“Dear Ernest, best wishes from beautiful Moscow”
Sidney Reilly scribbled those words on a postcard, to which he stuck two 7-gold kopek stamps, mailing it on September 27, 1925. They were his last words as a free man, and almost his last as a live one. After he had dropped the card in a city postbox, Reilly was arrested by the Cheka, on an order issued by Stalin, and taken to cell no. 73 at the Lyubanka. He was interrogated carefully, but not tortured, for 39 days, until Felix Dzerzhinsky was convinced he had nothing left of value to tell. On November 5, he was taken for a drive to Sokolniki Park, and shot dead.
Reilly (aka Sigmund Rosenblum) was a spy for the British Secret Service, or for whomever would pay his retainer. In Moscow, it turned out, the arch-crook, smuggler, gunrunner, fraudster, megalomaniacal liar, inveterate plotter and gambler, had miscalculated his welcome.
For some reason, travelers to Russia think the worst of crossing the border. They don’t appreciate the crunching sound of fresh fallen snow which triggered Vladimir Nabokov’s memory of return from Finland. They don’t realize Aeroflot is one of the world’s most reliable airlines, and Sheremetyevo one of the world’s best airports. In short, they are so terrified of Russia, they imagine that traveling almost any place else is pleasanter.
If you have traveled in Russia, you know this isn’t true. If you have ever had to form a line in a Greek airport, answer questions from a British border guard, been sniffed by an Australian dog, waited for an Italian baggage-handler to deliver your suitcase, followed the signs in a Spanish airport, collected your VAT rebate in Johannesburg, or tried a taxi at Prague – you know the rest of the world is far less hospitable than Russia.
This is the page which documents how much worse for you the rest of the world is, compared to travels in Russia (unless you are another Sidney Reilly).