Back in the day, when the up is down “We Want World Peace” (mezhdunarodnie mir) meant something, as did Fulda Gap (bet you haven’t seen that chestnut in ages), we had an excursion to the collapsing alien planet in the East. Just a few short years before that we were there and the climate and culture of fear? Oppressively omnipresent. The Old Men seemingly were dying once a day. But still the machine chugged along. There, one truly felt like the Mars Rover touching down. Even the stars above seemed like those from another world.
Now skip a fears forward. A couple of years into the man-who-destroyed-the-Soviet-Union’s-reign. The place in some ways unrecognizable. Bars now allowed foreigners (but unfortunately chose terrible music), dollars flowing freely, kids openly consorting with said foreigners, and within limits it simply became a less fearful place. We even spent time down at Sochi, the Black Sea resort complex long favored by the ruling nomenklatura. The specific resort? Named after Molotov’s wife (whom Stalin had sent to the gulag). It actually was a gas, (but not jumping or flashing). Great beaches of the Black Sea kind, bad copies of American video games from the 1970s, and this odd drink that the East Germans apparently believed was Orangina. But hey, it beat hanging around Kharkov (the Cleveland of the Soviet Union).
So how sad to see our favorite unbelievably mediocre Soviet resort complex (even in its heyday) fall into such disarray. We all know that the Soviet armed forces and the rest of the infrastructure collapsed. We’ve even seen it up close and personal. The History Channel and others cover it like military porn. But Sochi? It hurts. In some ridiculously cheesy way, it defined the pathetic pinnacle of Soviet elite luxury. Everything, of course, has changed now and Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Funny what billions and billions of oil money can do.
Soviets Russians turn it around by 2014? Oddly, under the Old Regime and its capacity for ruthless mobilization, it might have been an easier if more mediocre restoration. Finns might help out then as they did the Pribaltiskaya in Vladgrad Leningrad St. Petersburg. Today, firms from all over can create some mishmash. The Russian private wealth easily could pay for it all. As mentioned, oil prices are helpful.
Still, it won’t be the Sochi everyone remembers. The city of bad video games and worse East German beverages.