A question


YAROSLAVL, Russia — The mayor of Burlington, Vt., wrote to a Soviet counterpart in a provincial city that he wanted the United States and the Soviet Union to “live together as friends.”

Unbeknown to him, his desire for friendship meshed with the efforts of Soviet officials in Moscow to “reveal American imperialism as the main source of the danger of war.”

That mayor was Bernie Sanders, and the story of his 1988 trip to the Soviet Union has been told before. But many of the details of Mr. Sanders’s Cold War diplomacy before and after that visit — and the Soviet effort to exploit Mr. Sanders’s antiwar agenda for their own propaganda purposes — have largely remained out of sight.

The New York Times examined 89 pages of letters, telegrams and internal Soviet government documents revealing in far greater detail the extent of Mr. Sanders’s personal effort to establish ties between his city and a country many Americans then still considered an enemy despite the reforms being initiated at the time under Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet general secretary.

They also show how the Kremlin viewed these sister city relationships as vehicles to sway American public opinion about the Soviet Union.

“One of the most useful channels, in practice, for actively carrying out information-propaganda efforts has proved to be sister-city contact,” a Soviet Foreign Ministry document provided to Yaroslavl officials said…

The Times requested the file from the archive on Thursday of last week. Archive employees said the documents had to first be checked for personal information, and they made the file available on Tuesday. 6 pages were hidden from view because, the archivists said, they contained personal information…

In December 1987, the records show, Mr. Sanders spoke by phone with Yuri Menshikov, the secretary of the Soviet sister-city organization in Moscow. In a follow-up letter later that month, Mr. Sanders said he had received word that Yaroslavl would be an ideal partner. He proposed leading a Burlington delegation to Yaroslavl to lay the foundation for a sister-city relationship.

He suggested arriving on May 9 — the day that the Soviet Union celebrated its victory over Nazi Germany — and said he was especially interested in discussing economic development, the police, winter street cleaning, libraries, and plumbing and sewer systems.

“We are living through an amazing time, and I believe I am lucky to play a role in such a time,” Mr. Sanders wrote, according to a Russian version of his letter…

“It is my strong belief that if our planet is going to survive, and if we are going to be able to convert the hundreds of billions of dollars that both the United States and the Soviet Union are now wasting on weapons of destruction into areas of productive human development, there is going to have to be a significant increase in citizen-to-citizen contact,” Mr. Sanders wrote.

Very interesting reading, and this is a small part of the NYT piece. Our question is this: did you know that May 9 was the date that the USSR celebrated defeating the Nazis, and if so, when did you learn it?

One Response to “A question”

  1. feeblemind Says:

    Known about the Soviet date for VE day since jr high. I was really interested in WWII, particularly the war between the Russians and Germans.

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