Sunday, March 11, 2018
On this day, 28 years ago, two naive young Americans sat down and agreed to found a publishing company together. This publishing company.
I was living and working in Moscow, helping to run one of the first Soviet-Western joint-venture businesses. David Kelley was doing the same. Our company was publishing books and running a printshop and a chain of bookstores. Kelley was running a screen-printing business, idealistically hoping to turn Young Communists into responsible capitalists (spoiler alert: it didn't work). Together we hatched the idea of writing and publishing books for people doing business in Russia, then seen by many to be on the verge of a capitalist boom. We'd be selling picks and shovels to prospectors, we told ourselves and others. And we convinced a couple of Norwegians to join us in our grand scheme.
The rest is history.
Now, nearly three decades and hundreds of thousands of books and magazines and calendars later, the world is a far different place from the one that, back in 1990, we imagined. The Russian Boom came and went, then it came again (this time fueled by oil and gas) and really took off, and the Cold War was won and lost, and then resumed again with a fury worse than any time since at least the 1980s.
We have lived through coups and rumors of coups, weathered countless business cycles, lost and gained partners, and made countless trips to and from Mother Russia.
Whenever I pause to look back, I am amazed at what we have traversed, at the very fact that we have survived.
And in a week like this one I feel particularly lucky to have been on this journey for 28 years.
Because this week, after nearly two years of planning, fundraising, research, journalism, photography, writing, translating, editing, layout, design and printing, we released what I feel is the most important book in our company's 28-year history, Resilience: Life Stories of Centenarians Born in the Year of Revolution.
The book collects some of the life stories of 22 remarkable individuals, most all of them Russian, most all of them women, and most all of them blue-eyed. Their stories are by turns profound and heartbreaking, awe-inspiring and endearing. We were lucky to be allowed to hear them first hand, to record them in print and on video, and even more lucky to be allowed to share them with the world.
At a time when all we hear out of Russia is news that is either bad or worse, it could not be more important to share stories of humanity and community, of hope and persistence. Of resilience.
So thank you to all our customers and partners, and to our contributors and collaborators all over the world. Without you, we could never have come this far.
Just two more years and we'll be "over the hill"...
Paul E. Richardson