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An American in the USSR kept a diary about the country, and the KGB wrote down his every step: now the texts can be compared

Teddy Row's notes are a unique historical document that allows you to see the Soviet Union through the eyes of an American. These are hundreds of pages of typescript that have never been published before, writes Present Tense.

Photo: Shutterstock

In April 1968, an American tourist Teddy Row flew to Moscow from Washington. Observation of him was established immediately upon arrival: the KGB knew that the tourist was working as an assistant to an influential American senator, and did not exclude that his visit was connected with espionage in favor of the United States. Row spent three months in the USSR - during this time he traveled the country from west to east, recording in detail in his diary everything he saw and heard. The fact that the tourist kept a diary was known only to KGB officers - for a long time they remained practically his only readers.

Having stumbled upon the mention of the trip and the diary in the KGB official reports, the historian and journalist Eduard Andryushchenko was able to track down Teddy Row in the USA, transmit these reports to him, write down his story about the trip to the USSR, and first publish excerpts from his notes.

Thread in a suitcase

It was Friday, April 26, 1968. After a morning tour of Minsk, Teddy Rowe returned to the hotel for lunch. Having briefly entered his room, the tourist, out of habit, cast a glance at the suitcase. It took just a few seconds to understand: in his absence, someone other than a cleaning lady had been here. And that someone was opening his suitcase.

This is not to say that what happened was a surprise for the 34-year-old American. Quite the contrary - even before the start of his three-month tour of the Soviet Union, Teddy knew that they would look after him. In the end, he is not quite an ordinary tourist.

Over the two weeks of his journey, Rowe had already noticed his surveillance. Therefore, leaving the room, he began to resort to a simple method: he left a couple of threads on the suitcase and inside, remembering how they lay. Today, the position of the threads has changed for the first time.

If uninvited guests work for the Soviet authorities (for example, the KGB), Teddy reasoned, of his things the most interesting for them would be a notebook with travel notes. Most of the trip was ahead, and the American guest realized that this was not the last attempt to examine the contents of his suitcase. Therefore, Rowe took a pen and, being sure that the notebook would be opened, he wrote a message directly to it to possible readers.

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“My suitcase was being opened. If the authorities want to see what I am wearing or what I have written, I will gladly open my things myself and show them. ”

In his address, Teddy added that he - a guest and a tourist - does not do anything forbidden in the USSR, does not demonize the country, like some of his countrymen, and demands that his rights and respect for private property be respected.

“I am aware of every time my suitcase was opened and that this message will be read,” Rowe concluded. "If this happens again, I intend to express my strong protest against this behavior."

Teddy Rowe was not mistaken in his suspicions.

"Promoting the American Way of Life"

“In April-May this [1968], the Soviet Union, including a number of Ukrainian cities, was visited as an American tourist by an employee of the office of the leader of the Democratic Party faction in the US Senate. Mansfield - Row Teddy, born in 1934, suspected of involvement in American intelligence.

The official goal of the American's trip to the USSR, according to him, is to consolidate his knowledge of the Russian language, to study Soviet reality by communicating with people and comparing their opinions, and choosing the most interesting places in our country for subsequent visits. "

This is a fragment of a message from the chairman of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR Vitaliy Nikitchenko, addressed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Republic in June of that year (that is, two months after the incident in the Teddy Row hotel in Minsk). As noted in the document, Roe was personally reported. First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Peter Shelest. Similar notes about the American were probably sent to the leaders of other republics - and maybe to the All-Union. The document found in the declassified archive of the Security Service of Ukraine, and laid the foundation for work on this article.

The American Teddy Rowe arrived in the USSR on April 11, 1968. He really worked as an assistant to the US senator. Moreover, Mike Mansfield was one of the most influential American politicians. He stayed the leader of the Senate majority for 16 years - a record in the history of the country. In 1964, the portrait of a politician hit the cover of Time magazine.

"... After the presidential elections, the US Democratic Party expects to appoint Senator Mansfield as secretary of state, in connection with which Rowe is acquiring special interest for further study," the KGB reported in another message to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine a month later, in July.

