Davies was FDR's handpicked choice for ambassador. Davies spoke no Russian, but FDR wanted a friend whom he could trust "to be his eyes and ears on the ground." Therefore, it is a safe assumption that FDR was kept informed of all that went on in Moscow. Davies' wife once complained of the constant nighttime gunfire from the Lubyanka Prison where people were being shot almost in an assembly-line fashion, saying, "I know perfectly well they are executing a lot of those people." Davies replied, "Oh no, I think it's blasting in the new part of the subway."
Charlie Ciliberti was Davies' chauffeur and a favorite of Davies' wife, Marjorie -- General Foods heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post -- who bought Ciliberti a fur-lined American coat. While waiting for Davies to finish shopping, Ciliberti once noticed a blond girl standing close by, watching him intently and smiling as if she understood every word he were saying. He asked, in Russian, if she spoke English. She replied, in perfect American English, "I was born in Cleveland." She had been brought to Russia by her parents six years ago. Now 21, she had been cut adrift and was desperate to return to the USA. He saw her again a week later. Neither he nor Davies lifted a finger to help her and she disappeared into the Soviet darkness. Ciliberti later wrote that he did not want to go "out on a limb" in case the girl was a "phony." Many other Americans were arrested outside the American embassy.
After Davies met Stalin, he said to an aide, "I have seen him; I have finally had a talk with him; he is really a fine, upstanding, great man." Another aide remembered that Davies told her "this was one of the great days of my life, that the president had instructed him that his main mission in Moscow was to win the confidence of Stalin." Davies told an assistant to FDR that he told FDR that he "took all measures to stop the campaign on the Rubens case organized by officials from the American Embassy in Moscow in his absence without any pressure from Washington." He was referring to 29-year-old Ruth Rubens, an American held in Butyrskaya Prison, whom his staff had tried to help without first asking Davies. Rubens also disappeared into the Soviet darkness after being tortured.
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Before U2's scheduled concert in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Bono gushed all over each other while sipping tea on the veranda of Medvedev's villa, near the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Medvedev has rock star envy, while Bono has Communist envy.
Bono urged Medvedev to encourage a Russian company to join his Red Campaign to fund AIDS, TB, and malaria treatments. "Red" campaign, indeed. The Red Campaign has been "criticized for spending more money on marketing than it has raised to fight AIDS in Africa," but Bono's world-class ego plays a part in that.
Russian police arrested activists from Amnesty International before the concert began; a police spokeswoman said they did not have permission to hand out leaflets. Police forced volunteers from U2's own charity fund, the ONE Campaign against AIDS, out of Moscow's Luzhniki stadium. Tents set up by Greenpeace Russia were also moved on according to the organization's director Ivan Blokov: "We were not allowed to collect signatures and to talk to people."
During the concert Bono told the audience, "President Medvedev could not have been more gracious to me."
Even liberal NPR was forced to admit that Bono did not make any public criticism of the Russian leadership during his trip, even though as ABC News noted, Russian police routinely break up protest actions. Underground rocker and activist Yuri Shevchuk had asked Bono to raise human rights issues with Medvedev.
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Q: What's the difference between Ambassador Joseph Davies and Bono?
A: Davies had a better singing voice.
Originally posted in 2010.