Images of Michael Jackson dancing to rock music in a Pepsi commercial flicker across the Soviet television screen, and Levi's jeans hug the hips of young Russians in a crowded subway car.
Amerika, as the Soviets call it, has arrived."Far behind the Iron Curtain, we were able to develop a pro-Western mentality, and what, tell me, could be more Western than America?" emigre author Vasily Aksyonov wrote as he reflected on his youth in the Soviet Union of the 1950s.
Even the Cyrillic alphabet hasn't prevented what the Russians call Amerikanizatsia. "Jeansi," "stop," "break dance," "OK" and one of the latest signs of the times - "stress" - are now part of the Russian lexicon.
Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev has encouraged his people to learn more about America. To demonstrate his sincerity, he has allowed more travel to the United States, ended the jamming of Voice of America broadcasts and removed barriers to joint business deals.
In April, a record 1,200 Soviets, most of them Jews, were allowed to visit relatives in the United States. An additional 1,000 Soviets traveled there on official business. Before Gorbachev, only a handful of Soviets visited the United States monthly.
The 1985 Geneva summit gave an official stamp of approval to cultural agreements and "people-to-people" exchanges. Under the agreements, Soviet and American lawyers, doctors, students, musicians, scientists and teachers have visited each other.
In some instances, the exchanges reflect a Soviet desire for American help in tackling social problems such as alcoholism and drug addiction, problems the government previously denied existed.
At the grass-roots level, Soviets need little encouragement to talk about things American.
When introduced to an American, many Soviets immediately start with the questions, on everything from war and peace to the availability of hamburgers.
A taxi driver's reaction when a passenger introduced himself as an American was to run down the American authors she loved - Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury. Collections of these authors in translation occupy prominent places on the bookshelves in some Soviet apartments. More contemporary American authors are lesser known because their works still aren't available in the Soviet Union.
Levi's jeans are required attire in certain circles. And some of those who manage to get an American candy bar, soft drink or pack of cigarettes proudly display the empty packaging in their living rooms.
Many Soviets are turning to videotapes for a glimpse of America. Tapes of movies such as "Police Academy" and "Rambo," dubbed in Russian, are passed among friends in a thriving black market where blank cassettes cost at least 50 rubles ($80), or one quarter of an average monthly salary.
The black market also feeds on young Soviets' thirst for American rock music. Records of Madonna and Michael Jackson fetch exorbitant sums. Jackson's music videos have appeared on Soviet television, and his Pepsi commercials hit the airwaves in mid-May during broadcast of a five-part series on the United States.
Officially sponsored concerts by American musicians such as Billy Joel, Dave Brubeck and the Doobie Brothers have become major happenings.
At the same time, some Soviet rock stars are traveling to the United States. Boris Grebenshchikov, the hippy-like leader of the Leningrad rock band Aquarium, is scheduled to record an album in the United States this summer.
The end of Soviet jamming of Voice of America broadcasts in May 1987 opened a new source of information about life in the United States.
Satellite television discussions with American studio audiences also have given Soviets a chance to learn firsthand about life in the United States.