USSR flag

Moscow Study Trips

Russian flag
Stories from past Moscow trips
The Moscow study trips were conducted from 1980 to 2004. These affordable "fact-finding missions" were based in Moscow and included trips to many other cities of the Soviet Union/Russia to examine the political, economic and social transitions during those years. They were open to interested adults from any country and attracted participants from 18-78, some for university credit and others just to learn.

Our Moscow host was the Academy of Labor & Social Relations, founded in 1919, a reliable partner since the beginning. Several years ago, there was a takeover at the Academy by a group whose main interest seemed to be making money. The director of the international department that had received us was removed. Fortunately, a year or so later the people ousted managed a "counter coup" and took back the Academy. For us, though, it was time to end the study trips. Moscow had ceased to be affordable and that would have limited access. There was also less interest in the new Russia.

I am keeping this web site open so others can enjoy what was a great adventure for nearly 25 years. I thank all the participants and our hosts who made it possible.

Academy of Labor, Moscow
"Home" in Moscow
Academy of Labor & Social Relations

Why go?

When? What cost?

Information, past & future

  • Recent events bear it out: Russia's future has worldwide impacts--political, economic, social, medical, ecological.

  • We all need to understand the transition there. The cold war was dangerous, but stable. The new era of change is less predictable. The Iraq conflict and chances it could permeate the Middle East, disputes between Russia and former members of the USSR, China's emergence, West Europe's economic difficulties, export of weapons & drugs, spread of resistant diseases, American encroachment on Russia's sphere if influence, oil and gas politics, expansion of NATO and the EU toward Russia's border, growth of nationalism and religious fundamentalism, power realignments within many countries and globalization are just starters.
  • For the pleasure of getting to know Russia and its people off the tourist path. Many participants, including those widely traveled, have found this to be the experience of their lives.
  • To make contacts related to business, labor, education and other fields of your interest.

  • On the previous trip, our host institution assigned a dozen of their students to our group, and at least 4-5 of them were with us every day. The experiment was a great success. Our people quickly made Russian friends and they got to know Moscow and learn about Russia more quickly than previous groups. The Russians got to know us and to pratice English. We hope this experiment will be repeated in 2xxx.
  • Trip in 2xxx
  • Expected departure after mid-June 2xxx
  • The trip depends upon early and sufficient interest.
  • See details. 
  • US$2000-2200 , estimated,  plus air fare.
  • Costs vary according to group size because of fixed costs.
    Please see Details for cost breakdown

    => Siberia extension option <=
    A 10-day trip to the Kuzbass may be possible after a June Moscow study trip. Learn the situation in Russia, then study one region intensely. See the sample Siberia schedule and conditions.

    Please e-mail questions or comments on the anecdotal accounts. A detailed trip brochure and an application are on this site.
    Cooperation with your institution?

    The 2xxx trip will probably be offered in cooperation with Eastern Michigan University and Hiram College.
    Your institution can join in offering a travel course without having to recruit a full group or handle practical details.

    FAQs about trips
    Sample daily schedules
     1997  1999  2001  2004

    Details and application form
     Information for Participants 
    Practical information participants should download (and others can peek at).
    How to examine another society & culture.
    Russian and American values: A comparison (Prof. Nikita Pokrovsky)
    Logs of former participants
    Get a basis to compare what you might see and hear in 2010.
    A Canadian  environmental consultant who went  in 1995.
    A professor from Missouri who went in 2004.

    For now, the following pages share the adventures of some previous trips. Bon voyage!
    Introductions to anecdotal accounts
    1980 1982 1983 1984 1992
     1993 1994 1995 1996
    Photo selection
    Kids at Soviet summer camp, 1989

    On ramps to anecdotal accounts of the origin of the Moscow trips, of pre-Gorbachev years and of several that occurred in the early years of Russia's post-Soviet transition. It will be for you to discover the present.

    Go to1980 FULL TEXT (71K)
    Luckily I was in my office when the phone rang that winter day in 1979. The Soviet way of saying "yes" came without prior notice and might never have been repeated. "There's some guy from Moscow who's going to be here in half an hour, says he knows you and wants to see you." Walter Pflug, the Deputy Director of the Walter Reuther Labor Archives, was calling.
    "I don't know anybody in Moscow, but I'll be right over."
    Go to 1982 FULL TEXT (25K)
    I thought the Soviet study trip was a one-off affair until Anatoly Zayatsky telephoned one day in 1982. How would I like to bring another group?
        This time there was no struggle over our going. The Soviets were still in Afghanistan, but after the Olympic boycott that fact became part of the wallpaper. The deterioration in bilateral relations were being helped by some anecdotal events: Ronald Reagan’s voice test quip over an open radio microphone about bombing the Soviet Union in five minutes and his “evil empire” speech. Learning and dialogue were even more appropriate.

