The event was a press conference at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. The intent of the Russian Ambassador was to announce a joint agreement between two American companies to provide an improved in-flight food service for Aeroflot, the Russian air carrier. How I managed to be invited is far too difficult to either be explained or believed.
I had been greeted at the entrance by Embassy staff personnel. I walked past the small pamphlet section toward the Soviet Army guard at the rear of the entrance hall. Everyone had been most cordial. I was about to ascend the main marble staircase to the second floor where the press conference was about to begin.I paused and looked closely at all the male, Soviet Embassy personnel welcoming the members of the press, plus several officers and functionaries from both the Marriott and Huntsman corporate staffs.
I wondered what it was that made these Soviets so obviously Russians. Their haircuts were not quite as brutal as I had expected. They all had rather stocky physiques, of course, but it had more to do with the cut of their suits than anything else, I believe. I was quite convinced that the Soviet tailoring industry must share the same master cutter as the Turks. Their suits were of a western-style design, but they looked as if they had been cut with a large chopper.
I once tried on several Russian-made suits in a Leningrad department store. All of them shared a common problem-they were cut too high in the rise. This tailoring defect, I was told by the salesman, could not possibly be altered. The pleasant demeanor of these Russian hosts would suggest that they had, no doubt, fpound a good Washington tailor.
I thought it peculiar that I did not observe any women among the staff personnel at the Embassy. I did catch sight on the second floor of a cleaning lady who was obviously Russian. She was in a back hallway wiping down a counter of sorts. She was of stocky construction and uncertain age. She wore a heavy wool sweater on top and a terrible grey skirt that made her look as if she had been imbedded sometime earlier in the day in a block of concrete.
Two solid calves in black wool hose emerged from the base of all this to lend support to the superstructure. In an attempt to redress her rather wan pallor she had gone to work on herself with a dark red lipstick and some eyeshadow of an unfortunate shade of emerald green.
To the left of the uniformed Russian guard was a circular, white, marble staircase. As it curved skyward I looked up and saw a massive gold-leaf framed portrait of Vladimir Ilich Lenin. There he was, the man who changed the lives for hundreds of millions of people in this century.
It was Lenin who entered Russia in the spring of 1917 in the most exciting way possible. With the full cooperation of the German government he had crossed their country in a sealed train. When he arrived at the Finland station in St. Petersburg, he was greeted by a cheering revolutionary mob that promptly renamed the city after him. The Germans had demonstrated this unusual blend of cooperation and diplomacy in the hope that Lenin's return to Russian soil would only increase the country's instability and thereby make the nation an easy target for Prussian conquest in the ensuing world war. The Germans were as wrong about this as they were about the outcome of the war.
They misjudged Lenin's amazing capacity not only as a political theorist, but also as a brilliant administrator. He was able to hold the revolution and the revolutionaries together long enough for a long, dark night to descend upon Mother Russia.