Eyes to the East

I began sending some of my publications to Russian paleontologists during and after World War II. About all 1 really knew about the paleontology of the Soviet Union was that there were extensive deposits of the Permian in the country and that fossils had come from them. There was a bit of relevant information in our literature, but not much. The language barrier was high and was compounded by the barriers of world turmoil and postwar misunderstandings. The last paleontologists from the United States to visit the Soviet Union had attended a geological congress in 1937. We had managed to isolate ourselves most effectively, so 1 was gratified when I began to receive publications from Moscow. Gradually I accumulated a fair number.

Most of the papers came from Professor Ivan A. Efremov. His work in the Russian Permian had paralleled mine in the Texas Permian during the 1940s in a rather remarkable way, but he was studying the Upper Permian and I the Lower. In several large volumes he combined his own work with that of his predecessors, bringing together for the first time comprehensive studies of the vertebrates and sediments of the Permian that stretched the length of the western flanks of the Ural Mountains.

As I began to cross from the Lower to the Upper Permian, with my early forays into the San Angelo, the Russian books and papers took on new interest. These publications had good pictures of-animals, with their names in Latin, but the texts incomprehensible to me.

Nothing can be more frustrating to a scholar than having a wealth of uninterpretable data piling up on his desk. I can imagine the tension that might accompany any message we might receive from other worlds, perhaps other systems, as it sits defying interpretation for years, driving the exobiologists and exolinguists crazy. In my case, however, there was a way around the problem — learn Russian. This task seems less formidable for German, French or Spanish, because at least the letters are similar to ours and don't look like caricatures of the backwards, upside down writing of juvenile graffiti. As usual, I took the direct route — I got an elementary text, studied it and then, with dictionary at hand, tried to translate the papers. Formal classes are, in the long run, better and quicker. My German, learned in class, has stuck; French, learned the other way, easy as it is to read, never really jelled. The same for Spanish, and so on. The problem is that, to study fossils, I really needed to be able to use these languages, and it seemed a chore at any given time to enroll in a class and take the time for disciplined study of the language I needed.

Never one to seek help, probably unwisely, I began my pursuit of Russian with Russian Primer by Agnes Jacques of Roosevelt College, and learned all about going to the country, having colds and finding the bathroom. Then I plunged laboriously into translating the scientific papers, word by word, phrase by phrase, and grammar be hanged. It nearly hanged me. I went at the job one hour a day, at noon, stubbornly and with no lunch companions. My verbalizations of the Cyrillic characters must have been something to curdle the ear. I did not know how bad, for I had no idea of how Russian might sound until, later, I ran into a cab driver in Moscow who had learned English this way I had settled down for the trip when he began a torrent of completely incomprehensible articulations. I didn't know what language he was speaking.

"Po Ruski, pazhaluiste," I implored ("In Russian, please"). "No Ya gavaru po Anglisky," he replied, "ponymaytchi?" ("But I speak English, do you understand?").

"Ya ni ponymayu," I went on ("I don't understand").

"Vui Amerikanski?"

"Da," I allowed.

"Ya xachu gavarit po Angliski," he pleaded ("I want to speak English").

"Ne vozmozhno" ("Impossible"), I replied, and sat back and closed my ears mentally as I did often when the cacophony of incomprehensible conversation became phonetically unbearable. He rambled on in his "English."

A couple of years after I had been trying to master the Russian language, Professor McQuon, a linguist then at the University of Chicago, set up an oral-aural course in Russian complete with a Russian-speaking concert pianist to keep his students on the straight and narrow in pronunciation. This was a great help and we learned all sorts of phrases. Some such as "she's not a lady but a teacher" and "the outhouse is to the right" never did come in handy. Later, before I went to Russia, I had a tutor for a time and finally, several years later, I taught elementary Russian in an adult course in high school. I hesitated to tell my Russian friends about this, but it did help me immensely and during a subsequent visit to the Soviet Union, my friends there wanted to know who the teacher had been who had improved my Russian so much.

