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I Was a Commie Writer (My Experiences As American Correspondent For Krokodil Magazine In USSR)
Laissez Faire City Times ^ | January 6, 2002 | P.J. Gladnick

Posted on 01/06/2002 1:57:16 PM PST by PJ-Comix

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This was already posted at another forum by someone else and one of the people replying to the thread wondered why I would go to an Armenian mechanic with bad breath to translate some Russian when I had access to the UCLA campus. The answer is simple. I lived in West Hills at the time, a long distance from UCLA, so the foul breathed Armenian was a lot closer for the quickie translation I needed of the letter.

As to Vello Veski, I pondered whether I should use his real name or not but because it is so perfectly alliterative, I did use it (and we did call him "Mellow Vello." He was one of my best friends and quite a character. Actually his misadventures were much wilder than what was mentioned here so I kept those misadventures out because I didn't want to get him into trouble. However, I hope I don't ressurect any bad memories for him about the wife that ditched him for a travel agent.

And I sure would like to locate Leonid Florentiev. For what he did that evening in front of the American audience at UCLA he will always remain my personal hero.

1 posted on 01/06/2002 1:57:16 PM PST by PJ-Comix (pj@pjcomix.com)
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To: PJ-Comix
I've been waiting for this thread, thanks for posting it.
2 posted on 01/06/2002 2:09:34 PM PST by xm177e2
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To: PJ-Comix
Bumpski.

I remember reading about Krokodil in the 60s. Never thought I'd meet one of its writers. This thread's a keeper.

3 posted on 01/06/2002 2:09:53 PM PST by Romulus
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To: Romulus
One of the writers who couldn't even read most of his own writings. However, I learned enough Cyrillic to figure out what titles were published. I think I'll post a couple of the articles as JPG from Krokodil with my name in Cyrillic in just a bit. Stand by.
4 posted on 01/06/2002 2:12:22 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
P.J. you are a hoot, LMAO. I Worked with a few Russians, great to drink with though they get morose. One of my cousins married someone from Estionia, Ostland, I love to hear them try to pronounce the W's in my name.
5 posted on 01/06/2002 2:24:39 PM PST by Little Bill
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To: Romulus
Here is a page from Krokodil with a couple of my articles. My name is above the article title on the left. I believe the artcle on the left is about the "Canadianization of America" and the article on the right of mine is about unusual geographic place names. Anybody out there (Madrussian?) know enough Russian to translate the article titles? Oh and the translator's name is on the lower right. I believe, if my Cyrillic knowledge is still correct, that her name is Neresena Popova.


6 posted on 01/06/2002 2:26:22 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: Little Bill
I Worked with a few Russians, great to drink with though they get morose.

Yes, Leonid Florentiev was somewhat morose but who could blame him? All his life he had grown up under a system that turned out ultimately to be a fraud. I guess I was just lucky to be present when all his grievances against the system bubbled to the surface. BTW, I was quite surprised that his outburst did not appear in the news but considering that L.A. primary newspaper is the L.A. Times, maybe not so surprising.

7 posted on 01/06/2002 2:29:57 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: summer
FYI
8 posted on 01/06/2002 2:30:39 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Really fascinating, PJ! BTTT!
9 posted on 01/06/2002 2:38:12 PM PST by summer
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To: PJ-Comix;Snow Bunny;Billie;William Wallace;Grampa Dave;ALOHA RONNIE;Mudboy Slim;Luis Gonzalez...
Simply awesome, PJ. Thank you. The disappointed American college students probably anticipated kinship with the visiting wise men from the golden fantasy land of communism only to be dissed, a la Rummy & the press corp, by the truthful Soviets. (^:
10 posted on 01/06/2002 2:39:05 PM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl
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To: Ragtime Cowgirl
The disappointed American college students probably anticipated kinship with the visiting wise men from the golden fantasy land of communism only to be dissed, a la Rummy & the press corp, by the truthful Soviets.

Actually most of the audience weren't students but West L.A. liberal "grownups." Students tend to be pretty apathetic when it comes to "furriners." This was one of the great memories I have. A room full of L.A. liberals sitting nervously because the speaker from the much heralded Soviet Union went "off-track" with his UN-PC denunciations of Communism. And this from an editor of the largest magazine in the USSR! This is why, after that evening, I was absolutely convinced that communism was finished in Russia. Also it was interesting to see the dynamics on the stage between the somewhat unruly Krokodil staff members and the KGB watcher who was immaculately groomed.

Somebody should track down Leonid Florentiev and award him with the Ronald Reagan Medal of Freedom for what he did that evening.

