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When Russia Sold Alaska to America

The Gothenburg Tales

The Gothenburg Tales (Photo Kovuuri G. Reddy)

The never-married sexagenarian French-language teacher listened to the Republican Party’s supporter, who predicted that the incumbent President Donald Trump would be re-elected as the US President.

The Republican — an American citizen married to a Swede, they moved to Sweden for a change of life and to experience that life before they would touch dotage — disclosed to the gathering that he had cast his postal ballot. And thundered Donald Trump would invariably win. And he stressed ‘if the Democrats did not indulge in electoral fraud or some such things’.

The French teacher was convinced with the American’s electoral observations. He asked, “Do you think Russia will ask for Alaska?”

“Anything is possible in geopolitics,” said the American taking a sip of wine. “If France and Germany can become friends, bedfellows — ”

The discussion at the table of eight participants narrowed to the US presidential elections. They were attending the October’s monthly gathering organised by the Gothenburg Expats League (GEL).

What exactly GEL promotes is an unending mystery to its members, paid and unpaid, for it is has something for everyone: networking or social or dating platform. It is also a first port of call for those who are recently separated from their loved ones, or freshly-divorced ones, or those divorced from their wedded ones some time ago, or on the lookout for someone better. The monthly meetings presented a chance for something for many of them, the promise of something.

Another one, a Left-leaning Gothenburger, chuckled. “Trump winning, ah?’

The American detected the mockery emanating in the Gothenburger. He said, “You Swedish do not understand politics, realpolitik.”

The French teacher asked the American, “Why would America sell, or return, Alaska to Russia? Do you think by giving back Alaska to Russia, the USA can win Russia’s support in its trade war, and other wars, umm?”

“Honestly, I’m not interested in that political crap. But America is in safe hands,” the American said wishing to get rid of the old Swedish bloke. Living in Sweden also taught him that half of the country liked Russia (Russophiles like the old Swedish bloke abound in the country) and the other half disliked America (his wife is a Russophobe).

A recently joined member of GEL, who introduced himself as from Korea, asked the French-language teacher with disbelief, “When did Russia sold Alaska to America?’

The Russophile struggled to remember the year. “In nineteenth century.”

The American laughed. “What do you like to eat? Food. You sound like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Our honourable friend from Korea,” said the American, and looked at the Korean, and asked, “are you from North Korea or South Korea?”

The man from Korea repeated. “Korea.” And he was aware of Alaska because he placed bets online on the chicken-shit board. Literally, placing bets on chicken shit.

In chicken-shit board bets are placed in predicting on which square in a grid a chicken will shit, defecate. The game is played for the amusement of residents in Hyder in Alaska, the USA and also for the entertainment of the residents of Stewart, Canada. Stewart and Hyder are the border towns of the two Northern American countries. When the border towns of Hyder and Stewart celebrate the American Independence Day and Canada Day respectively, one of the not-so-shy activity of Hyderites and Stewardites is placing bets on the chicken-shit board, predicting in which square on the grid the chicken will defecate, shit.

Why the Korean was attending this month’s gathering of GEL surprised the organisers but they acknowledged him for he was a paid member of the club. Paid members of the GEL have access to profiles of other paying and non-paying members.

“Okay,” agreed the American but suspecting the Korean to be a Chinese, “Which year. In which year or decade did America buy Alaska from Russia, I don’t know, enlighten me.” He recollected his country’s president’s eagerness to buy Greenland for the USA.

“Can you, anyone google,” asked the French-language teacher. “Please.” No one in the group was willing to search ‘when Russia sold Alaska to America’. He stood up from his seat at the rectangular table and searched for his in-the-middle-of-divorce friend named Alex Peterson.

The quinquagenarian Alex, a Swedish-language teacher, was annoyed at the sight of his friend stomping towards his table, who wanted to know from him in which year Russia had sold Alaska to America. Alex thought that when they were in a place to find a compatible mating partner, or networking for professional benefit, he wants to know something completely different. No wonder he is never married, or found any one to live with. But he said, “My mobile has no internet, now.” He was irked for he was distracted from an engrossing conversation with a woman who had arrived fifteen minutes ago.

The woman answered Alex’s friend’s question. “Eighteen sixty seven.”

“How do you know,” asked Alex’s friend, and introduced himself. “I’m Mister Billgren, Kenny Billgren, but you can call me Kenny. By the way, what is your name?”

The woman glanced at Alex, and Alex responded. “Kenny, you should go and talk about politics, about Russia, and the US general elections.”

“She looks like, one of those Matryoshka,” Kenny said with his eyes fixed on the woman’s chubby cheeks. He had a collection of Matryoshka dolls in his house, in varying sizes, some he got them as gifts and some he bought them when he had visited USSR, the latter-day Russia.

“I’m a Russian but live in Sweden for,” the woman said, “few months.”

“Do you think Russia will buy back Alaska?”

“Not only Alaska, but only whole of Manchuria.”

“This is interesting,” Kenny said and sat next to her while his friend Alex seethed in agitation.

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Kovuuri G. Reddy

Kovuuri G. Reddy

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Independent journalist; short, short story writer; living in Sweden. Worked as a broadcast journalist and teaching journalsim and media in England and India.