All of these studies were undertaken with a mind toward going to the Soviet Union. I approached Professor Romer, then at Harvard, about going in 1958, and we more or less decided on a trip together. I finally did go the next year, but his schedule spoiled his chances.


During the time I was trying to find out something about the Russian Permian and trying to gain some proficiency in the Russian language, my correspondence with Professor Efremov flowered and we had become scientific friends. At the same time I was also in touch with Professor Orlov, then Director of the Paleontological Institute. Orlov was the one in the Soviet Union who had to make arrangements for my work in the Museum of the Paleontological Institute, where the collections I needed to study were located.

Two somewhat disparate sequences of events finally got me to Moscow, the cordial and helpful letters and aid from Professor Orlov and the odd, if perhaps typical, contacts with the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC. I might have gone through the US-USSR exchange program of the National Academy of Sciences. Just why I didn't I am not sure, but I suppose it was just my old tendency, like the way I learned Russian, of doing things myself.

Following this bent toward personal independence I an appointment with Mr. Krylov, the Cultural Secretary of the USSR, to discuss my plans. My uneasiness about the So ' was strong enough that I found passing through the doors of the embassy to keep my appointments a big adventure The Secretary saw me at once and was most cordial. After a few minutes of conversation about my plans, he asked me abruptly "What has your program to do with Morgan?"

"Really nothing," I replied truthfully enough. Professor Thomas Hunt Morgan was a Columbia University geneticist and one of the principal actors in the development of some basic concepts of genetics. He was the figurehead of "Mor-ganism" when the ubiquitous "-ism" was needed for focus.

Probably I was overly suspicious, but I sensed a trap. More likely the Secretary was just trying to find something we could talk about. I did know a fair amount about Morgan and the monumental struggle over genetics that had raged in the Soviet Union, the so-called Lysenko affair. Politics and scientific in-competency had won out over science and knowledge, with the near demise of the vigorous program in genetics that had developed in the Soviet Union. Apparently, I passed the Secretary's test and we parted on cordial terms, with Mr. Krylov`s request that I send him a detailed letter describing my plans. I did, but what ensued was protracted and only concluded just before I took off for Moscow. It is best portrayed in our correspondence.

Correspondence with Secretary Krylov and the Embassy

The agonies of getting visas are old hat, but the oddities of dealing with Soviet officialdom in 1958-1959 — and now, too, I suspect — need a bit of elaboration. As noted, I saw Krylov and had a long and pleasant talk with him. As he requested, I a very complete curriculum vitae and plans for the trip. Mostly this was a one-way exercise. A few short letters give the flavor.

  December 16th, 1958 
  Embassy of the Union of 
  Soviet Socialist Republics, 
  Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
    Dear Mr. Olson:
Your letter of November 17th, 
addressed to Mr. B.N. Krylov 
been sent to the appropriate 
Soviet organizations for 
their consideration.
  Sincerely yours, 
  Anatoli M. Goryachev 
  Second Secretary 

This was in reply to a long letter I had sent earlier. The date was a bit odd in light of the following letter from Krylov, also dated December 16th. On December 12th, I had written him a second time, having heard nothing, asking for an appointment.

  December 16th, 1958
  Embassy of the U.S.S.R.
  Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
    Dear Mr. Olson:
This the reply to your letter of 
December 12th. I intend to be in 
Washington on the dates you mention 
in your letter and will be delighted 
to have a meeting with you.
  Would you be so kind to telephone 
me upon your arrival to Washington 
to fix the exact time of our meeting?
  Very sincerely yours,
  B. Krylov

This was followed by the cordial meeting at the Embassy which was mentioned earlier, and as a result of which I wrote to Professor Orlov.

