Alexander Dolitsky: The only Ford Mustang in Kiev, Ukraine

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By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY

In the late 1960s through 1970s, in Kiev, Ukraine, one of the unique attractions was a green and shiny 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback.

Then, it was the only Ford in the capitol of Ukraine, a city with a population of nearly 2 million residents. Occasionally, people would witness this car passing by on the streets of Kiev, resembling a shooting star on a clear summer night.

The owner of this car was a young aspirant (Ph.D. candidate) of the Kiev Polytechnic Institute (institute of technology and engineering). The rumors were that he was writing a Ph.D. thesis on the Ford Mustang model, and in order to enhance his research had sent a letter to the Ford company in Detroit, requesting some essential information on this model. 

Two-three months later, he received a notice from the Ukrainian Board of Customs to report at a certain location with a payment of 200 rubbles (a reasonable monthly salary in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s—equal to about US$50.00 on the black market for foreign currency exchange) in order to claim a large crate from the United States. The graduate student was furious, “I asked these bloody capitalists to send me some research material, and instead now I have to pay nearly equal amount of my father’s monthly wages,” he complaint to the authorities.

So, he refused to accept the crate; but notices from the Board of Customs kept coming to his attention, alerting him with high fines for storing this large crate. Finally, he reported to the customs and was unexpectedly surprised that Ford Company sent him a brand-new 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, accompanied with some essential spare parts and a load of research material on this product. I only envision that the aspirant yelled in an excitement, “Spasibo (thank you) Ford! America, what a country!”

Indeed, it was a generous gift. Rumors of the young man’s fortune spread quickly around town, motivating some “clever students,” or those who pretended to be a “student,” to emulate similar requests to the American automobile companies, but, apparently, with no success. True, only “the early bird gets the worm.”

In fact, products made in the United States and in other Western countries were in a great demand in the Soviet Union and could be obtained/purchased mostly on the black market at a very high price. Ownership of American–made clothes (e.g., blue jeans, shirts, coats, neck ties and almost anything else) was a sign of social prestige, high class and wealth. American–made products were especially in great demand and of interest to the Soviet youth in the 1960s and 1970s, including American entertainment (i.e., Hollywood  films, popular music and dance, Walt Disney cartoons, etc.).

Soviet authorities, however, prohibited “Voice of America” and “BBC” radio broadcasting in the country. Nevertheless, these broadcasts were listened to by many bold Soviets privately and secretly at a great personal risk.

Igor Tsepenyuk was my old and close friend since elementary school. His parents worked at the U.S.S.R. Embassy in Washington D.C. To my recollection, his father was a trade representative and mother a cultural attaché at the Embassy in the United States. So, they could bring some small items from the United States, including various beverages that were unavailable at that time in the Soviet Union (e.g., whiskey, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, etc.). 

On one occasion, a small group of my close friends gathered in the Leipzig Restaurant—a popular German–cousin establishment in town. We all were excited that our friend, Igor,  managed to sneak into his parents private bar/safe and smuggle two small cans of Coca Cola. None of us, except Igor, had ever experienced this American drink; and we all were anxious to taste it—to taste a tiny piece of America. 

So, in the restaurant a waiter brought crystal shots and served everyone, including himself, this mysterious Yankees drink. We cheered “Na Zdorovye” (for good health), “Pey do dna” (bottom up)—and everyone emptied the shots of Coca Cola at once. It was just a plain non-alcoholic beverage, but how exciting it was to catch a glimpse of America for few seconds! “America, what a country!” I whispered to Igor.

In the summer of 1990, I conducted an archeological investigation of the Denisov Cave in Altay Mountains in Russia, north of Mongolia. By then, I had already lived in America for 12 years and had become a naturalized U.S. citizen. In my way to Novosibirsk, I stopped in Moscow for few days, visiting my colleagues at the Institute of Archaeology of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences and my dear cousin, Vladimir Lundin, a well–known violinist, and his family. 

