Letter From Russia

Discussion in 'Mainstream News Stories' started by Zeke Newbold, Mar 31, 2018.

  1. Zeke Newbold

    Zeke Newbold Carbon based biped.

    Messages:
    616
    Likes Received:
    842
    Trophy Points:
    94
    So Russia is very much in the Western news like never before and - as an expat who lives here - I thought it might be good to give an occasional glimpse of what it is like to live in the belly of the beast: Moscow. (I invite other expats in Russia - there's one or two more on here - to join in). Forgive me if it rambles....

    The thing about Moscow life is that it just grinds on like some huge hyperactive Heath Robinson machine, regardless of geopolitics. Russian people are for the most part intensely apolitical and they just bury themselves in their private worlds...: trying to ski in the last of the snow, trying not to let the inherent unhealthiness of Moscow life affect them too much, trying to better themselves,catching American TV series's online,planning holidays to Turkey, crowding the Metro,and going out to their dachas at weekends to `sleep`.

    That said, I have noted a new restlesness among the mostly young and middle class students who I teach English to: they know the last election was a huge circus and they are very conscious of the pervasiveness of corruption. Many said that they would vote for Ksenia Sobchack as a protest, expecting nothing of it. A great many wish to leave their country altogether, and decamp to Canada or Australia - places they imagine to be probem-free utopias (btw Britian doesn't feature so heavily in this escape fantasy).

    We are emerging from a seemingly long and challenging winter - perhaps it was just a normal Russian winter really, but this one seemed to hit us hard -and the temperatures are now very early minus figures - with some sun, some actual sun! -and we are slowly waking up from the sleepwalking life of the past few months.

    For the first time in the ten or so years that I have been here I am being asked by folks at home if I am `allright`. I can only reply that nothing has changed- yet. I can report, hand on heart, that I have never experienced the slightest hostility from any Russian - that I can think off -on account of merely being British.The attitude is more one of curiosity (`Don't you miss your family?` `Why is London always foggy?` `Do you drink tea at four -o-clock?`) sometimes mingled with a kind of respect (for being a brave traveller - as they see it) I am, however, starting to wonder if the political situation is going to rebound on my work somehow - visas and all of that, but nothing has come to my attention so far.

    A few days ago I had a surprise visit to my flat from the Politsia (the police). This was a bit concerning at first, but it turned out that they were merely collecting the names and details of all the people in the area - something to do with the imminent World Cup. They looked at my I.D, spoke to my landlady and asked me some questions and otherwise were polite enough.

    Ah, yes: the World Cup. That's a biggy here. They have spent the last year rebuilding Moscow round the clock - there has been building and renovation sites wherever you go and the endless noise of road drills. The Metro now has announcements in English and there are special police around called the Tourist Police who can speak English and whose job it is to help tourists. Ladies and gentlemen: they really, really want people to come!

    That is why, even though I am temperamentally disinclined to conspiracy theories, and no Putin fan, I do find it hard to understand why Putin's regime would have been directly involved in the events at Salisbury. Why piss on your own parade in that way? I can however believe that Russians in some shape or form were behind it.

    And by the way, Johnson's rant comparing the World Cup to the Nazi Olympics was about the most ill-judged remark that a diplomat could possibly make. Russians are obsessed with the `Great Patriotic War` against the Nazis to an unhealthy degree so that was about the most inflammatory thing anyone could have said.That will have been reported in the state run media and now the Man in the Street, who has nothing against us Brits, will have felt slighted for sure.

    Well, that's all for now. PAKA!
     
  2. Yithian

    Yithian Parish Watch Staff Member

    Messages:
    20,711
    Likes Received:
    15,436
    Trophy Points:
    309
    WEBSITE:
    http://petergreenaway.org.uk/drowning.htm
    This sounds very familiar. Even on the rare ocassions when I have some very slight qualms, I uniformly respond with something insouciant on the grounds that a fib is the lesser evil than the concern I might cause otherwise. Quite honestly, nothing short of gunfire in the distance or bombers overhead is going to cause me to up sticks (the end of Up The Khyber is the fantasy); political turbulence tends to pass like the weather in most tolerably civilised societies--think of those riots in Blighty a few years back: almost forgotten.

    Another point of comparison is how--like it or not--one tends to become an unofficial spokesman for one's country when it pops up on the news. Once again, I tend to paint a slightly more sanguine picture that I perhaps see at 3 a.m. on the grounds that even the most tangled mess tends to disperse like a fog with the dawn.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
  3. McAvennie

    McAvennie Justified & Ancient

    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    1,192
    Trophy Points:
    184
    LOCATION:
    Paris, France
    I’ll be over for two and a bit months from early May, looking forward to having a chat with some of The interns that will be working for us to get an idea of what the next generation feel about their country.

    All my previous trips over (between Moscow and St Pete) I’ve enjoyed very much - simultaneously being everything I expected of Russia and many things I didn’t expect.

    Glad to hear there will be some English assistance on the Metro, but to be honest I’ve always managed to figure it out where I am going. Looking at a map and counting stops is not rocket science... It is more the inability to communicate in an emergency that scares me.

    I actually quite like and respect the lack of English spoken generally. It has an air of ‘this is Russia, adapt or fail’ to it whereas the rest of Europe’s pandering to the English language leaves us less challenged on our travels.