Senator Mansfield did not succeed in becoming Secretary of State: the Democratic Party lost the presidential election of 1968 - and Republican Richard Nixon became the head of state.

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One way or another, the interest of the KGB of the USSR in the figure of the 34-year-old tourist is quite understandable, so it is not surprising that they began to "lead" him immediately upon arrival in Moscow on April 11.

In their documents, KGB officers noted that Rowe knew Russian well (so well that, according to reports, the American was periodically mistaken for a Czech or a resident of one of the Baltic countries). The attention of special services was also attracted by the fact that the American was going to stay in the USSR for three whole months, and planned to return in the future.

In the same documents, employees of the agencies report: "Rowe's detailed diary entries were secretly photographed, in which he critically assessed certain aspects of the life and activities of Soviet society." Attached to this KGB message are extensive quotes from a tourist's diary translated into Russian. These are 27 typed pages, about a month on the road (one third of the entire trip) on the route Moscow - Leningrad - Tallinn - Riga - Vilnius - Minsk - Kiev - Kharkov - Zaporozhye - Yalta. The Chekists chose for the party leadership only those fragments that somehow related to politics or contained assessments of Soviet realities.

In addition, the KGB noted the "long, detailed conversations" that Rowe had with Soviet citizens - according to the authorities, the American not only got to know the locals, but also tried to "propagate the American way of life" in these conversations.

Covert copying of documents and records of a potential intelligence officer is a common practice of the special services. As a rule, for this, operatives entered the hotel room or apartment of the object. Teddy Rowe noticed the consequences of one of such visits in Minsk. The KGB did not say anything about the message that the American left after that, only in one quotation from the diary, in passing and without explanation, the “suitcase incident” is mentioned.

Through the iron curtain

The opportunity to visit the USSR Teddy Row received thanks to a grant from American NGOs, who offered him two three-month trips abroad. The choice of the country was due to the fact that, already working in Congress, the young man received a master's degree in Russian studies at Georgetown University in Washington. The sponsors did not set any special tasks for him; a report on the results of the trip was not required. It was assumed that months abroad would help a young Congressional employee to better understand what is happening in the world and improve their skills.

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Row did not have confidence that he would be allowed into the country and allowed to visit everything he wanted: the Soviet government considered almost every visitor from the country as a potential threat, the visits of foreigners were clearly regulated. However, the trip was approved.

Perhaps the decision was due to the fact that (as they say in the reports of the KGB) Rowe was of interest to the Soviet special services. Teddy himself says that the USSR in those years was in dire need of currency, so it opened its doors wide for foreign tourists. Indeed, according to official data, which are cited in the book "Through the Iron Curtain" about the trips of foreigners to the Soviet Union, from 1960 to 1980 the number of foreign tourists increased by 7 times (from 700 thousand to 5 million people). Some regions of the USSR in the 1960s became accessible to foreigners for the first time.

From the Soviet side, the organizer of the trip was Intourist, a state travel company that organized and escorted foreigners' trips around the country. Intourist provided the American with housing, transportation, guides and food coupons in its restaurants. Teddy traveled between cities by plane, train, and even ship (along the Volga). He was able to visit thirty cities in all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union. After the western regions of the country, his route ran through Moldova, the Volga region, the Don, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Siberia (the tourist traveled along the Trans-Siberian Railway) and ended in the Far East.

How much the whole trip cost, he no longer remembers, but very expensive. The exchange of dollars for rubles at the official, extremely unprofitable rate hit the American wallet.

In his diary, he writes with irony: “The administrator <…> asked why I did not take my wife with me. I replied that if the Soviet government had exchanged dollars for rubles at their actual value, I could have brought my wife and I would have still had money! ”

Meeting in billings

Other documents about the trip of Teddy Row, except for two messages and part of the diary as an application, could not be found in the SBU archive. Present time has sent requests to the archives of the FSB and the Baltic countries, but has not received any answers; a representative of the State Archive of Latvia said that most of the KGB archive of the Latvian SSR was taken to Moscow in the late 1980s, and no mention of Teddy Row could be found in the remaining documents available under quarantine.

