Made in Yaroslavl 1 – Torn from the pages of history
1983 – Sergei Rekunkov just so happens to run the most successful pickled cucumber and men’s knitwear factory in the Soviet Union. Life is good.
1992 – Francis Fukayama announces the end of history. Western democracy triumphs, religion vanishes, and communist dictatorship is never heard from again.
1993 – Jeremy Weingard studies Russian culture & society at the School of Slavonic Studies, Leeds. The course is based on the Soviet model of pretending to process one enormous classic of Russian literature every fortnight in exchange for the allegedly valuable currency of an arts degree.
2001 – Newsflash. History didn’t end after all.
2009 – Jeremy Weingard agrees to ghost-write Sergei Rekunkov’s memoirs. Communism seems to be going strong in China, while dictatorship and religion are surprisingly popular still in Russia.
2014 – Sergei Rekunkov is living in central London, dividing his time between fixing the results of football matches and selling men’s knitwear. Life is good.
Made in Yaroslavl 2 – Made within 500 miles of Yaroslavl, some time ago
My family history with Russia is, one might say, a troubled one. As a young child in Salford, huddled up in front of the single-bar fire, I would listen intently as the tribal elders told tall tales of our illustrious ancestors from the old country who had foregone their chance to live in the people’s paradise of Communist Europe so that their descendants might eke out an existence in the decaying industrial north of England.
Is it true that my great-great-grandmother smashed a raiding Cossack over the head, then threw him into a cellar in order to claim a ransom for his release?
Did a hopelessly romantic great-great-great-uncle repeatedly desert the Tsar’s army to return to his home village and propose marriage each time (in vain) to his sweetheart?
Did three Weingard brothers flee the Tsarist Empire on a single stolen horse, fetching up some time later sans horse in Manchester?
That was I was told. I do know one definite fact, however. In 1982, I wrote to the Procurator General of the Soviet Union, telling him in no uncertain terms that he’d better release the refusenik Natan Sharansky from his sentence for treason. In 1986, Sharansky was released. To this day, I haven’t had so much as a postcard from him.