11 posted on 01/06/2002 3:03:11 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
"How could a magazine satirize a society that only permitted a glossy version of itself to be presented in the press? As I found out later, Krokodil was permitted to satirize Soviet society—within limits. Because of this rare crack in the Soviet propaganda façade, Krokodil was extremely popular in the Soviet Union to such an extent that their monthly circulation was over 10 million. Actually many more than 10 million people read it because each copy of Krokodil, with its subtly humorous jabs at collectivist living, was passed around [to many people as a substitute fer toilet paper]...?!!!"

Good question...

FReegards...MUD

12 posted on 01/06/2002 3:03:21 PM PST by Mudboy Slim
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To: PJ-Comix
Note the Cyrillic gymnastics they went through to spell "P.J"! (p) (d-zh)!

I recently saw the reverse in an interview with a Russian whose middle inital was the "Backwards R". The writer just gave up and referred to him as Gregori Ya ..

13 posted on 01/06/2002 3:06:05 PM PST by Gorzaloon
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To: PJ-Comix
"...after that evening, I was absolutely convinced that communism was finished in Russia."

Communism is "finished" wherever there exists the FReedom to scrutinize Collectivist philosophy.

Great story, my FRiend...MUD

14 posted on 01/06/2002 3:06:11 PM PST by Mudboy Slim
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To: RJayneJ
Perhaps I should forward this article to Pravda and see if they can track down the whereabouts of Leonid Florentiev?
15 posted on 01/06/2002 3:09:42 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: Mudboy Slim
Um....Unlike most of the other periodicals in the Soviet Union that were used for toilet paper, Krokodil was cherished by the readers over there because within limits that magazine was allowed to satirize Soviet Society. BTW, I also knew my limits. Had they known that Ol' PJ was a "vicious rightwinger" they would never have allowed my writings in Krokodil (although Florentiev and the staffers would have appreciated it) so I kept my writings strictly non-political.

This perhaps was the misconception of Florentiev when he met me. He probably thought at first that I was just another dewey-eyed liberal such as what disgusted him with the American audience. Actually, just telling him my name was "PJ" wasn't enough since he didn't realize who I was. It wasn't until after I did the bit about Stalin and gave him my last name as well when the recognition came. Sometimes being on a strictly first name basis isn't the best policy.

16 posted on 01/06/2002 3:16:53 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
No, it says 'translated by E. Popova'.
17 posted on 01/06/2002 3:31:22 PM PST by Former_russian
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To: PJ-Comix
First title is "Creeping Canadization - A Menace to America"

Second title is "What's in the name to you?"

Below second article - "Translated by E. Popova"

18 posted on 01/06/2002 3:40:07 PM PST by l33t
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To: Former_russian
Thanx. BTW, what does the article title in red on the upper right say?
19 posted on 01/06/2002 3:41:41 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: l33t
Second title is "What's in the name to you?"

Thanx. That second article must have been the one I wrote about unusual geographic place names in North America. I believe the original title was "The United States Of Ralph" because I conjectured that if Americus Vespucci's mother had named her son "Ralph" then, my fellow Ralphians, we would today be the United States of Ralph.

20 posted on 01/06/2002 3:44:23 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Yeah, that must be it. The last paragraph of that article brings up the possibility of "United States of Ralph".
21 posted on 01/06/2002 3:51:13 PM PST by l33t
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To: PJ-Comix; dwbh; MurryMom; damian5; TopQuark; Landru; Snow Bunny; Black Jade; ratcat; ChaseR
"Unlike most of the other periodicals in the Soviet Union that were used for toilet paper, Krokodil was cherished by the readers over there because within limits that magazine was allowed to satirize Soviet Society. BTW, I also knew my limits."

Sorry, my FRiend, I thought I was being transparently facetious as I am obviously quite impressed with yer endeavors overseas.

"Had they known that Ol' PJ was a "vicious rightwinger" they would never have allowed my writings in Krokodil (although Florentiev and the staffers would have appreciated it) so I kept my writings strictly non-political."

LOL...I know the process, mi amigo, as I have set up Dummy Accounts at both the Smirking Chimpster and DemonRAT Underground to write similarly subversive propaganda!!! BWAHAHAHA...ain't it fun givin' the Leftist TROLLS a bit of their own medicine?!!

"Sometimes being on a strictly first name basis isn't the best policy."