  December 30, 1958
    Dear Mr. Krylov:
I am enclosing a letter which I hope 
contains all of the information that 
you may need concerning my prospective 
trip for study in Russia.
  You will note that there are three 
reprints  of  papers  enclosed.  It 
occurred to me that these might, better 
than anything else, show the nature of 
the work I am doing.
  I would like again to express my 
appreciation of the interview that 
we had on the 27th of this month. 
I will, of course, await with interest 
developments as they pertain to this trip.
  Very sincerely yours, 
  Everett C. Olson

  January 19, 1959 
  Embassy of the U.S.S.R. 
  Washington, D.C. 1959 
    Dear Mr. Olson:
This is to acknowledge the receipt of your 
letter of December 1958. We have forwarded 
it to the appropriate Soviet organizations 
for their considerations.
  Sincerely yours, 
  Anatoli M. Goryachev 
  Second Secretary

  February 18, 1959 
    Dear Mr. Krylov:
As you will recall, I wrote you early in 
January 1959 with reference to my proposed 
trip for scientific study to the Soviet Union. 
The letter followed our conference of a few 
days earlier in Washington, D.C.
  Since I hope to begin this trip approximately 
May 15th, 1959, I shall need to make reservations 
for transportation and also to take care of other 
matters pertinent to the trip. Thus I am writing 
to inquire if there is any information available 
with reference to the request for clearance of 
this trip with the Soviet Government.
  I will sincerely appreciate hearing from you on 
this matter.
  Very sincerely yours, 
  Everett C. Olson

Some time after this, getting rather worried, I telephoned the Soviet Embassy, only to be told that Secretary Krylov was no longer there.

  March 2, 1959 
  Embassy of the U.S.S.R. 
  Washington, D.C.
    Dear Mr. Olson:
This is to acknowledge the receipt 
of your letter of February 18, 1959.
We have forwarded your request to 
the appropriate Soviet organizations 
for their consideration. We expect 
an answer at any moment.
  Necessary arrangements for the trip 
to the U.S.S.R. can be done through an 
American Tourist agency dealing with the 
Soviet Tourist Agency "Intourist."
  Sincerely yours, 
  Anatoli M. Goryachev 
  Second Secretary

This was a refreshing addition. I never found out what these organizations were or even if they existed. Whether my efforts had any effect, or were at all necessary, has never been clear. I did, of course, get a visa, as suggested, without a bit of trouble. I have a suspicion had I just gone to an American tourist agency and arranged everything through them, that things would have been much the same. At least on all later trips, except for one official one, this is what I did. Only on the official trip did I have a snarl on visa and passport, becoming a nonperson for several days in Moscow, both to the Soviet authorities and our embassy.

When in Moscow on my first visit, I was given a lot of freedom, able to dismiss my Intourist guide so she would not sit for eight hours a day in the Museum, be able to leave the city for the summer dachas of the Academy of Science, and so forth. While I was away, Professor Vistelius, of Leningrad, came to the Hotel Ukraine to find me. He was amazed, he later told me, to find that Intourist had no idea where I was.

Correspondence with Efremov

Efremov (Figure 20) and I had corresponded at length prior to my initial visit to the USSR in 1959. This early correspondence carries the flavor of our mutual interest in science. Only later did our letters shift into other areas. We began by discussing, via the mails, the similarities of the Russian and American Permian. Some of this comes out in the following excerpts from letters written between 1956 and 1959. Here, and elsewhere, I have quoted verbatim from our letters, with only minor editing of Efremov's for clarity, for his free-swinging use of the English language was a charming characteristic of the man.


Figure 20. Top: Formal portrait of the "heroic" Efremov. Bottom: Jux-taposed, two skulls of Estemennosuchus uralensis, a "giant" dinocephalian from the Ocher site. These reptile skulls are about two feet long.

