The mystery of the Moscows of America also intrigued Erjan Aisabay, who set out to visit all of them and write a book about his experience. Aisabay, who was born in Kazakhstan but attended college in the original Moscow, launched his project hoping that America’s shared love of Russia’s capital city might help bring the two countries together.

But as Aisabay drove from state to state, his dream of finding a Russian connection dwindled. And some of America’s Muscovites turned out to be less than supportive. Like in Moscow, Texas, where his attempt to strike up a conversation didn’t turn out as planned.

“I say, ‘Hi my name is so and so, you know I’m writing a book about Moscows’ and then you know she looks at me like completely mistrust and she’s like ‘You should leave.’ … And I saw something that looked like a gun. … This was my last Moscow and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to die in my last Moscow!’”

For PRI’s The World (a co-production of the BBC)

For a complete archive of my stories for The World, click here.