A go to to Moscow on the eve of the Olympics, 1980 | Life and magnificence

On the eve of the Moscow Olympics, the Observer Journal (5 July 1980) visited ‘the town Margaret Thatcher doesn’t need our athletes to see’ to find what Moscow life was actually like. ‘It’s simple to conclude that every one Russians going impassively about their enterprise should be some kind of automatons,’ the file mused. ‘The clues to the hearts of those disciplined and watched-over individuals are uncommon, and consequently startling and treasured when one discovers them.’

Writers peered behind that facade via experiences, interviews and probability encounters, accompanied by ‘infinite toasts to higher understanding’. Contemporary from a seven-encore recital, the Bolshoi’s star bass Yevgeni Nesterenko held court docket in his riverfront pad, providing vodka, snacks and anecdotes. A visit accompanying an area reporter to a bread plant that had exceeded its goal manufacturing quota expanded into an exploration of the workings and editorial coverage of the Moscow press.

Shortages had been nearly a personality in their very own proper: ‘The phrase niet quickly turns into depressingly acquainted.’ On the streets, ‘the typical housewife queues for 2 hours a day,’ reportedly, whereas within the journalists’ resort ‘we survived to some extent on bread and whisky’. No phone listing – paper shortages – appeared significantly surprising and automobiles had no windscreen wipers: ‘Prudent drivers hold them within the glove compartment in order that they don’t get pinched.’ Regardless of that, there’s a considerate appreciation of the town’s magnificence and strangeness and of the hospitality and resilience of its inhabitants.

The final Soviet residents the Observer met had been vacationers, competitors winners from Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine, admiring ‘the greatness of our nation’. If that identify appears acquainted, the town is residence to one of many nuclear energy vegetation Putin shelled with such menace in late November.