Correspondence

Gigantic Weaknesses

One of the sights that most amazed me as I approached the center of Moscow for the first time was a huge poster, stretched across the flat rooftop of a large building not far from the Kremlin, boldly advertising PHILIPS in large letters that needed no further explanation.  Not to be outdone by the famous electronics manufacturer, an enterprising Dutch firm, farther up the Moscow riverside, reminded beer-drinkers that HEINEKEN was the best antidote to thirst.  Another prominently placed poster proclaimed the excellence of BERLONI—hitherto unknown to me, but apparently a major designer of Italian kitchens—and then, in even larger and longer letters, came that electronic powerhouse, PANASONIC.  Beyond doubt, however, the boldest and the least inhibited of these commercial exhibitionists was SAMSUNG, with a poster so gigantic that it almost dwarfed the Kremlin’s nearby Troitskaya bashnya, its Trinity Tower.  A poster, furthermore, which, more than any other, can be regarded as a mocking symbol of the crushing triumph of capitalism over communism, since it straddles the long flat rooftop of the “Leninka”—the Muscovites’ ironic nickname for the large Lenin Library that was erected long ago to honor the memory of the 20th century’s most prolific and earthshaking political pamphleteer.

Am I naive in daring to express such a sense of bewilderment?  Possibly. ...

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