Eugene Cordell Vail
Russia, Estonia and Finland
Business Trip Taken in 1985
Moscow, Russia 1985
The famous St. Basil's Cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible and built
on the edge of Red Square between 1555 and 1561. Legend has it that on completion
of the church the Tsar ordered the architect, Postnik Yakovlev, to be blinded
to prevent him from ever creating anything to rival its beauty again. (He did
in fact go on to build another cathedral in Vladimir despite his ocular impediment!)
The cathedral was built to commemorate Ivan the Terrible's successful military
campaign against the Tartar Mongols in 1552 in the besieged city of Kazan. So
I had to have a picture of me there to prove I had been there.
This is David Stapley, our interpreter and me (on the right) in front of the
Kremlin in Red Square.
We were going to go into Lennon's tomb but the line was too long so we decided
to wait and go on the next trip. Dumb me. Never was a 2nd trip for me. Stalin
was no longer there by Lennon still was in 1985. It has been removed now.
This is me and the interpreter and our guide (who did not want his picture taken)
on the bridge overlooking the sports stadium in Moscow. They were both very
closed mouthed and would not talk about anything with us except official business.
But by the end of our 2 week trip she got so she trusted we were not KGB agents
and she opened up and started to talk to us about what it was like to live under
Communism. It was so interesting to talk to her. She spoke excellent English.
I asked why they did not ask America to come and help them overthrow Communism
if they did not like it. Then she said something so profound to me for someone
from Russia. She asked me if I liked the IRS. I said no. She said, "Well
do you want us to come over and help you over throw the IRS?" She said
that they did not need our help to overthrow Communism. They would do it themselves.
And as we see they did!
We had to be very careful taking pictures (the country was still communist).
So we were only allowed to take pictures of certain things. We could not take
pictures of bridges (notice I am taking one FROM the bridge) Rail Road Stations,
Power Lines, Nuclear Plants, ... well the list read like all the places they
were afraid we would come and bomb.
These are people in Red Square. Because it was May Day we were not allowed to go anywhere. Dumb planning on our part. But we got to
see a lot of the May Day celebrations in Moscow.
The Moscow Circus is very famous. We got to go there so I just stood up and
took a picture of the crowd. Lucky I didn't get arrested. Later the taxi driver
told us he could not believe we went down there in that area alone. Said we
were very luck we were not mugged. Tough part of town. Wonderful circus however.
We did not see computers any where. Even accounting was still being done by hand. Then one day at a "FUTURISTIC SHOW" where
they were showing inventions that were coming "SOME DAY" we actually saw a computer. It looked like a computer from the
United States from the 60's not 1985. We had to laugh as we talked to people and they said they saw no need for computers.
The funniest thing I saw in Russia in 1985 was this set of drink machines. There
was no such thing as competition of any kind in Russia in those days. One meat
store, one bead store, one milk store. If you did not like the dress they were
selling in the dress store you could wait until next years version came out.
These drink machines had glass glasses on top. For some reason they did not
show up in the picture. You took the glass glass, put it in the machine, pushed
a button and it washed it. Then you turned it over and pushed the second button
and it filled it with orange juice. Then you put the dirty glass back on top
of the drink machine for the next person to use. And notice I said orange juice.
They did not even have choice of juice flavors. I mean come on, that would be
competition. They were fiercely against any form of competition. In a restaurant
you did not order what kind of soft drink you wanted. The question was yes or
no. They only had Pepsi. Coke missed the boat when Nixon went there so it was
only McDonalds and Pepsi that got in. No other choices.
Some of the banners of Lennon in Red Square were huge for May day. That was really a big deal in Russia back then. Still is.
There were lots of May Day parade every where we went. Sort of like the 4th
of July in America.
We got to go to this huge amphitheater where they had a big celebration for
May day but we were not allowed to go to the celebration.
Leningrad(St .Petersburg), Russia - 1985
We went to Leningrad. It was so obvious when you saw a building that was built
by the Russians. The workmanship was very poor, and it showed. This was a brand
new apartment house and it looked 40 years old. The facing was all crooked on
the front of it. But when there is no competition you don't have to do a good
job. Who else are they going to get to do the work. Have it or go with out was
their motto. It really made me appreciate capitalism and America.
Here is the Hotel we stayed in in Leningrad. It was built by Swedish Contractors.
It was so obvious as soon as we drove up that it had not been build by Russian
workers. Things have changed there in Russia now since they took away communism
and they have competition just like we do. Marvelous principle in our culture.
This is picture of the peace arch in Leningrad. But I actually took it to get
a picture of the people without them suspecting I was taking their picture.
Russian people were 99% white. Few Mongolians there but only if they were in
the Army. I did not see any ethnic people there in Moscow or Leningrad. the
whole time I was there (except the mongolian soldiers in the Army). I am sure
that has changed now too.
Tallinn, Estonia 1985
Estonian is very much like Finnish. They are able to understand the Fins just
like the Norwegian, Dannish and Swedish people an understand each other. But
I could not understand Estonian at all. Too different from Finnish. I was thrilled
that we had the opportunity to go to Estonia. This is us having lunch in a very
exclusive place in Tallinn. As you can see it is still very simple. Not elegant
at all compared to European or American standards.
There in the public square was a very old church from the 1600's. The still
had the shackles in the wall where people stood up on a stool about 1 foot off
the ground and then they put the shekel around their neck. Then as their punishment
they had to sit there all day and as people walked by they laughed at them and
spit on them. Notice I didn't need the stool to fit into the shackles. I would
have been considered a giant in the 1600's at 6' 3". The average height of people
back then was 5' tall. So they needed the stool to stand on to fit into the
After visiting Russia and Estonia we came back by boat to Helsinki, Finland and
stayed there for 3 days. In 1985 they still did not have loading walk ways.
Everyone got off the plane on the tarmac just like we did in 1963. And I still
knew how to speak some Finnish after 20 years.... AMAZING!!!
Anyone who has served in Hyvinkää in the 60's and 70's knows where Photo Junini's
place is. We developed all our film there. But by 1985 he had moved to a new
location and when I went there he was gone to Helsinki for the day so I did
not get to see him and did not take a picture of the new store.
I was able to find my friends The Lindbergs. They took me to lunch and we had
a wonderful time.
She did not speak English at all but because I still could
speak Finnish some so we got along just fine. Ingmar speaks beautiful English.
I think this is the Hagga chapel. I don't know which for sure. They all seem
to look a like.
I just had to go to Hyvinkää to see the old town and this is the train station. If you look at the 2006 picture on day 7
you will see that the building has not changed at all since 1963 or 1965. Just added more tracks.
I actually found people who still remembered me. This is sister Rajauvori. She still lives in Hyvinkää.
This is one of the very first McDonalds in Finland. People were lined up clear
down the street to get a American hamburger.
Notice most the writing on the signs is in English (but most people in Helsinki
I tried to blow the picture up so you could see the price.
5 Marks was a lot of money for food back then, but they were
lined up for the novelty of it even if it cost
them one weeks wages to try one.
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