Perhaps...MUD

22 posted on 01/06/2002 3:52:10 PM PST by Mudboy Slim
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To: PJ-Comix
P.J., Russians have the tradition of the wise fool, kinda like Punch and Judy. If you want to speak out against the Czar (Stalin), the madman in the market speaks for all. what are you going to do with a mad man? (Kill Him, Stalin recognized this type of protest.)

Even the commies needed some type of feed back and the humor mags provided it.

23 posted on 01/06/2002 3:56:40 PM PST by Little Bill
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To: PJ-Comix
Terrific post, PJ.

Ridiculing the pompous commies -- their weapon then; ours now.

24 posted on 01/06/2002 4:08:19 PM PST by Interesting Times
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To: PJ-Comix
The title on the right: 'What's in the name for you?' It is a famous quote from many sources, most likly - from late comedian Arkady Raikin. Freegards. You don't want the reverse translation of the articles, do you? LOL.
25 posted on 01/06/2002 4:16:11 PM PST by Former_russian
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To: Ragtime Cowgirl;PJ-Comix
Thank you for the ping to this Ragtime Cowgirl.

PJ-Comix this is so interesting. Thank you !!!!!!

26 posted on 01/06/2002 4:31:26 PM PST by Snow Bunny
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To: PJ-Comix
Very cool!
27 posted on 01/06/2002 4:59:36 PM PST by John Farson
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To: BigWaveBetty; davidosborne; dennisw; goseminoles; LarryLied; Luis Gonzalez; Mulder; woollyone
FYI
28 posted on 01/06/2002 5:05:31 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Thanks for the heads up! };^D)
29 posted on 01/06/2002 5:09:29 PM PST by RJayneJ
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To: PJ-Comix
Great article. Let us know if you find Leonid Florentiev.
30 posted on 01/06/2002 5:20:45 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: Rebelbase
Great article. Let us know if you find Leonid Florentiev.

I just forwarded the article to Pravda and asked if they might know the whereabouts of Florentiev.

31 posted on 01/06/2002 6:03:39 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: Snow Bunny
You're very welcome, Sweetie. Wasn't the Californian commie-wannabes' reaction to the pro-American Soviet priceless?! LOL!
"Mr. Florentiev, could you say something bad about American society?" (rep. of the ACLU?)?
"NO!"

Yep, it's just as good the second time around. (((Hugs)))
32 posted on 01/06/2002 6:55:34 PM PST by Ragtime Cowgirl
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To: PJ-Comix
Awesome, dude!

Krokodil was quite a schizo publication in its time. On the one hand, it was (supposedly) satirizing the Soviet status quo. On the other, it happily served as a a full fledged state propaganda organ viciously attacking the West and any ideas trickling from there into USSR. How exactly that worked out internally at the editorial offices is anybody's in this side guess. It was in its time simultaneously loved and despised in Russia.

Further, unlike the Americans, Europeans and Russians know how to appreciate satire without the laugh tracks. The proof is that even the stupid peasant and prole leaders of the Party feared magazines like Krokodil and understood if not its humor then certainly its role. Contrast that with the responses here to your or Christopher Buckley's satirical posts.

Also, you can never be sure how your articles were translated or received there. All too often there were cheap political points to be scored and political favours to be gained from assuming correct postures. You can't imagine what hoops the editor you met had to jump through to prove his worth and "earn" the trip to the West. It all sounds cynical, but Communism was a totally corrupt, vile system.

33 posted on 01/06/2002 7:23:36 PM PST by Revolting cat!
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To: PJ-Comix
BTTT
34 posted on 01/06/2002 8:26:07 PM PST by TopQuark
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To: Revolting cat!
How exactly that worked out internally at the editorial offices is anybody's in this side guess.

My guess is that they had to stick close to the party line just a few years earlier but in the latter years of the Soviet Union, all sorts of people were going "off reservation" so to speak. I'm sure the KGB guy with the group was there primarily to pick up Western goodies for resale in Russia than to actually make sure the group stuck to the tenents of Marxism-Communism.

Further, unlike the Americans, Europeans and Russians know how to appreciate satire without the laugh tracks. The proof is that even the stupid peasant and prole leaders of the Party feared magazines like Krokodil and understood if not its humor then certainly its role. Contrast that with the responses here to your or Christopher Buckley's satirical posts.

True. Whenever I post something about worshipping that great satirical genius, Jack Chick, I have people replying in outrage. (Tossing out a bit of clueless bait here.)

