Webster was given a job in Leningrad but eventually yearned for home and returned in 1962 — as an alien allowed in as part of a Russian quota, according to “The Defector Study,” a report prepared for Congress in 1979.
History has yet to decide how it will treat Snowden.
Savodnik predicts that if he stays, he’ll be hustled out of Moscow, sent to an out-of-the-way city and given an apartment in a khrushchevka — one of the now-crumbling five-story buildings hurriedly put up during the era of Nikita Khrushchev’s leadership more than half a century ago.
“From the Kremlin’s point of view, Snowden has already served his purpose,” Savodnik said. “He embarrassed the White House. If he had any data to share, they would have obtained it by now. At this point, if you’re [President] Vladimir Putin, you want Snowden to disappear.”
No doubt he would be given work, but the Russians wouldn’t trust him near anything sensitive, Savodnik said. The young man who might have thought he was changing the world can now expect to be a welder, or a janitor.
“It’s a life somewhere in provincial Russia, far away from everything you may consider stimulating,” Savodnik said. “It’s not a very happy existence.”
So, yes, they’ll probably give him asylum, but they’ll make it as unpleasant as possible, he said. “And eventually he’ll turn up at the U.S. Embassy begging to go back home.”
One of the most recent American asylum-seekers is John Robles, who declined a request to discuss life in Russia but has told his story through postings on his Web site and on Vkontakte, a Russian version of Facebook.
Robles, now 47, had been teaching English in Moscow and applied for a new U.S. passport in 2007. Instead, he has written, it was revoked because he was accused of owing child support in California. The revocation of his passport, he said, made him stateless and prompted his asylum request. He said that the accusations against him were untrue and that his children were with him, supported by him.
More recently, Robles has been a presenter and interviewer on Voice of Russia radio.
Though he criticizes the United States, Robles makes no public complaints about Russia. He lives in an apparently typical Moscow apartment. Recently he wrote that the hot water had returned — the city shuts it off every summer for two to four weeks to clean the pipes — and celebrated its presence with a photo of rusty water emerging from his kitchen faucet.
Not long before that, he was asking the eternal question here: Will the winter ever end?