  August 1, 1956 
  Chicago, Illinois
    Dear Professor Efremov:
Your letter and the accompanying materials 
arrived safely. I sincerely appreciate your 
willingness for me to publish summaries and 
translations of your papers in English. I have 
nearly completed a summarization of your 
"Catalogue" and will submit it to the Journal 
of Geology. I am reducing much of the detail 
on specific localities and using maps for their 
locations. I will, of course, give you full 
credit for the work, but will assume full 
responsibility for the translation.
  I am very grateful for the manuscript that 
you enclosed. The finds of a captorhinornorph 
and caseid are extremely interesting. I will 
await with interest your full description of 
these materials and hope that other groups 
that tie to North America will show up. It 
is gratifying to find that at least our sections 
do have some degree of overlap.
  This spring, as I may have noted earlier, 
we opened up a new quarry in the San Angelo. 
At present we have found nine genera, at least 
four of which are new. They include a 
Labidosaurikos-like form and three rather small, 
carnivorous pelycosaurs (?). The excavations are 
far from complete. I hope to finish this quarry 
next spring. It will add materially to the known 
San Angelo fauna.
  With best regards, 
  Everett C. Olson

The translation mentioned in the first paragraph was of Catalogue of the Localities of Permian and Triassic Terrestrial Vertebrates in the Territories of the USSR (with Dr. B.P. Vjuschkov). It was, and still is, the only compilation of the Permian vertebrate faunas of the Soviet Union. Also this was my first venture into translation after laying aside Jacques' Russian Primer.

The manuscript sent to me reported for the first time the members of the reptilian families Captorhinidae and Caseidae in the Soviet Union. About a year before I had made an analysis, in a volume in memorial to K. P. Schmidt of the Field Museum of Chicago, that noted as important the absence of both of these families in Europe. The timing of Efremov's work was perfect to show immediately that I was wrong. Later, when I knew the Russian paleontologists well, they would laugh about this. But I told them that we Americans were not at all surprised because we were used to such "communist dirty tricks." By then they thought this was funny.

  October 8, 1957 
    Dear Professor Olson:
I have just received a single copy of your 
translation of the "Catalogue." You have 
bite off a big chunck with excellent results. 
You have very satisfactorily summarized all 
important data and cleared misty points. The 
translation is exact, as well, and also the 
transcription in Cyrillic, except in the list 
of literature. Here is a rare photograph 
concerning the taphonomic process: a herd of 
hippopotami doomed to perish in a small ooze 
pit amidst a vast, muddy piain drying up after 
an overflow.
  It seems to me to be a typical example of 
embedding of the large, Permian, semiaquatic 
reptiles. I hope this year you succeed in 
discovering true therapsids in the San Angelo.
  Sincerely yours, 
  I.A. Efremov

I breathed a sigh of relief at the reception of my English version of the Catalogue .... It had been sent to many places around the world and was beginning to engender a new interest in the Russian Permo-Triassic. It would have been a minor disaster if Professor Efremov had not liked what I did, or had found serious errors in my summations.

The term taphonomy, briefly mentioned in the preceding letter, was coined by Efremov in a short article published in English in 1940. The article, which had gone by largely unno-ticed, was followed by a book on the subject in 1950, but this publication was in Russian and few in the US paid any attention to it. A fine French translation was made, but it, too, received little notice. Taphonomy is roughly the science of burial and refers to the accumulation of fossil deposits, the transition from living populations to burial sites. It is self-evident that the remains of organisms buried at a site include only a minor portion of the living population from which they were derived. The big problem of reconstruction of the living system from the dead and buried depends on taphonomic analysis, on unravelling the processes of burial as clues to the ways that transportation and deposition have introduced biases into the samples.

It is fascinating, as a practical look at a taphonomic process, to stand near a raging torrent during flood times and see what rushes by — trees, bushes, mud, stones, boulders, a floating carcass of a steer, drowned birds, tumbling clams, or perhaps a struggling snake or rat. Where did they come from? Were they all living together? Where will they end up? These are tapho-nomic questions. The questions existed long before Efremov coined the term taphonomy but, as is so often true, it was only upon definition of the problem, and use of a catchy term, that attention focused on the subject.

