Tourists in Muscovy:
How True Is the New Image of Russia?
IN THE last five years, Moscow and Leningrad have become favored tourist spots for all sorts of Americans-the curious, well-heeled, or confused; students, businessmen, journalists, balletomanes; innocents and not-so-innocents abroad. They leave Russia with color slides and indigestion, memories of the Bolshoi and female street cleaners, descriptions of shashlik and skyscrapers, accounts of Lenin’s tomb and Soviet plumbing. Some bring home peace plans, and some write books.
Russian travelogues are a time-honored literary form, at least four hundred years old. The latest visitors, jetborne and rolleiflexing, join a heterogeneous group that ranges from envoys of the Holy Roman Empire and the English crown-like Sigmund von Herberstein and Richard Chancellor in the days of Vasili III and Ivan the Terrible-to the condescending Marquis de Custine and the compassionate elder George Kennan in the 19th century. Rarely have foreigners assumed so vital a function as to speak freely for a people that had no audible voice abroad. And rarely has so much misinformation about a country been spread by misguided travelers.
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