have one.)

Keep iron rations in your room and carry food and drink on long flights and train trips. Both trains and planes often stop for meals but you can't count on it and usually can't find out in advance.

Minor Ways to Improve Your Score: Go for walks without your guide; you will usually be picked up by someone who knows English - but you will never be picked up while a guide is with you. This is your chance to get acquainted and to get answers which are not the official answers. Don't talk politics - but these venturesome souls may ask you political questions and you can learn almost as much by the questions they ask as by raising such issues yourself.

Your guide may not be a hard-shell Communist; he, or she, may open up once he thinks he can trust you. If so, be careful not to mention anything even faintly political when others are in earshot, especially the driver. The driver may be a political chaperone who knows English but pretends not to. More than one guide has told me this and all guides talk more freely when no one can overhear.

In this country children are brought to Moscow and decorated for having informed on their parents. Never forget this.

When you are shown a party headquarters, a palace of culture, a stadium, an auditorium, or such, ask when it was built. We discovered that, in the areas not occupied by Nazis, many of the biggest and fanciest were built right at the time Americans were dying to keep the Murmansk lend - lease route open.

There is new brick construction all over the Soviet Union. We asked repeatedly to be shown a brick yard, were never quite refused, but the request was never granted. We have since heard a rumor that this is prison labor and that is why a tourist can't see something as unsecret as a brick yard. So try it yourself - you may merely prove to yourself that Intourist exists to keep tourists from seeing what they want to see, rather than vice versa.

Offer your passport to casual acquaintances; they will usually offer theirs in return - internal passports. Intourist people have been coached to deny that such a thing exists but everybody in the USSR carries one and the owner must get a visa to go from one Russian city to another. It is a brown book with "HAC11OPT" (passport) on the cover. Try it when your guide is not around.

The USSR is the only country in which we were never able to get into a private home. Other tourists report the same but one couple from Los Angeles almost cracked this; they said to their guide, "Why can't we see the inside of one of those apartment houses? Are you people ashamed of them?" The next day they were shown through a not - yet - occupied one.

This could be varied endlessly, as it works on that Russian basic, their inferiority complex. The key word is "ashamed" - simply asking "Why?" gets you nowhere. I think it could be used to get into farms, schools, courts, factories, anything not a military secret. It tops my list of things I wish I had thought of first.

In meeting anyone, including guides, try to use "democracies" as an antonym for "Communist countries" as soon as possible - drag it in by the heels, i.e., "I think all of us from the democracies earnestly hope for peace with the Communist countries," etc. The much abused word "democratic" means "Communist" in Russia and it always introduces a propaganda pitch. If you deny him his definition by preempting the word, you leave him with his mouth hanging open, unable to proceed.

We got tripped on this several times before we caught on.

The official list of things you must not photograph is short but the unofficial list is long and ranges from old, broken - down buildings to old, broken - down women sweeping the streets. You can photograph such by having them appear "accidentally" in a background but if you are suspected of this, they have a silent counter to it. At some later time you will find that your film has been exposed to light, then respooled. You could keep all your film with you at all times and hope to get it across the border... but such behavior might cause you to be arrested on suspicion of espionage, as one American tourist was this summer. At best, sneaking a picture of one passed - out drunk risks losing all your pictures - too high a price even if you aren't accused of being a spy.

The most - used plane, the Ilyushin - 14, flies very low; you can see a lot and compare it with elsewhere. Are railroads single or double track? How much traffic on the roads? On the rivers? How about factory smokestacks and other signs of industry? How busy are the airfields? Or a dozen other things. I think you will conclude that no Russian claim should be accepted as true until fully verified. A "great industrial center" often turns out to be a jerkwater town.

But don't make written notes about such things! Don't!!!

Will your mail be opened? You must assume so. Will your rooms be bugged? It seems impossible to monitor every room of every Intourist hotel - but if the police get interested in you it takes just three minutes in these days of miniaturization to bug a room. I do know, from several incidents, that Soviet citizens believe that all hotel rooms are bugged.

I wish that a million of us would visit the USSR; the dollars the Kremlin would reap would be more than offset by the profit to us in having so many free men see with their own eyes what Communism is.

But go there with your eyes open - Intourist is as fully an agency of the Kremlin as is Gromyko or Mikoyan. Its functions are (1) to get your money in advance, (2) to deliver as little as possible by downgrading accommodations, by forced overcharges on food, and by clipping you on auto and guide service, (3) to waste your time so that you will see as little as possible, and (4) to see that what little time you have left is spent only on those things the Kremlin does not mind your seeing - "new construction" (from the outside), parks of "rest & culture" (filled with loudspeakers blaring propaganda), ballets, museums, stadiums, and the outsides of public buildings.

The first point you must accept; the game is crooked but it is the only game in town. Points two and three you can struggle against - I hope the tactics suggested in here will help. Point four is the toughest. After trimming you down to about three hours a day of useful time, Intourist can and will use up what is left in "stadium sightseeing" unless you fight it constantly. Even then, Intourist is adept in parrying with: "It's closed today - too bad you're not staying another day," and "That must be arranged in advance through the Ministry of Culture, etc." and "You should have requested that in Moscow."

The essence of Intourist tactics is: "Jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam today." The way to answer it is: "No! I will not look at the stadium, I do not want to see another subway station, I will not visit a museum to see another five hundred pictures of Lenin. I want to see thus - and - so and I want to see it now. Stop the car, get on the phone, and arrange it - or tell the Director that, as far as I am concerned, you're fired! I am keeping the car and the driver and will go on without you - I've got hours more of car service due me today and I won't be cheated out of it."

You will find whether your guide is truly a guide... or a guard placed with you to make sure you see only the facade of this regime. Whether or not you see "thus - and - so" you are sure to learn a surprising amount about how a police state is run... and thereby get your full money's worth in education.

FOREWORD | Expanded Universe | AFTERWORD