Slowly, during the 1960s and 1970s, after being pushed by some of us — both vertebrate and invertebrate paleoecologists — taphonomy has become a subscience in its own right. The two main areas of interest in taphonomy, the life zone and the burial zone, are in a sense opposites. They appealed in this context to Efremov's own unique sense of a dialectic. In none of the writings that he did on the subject does this dialectic of the source and depositional areas come out clearly, but this was the foundation on which the concept of taphonomy was based.

  October 16, 1957
    Dear Professor Efremov:
Thank you very much for your letter concerning 
the summary of the "Catalogue." I am most pleased 
that you found it moderately satisfactory. I am 
sending you 10 copies. I have many requests from 
several universities in this country, from England, 
France, Finland, Germany, South Africa, Australia, 
and so forth. As you can see, there is wide-spread 
interest in your work but apparently too little 
ability to read your language.
  May I thank you for sending me your book entitled 
"The Land of Foam." I have just finished reading 
"Doroga Vyetrov" (The Trail of the Winds). Your 
non-technical Russian poses some difficult vocabulary 
problems to me. My book with Robert L. Miller, 
entitled "Morphological Integration" is due off the 
press next month. I hope soon to reciprocate for the 
books you have sent me by sending a copy. It is not 
the enjoyable sort of book like "The Land of Foam" but 
perhaps some of the ideas it contains will prove 
  Please give my regards to Professor Orlov and tell 
him I will be writing him soon.
  Very sincerely yours, 
  Everett C. Olson

  February 25,1958 
    Dear Professor Olson:
I am extremely interested in your newest work entitled 
"Morphological Integration." At any rate, we need a 
single copy for our whole group, including Professors 
Orlov and Obruchev.
  In answer to your question about "Laurasia" as I have 
used it, it is an old European term for a great northern 
continent counterbalancing to Gondwana and including 
Laurentia and Eurasia (Erie + Angarida + Sinia). Such a 
continent, however, never existed, as the Gondwana. And 
you are extremely right to say that Gondwanian faunal 
elements were embedded in your Permian facies, distributed 
somewhere on the northern continent. My paper is 
"Гондванские Фации Ceвepных Материков" (Gondwanian Facies 
of the North-ern Continents). It is a pity that you have 
not read my book "Taфoномия и Геологическая летопись" 
(Taphonomy and the Geological Record) that I sent some 
years ago. You are possibly the only VP who stand very near 
to all taphonomic ideas and can clearly imagine all 
significance of this regularities.
  Yours sincerely, 
  I.A. Efremov

I actually had read a good bit of the book during my early days of learning to read Russian. I probably missed some points and it must have shown in my letters. It does bring up a point which is always bothersome. How much of what I took in and absorbed as my own actually came from other sources not acknowledged, even to myself? This is especially true with respect to graduate students, for mine, at least, have been a constant source of ideas and stimulation. I think that all who work creatively must face this problem. There is, of course, deliberate lifting, but this is rare and most of the "lifting" is not planned or recognized. In a later work — Vertebrate Paleozoology — I credited Professor Efremov as one of the major influences in my work from the 1950s on. Some of my colleagues wondered if this was not overdrawn — mainly, I think, because they have seen in me a Russophilic tendency, possibly with some justification. But such letters as this one and many others attest to the reality of Efremov's strong influence on my thinking.

