Thursday, September 02, 2004

Moscow On the Hudson

Anybody remember this movie? Came out about 1984, I think. Robin Williams, surprisingly believable as a Russian musician, defecting in NYC (the only Anglo guy I've ever seen do a more convincing job is Tom Hulce in The Inner Circle... he was so good, I thought he was a Russian and I didn't even recognize him... though this was before I ever saw Amadeus).

Anyway, I was just saying to a friend how interesting it is to watch movies like that now. They don't just seem like they're from another age, they seem almost like they're from some alternate history. So there we go... when I was in high school, Russians had to risk death and imprisonment to emigrate. Here we a couple decades later, and I'm just entering middle age (yes, yes, I'm beginning to deal with it... slowly...), and the NHL is stuffed to the gills with Russian players, and the office I work in has about two dozen Russians. I passed one just moments ago; the next time I go for coffee, odds are three or four of them will be clustered in the little kitchenette, talking about who knows what. It's hard to believe there was a time when that would have been utterly extraordinary.

My friend mentioned the movie 2010, the sequel to 2001. Also made in the 80s, it features Roy Scheider as Haywood Floyd, flying with two other Americans along with the crew of the Alexi Leonov to rendezvous with Discovery and find out what happened with HAL. There's all this stuff about blockades in Latin America and the risk of war, and the two groups bristling from time to time, talking about Discovery as "US territory" and that kind of thing. What a world we were living in back then.

When I think back to how monolithic the Soviet Union and Communism used to seem to us when I was a kid, man... I still can't get over how it all just came apart. The wheels fell off in '89 and the Berlin Wall came down and one after another, Warsaw Pact countries just dumped their communist governments, and the USSR didn't really lift a finger to stop them. Then the Soviet Union itself just collapsed. Remember? It was like one morning they all woke up, tired of grasping each other's hands for dear life and and just... let go. Republics fell away and became countries. There was that last, abortive, essentially bloodless coup attempt, and that was it. The emporer was naked and everybody said so. And all that just blew away like dust. Now if you'd written a speculative fiction novel to that effect in, say, 1983 or so, you'd have been laughed off the shelves. Less than ten years later, it was history. If I live to be a hundred, I'll probably never really stop being amazed by that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I Always Laugh!
I always laugh when I hear the story of how Uzbekistan got news of the USSR collaps... Apparently, the story goes that one day, the local head of the communist party woke up and found a fax on his desk stating someting like:
From: PolitBureau, Moskva
Your on your own! Good luck! (Or the russion equivalent!)
Apparently Uzbekistan was not a very high priority in the USSR stable and since they did not have any Nukes, any major Military installatons or any other expensive things that needed to be negociated/split, the new Russian governement just let them go... no more than that!