One day, in browsing on the streets of Moscow, I noticed a long zigzag–shaped line on Pushkinskaya Square in the center of Moscow. Long lines for various commercial products and food items were common in the former Soviet Union, but not that long. 

So, I asked a stranger in the line, “What is this line for?” The stranger replied, “There is an American McDonald’s Restaurant around the corner, the first one in the country; just opened up not long ago.”

I smiled friendly and suggested to a stranger, “You know, it is just a fast food restaurant, serving mostly burgers and fries similar to the Russian cutlets wrapped in bread and fried potatoes.” “Yes, I know,” responded a stranger, “but I have never been in America, and here it is.” “Indeed, America, what a country!” I confirmed.

Looking back to the U.S.S.R. from the 1960s through 1970s, I believe that it was American economic, cultural and ideological influence around the world that shook the Soviet totalitarian regime and paved the road for opening the “Iron Curtain” and, therefore, allowing millions of Soviet citizens to escape a brutal socialist socio–economic system and immigrate to the free world—United States of America.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.

A few of Dolitsky’s past MRAK columns:

Read: Neo-Marxism and utopian Socialism in America

Read: Old believers preserving faith in the New World

Read: Duke Ellington and the effects of Cold War in Soviet Union on intellectual curiosity

Read: United we stand, divided we fall with race, ethnicity in America

Read: For American schools to succeed, they need this ingredient

Read: Nationalism in America, Alaska, around the world

Read: The case of the ‘delicious salad’

Read: White privilege is a troubling perspective

Read: Beware of activists who manipulate history for their own agenda

Read: Alaska Day remembrance of Russian transfer

Read: American leftism is true picture of true hypocrisy

Read: History does not repeat itself

20 COMMENTS

  1. Would that all Americans, especially the left-leaning ones, would read this and appreciate what we have. Thank you Alexander.

  2. In the 1970s the orange flavored powdered breakfast drink, Tang, was marketed as the beverage of astronauts on NASA’s Apollo missions. Inevitably, there was a parody attempting to humiliate Russia by showing cosmonauts drinking beet juice in space. Looking back in retrospect, beet juice would be the far-superior, healthier, drink. Tang is an adulterated concoction of unhealthy chemical crap with sugar.
    .
    The grass is not always greener on the other hill in every respect.

      • I understand your point very well; you made it very effectively. I was compelled to point out your homeland had redeeming features… even if they were often unintentional.
        .
        Its said the biggest fear GI’s had in Vietnam in 1975 was becoming the last American killed there. Turned out Charles McMahan 1953-75 ended up with that uniquely tragic status; a special hero in my mind. As a corollary, I think of Russians born during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1918 who then died 73 years later just before witnessing the USSR collapse in 1991. Those poor souls spent their entire lives under communist oppression without ever breathing freedom. A sobering reminder of how blessed we are.

    • It reminds me of NASA spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to engineer a pen that could right in zero gravity and Russia bought a pencil.

      My takeaway is the prohibition of seeing certain things and the personal risk to view what’s going on in another country.. When government doesn’t allow you to see something like that, that’s a bad sign. Just like NASA discouraging American media from showing how the pen might have been absurd and not so impressive.

      Just goes to show how absurd it is for the left to believe that if something can take advantage of the public, it should be run by the government because the government is held more accountable and therefore more trustworthy…. like the FDA and the highest paid US government employees.

      • Yes, it absolutely matters what form the elements are that you consume into your body; it is only designed to eat certain, naturally-occurring, nutritional substances. Few things matter more to your health.

    • Wayne Douglas Coogan, thank you for pointing out the chemical make up of Tang and doubtless many other food and beverage’s foisted upon citizens of the United States by greedy corporate interests now and during the time of the benevolent Soviet Union. I think you are saying that leaders of the old Soviet Union eschewed the delivery of unhealthy products such as Tang to their populace out of a concern for the public’s health? Is that correct?

