Frank Thoms: Behind the Red Veil



BIG BLEND RADIO INTERVIEW: Frank Thoms discusses his memoir, “Behind the Red Veil.” Listen to his interview or download the podcast on,, or Featuring guest co-host Mike Guardia, this segment was part of Day 2 of Big Blend Radio’s “History, Heritage & Culture” Festival. Listen to the whole show on

The 1985–1991 policies of perestroika and glasnost marked a new age of openness and transparency in the USSR, leading to an increased mutual curiosity between ordinary Americans and Russians. Beginning with his first trip behind the Iron Curtain, Frank Thoms sought to engage in empathic conversations with everyone he met. Yet he understood he would be inside one of the most inaccessible countries on the planet. In the classroom, he forged close relationships with his students and colleagues. On the streets and in flats, he opened his heart to Russians, and they opened theirs to him.

Thoms went to the Soviet Union seeking to find common ground with its citizens  — not to judge but to learn, not to bring America to them, but to be an American with them. As a result, he gained the trust and confidence of the people he befriended — and discovered much about himself.

“Behind the Red Veil: An American inside Gorbachev’s Russia” (SparkPress, Sept. 15, 2020) recounts Thoms’s quest to understand Russian culture through the eyes of its people. He spent his first twenty-five years as a teacher in New England pursuing an understanding of Marxism, Russian history, and Soviet Communism. He ventured to the USSR for the first time in October 1985 — Mikhail Gorbachev’s first year as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Over the course of six additional trips, Thoms was twice selected as a US–Soviet exchange teacher of English in Leningrad (St. Petersburg). And twice on his own, he taught English in Moscow and Alma-Ata (Almaty), Kazakhstan. In 1994, in the aftermath of Gorbachev’s resignation, he took his final journey to the new Russia.




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