It's after 5 in the morning here, I have total insomnia from jet lag and I'm bored as all get out. So I'll just make a really lengthy list of all the many roads that led me to Russia, and hopefully by the end of it I'll have fallen asleep.
1. Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, which I first came across as a little kid (my parents had borrowed it from some friend or other), I was transfixed by the photographs (so beautiful) and the fate of the poor family, especially the children (naturally, since I myself was still a child);
2. Olga Korbut in the 1972 Munich Olympics (give me a break, I was still a kid);
3. A very young and as yet not famous Anthony Hopkins as Pierre Bezukhov featured opposite Morag Hood as Natasha Rostova in the BBC production of Tolstoy's War and Peace, shown on Alistair Cooke's Masterpiece Theater in the early 1970s. Stellar. Probably nobody else here remembers this program, it was too long ago.
4. Nicola Paget (formerly of Upstairs, Downstairs) in the BBC production of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, shown on Masterpiece Theater a year or two later. Also very good, as I recall. So, being a little older by this time, I actually read Anna Karenina and fell in love not only with the text but also with the author.
5. My grandmother's copy of Henri Troyat's biography of Tolstoy, discovered that same summer. This only confirmed and deepened my love and respect for Tolstoy.
6. Russian ballet. Anna Pavlova, Maya Plisetskaya, Natalia Makarova, all these Russian ballerinas had a tremendous impact on my love for Russian art, history, and culture.
7. Solzhenitsyn. I read Gulag Archipelago around the same time that I was reading books about the Nazi regime and concentration camps and of course the many parallels did not escape me.
So, when I started college, I naturally chose a major in Slavic Languages and Literatures, specifically Russian, and a minor in Russian history, and there you have it.
And I'm still not asleep! Although probably everybody who's tried to read this list dozed off long ago.