    Go to 1983 FULL TEXT (30K)
    There would never be an attempt at an exchange after 1982, but we were invited to continue to return with groups. Zayatsky put it simply: “The two sides should keep talking and if the only place we can do it is Moscow, so be it.” Getting to the conversation in 1983 wasn’t easy though. Just weeks before we were to come, the Soviets shot down the Korean Air Lines flight.
        I had discussions with several of the participants. One explained that she lived in a small American town and to go to Moscow after that event meant neither her relatives nor neighbors would talk to her again. Another said how angry she was, and I suggested she had two choices: stay home with her anger or come to Moscow and tell the Soviets how she felt. I promised we would raise the issue. She liked the second idea.
    Go to 1984 FULL TEXT
    By the fourth trip, and especially after what happened in 1983, I did not wonder whether getting to Moscow would involve a crisis but what it would be. There was no disappointment in 1984.
        The problem was simply that our visas were late. First it was just a nuisance, then it became disquieting. I contacted Moscow, but they were calm there. All the proper papers for our invitation had been filed as usual in the right places.
    The departure date approached. No visas, no worries in Moscow. When leaving was even more imminent, I asked Vladimir Nikitin at the Soviet Embassy to help. He was also unable to learn what, if anything, was wrong, and he reminded me that one could not go to the Soviet Union without a visa.

    Go to 1992 FULL TEXT (36K)
    The Aeroflot flight from Brussels felt "normal." A carton with a VCR was wedged between the crew seat and the emergency exit. It annoyed the attendant when I asked that it be removed.
    "Do you plan to use that door while we're flying," he asked?
    "It's an emergency exit."
    "So, do you have a habit of looking for emergency exits? In that case, we have others at the back of the plane." ...
    Go to 1993 FULL TEXT  (33K)
    Aeroflot's flight from Brussels started almost as usual. If the new carpeting--attached flat to the floor at least in most places instead of bunching up to trip the unwary--was a surprise, the baggage piled in front of the emergency exits but unnoticed by the cabin crew was not. My first request to a flight attendant got him to move the baggage... and to jam it behind the hinges so as to defeat any attempt to open the door. Finally I moved it myself under seats in business class--to the smiling approval of all the flight attendants, who were taking advantage of that empty cabin to flirt with each other before takeoff. ...
    Go to 1994 FULL TEXT (38K)
    "You bastard! You're on my territory now. Bastard! You come to Russia, and I'll kill you!" It was as foreordained as the beginning of a play. We were seated and waiting to take off for Moscow from Brussels when we heard this exchange [offstage?] and a scuffle at the plane's entrance, whose view was blocked by a closed curtain. The curtain opened and the words' author, blood on his face, came forward to take a seat, then had another idea, turned and threw a parting punch at the Belgian gendarme who had escorted him. "Bastard!" ...
    Go to 1995 FULL TEXT (31K)
    We didn't know we were about to face Moscow's most torrid June in a century, and the announcement was rude. The day we flew, the only functional runway at Sheremetevo buckled and the airport was closed. My group was lucky, left on time after a stop in London and was delayed "only" two hours circling and waiting on the tarmac. Earlier flights had been diverted to other Moscow airports where, on the excuse there were no immigration facilities, passengers spent hours sitting on the planes in the heat. I flew from Paris. The plane coming to fetch us couldn't leave Moscow for 8 hours, so we got to Sheremetevo at 2 am. The taxi sharks would be ravenous at that hour...
    Go to 1996 FULL TEXT (28K)
    This year Moscow began during our stopover in Brussels. A Russian businessman checking in ahead of me behaved with all the pretension of the newly rich occupying a 5-star hotel, except this residence was... a youth hotel. With him was a bodyguard, typically muscular and in jogging attire. Hearing the room price, all of $20, the businessman nodded at his bodyguard, who drew a wad of bills from a hidden pocket, methodically peeled off the amount, solemnly took the change and then returned everything to its cache. ...

    Photo List
    Other photos referenced from within some anecdotal accounts.

    Our residence Soviet food shop 1997 group 1988 group
    Farm field trips Troubled factory
    Victory Day,
    Gorky Park
    Kids The talking part Communist
    School 1198
    2001 group


    Contact: Eric Fenster with questions or for more information.