  April 26, 1958
    Dear Professor Olson:
Many thanks from my colleagues and me for your 
interesting papers. The last paper of the 
Vale-Choza is real taphonomy. Your other great 
book "Morphological Integration" is somewhat 
above my understanding. It seems to me that such 
extrapolations are steps to the future science as 
well the heredity of cybernetic mechanisms - mesons 
and so on. I will give the book to my more competent 
  We are now planning a big paleontological expedition 
to Central Asia together with Chinese vertebrate paleontologists, 
beginning in 1959. But personally I shall stay in Moscow because 
of my heart disease.
  As far as visiting Permian localities in this country, it will 
be difficult to arrange as all of our field staff will be absent 
in Central Asia.
  With best wishes, 
  yours very sincerely, 
  I.A. Efremov

Morphological Integration dealt with an attempt to understand the integration of the vertebrate body relative to its functions and evolution. It was done strictly on the basis of measurements and statistical analysis. A mathematical model was developed. The math seems somewhat primitive and crude today, but was, to us at the time, sophisticated. Computers with the capacities needed for clustering did not exist when the book was written, and computer science had not yet found ways to program our data in ways we desired. We did it by hand! Efremov, like many of our colleagues, did not understand the book. Later, crystallizing his historical, naturalistic, geological outlook on paleontology, he decided that this book and such works provided misleading bypaths and had no future in understanding the "real" materialistic world. The vogue of modelling today refutes his feelings as to the persistence of this kind of study but, of course, the jury is still out on its ultimate consequences.

My study visits to the Soviet Union, from 1959 to 1971, came after this correspondence. During these visits I came to know many of the Soviet paleontologists well, and to establish close and lasting friendships. However, it was only with Professor Efremov that I developed a rapport that carried well beyond science.

Correspondence with Orlov

  February 21, 1957
    Dear Professor Orlov:
Sometime back I wrote Professor Efremov 
about our general plans. As Professor 
Romer wrote earlier, he and I are hoping 
to visit your country during 1959. I 
mentioned to Professor Efremov that I 
hoped it would be possible to see some 
of your Permian localities, while in Russia. 
I have not heard from him on this matter. 
Perhaps he has been away, but I would like 
to know about the possibilities.
  Very sincerely yours, 
  E. C. Olson

  September 30, 1958 
    Dear Professor Orlov:
You will recall that last winter I wrote 
to you indicating that 1 hoped to be able 
to come to the Paleontological Institute 
sometime during 1959. I hoped Professor 
Romer would also be taking the trip, but 
as I believe he told you in London, he finds 
it impossible. My plans have come along very 
favorably, for I have recently received a 
grant from the National Science Foundation1, 
supporting my Permian studies and including 
funds for study in Europe, including the 
Soviet Union.
  I assume this is still satisfactory to you, 
as indicated in your kind letter of some months 
ago. It would probably be of considerable help 
at this end, in arranging a visa and so forth, 
if I had a somewhat more definitive invitation 
to come to Moscow and study your collections. 
I don't know, of course, what your policies on 
such matters may be, but anything possible along 
these lines would be helpful.
  Very Sincerely yours, 
  Everett C. Olson



1 I want once more to express my gratitude to the National Science Foundation for aid in this project and many others related to it. I wrote the proposal for a grant in a wet tent in Texas during a rainy spell on Ignorant Ridge. I sent in a handwritten copy to my invaluable secretary Odessa and she did the rest. My handwriting is notoriously bad. The NSF ignored such oddities as "mimeographic" for "monographic" and a budget which I pulled out of the Texas air and, with appropriate monetary modifications, approved the proposal. This was a time when the NSF was fairly new and had not yet become seriously embroiled in the escalating bureaurcracy.

  November 27, 1958
    Dear Professor Olson:
I have received after my return from China 
your letters dated September 30 and November 
3,1958. Thank you very much for the letters 
and your fine words about my work on the 
Titanosuchia. Now about your supposed visit 
to Moscow. It seems to me your arrival ought 
to take place at the time of Efremov's stay 
in Moscow and if so - the only time in 1959 
is April, May, June. No sooner because of 
Efremov's supposed leave during January-March 
and later also. Can you visit Moscow in the 
period of April-June.
  What concerns some official invitation from 
the Academy of Sciences I cannot, very sorry, 
to promise to arrange this invitation because 
according to our rules and "modus" it means 
payment by the Academy of Science of the USSR.
  Indeed the Academy is restricted in sums for 
invitations and the very same time a very long 
"queue" or line exists on the desks of our officers 
because many scientists from many countries would 
like to visit Moscow and the USSR in general. Very 
probably the United States-Soviet agreement of 
Cultural Exchange will be of use to arrange the 
general situation. But I do not know in what manner 
it ought to be done from our side.
  Very Sincerely yours, 
  Yuri A. Orlov 
  Director, Paleontological Institute

