I went with Rustem the branch campus of Bashkir State University in the town of Birsk, population of about 40,000. Great day! We started the day off in the presidents office where we got acquitted, then had tea for a few minutes. Then we went to the auditorium, where there were about 200 students assembled, and they asked me questions about America. They like that I am a Cold War scholar, and one student asked me if the movie Rocky IV (Rocky fights the Russian played by Dolph Lundgren) ended the Cold War. I had to say that I didn’t think it did. Then we went for a tour of the city, then a tour of the university, then to lunch. I learned the Russian tradition of making toasts – you must say something from the heart, and if you make a toast you must drain the glass. We had vodka, cognac, tea, and water. Seated at left are various faculty deans, and what is left of lunch.
Lunch was terrific, by the way, and we had about 7 different courses. I particularly liked the fish, which you can see to the left. At one point, as the waitress brought another course and I was so full, I jokingly called out “Nyet, Nyet, Nyet. We are too full!” I guess she was not too familiar with my sense of humor, as she looked horrified and started to take the meals back to the kitchen. Someone stopped her though, and we kept eating.