But the present time managed to find Teddy Rowe and contact him - the former assistant to Senator Mike Mansfield lives in Montana, now he is 85 years old.

An American historian, Sean Gillory, a researcher at the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, helped contact Row. Interested in the story of an American foreign tourist in the USSR and impressed by the vast geography of Rowe's Soviet tour, as well as the attention with which he recorded everyday life in his diary, Gillory decided to document Teddy's memories and in January 2020 met with him in his house in the town of Billings, state Montana.

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“Rowe Teddy, born in 1934, suspected of involvement in American intelligence,” he reads an excerpt from the report about himself. - I want to say right away that I have never been in any way connected with American intelligence.

According to Teddy Rowe, he still often recalls that trip. And when at the end of 2019 I received an e-mail with a story about the documents found in Kiev and a request for an interview, I was "slightly shocked."

By first education, Teddy Rowe is a journalist. In his student years he trained in Argentina, after university he wrote for several years for local publications in the states of Montana and Iowa. In 1961, the young correspondent received a scholarship for an internship in Congress as an assistant to the senator. Including Rowe worked with Mike Mansfield - he persuaded the intern to quit journalism and stay to work with him.

"No illusions"

About the grant, as well as about work in Congress, Rowe did not tell anyone in the USSR. He was silent about the journalistic experience and the study of Russian studies. Otherwise, Teddy is sure, in every city he would be taken to official meetings and taken to places like exemplary factories. And in the status of a simple tourist, he was left to his own devices - as much as possible.

The fact that Teddy kept silent about some facts of his biography, of course, did not protect the KGB from attention - all the more so, as it follows from the documents of the special services, the authorities still knew about all or almost all of these facts.

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“When I went to the Soviet Union, I had no illusions,” Rowe said in an interview with Sean Guillory in our days. - I said to myself: "They will open my luggage, they will follow me on the streets, they will talk to people with whom I accidentally speak." Although, were these [conversations] random?

At the same time, Teddy had no serious fears for his fate, because nothing illegal was included in the traveler's plans. In conversations, he did not allow himself to be superfluous, and when photographing, he made sure that bridges, military, etc. did not fall into the frame. Teddy hoped that with some problems with the Soviet authorities, he would be helped by Mike Mansfield's reputation as an adversary of the Vietnam War.

Details of how Teddy Rowe spent his time in the USSR, as well as the content of his conversations with citizens, the KGB, as a rule, received from agents and informants. Most often, these were Intourist employees, but not only guides and hotel workers, but also people who, on the instructions of the curator, “accidentally” got to know the object of observation on the street, could be KGB informers.

The task of the agents was not only to listen, but also to voice the necessary things themselves: "Further work on <...> Rowe Teddy in other regions of our country was carried out in the direction of exerting an ideological influence on the tourist beneficial to us and creating a positive image of the Soviet Union in him", - noted in one of the KGB documents.

Talking about the fact that some "random" meetings during his trip to the USSR could have been planned by the State Security Committee (documents confirm this hypothesis), Teddy cautiously expresses suspicions about two acquaintances. The first was with a Leningrad engineer, a fellow traveler on a train from Moscow. The second - with a married couple of scientists from Kiev, who were sitting next to him in the opera house. In both cases, the new acquaintances were courteous and friendly, inviting the foreigner home. There is no direct evidence of their work for the Chekists - Rowe proceeds more from internal feelings.

The agent’s acquaintance with the object of development in the theater and especially in the train is a common KGB technique. The same tricks were used, for example, during the development of the heroine of another story told by the Present Time - Taisiya Jaspar.

Reading what the "office" reported about him, Teddy finds there both the truth, and the half-truth, and pure inventions of agents or security officers.

He was especially surprised when he read about how “he tried to get a manuscript from one of the Soviet citizens for publication in the USA under a pseudonym, declaring that he would not be destined Sinyavsky and others“. There was nothing even approximately similar, according to Rowe, in reality.