      • Robert Anthony Schenker, my old 6th grade friend, when it comes to food and nutrition, we cannot improve on God. Synthesized foods are generally inferior to natural counterparts. The more natural the better. The soviets obviously used beet juice rather than Tang primarily due to communist austerity. Unwittingly at the time, it was a superior point in their culture.

  3. Alexander, as always, your perspective adds “gratefulness” to my morning. Suzanne, I thank you for bringing these columns to your wonderful MRAK readers.

  4. After the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet empire, the US (Bush Sr. and Clinton) squandered an unimaginably rare opportunity to welcome the new Russia into the free market economy. Instead we sat back and watched Yeltsin stumble and fail again and again until Putin stepped in and closed that iron curtain once again.

  5. The Soviet leaders and their vast array of agency authorities were corrupt and incompetent, but not as incompetent as the current American leaders and vast array of agency authorities deployed to stifle individual liberty, religious freedom and prosperity for the common man.
    The Soviet Union, made up of the 89 oblasts, republics and autonomous regions of the former Russian Empire along with the multitude of vassal and occupied neighboring countries commenced in abject poverty, along with the European conquests of WWII, whose countries, including East Germany were pulverized by the corrupt socialist/fascist regimes and effects of total war.
    The United States was in the apex of it’s historic economic, political and socially cohesive position, with a dominant free and prosperous middle class for whom national leaders and congress had to represent.
    Soviet subjects risked arrest and incarceration for listening to foreign radio broadcasts or reading “unapproved” literature due to the authorities fear that “unapproved thoughts” would infect the people and lead to a loss of power. We now have this same situation in the US, wherein information is controlled and citizens are cancelled for “wrong thought”. The lifestyle and worldview of a tiny minority of woke influencers on the east and west coasts is deemed the standard for the entire nation, despite the utter dysfunction and ignorance of the modern values, which are essentially suicidal for a viable culture or economic stability.
    The iron curtain did not fall due to the Judeo Christian based concept of individual sovereignty, and religious and economic freedom prevailing over socialism, rather it was no longer needed due to the western leaders and elites embracing socialist totalitarianism as the model to dominate the west.
    The US and the west squandered their vast wealth, culture, economic infrastructure and military dominance to embrace the historic system of rule by the inbred elite class through ignorance and raw power and claiming authority through corrupt courts.
    The Ukraine is used as a massive foreign aid money laundering scheme to enrich American politicians of both parties and military industrial corporations under the charade of concern for the territorial “integrity” of Ukraine. On one hand the Russian Federation is supported by the current American presidential administration in supporting the Russian stranglehold on Europe through energy dependence, on the other our leaders pretend that Russia is a massive threat. The Lugansk and Donetsk regions of the Ukraine are overwhelminlgy ethnic Russian thanks to Stalin moving people more reliable to Soviet control of the coal regions of eastern Ukraine due to ethnic Ukranians not being sufficiently compliant to Russian dominance. Stalin was un nerved by the Ukranian and Caucasian people’s willingness to cooperate with the Germans during the Great Patriotic War, and he severely punished these populations.
    The shiny objects from America so fascinating to Soviet citizens during the 60s, 70s and 80s and the freedom they represented is a relic of the past. There are no free countries left to flee to or emulate, the US is falling. We traded our birthright for lies, ignorance and spiritual/cultural filth.

    • Great writing, Brian! I can tell that you know the subject. Your writing is a great addition and interpretation to my piece. Thanks.

