Mapping the Road Not Taken: Reclaiming Russian History

My book, The Road Not Taken, poses many “magical questions”—and I’m going to begin digging even deeper into the historic and mythical underpinnings in its pages, here and on social media @SusanRubin1 on Twitter and @SusanRubinWriter on Instagram, in a new series: Mapping the Road Not Taken. Together, we’ll travel through the pages of my book—and at every stop, I’m going to ask you to answer a magical question. Leave your response in the comments here or on social media.


Note to self: Lately Russia has just been the ugly thing behind the screen that got the ugly President on everybody’s screens elected. But it’s important to my book. So we’ll take a quick look at old Mother Russia, aka Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka Putin-ville. 

Dateline: 1905, the first efforts at deposing the Czarist control of Russia was a failed revolution that got rid of the last dynasty, the Romanovs, and replaced them with Prince Kerensky. In Spring of 1917, the socialist intellectuals tried to overthrow the Prince and failed. But in October, 1917, the Bolshevik party, led by Vlad Lenin, won! Russia made an effort to create a socialist country out of a small group of intellectuals and a huge land mass of peasants who still blew their noses on the street.

From the minute this revolution happened, Western powers and the White Russians, went after the Bolsheviks. The whole world tried to take them down. But in 1924 Lenin died and Stalin took over. Stalin was a crappy, mean spirited man who would remind us of our own crappy, mean spirited current POTUS but Stalin had a nice mustache. 

Meanwhile, the Germans fell under the spell of a small, ugly house painter with the worst hair ever, and a mustache that looked like a slug died on his upper lip and evaporated into just a black smudge. Hitler wanted to take over the world: he attacked everybody in sight including Russia where he was lured into battle during the Russian winter. Uh oh. Russia lost 20 million people defeating the little smudge and his world class army. But Russia defeated the Germans.

The USA could’ve been grateful. Instead we got into a dick thing with them. The Cold War, the McCarthy era where you called somebody a communist and their lives were ruined. The Russians got mad.

This brings us stumbling into the 2016 election and Russian interference to elect Trump. Revenge? Yes. But the Russians had by then degenerated into a country of oligarchs who were as socialistic as Ivanka Trump is smart. From the height of their idealism, they descended into an autocratic, corrupt pile of cruelty where the rich had everything and the poor ate blinis.

In my book, The Road Not Taken, my protagonist and her lover travel to Moscow to recover original Van Gogh paintings that the superrich Russians had hanging in their bathrooms in one or another of their vast mansions. This recognizance mission allowed the character to stare for hours at the most beautiful of all Russian Orthodox cathedrals: St Basil’s in Red Square. It is colored like a Disney cartoon with huge onion domes built one on top of the other. With enough vodka, you could spend a lifetime looking at it. 

My characters, Deborah and Tim, were there to figure out exactly where the Van Goghs were so they could steal them later in the book and replace them with perfect copies. This was a grand gesture to help Deborah’s new BFF, Vincent Van Gogh, who she met on the Time/Space continuum and for whom she promised to retrieve his paintings from the vastly rich owners so they could hang in public places. (It’s all a little complicated unless you read the book. Which I hope you will.)

Which brings us to today’s magical question:

What item of luxury, or thing of beauty, would you like to steal back from the haves and share with the have-nots?

Tell me, in the comments here or on social media. Send photos, even! I believe like Van Gogh that art is public for a reason—that it belongs in the public discourse and in our public lives. It is shared. That is the beauty of it.

We’ve done so much talking about taking back this country. What are we hoping to claim for ourselves that was stolen from us, and hidden away? When we make the future better, we should also make it more beautiful, and more creative.

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