Long Before Glasnost by George Rainier Weiner: Recounting the days of World Runners

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During the cold war years (1969-91), many American individuals, small groups, and somewhat larger organizations traveled to Russia in hope of breaking down the communication barriers between the peoples of both countries. In doing so, they circumvented the ossified bureaucracies of both countries. The thought was, “If the governments can’t do it, perhaps we can.”

Long Before Glasnost chronicles the explosive growth of a philanthropy-focused running club and its unintended participation in this process. World Runners began running the Moscow Marathon annually as a team in 1983. They had one simple mission: to bruit The Hunger Project’s message that “The end of world hunger is an idea whose time has come” throughout the streets and running pathways of the world. They had no political agenda and no citizen-diplomacy goals.

Because they had no diplomatic intent, paradoxically, they may have been the most effective of all the groups that went to Russia. At precisely that, the militarily-disciplined, obsessively suspicious Soviet press gave them a free pass. In a sense, they operated in a modern-day Trojan-horse likeness. Though they started small in 1983, by 1989, they had over 600 T-shirt wearing members running the Moscow Marathons and traveling throughout the far republics of the Soviet Union. The scope, size, and media coverage they received literally dwarfed other participants in the diplomacy field.

This book presents the World Runner participation through distinct experiences of individual WR club members in running the marathons, and their travel experiences throughout Russia.


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