To write about what he saw and heard in the USSR, Teddy Rowe continued until the very end of his journey. Since the diary was read against his will, the author omitted some acute moments and, after returning home, restored it from memory. The result was voluminous work - 448 typewritten pages. For decades, these notes have been in Rowe’s house; the idea of ​​publishing them has remained unrealized. For more than 50 years, only some of Teddy's acquaintances (including the author of this article) could read the recordings.

USSR through the eyes of an American

On the pages of his notes, Teddy appears as a thoughtful observer who understands Soviet life and distinguishes the “showcase” from reality. Being critical of the regime, the American speaks warmly of most of the locals. "Anticommunist, but not dogmatic" - such a description was given to Teddy Rowe by historian Sean Guillory after a personal meeting, but it is quite true for that young tourist in 1968.

Those quotes that the KGB cites in its document were also found in the full version of the diary. With the permission of the author, selected passages of the recordings have been translated into Russian and published below. For the convenience of the reader, they are divided into several thematic blocks: where necessary, they are accompanied by comments by the author of the article.

Upon learning where Teddy Rowe came from, almost all of his Soviet interlocutors immediately began to question or simply talk about two things: the Vietnam War and the situation of the black population in the United States - these were the favorite subjects of anti-American propaganda in the USSR of those years. The tourist patiently explained his position: he opposes the participation of the American army in the Vietnamese confrontation and for ensuring all rights for African Americans. The third eternal theme is “total unemployment and poverty” in the United States. Over time, endless conversations about the same thing began to frankly tire the traveler. As well as stereotyped stories about what heights the Soviet regime has reached in 50 years of its existence.

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“I said that I was from Washington and asked not to start discussions about Vietnam, because I speak Russian badly,” Teddy wrote about a conversation with a resident of one of the Soviet cities. “She repeated several times that it was time to stop killing innocent Vietnamese. She asked if their territory was sufficient for the United States, and said to prove the good intentions of the Soviet Union: "We have a large enough territory, and therefore we are not fighting anywhere."

Rowe himself tried to delve into the intricacies of the structure of the Soviet system, was keenly interested in the attitude of people to domestic and foreign policy. The retelling of conversations given in the diaries allows us to make an unambiguous conclusion: the vast majority of people who met an American in the USSR are not interested in political issues and either do not really understand how the power in the country is arranged, or it pretends. Party members are affected to the same extent as non-partisans. Moreover, the majority of those who join the CPSU do this for the sake of a career.

Here is his record of a conversation with the Kharkov guide Leroy:

“Like everyone I met and who is associated with the party (she is a Komsomol member), Lera insisted that the Supreme Soviet was the real authority in the Soviet Union. I asked her how many people were in the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet. She did not know. I asked how often they meet. She thought - once every two years. I told her that they usually meet two or three times a year for 10 days or two weeks. "

Almost everyone with whom Teddy spoke assured of his loyalty to the authorities. Criticism from the locals was voiced only a few times over the three months. In Tbilisi, Rowe met a 30-year-old man named Konstantin, who decided to discuss with an American the problems of the political structure of the USSR. He named “nationalism in small republics” as the main problem.

The most radical interlocutor of Teddy turned out to be a certain 21-year-old student from Sochi - his name is not mentioned in the notes so as not to endanger him. The young man told the American about the protests in Tbilisi in 1956 and Novocherkassk in 1962, expressed support for Sinyavsky and Daniel, even confessed to being involved in some kind of "student underground" - "Sub-parties" , which intends to fight for the rights and freedoms of Soviet citizens and is even preparing an uprising. Since the initiator of the conversation, according to Row's memoirs, was the student himself, it is possible that the young man worked for the KGB.

At the same time, many interlocutors told Rowe that they listen to the Voice of America. One of them, a guy of 18 years old, admitted that he does not speak English, but every night he listens to “beat music” on the “enemy radio”. “He imitated [the voice] of the Voice of America announcer very well, so he really listens to him,” Teddy said.