      • Despite the best efforts of the communists to erase their national and orthodox religion heritage from the Russian people (including literally exterminating the royalty, merchants and priests) they had to pause due to the imminent peril of the German invasion. It was all hands on deck and life or death threat which almost succeeded. Maintaining a strong sense of Russian pride and nationalism, albeit within the nuance of reference to the socialist revolution, for which Russians are famous for, was essential for the soldiers and civilians to fight to the death for every inch of sacred soil of Mother Russia. Soldiers were still executed en masse for “counter revolutionary” behavior and alleged cowardice before the enemy, but it was the love of their country that triggered the Russian obstinate stubbornness to rally and fight the bitterest war in history to victory over the fascist invaders. Socialism was not what the average factory worker and collective farm boys died for.
        The current mortal threat to America, is our education institutions from “pre school” (itself a socialist trojan horse of separating the child from their family to facilitate indoctrination by the atheist state) through the universities have long been infiltrated by pseudo marxists/maoists.
        The youth has been brainwashed into hating their own nation, culture and heritage, and the concept of nationalism is considered reactionary. This is an evisceration of society which no longer is able to mobilize against national level threats, such as communist China or the looting of our common wealth by multi national corporations.
        America has become a de facto colony whose natural resources, technology and wealth are exploited by both foreigners and citizens whose allegiance no longer is to this country and population no longer has control of their representation in governance.
        We are now far more vulnerable to irrevocably losing the concept of a nation, culture, language and people to communism than the Russians ever were.

    • Very informative and I agree the US and the entire Western World is falling to the arrogance of socialism/communism and worse than ever because it is doing the exact same things it always does but more successfully, which is trying to take over the entire world, not because they want to spread the joys of what they have, but so the rest of the world doesn’t resist their self righteousness and make them look bad. Socialism/communism at its core is arrogance and it always suffers from the same things arrogant people suffer from, overconfidence and a lack of integrity and honesty which always brings on disfunction no matter how far their swagger gets them. The iron curtain did fall because of Russians’ fascination with what seemed like a better life in a free society. But as that happened, we lost our free society because young arrogant Americans of the 60’s that never learned that their parents were wiser than they were, like most healthy and humble generations do, took over the universities and the media and are now busy making sure nobody makes them look bad. LBJ masterfully understood how powerful TV was and that if he could keep the media on his side, he could shape his every intention to seem altruistic. Didn’t really matter if we was marxist or not at the time. He pandered and any government philosophy that panders to the less fortunate only to gain popularity, not to enrich truth, justice, honor and individual self accomplishment and freedom eventually follows the steps of marxism and here we are. It will fail as it always does, but who knows when its peak will be. This is why I’m a big advocate of nailing Fauci to the wall and exposing him for all of the evils that he is because they walk lock step with their radical leaders and one can hope that proving that their leaders are evil will be a big step into bringing some shame to their tactics. They actually know this and know how hard they have committed to protecting Fauci, so they will protect him, along with their egos, literally like their life depends on it. That’s why we have to fight harder, not like our lives depend on it, but like all of the future generations depend on it.

      • Censorship and severe recrimination have been the hallmarks of Fauci’s power management (for nearly 50 years!), combined with total collusion, fraud, and corruption with the pharmaceutical industry. He did the same thing with the AIDS pandemic and killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world in the process; this time, he’s killing millions! Fauci has had the benefit of administering billions of dollars each year to health researchers, while very selectively rewarding those who follow his narrative and excluding anyone who doesn’t. If the truth can come out (mainstream media will ignore it), people throughout the world will be shocked.

  6. Exactly! You and I are on the same page, which is easy to do when seeking out truth. I used to think he was just blind with hubris, but now I think he perhaps has sincere darker intentions that involve maybe population control and doing things for the people that protect him, like purposefully choosing treatments that are toxic in order to get certain outcomes and control. Not sure though. But for sure, from azt to remdisivir, he has made some very shocking decisions if you look into what he already knew about available treatments when he decided to push the ones with the least promise and the highest risk. The treatment of those beagles is only a small example of what that guy is truly willing to do to life and it’s because he’s got a serious deep seated chip on his shoulder and he is truly an egomaniac.

    I’m hopeful that Republicans will hold him accountable if they can get a majority. I like that some of them are grilling fauci but I don’t understand why they haven’t nailed him already. My hope is that they are just compiling their attack and waiting until they can be sure they are successful. But I wouldn’t be shocked if they are just grandstanding and will throw up their hands. I may have to learn more about how Russians survive and cherish each other with so much despair in their hearts.

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