One rainy day in the autumn of 1978, when I returned to Moscow from my leave, the Institute's executive secretary for international ties called me to her office and handed me a letter with the invitation for me to write an autobiographical article for the silver jubilee issue of the Journal of American Studies and to tell how I came to be a historian and a specialist on the United States.
At first the invitation puzzled me. To be honest, I have never written anything personal and, certainly, nothing autobiographical (except for the formal “autobiography” required in the USSR for official documents). Secondly, my official status and my place in the academic hierarchy could hardly justify my taking up the genre of autobiography. True, addressing their letters to the Institute, foreign correspondents often called me “professor” and even “academician,” but I naturally saw diis just as a polite form of address or as ignorance of our scientific hierarchy. The fact of the matter is that I have never been a professor (there is no such official post at the research institutes in the Soviet Union). As far as the title of “academician” is concerned, the difference between a senior research member of an academic institute and an actual member of the USSr Academy of Sciences (Academician) is the same as between the English “Dear Sir” and the French “Sire.”