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Vladimir Pozner On America
Photos courtesy

In 1935, beloved Soviet satirists Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov arrived in New York to start work on an assignment from Joseph Stalin himself. Their task? Travel across the United States observing American people and culture and then produce a book revealing the faraway land of assembly lines and skyscrapers, automats and cornfields to the Soviet people. The pair wrote up their impressions in a book published in 1937 under the title Odnoetazhnaya Amerika [America, One-Story High], a reference to the small-town America they had seen.

Seventy years later, American-raised Russian television journalist Vladimir Pozner, recognizing a new need to give the Russian public a sense of the “real” America, grabbed a film crew and fellow Russian TV personality Ivan Urgant and retraced the steps of Ilf & Petrov. The trip yielded a 16-part documentary that was aired on Russia’s Channel One this spring. In tribute to the legendary Soviet writers, Pozner produced a written record as well and on April 15 released a new book based on his experiences doing the American project. Co-written with American friend Brian Kan, who was present for much of the journey, and with photos by Ivan Urgant, the eponymous volume parallels the 1937 travelogue, providing insights into contemporary America. So far the book is available only in Russian, but there is an English-language version in the works, translated by Moscow Times language columnist and Passport veteran and Michele Berdy.

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