Democracy Dies in Darkness

ComPost | Opinion

Sergey Kislyak, the least memorable man in the world

By Alexandra Petri

March 2, 2017 at 3:34 PM

Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States on Sept. 6, 2013, in Washington. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

He has spoken to senators.

He has spoken to generals, both regular and soon-to-be-attorney.

But as soon as he speaks his words vanish, as if they had never been.

No one can definitively state that they were in the room with him at any time. (This must create certain difficulties in his job as Russia's ambassador to the United States.)

His name is Sergey Kislyak, and he is the Most Forgettable Man in the World.

Pictures of him show a corpulent replica of Nikita Khrushchev. But these pictures apparently correspond to a man that no one has ever met. No one he has ever met or talked to seems to remember him. Not Michael Flynn. Not Attorney General Jeff Sessions. No one. Dementors speak of him with reverence, as the mere allusion to his presence removes not only happy memories but all memories of any kind.

He has made many phone calls. But it is only with great difficulty that intelligence agencies were able to make any record of these calls. His voice, like a tree falling alone in a Siberian forest, never makes a sound.

The second he meets with anyone, this meeting vanishes from their memories and their testimony. After meeting with him, senators will shake their watches and say, "But Sofia, I was supposed to meet the Russian ambassador two hours ago!" and Sofia will say, "He just came out of your office, sir."

He is a paradox of space and time.

He once slept on a memory-foam mattress and left no impression whatsoever.

Pigeons often fly directly into him, mistaking him for empty space.

As Amir Nasr noted on Twitter, he is the reason people in D.C. say "good to see you" rather than "good to meet you": No one can ever be entirely sure that they have not already met him.

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President Trump received some unexpected praise for his joint address to Congress. Those reactions reminded us of times other high-profile figures similarly exceeded expectations. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Who can say what is discussed in his meetings? Those who were in them cannot recall. When people speak to him, they become different people. They receive new hats. They stop being campaign advisers and become Senate committee members only. They are transformed — and then the memory vanishes. Other people will carelessly allege that Kislyak's conversation with Sessions was a series of simple surface pleasantries about the election, not an in-depth discussion, and definitely unofficial, but those in the room will not even say that.

Perhaps no words were even spoken.

Afterward, all his interlocutors have are images and feelings: warmth, security, ethics, definitely nothing that belongs in testimony.

Look, Kislyak is unmemorable, and nothing he has ever said to anyone involved in the Trump campaign can possibly have been of any interest. I do not know what this allegation is about and, also, it is false.

Are we sure that he exists? Is he even corporeal? Who can be sure? He melts away the second he is measured, like a Trump crowd on Inauguration Day.

It must be difficult to be so mild and self-effacing in a position of such international importance. How does he conduct diplomacy when no one can remember ever seeing or hearing him? Even Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who denounced Sessions for communing with him, discovered to her horror that SHE, TOO, had shared a group meeting with him.

Possibly we have all met with Kislyak and our minds are just shielding us from this knowledge.

Still, it is a good thing that some people have managed to keep records. Otherwise we might never know that he had talked to anyone at all.


Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences."

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