  December 12, 1958
    Dear Professor Orlov:
Thank you very much for your long letter which I 
received recently. I am looking forward to receiving 
your paper on titanosuchids. Very fortunately I had 
a copy of the Memoir you need in my library and I 
have sent it to you under separate cover.
  I understand completely concerning the matter of 
an official invitation from the Academy of Sciences. 
I had not realized the implications with respect to 
funds. As I noted I have sufficient funds through the 
National Science Foundation and I am sure your personal 
invitation will serve my needs. I hope to visit your 
Embassy in Washington later in the month to make 
arrangements for my trip.
  The months you specify from April through June fit 
my schedule well. I certainly do want to see and talk 
with Professor Efremov. My main interest, of course, 
is to study your Permian materials from the lower part 
of your section, but I am interested in all of your 
  Again, I thank you for your kind reply to my letters 
and apologize for the trouble I must be causing you on 
this matter.
  Sincerely yours, 
  Everett C. Olson

  January 15, 1959 
    Dear Dr. Olson:
Thank you for your letter of December 30, 1958. 
I have received yesterday. I am glad to learn 
about your conference with Secretary Krylov. 
Do not think about troubles your visit could 
mean to me or Efremov, we shall be very pleased 
to see you in Moscow. I cannot organize any invitation, 
but as I explained in my last letter, it depends not 
on my or our administration's conception, but on the 
economy and sums devoted to invitations from abroad.
  What concerns reciprocal visits it can be of mutual 
use to our interests, but in as much as I know - it 
is rather difficult problem as a result of very expensive 
life in your country (and) restrictions for Russians to 
visit in your country.
  Yuri A. Orlov
  Director, Paleontological Institute

  May 4, 1959 
    Dear Professor Orlov:
Thank you for your recent letter. I certainly appreciate 
your suggestion that you meet me at the airport. I would 
not like to put you to this trouble, but on the other hand 
would not want you to feel that I would not appreciate your 
kindness in meeting me.
  I have my tickets and visa and will, of course, be under 
the auspices of Intourist in your country. Hotel reservations 
have been made but I don't know at what hotel I will be staying.
  My schedule calls for arrival at 10:10 P.M., Sunday, May 17th, 
by KLM tourist flight. This is quite a late hour and I should not 
like to inconvenience you by it. I may be some little time at the 
airport since there will be matters of papers and customs. If it 
is quite late when I arrive at the hotel, I will get in touch 
with you in the morning.
  Sincerely yours, 
  Everett C. Olson

Figure 21: At the old Paleontological Museum, Moscow, 1959. Top: Academician Yuri A. Orlov, director of the Paleontological Institute, I, and Professor Konstantine Flerov — director of the Paleontological Museum, in the background — in a jovial mood during intermission at a doctoral exam. Bottom left: Flerov and I listening seriously to the defense of the dissertation. Bottom right: Portrait of Professor Orlov, from his biography.



As implied in this last letter, I was superimposing my ideas of scientists coming to this country with what transpires when the process wanes in the other direction. We usually find out by personal exchanges just when our visitor is to arrive and, unless he lets us know, we find out as a rule when he makes a phone call. The government is not involved unless the exchange is a formal one. So I had assumed that Professor Orlov (Figure 21) might be in the dark as to my exact plans, as much as I was. This, of course, was all wrong. Never in the several times I visited the Soviet Union was my agenda not fully known to my colleagues there. Going as I did, by the simple way of being a tourist, I was always under the aegis of Intourist, and everyone but I knew all about what was going on.

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