After a false start at the University of Colorado, Boulder as an engineering student, Larry began his apprenticeship as a “Cold Warrior” in 1975-1976. As a Soviet specialist he focused on the institutional and bureaucratic behavior of the Soviet institutions of state coercion – the military and, later, the KGB – with the aims of predicting Soviet behavior and identifying vulnerabilities and problems that could be exploited or otherwise capitalized upon to US advantage.
For US specialists and analysts of the East-West confrontation the USSR was by far and away the most important topic as the other great power, and especially because of its possession of nuclear and overwhelming conventional force in Europe, and the degree of its control over the rest of the Soviet bloc. However, ‘Cold Warriors in-training’ were encouraged to develop a secondary specialization in at least one of the other bloc members or countries/regions bordering on the Soviet Union as well. Larry first concentrated on the northernmost region bordering the USSR. During the mid-70s he studied Norwegian and Swedish as well as Russian, and attended Uppsala University for a semester in 1976 on a Swedish State scholarship, before deciding that there was relatively little value-added that he could bring to bear where the subject was closely studied in an already open society. Shifting briefly to the study of Arabic and the Soviet borderlands in the Middle East during 1977, Larry decided that he could best make an original contribution by focusing on an area and issues in which he had already acquired some cultural understanding and historical knowledge.
Thus, in 1978, during his last year as an undergraduate, he began studying Eastern Europe in earnest, particularly Romania, Yugoslavia and Poland, eventually focusing on Romania as the most spectacularly defiant of the Soviet Bloc allies. Naturally, he approached his study of Romania from familiar perspectives – how the country and its regime “served” (or “harmed”) American interests in the US-USSR confrontation generally, and the behavior and vulnerabilities of its military and security organs in particular.
He first learned Romanian (and Serbo-Croatian) from Professor Jim Augerot, while attending graduate school in Russian and East European Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. There he studied under East European historian Peter Sugar, and Russian/Soviet historians Donald Treadgold and Herbert Ellison. Aside from the university’s offerings regarding East European film and literature, the Seattle area was rich with ethnic communities from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union (as well as from Asia and Scandinavia), providing an ideal environment for improving cultural awareness of the region beyond the classroom. For example, he sung –more with enthusiasm than talent – in both a Russian choir and a Yugoslav (Croatian) klapa.
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