Mikhail Baryshnikov Defects

Screenshot (1193)The ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from the Soviet Union in Toronto on June 29, 1974, while on tour with the Kirov Ballet. 

“In Russia I was never a big pain in the butt or political dissident. Also I was never convicted and sentenced as a criminal, like Rodchenko. I was a civil servant. The Kirov was sponsored by the government. I had all the privileges and material things I wanted. Enough money, a car, beautiful apartment. I was right there next to sons of ministers in the elite. But I couldn’t travel abroad when I wanted, I couldn’t work with people I wanted. You have to express enthusiasm and be an example to youth, though I was not in the Party or anything like that. I had arguments with the system, I cheated where I could, anything goes, pretending to agree with the system and to be loyal.

These are my observations now from a distance, from 11 years in the U.S. It was a spontaneous decision which I made the day before I actually defected. I was 26, it was now or never for me. I was at the peak of my career. Time was running out. The creative mood of ballet was depressing. I was not free to fly, in every sense. Years earlier I saw how. My dream in 1969 was to see and dance in Paris as a guest with the Baku Ballet. It was such a privilege to go. I prayed for this, and it’s all up to the KGB to sign the documents letting you out. I rehearsed for months, and the morning of the day we were to leave for Paris from Moscow the KGB gave me my passport and told me I was going back to Leningrad instead. Canceled my papers, no explanation. An informant probably said I was a defection risk. I never considered then living in the U.S…

…The defection was like a thriller—with a comic twist. It was arranged secretly through friends. I was running, the getaway car was waiting a few blocks away as we were boarding on the group’s bus. KGB was watching us. It was actually funny. Fans are waiting for me outside the stage door, and I walk out and I start to run, and they start to run after me for autograph. They were laughing, I was running for my life. It was very emotional moment, I tell you.

For years I had nightmares, waking up in cold sweat in middle of night, hearing somebody running after me. It was traumatic, but a relief. I knew it was right.”

“A Bold Leap for Mikhail,” Mikhail Baryshnikov, People, December 16, 1985, Vol. 24, No. 25.

“The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later”

Sheilah GrahamSheilah Graham was a Hollywood gossip columnist and writer who dated F. Scott Fitzgerald for the last three years of his life. She wrote three books about their relationship; Beloved InfidelCollege of One: The Story of How F. Scott Fitzgerald Educated the Woman He Loved, and 1976’s The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later.

“I had not been much impressed with This Side of Paradise, which I had read after Scott went to enormous trouble to find a second-hand copy for me because this, his first novel, was out of print–as were all the others. ‘Well,’ I said, while he waited eagerly for my opinion, ‘it isn’t Dickens.’ He was naturally annoyed. How could I have been so tactless? And even though he told me in later years that he was embarrassed by his first novel, he had hoped I would find it interesting. At that time I knew nothing of American college life and, in addition, had no idea that he had based most of the characters in the book on real-life Princeton people–Bunny Wilson, John Peale Bishop, and his first love, Ginevra King…

…Some years after Scott’s death, when I reread everything he had written, I realized that I had not done him full justice as a writer while he was alive. Except for a few short stories which he himself considered ‘trash’–especially some of the ‘Pat Hobbys,’ I now admired all his work, including the copious notes for past, present, and future use and the first two novels, which I could now appreciate for their humor and knowing who the characters were. I decided Scott was right to place himself in the ranks of Henry James, Joyce, and Conrad, and I agreed with his estimation of the particular nature of his talent. ‘If I had lived in another age,’ he had told me ‘I would have been a poet. But there’s no money in poetry now.’ In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries poets were fashionable and well paid; in our day they got very little. ‘But I try to make my prose into a sort of poetry and still be paid as a prose writer.’ Like Shakespeare or Samuel Butler, Scott was always aware of his financial worth to the public. Dr. Johnson said that a man was a fool if he did not write for money. Scott was not a fool, and he always needed money. He studied his market and wrote prose–remarkable for its poetic quality.”

The Real F. Scott FItzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later, Sheilah Graham, W. H. Allen, 1976.


Earth“A team of Federal scientists says it has detected an overall warming trend in the earth’s atmosphere extending back to the year 1880. They regard this as evidence of the validity of the ‘greenhouse’ effect, in which increasing amounts of carbon dioxide cause steady temperature increases.

The seven atmospheric scientists predict a global warming of ‘almost unprecedented magnitude’ in the next century. It might even be sufficient to melt and dislodge the ice cover of West Antarctica, they say, eventually leading to a worldwide rise of 15 to 20 feet in the sea level. In that case, they say, it would ‘flood 25 percent of Louisiana and Florida, 10 percent of New Jersey and many other lowlands throughout the world’ within a century or less.”

Walter Sullivan, The New York Times, August 22, 1981.


Statements by China and the United States during the inscription of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on the World Heritage List

Hiroshima Peace MemorialCHINA: “During the Second World War, it was the other Asian countries and peoples who suffered the greatest loss in life and property. But today there are still few people trying to deny this fact of history. As such being the case, if Hiroshima nomination is approved to be included on the World Heritage List, even though on an exceptional basis, it may be utilized for harmful purpose by these few people. This will, of course, not be conducive to the safeguarding of world peace and security. For this reason China has reservations on the approval of this nomination.”

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: “The United States is dissociating itself from today’s decision to inscribe the Genbaku Dome on the World Heritage List. The United States and Japan are close friends and allies. We cooperate on security, diplomatic, international and economic affairs around the world. Our two countries are tied by deep personal friendships between many Americans and Japanese. Even so, the United States cannot support its friend in this inscription.
The United States is concerned about the lack of historical perspective in the nomination of Genbaku Dome. The events antecedent to the United States’ use of atomic weapons to end World War II are key to understanding the tragedy of Hiroshima. Any examination of the period leading up to 1945 should be placed in the appropriate historical context.
The United States believes the inscription of war sites outside the scope of the Convention. We urge the Committee to address the question of the suitability of war sites for the World Heritage List.”

Photo of the ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (which became the Hiroshima Peace Memorial), October 1945. Photograph by Shigeo Hayashi. 

President Harry S. Truman’s speech after the bombing of Hiroshima

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“A short time ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb has more power than twenty thousand tonnes of TNT. The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold and the end is not yet. With this bomb, we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form, these bombs are now in production and even more powerful bombs are in development. It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

We are now prepared to destroy more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake: we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July the 26th was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen, and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.

We have spent more than two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history and we have won. But the greatest marvel is not the science of the enterprise, its secrecy, or its cost, but the achievement of scientific brains in making it work. And hardly less marvelous has been the capacity of industry to design and of labour to operate the machines and methods to do things never done before. Both science and industry worked together under the direction of the United States Army which achieved a unique success in an amazingly short time. It is doubtful if such another combination could be got together in the world. What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history.”