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Friday, May 01, 2015

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of. 

This was but the first in a string of daring moves that kept Thayer in the thick of all things Russian for the next two decades. Architect of the infamous party that Mikhail Bulgakov used to imagine his famous ball scene in Master and Margarita, Senior Polo Instructor to the Red Army, translator to ambassadors, sparring partner for Vyshinsky, drinking partner of Budyonny, nemesis of the KGB, and, oh yes, Third Secretary in the Foreign Service, Charles Thayer was a boundlessly resourceful, creative and fun-loving public servant. In this memoir (out of print for half a century), he offers an unparalleled look behind the scenes of diplomatic life in Russia (and Germany, Iran and Afghanistan) before and during World War II. 

For anyone with even a passing interest in US-Russian history, this is a priceless memoir to read and savor. 

Includes a special biographical introduction by Ambassador Avis Bohlen, a professional foreign service officer and the author's niece, about Thayer's incredible life and career, including his run in wiht McCarthy's witch hunt.


“A disarming, debonair narrative – which even in high places – does not stand on ceremony.”

– Kirkus Reviews


CHARLES THAYER served for seven years as a diplomat in Soviet Russia  (1933-1937 and 1940-1942), spanning one of the most significant periods of US-Russian relations. He subsequently opened the US Legation in Kabul, served in the army and OSS, and as head of Voice of America. A gifted storyteller and humorist, his memoir is entertaining and timeless.