Julia R. Barton
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I miss hating…

I miss hating the Soviet Union

My obsession with the USSR was a form of teen rebellion. Now, I can’t help thinking: They despised us like pros

Ronnie Dunn, half of the former bestselling country music duo Brooks & Dunn, has a singing voice that’s echoed through many a truck stop and stadium. And Dunn loves himself some Soviet art.

You read that right. Soviet art. This summer, I went to Nashville to interview Dunn for PRI’s “Studio 360.” “I’ll show you my Gerasimov,” he said with a drawl, as he strode up his mansion’s staircase in cowboy boots. “That one’s a Timkov.” The balladeer showed me wall after wall of impressionistic landscapes, portraits and sketches. And then he turned the interview on me: What was Moscow like the last time I went? How’s the traffic? When did I learn Russian, and why?

“Wow,” I thought after I collected my jaw off the floor and said goodbye. “He’s got the Thing. He’s got it bad.”

I should know. I’ve had the Thing most of my life. The Soviet Thing: an addictive mixture of wonder and disgust evoked by all aspects of that communist empire.

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