35 posted on 01/07/2002 2:46:20 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: Revolting cat!
I did an extensive online search for Leonid Florentiev but still no luck. Maybe the publication of this article will bring him out of the woodwork.
36 posted on 01/07/2002 4:53:43 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
The only Russian joke I know:

A man walked to the Kremlin in 1954 and yelled "Death to Stalin" and they threw him in the gulag for 10 years. When he got out after 10 years, he decided to offer restitution and walked to the Kremlin and yelled "Long Live Stalin".

They gave him 20 years.

37 posted on 01/07/2002 5:17:24 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: AppyPappy
I am wondering if Pikker humor magazine in Estonia is still around. One interesting thing about Estonia is that the language there is very similar to Finnish. Hungarian is also related to Estonian and Finnish. Go figure.
38 posted on 01/07/2002 6:30:26 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Do you happen to know why and when Krokodil folded? Has anything replaced it? Commercial reasons? I imagine it had been subsidized by the state if it wasn't profitable (although with 10 mil copies, why not?) and the new state won't subsidize it. We've got to remember that in the Soviet Union there was little if any advertising, and probably none inside Krokodil. Ah, the joys of subsidized satire! Only in paradise!
39 posted on 01/07/2002 7:43:47 AM PST by Revolting cat!
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To: PJ-Comix
Super interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.
40 posted on 01/07/2002 8:02:31 AM PST by Fred Mertz
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To: Fred Mertz
You're Welcome.
41 posted on 01/07/2002 12:20:32 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
"I am wondering if Pikker humor magazine in Estonia is still around."

"...the humor magazine “Pikker”, which throughout it’s existence since 1957 up to early 90s..."

http://www.ljudmila.org/stripcore/burek2/estonia.htm

42 posted on 01/07/2002 12:44:06 PM PST by Truthsayer20
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To: Truthsayer20
It looks like Pikker, along with Krokodil, collapsed with the Soviet Union.
43 posted on 01/07/2002 3:15:21 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix; Orual; aculeus
Krokodilian bump for a good story.
44 posted on 01/07/2002 4:20:44 PM PST by dighton
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To: PJ-Comix; struwwelpeter
I enjoyed reading Soviet Life. It was fun to compare the idealized version of Soviet living with the grim reality.

A prize oxymoron, as someone (not I) might also have said of its sister magazine, Soviet Woman.

45 posted on 01/07/2002 4:28:13 PM PST by dighton
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To: PJ-Comix; Orual; dighton
A great hilarious story.

In the mid-1970s I was involved with a US company that imported Soviet films. For one of the major films (Oblamov, one of the few exported to the States in those years) the Soviets sent the entire cast and the director (Nikita Mikahlkov who later won an Oscar for Burnt by the Sun) to NYC for the premiere. The movie stars (famous in the USSR) and the great director were accompanied by KGB watchers who were much more powerful than the guy you describe. The stars and Nikita were put up in a 4th rate Manhattan hotel and when they asked for permission to attend a Broadway show permission was denied; they had to sit in their rooms like prisoners.

I was present at a luncheon at a swank NY restaurant and the most nervous moment for the watchers was after the lunch, getting their wards into the cars. They were afraid their captives might make a run for it.

It was a rotten system and shame on those Americans who were put out by Leonid Florentiev's comments.

46 posted on 01/07/2002 7:08:11 PM PST by aculeus
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To: aculeus
I studied Russian in high school (influenced by the movie "Fail Safe" and the Larry Hagman character, who plays the Russian interpreter). We read Krokodil in class, and I remember how funny it was.
47 posted on 01/07/2002 7:13:06 PM PST by calvin sun
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To: calvin sun
The old Lenfilm movies are pretty hilarious as well. Now you can buy such classics as "12 Chairs", "Operation Y", "Ironies of Fate (or With Light Steam)", "3 Men in a Boat (Not Counting the Dog)", etc.

Here's a link to a site selling everything under the sun.

48 posted on 01/07/2002 8:17:16 PM PST by struwwelpeter
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To: dighton; PJ-Comix
Thank's for the head's up, fascinating article. PJ: ty muzhik! (You da' man!)
49 posted on 01/07/2002 8:19:42 PM PST by struwwelpeter
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To: aculeus
The movie stars (famous in the USSR) and the great director were accompanied by KGB watchers who were much more powerful than the guy you describe.

Yeah, that KGB watcher looked so out of place on the stage I was surprised that the American audience, dopey as they were, couldn't catch that. Also during the conference afterwards, he stood grimly off to the side and took no part in the conversations. I have to give him credit for immaculate grooming however. No sloppy Soviet clothes for him. He was dressed like a successful western businessman.

50 posted on 01/08/2002 2:53:15 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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