Lera, a guide from Kharkov, said that she had not read Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago, but in full accordance with the formula, “I have not read it, but I condemn it,” added that after what she heard about the book, the work “did not seem objective to her.” At the same time, as examples of "promising Soviet writers" she named Konstantin Paustovsky, Ilya Ehrenburg and "a young and very talented" Vasily Aksenova.

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A significant part of Teddy Row's notes is devoted to the Soviet service. Despite the fact that, as is commonly believed, foreigners, unlike their own citizens, were served at the highest level in the USSR, the service terrified the American.

Teddy's first impression of the service sector was the elevator operator at the Moscow National Hotel. He didn’t want to send the elevator up until it was full of passengers. We had to wait a long time. Such a routine in one of the best hotels in the country seemed wild to the American guest. But this was a trifle compared to the condition of hotel rooms in other cities.

“When I checked in [the room], there was no toilet paper, no soap in the bathroom. And so it was all the time of my stay, - writes Roe about his hotel in Chisinau. - The handle of the door to my room was replaced by an ordinary nail inserted into a hole at an angle. One of the double doors leading to the balcony only had a homemade latch and was unreliable. ”

The diary author admits: in Latin America, he had to spend the night in places and worse. But there it cost a penny, and in the USSR they took good money for dubious comfort.

Chisinau is also associated with Rowe's recollections of the Soviet lines:

“The baby clothes counter was a madhouse. Toddler items were sold on a dais just three steps above the main floor. Most of the women obediently stood in a huge line that led up and around the stairs leading to the second floor. But, as always, others broke through from below, trying to stay on three steps. The result was a bunch of small, very loud, very hot and very restless. One woman walking downstairs had a three-year-old child on her shoulders. The child was in tears, frightened by the noise - but I am sure that the mother did not hear the cry over the noise of the crowd. "

"I need a foreign tape recorder - American or German", film "Beware of the car", 1967

The lines made an indelible impression on Teddy. In his diaries, he writes about how the appearance of any item on sale could provoke a crowd: first, two people who liked him rushed to the product, then the rest of the store visitors, who felt the excitement. Rowe recalls how he once created a crowd by just lounging around the counter. “It is annoying when people look over your shoulder when you make a private purchase, but after looking at their situation, I sympathize with them,” the American concluded.

Row's indignation caused a disregard and even boorish attitude on the part of the staff - not only in hotels, but also in restaurants, trains, shops (including those where people from the street could not get into). Against this background, a polite saleswoman from Minsk, who allowed him to calmly choose amber jewelry for his wife and even compare different models, led the tourist to a real delight.

“I was extremely grateful to her not just for the service that any American client takes for granted, but for restoring my faith in the human kindness of a Soviet citizen,” Teddy writes about the episode. - Lack of mail, indifference of waiters and other hotel staff, an incident with a suitcase, constant refusals in response to a request to see the most innocent things, a feeling that you exist only for their benefit, and not vice versa, as is done with tourist trade in all other countries - all this was outweighed to some extent by the kind attention of this little girl. God bless her! "

The face of the Soviet man

“One of the things that catches the eye of a Westerner is the sheer size of many Soviet citizens, especially women. This was especially obvious to me in Moscow because of the novelty. But I'm still not used to it. The post-war diet of potatoes and flour products left its mark. ”

Teddy Rowe's observations of what Soviet people look like concern not only their appearance, but also their behavior. The American notes the habit of local residents (especially men) to dress right on the beach; that most Soviet women do not shave their legs (“Perhaps blondes would have gotten away with it, but brunettes — some of them are as hairy as me”).

Rowe, by his own admission, failed to penetrate into the essence of relations between men and women in the USSR.

“I tried to look at this relationship, but without much success. In cities in the north [USSR] I have seen young couples, sometimes walking hand in hand, sitting on a park bench. But apart from that, I rarely saw displays of love in public. "

Photo: Shutterstock

The American failed to see these manifestations even in Yalta, despite the fact that the situation, it would seem, should have been more relaxed.

