March 27, 2020

Officially Over the Hill

Officially Over the Hill
"They really should put these newspapers online. Oh, right, there is no online yet." The author reading wall papers back in 1990 Moscow.

In the smog-choked twilight of the Soviet Union, David Kelley and I sat on a tiny concrete apartment balcony overlooking Moscow’s roaring Ring Road. We sipped Armenian cognac and chewed on Cuban cigars. And we created a company. That company was officially registered 30 years ago today (fun fact: our first name was actually Russian River Trading Company).

It's a bit strange to think about how back then we had to wait in line to buy most things of value (toilet paper not among them, it was largely non-existent in stores), and that some items were rationed (like sugar, because the anti-alcoholism campaign had led to home stills, which needed sugar). Or how, despite perestroika, the fear of nuclear annihilation hung over us like a Damoclean sword. Seems like we have sort of come full circle...

Then again, back then we did not have instant access to the news, phones were only mobile as far as the cords which connected them to the wall, and social media would likely have been interpreted as a mispronunciation of Pravda's imperative (socialist media). Newspapers and print media still ruled the roost, well, except for television, which was mostly all network TV.

In three decades our company has weathered much: a few coups, five American and three Russian presidents, a couple of recessions, multiple downturns in US-Russian relations, and now one pandemic. Every time we think things can't get worse...

But we have enjoyed far, far more. We have had many great employees and partners, have raised a family and watched those of our employees and partners grow up, and I like to think we have created publications and products that have made a difference in how people outside of Russia have perceived Russians and their country, their history, their culture.

In the end, however, since we are a business, it is the tribe of customers and colleagues we have accumulated over 30 years that continue to make what we do possible. That you all find value and worth in what we do, year after year, project after project, is something for which I am constantly grateful, particularly in the sort of difficult times we are all enduring now.

So thank you to all our customers, contacts, colleagues and co-conspirators.

And now back to work. Or whatever it is we are calling this fragmented, virtual-meeting-infested, disconnected labor these days.


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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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