Ask This General

Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack {Ret.}

peter b zwack
Defense Attaché to Moscow
2012 – 2014

Global Fellow
The Kennan Institute
Woodrow Wilson International Center

Senior Russia-Eurasia Research Fellow
National Defense University 2015 – 2019

Russia Affairs
Eurasia Affairs
Joint Presentation
Keynote Address

Swimming the Volga

An Absolutely Unique Book!

Release date November 2021

It’s not often that you find
U.S. army officers writing colorfully about
life on the streets of 
provincial Russia.

Zwack author page 300x191 1

Swimming the Volga is a distinctly personal tale written by Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack {Ret.} that begins in 1989 (in the waning years of the Cold War) when as a young army Captain, he received both a Soviet visa and US approval to study Russian at a regional university in Kalinin. This non-fiction narrative reads quickly and easily like a novel and covers Zwack’s forays and experiences in Russia over the turbulent 1990s just before the rise of Vladimir Putin. During his multiple visits to Tver, he reconnects with an unforgettable cast of friends and acquaintances – regular Russian citizens – he originally met in 1989. Throughout, Zwack seamlessly weaves stories of Russian people, their history, culture and politics into a warm and inspired story that captures this crucial decade with a keen observer’s eye.

Advance Praise

“One of the great joys of serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation was working with General Peter Zwack. Every day, he demonstrated a deep commitment both to serving our great nation and to understanding Russia. The latter helped him do the former. Swimming the Volga shows just how deep into Russian society, history, and culture Peter dug. Jumping from the analytic to the personal with ease, it’s a brilliant story. “

Ambassador Michael McFaul
U.S. Ambassador to Russia 2012-2014
Author of Cold War, Hot Peace; An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia

“Loaded with great insights and stories from his days before serving as US Defense Attache in Moscow and from his deep involvement with Russia, General Zwack brings the past alive to help us understand what Putin is doing today. It is very rare to have pages filled by someone who really knows, and knows how to write it.”

Leslie H. Gelb
President Emeritus Council on Foreign Relations

Swimming The Volga A lively short memoir of life in the small Russian city of Tver (110m from Moscow) first viewed by a young captain in the US army who was attending a summer program on Russian culture and language with American students in 1989. Over a ten year period he was to continue his visits as he rose in rank and responsibility and the city was to provide him with a window to the upheavals of Russia. We meet the Russian friends of the difficult days in the Soviet Union, through the changes of today’s Russia in their lives—as well as the eternal characteristics of the Russian people. An informative and entertaining account by an unusual and precise visitor…

Suzanne Massie
Personal advisor on the USSR to President Ronald Reagan
Author of:
Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia
Trust but Verify: Reagan, Russia, and me – a memoir of the years 1984-88

“This “coming of age as a Russian Foreign Area Officer” is a phenomenal, warm and provocative story told by retired Brigadier Peter Zwack. Peter and I are friends and fellow soldiers; we served together in Germany during the Cold War and I was honored to observe his magnificent performance as the Defense Attache in Moscow during the start of what is now the “hot peace.” But in the interim period his professional demeanor, Russian acumen, and informed insight came, in part, as he swam the Volga. This work provides unique understanding of that part of the world.”

Lt. General Mark Hertling {Ret.);
Former Commander US Army Europe
Author of Growing Physician Leaders
CNN National Security and Military Analyst

“This warm and evocative memoir of Russia addled by change post-1989 is a remarkable chronicle of a U.S. Army officer’s disarming empathy for the young Russians he watched, year after year, as they sought to find their place in a new world. Never judgmental, the author captures the rich humanity of the successes and failures of unlikely friends and revealing acquaintances observed over the tumultuous decade between Gorbachev and Putin. Moving and haunting.”

Colonel Ralph Peters {Ret.}
Author of:
Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World
Cain at Gettysburg, 
Red Army

“Few Americans understand Russians better than Peter Zwack. As a traveler, student, observer, and head military attache to Moscow, he has come to know them in the many aspects of their lives. This memoir, seen through the prism of his experiences with the people of one city, Tver, is a sharp-eyed view of a complex, contradictory–and, yes, extraordinary–nation.”

Robert Cowley
Founding Editor, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
Author of the upcoming The Killing Season