“Beautiful spring nights, lots of secluded forest paths, anonymity as 'the next tourist' - all this will certainly contribute to a more spontaneous reaction. But it turned out that this is not the case. Young couples who are clearly not married seem to behave like good friends. There are more young women than men here, and they mostly travel together. You see how they walk along the embankment in the evenings, hand in hand. <…> I looked closely to see how often they would flirt with young free men - and I never saw ”.

Another point that Rowe writes about is the number of drunk people. “Alfred in Kiev asked me: there are as many drunks in the United States as there are in the Soviet Union? I told him that alcoholism is a serious problem for us, but I saw many more drunks on the main streets and in public places in the Soviet Union. "

Shot from the film "Beware of the Car", 1967

During his tour, Teddy witnessed a variety of events in Soviet life - from the Easter service in Tallinn Cathedral (most likely led by Metropolitan Alexy of Tallinn and Estonia, future Patriarch Alexy II) to filming New Adventures of the Elusive on the Yalta embankment.

He writes about the registration institute, which does not allow residents of the USSR to freely go to live in Moscow and other cities, about manifestations of the personality cult and state propaganda (“The record costs from 1 ruble 25 kopecks to 4 rubles, but the recording of Lenin's voice is only 17 kopecks. So happens when the state wants people to have some things ”), about the Victory Day celebration and the corresponding article in the Pravda newspaper:

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“The editorial came out under a small heading:“ Happy Holidays, Dear Friends, Happy Victory Day! ” An appeal to the armed forces of Marshal Grechko, an appeal to the Czechoslovak communists (23rd anniversary of their liberation) and a long article accusing the United States of their "imperialism" and "aggression". This is, of course, not enough for Pravda. The editorial is small, and there is not a single photograph of the soldier. This can be explained by the fact that the country is simply tired of celebrating. "

Teddy Rowe also learned about the murder in June 1968 of Senator Robert Kennedy from Soviet news.

“The Moscow announcer [on TV] was the first to tell me the news of the attempted assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy,” he wrote. - How can you describe my feelings - an American sitting among the Russians who received news of this kind, especially after two very difficult months spent trying to explain to Soviet citizens that violence is not the norm in American life? My heart is burning with shame! ”


On July 1968, XNUMX, Teddy Rowe arrived at the final destination of Soviet travel - Nakhodka. Next - by ferry to Japan and by plane to the USA. The tourist was a little worried that photos and a diary at check-out may be removed, but they remained untouched.

Rowe's trip coincided with the Prague Spring, the liberalization of the socialist regime in Czechoslovakia. After all he had seen and heard, he was absolutely sure that the Soviet Union would invade the neighboring “fraternal” country.

Teddy shared his thoughts with Mansfield. Many sympathizers of the Prague Spring believed: if Czechoslovakia was actively supported by NATO, the Soviet Union would not dare to invade. It seemed to Teddy that his boss’s weighty word could somehow influence the US’s position on this issue. However, the senator did not listen to his assistant. Moreover, shortly before their conversation, Mansfield confidently stated at a press conference that there would be no Soviet invasion. One and a half months remained before the Prague Spring put an end to the entry of troops of the Warsaw Pact countries into Czechoslovakia.

A few years later, Teddy completed a partnership with Mansfield. Further in his life there were postgraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, a dissertation on the politics of Fidel Castro, work with another Democratic senator, Lee Metcalf, a civil service in various structures, and finally a post in FIFA before the World Cup in 1994 in the USA.

In the USSR, Rowe left his address to many new friends - he invited me to visit and offered to correspond. A few years later he really received a letter from a guide from Novosibirsk, Svetlana - she was going to America with her husband, a scientist, and asked to make an invitation. Arriving in the United States, the woman met with Teddy, they became friends for many years.

Teddy Row himself once again visited the USSR in a different era - in 1986 as a member of the delegation of the House of Representatives of Congress.

This story can be concluded with the words spoken by Teddy Rowe after reading the diary today: “Looking back, I can now see many signals suggesting the collapse of the once mighty Soviet empire. Although I was only a budding explorer of this vast land, even then I saw that the authorities could not resist change forever. I had just returned home when Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The disintegration began and took only two decades. ”

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