Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Chaos: A Hit at U.S. Cocktail Parties

WASHINGTON -- Russia is once again sexy in America. Human nature being what it is, the chaos and confusion reigning over there have put Moscow back on the front pages of newspapers and on the covers of magazines, and have made it a prime topic of conversation among the in-crowd at social gatherings.

This has raised my stock at cocktail parties -- something I might actually enjoy if I weren't worried sick about the crisis.

I am always introduced as "the woman from Russia," and many linguistically naive Americans have had entire conversations with me without realizing I am a fellow countryman. It apparently does not surprise them that a newly arrived Muscovite with a Scottish name speaks perfect American English with a slight Boston accent.

In any case, I am widely hailed as an unrivaled expert on Russia, and, depending on my interlocutor's degree of savvy, am called upon to answer questions ranging from "Do they have food over there?" to "What effects will the events in Chechnya have on foreign investment?" My favorite query came from a friend who asked, "Whatever happened to that guy with the mark on his head?"

I went to a party a few days ago with a fairly sophisticated Washington crowd, meaning heavy on government types with a sprinkling of lawyers, doctors. I was having a great time when I ran into the only Russian in the place.

His name was Kolya, and he was of a species immediately recognizable to anyone who has spent any time in Moscow. I half-expected him to sidle up to me and murmur, "Military watch? Rabbit hat? Maybe some postcards?"

The inevitable happened: He learned that I live in Moscow and speak Russian, and he became my faithful shadow for the rest of the evening. I did everything I could to shake him, not least because his date -- a tough-looking woman from Pittsburgh who was immensely proud of her Russian beau -- showed every indication of becoming violent.

But Kolya, with all the charm of the Russian male on the prowl, blithely ignored her and devoted himself to pestering me. "What a woman! I love your world view. How old are you? Really, I would say you could not be over 25."

That I was, in fact, over 25 was as apparent to Kolya as it was to me. But it was pretty standard fare, and, as the evening progressed, his compliments grew more and more outrageous.

The really funny thing was the reaction of the party crowd. While I sighed and sought refuge, these normally blas? Washingtonians were endlessly amused by Kolya's "natural charm." When I complained that Kolya was a boor, my fellow guests accused me of being anti-Russian. My protests that Russians were not all like this fell on deaf ears.

I feel the same way when I see cheap matryoshkas, or "nesting dolls," as they are called here, sold in fancy New York boutiques for $200. "This is not Russia!" I wail. "Don't be fooled!"

Back at the party, while the other invitees sipped champagne punch, Kolya put away an entire bottle of vodka. They smiled. He then began smashing crystal glasses on the floor, screaming that this was "old Russian tradition." They laughed delightedly.

Kolya finally collapsed on the floor. When my old friend Robert, who was hosting the event, tried to get him out the door, Kolya broke Robert's finger. This really gave everyone a chuckle.

I can't wait to come home.