Found in Translation


Mustachioed Pavel Palazhchenko, right, interprets for President Gorbachev, and wife Raisa, in 1989, as Queen Elizabeth points out portraits at Windsor Castle.

Remember Gorbymania of the late 1980s and early 1990s? One key factor of Gorbachev's popularity in the West was his plain manner of speaking rather than the standard Party gobbledygook of his predecessors. But with all due respect to Mikhail Sergeevich, it wasn't really his words that you loved. It was the balding man with the thick mustache standing beside Gorbachev — his interpreter Pavel Palazhchenko.

For his part, Palazhchenko always dismisses this assertion as "historical hooliganism." But Gorbachev's original Russian speech patterns drowned his ideas in incoherent verbosity, driving domestic audiences to frustration, as they tried —...

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