Books by Walter L. Hixson

Released: May 26, 1993

An unusual, engaging, and perceptive look at life in the Soviet Union in its final year of existence, by Hixson (History/University of Akron; George Kennan, 1989—not reviewed). Hixson spent ten months lecturing in Kazan, some 460 miles east of Moscow, an area previously closed to foreigners. Here, he gives a different perspective, from the bottom up, of what his life was like there. He lived in his own apartment, bought what food could be found at the local store, waited in long lines, and— though helped greatly by the enormous generosity and deference offered to Americans—lived the life of an ordinary person. Hixson writes of the people's ``love affair'' with the West, particularly with the US. Even scholars at the Academy of Sciences believed that ``the United States was a model society whose conduct in the cold war could hardly be faulted. The U.S.S.R. alone was guilty.'' A typical contrast Hixson draws is between the hundreds waiting outside the McDonald's in Moscow and the five people sitting in a thousand-seat auditorium watching a scratchy old film of Lenin's life. In the course of his travels, the author encountered the incredible generosity of ordinary Russians; their embitterment about the collapse of their own society; the religious revival sweeping the country; the collapse of higher education; and the ``beaten-down mentality'' of many. He went to village weddings; talked to prostitutes; dated local women—and describes it all with pleasant humor: Visiting Lenin's mausoleum, he says that ``the story that one of Lenin's ears once fell off while a tour group filed through the mausoleum is no doubt apocryphal, but Vladimir Ilyich was not looking too well.'' Hixson concludes that, in certain fundamental respects, ``the West had indeed conquered the East.'' A thoughtful and sensitive description that provides a prespective so often lacking from more conventional accounts. Read full book review >