    They can keep the kholodets though..
     
    Cochise, Krepostnoi and Zeke Newbold like this.
  4. stuneville

    stuneville Amministratore principale Staff Member

    Messages:
    10,552
    Likes Received:
    2,455
    Trophy Points:
    234
    LOCATION:
    FTMB HQ
    I know a fair few Russian ex-pats, and I'm always struck by how well they can separate homeland and state. They all love Mother Russia, and will defend its values and tradition, but most despise the Kremlin, whom they regard as corrupt beyond even Mugabe's standards: one friend's mother worked in one of the Party department stores in Leningrad as was - she'd see senior Party members walk in, freely buy good quality food and clothes, and furniture, etc, and then she herself would have to queue at a shop around the corner for the most basic, low quality stuff. The disparity happens everywhere, of course, but at least here no-one pretends that the ruling class eat and live the same way as the workers.

    Obviously this was pre-Glasnost, but the vacuum left by the Party soon filled with.. well, we all know that. I do admire the Russian capacity for stoic cynicism (if such a hybrid is philosophically possible.) It's made them what they are as a people, but it also makes them understandably defensive. As friends though they're loyal, wild and passionate company, and that I like in anyone :).
     
    Cochise, Peripart and Zeke Newbold like this.
  5. Zeke Newbold

    Zeke Newbold Carbon based biped.

    Messages:
    616
    Likes Received:
    842
    Trophy Points:
    94
    Well, you'll be sure to have a good time: I think that May is the best month to be in Russia. In this month Spring/summer appears in a sudden surge of white sun and mud and everyone goes a little crazy. It is indeed the `Merry month of May`.

    May 9th, `Victory Day, has become a bit of a travesty though. Now it's more an orgy of jingoism and nostaslgia rather than the remembrance of those who fought the Nazis which it used to be (and which many Western leaders attended). I give it a miss these days.

    I agree with you about the English language concessions. As someone trying to learn Russian it's always a little annoying to hear English on trains or see it on signs. You will probably find too that in central Moscow many people below (say) 45 will want to try out their English on you...no matter how bad it is! There is still plenty of scope for not hearing any English once you get out of the Metro and away from the centre however!

    I envy you the fact that you get to go to Russia in a non-English teaching capacity. All my interactions with Russians tend to get overruled by the fact that I'm here to spread the virus of the English language and that tends to become the centre of most of my interactions, even if I try to steer things away from it.

    As for Russians attitude to their own country..well, it's a weird paradox. They manage to combine intense and unthinking patriotism with an inability to come up with anything at all that they think is good about their own country! One the one hand, Russia is the best, but on the other all European and Western countries do everything better than them. How they reconcile those two poles I do not know, but there it is. I have been told that the French have a very similar attitude to France I wouldn't know, but maybe you could comment on that?
     
    Ermintruder and Peripart like this.
  6. stuneville

    stuneville Amministratore principale Staff Member

    Messages:
    10,552
    Likes Received:
    2,455
    Trophy Points:
    234
    LOCATION:
    FTMB HQ
    You get that in many places though, especially older cultures. The only place you don't see it so much is certain parts of the USA ;).

    Most nationalities will complain like buggery about stuff at home, but if a foreigner does it? Oooh...
     
  7. McAvennie

    McAvennie Justified & Ancient

    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    1,192
    Trophy Points:
    184
    LOCATION:
    Paris, France
    Oh that is very French, their superiority has a little more irritating arrogance than the Russian patriotism though. They will tell you the French way is obviously so much better and then wait for your obvious reaction to the statement, where with the Russian approach it is just a stated fact, they don't care if you don't agree because it is true and why would we even discuss an alternative. They don't seem to have that thing of boastfully telling you their way is better, it just is, it's not a boast it is just a simple fact.

    But get the French ruffled about their perfection of everything and they'll happily whine about everything they have just espoused as the greatest.

    I guess we are all somewhat like that though.
     
    Ermintruder likes this.
  8. Swifty

    Swifty Generation Y

    Messages:
    20,358
    Likes Received:
    20,628
    Trophy Points:
    284
    Here's Putin at the photocopier ..

     
  9. jimv1

    jimv1 Analogue Boy

    Messages:
    8,656
    Likes Received:
    5,640
    Trophy Points:
    294
    You have to hand it to the Salisbury Tourist Information people. They’re doing a great job!
     
  10. Swifty

    Swifty Generation Y

    Messages:
    20,358
    Likes Received:
    20,628
    Trophy Points:
    284
    Don't forget trip advisor jim!

    acathedral.jpg
     
    James_H, Yithian, GingerTabby and 5 others like this.
  11. blessmycottonsocks

    blessmycottonsocks Justified & Ancient

    Messages:
    1,873
    Likes Received:
    2,238
    Trophy Points:
    154
    TripAdvisor just has no sense of fun eh?

    Message from TripAdvisor:Due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing. If you’ve had a firsthand experience at this property, please check back soon - we’re looking forward to receiving your review!
     
    Swifty likes this.
  12. Zeke Newbold

    Zeke Newbold Carbon based biped.

    Messages:
    616
    Likes Received:
    842
    Trophy Points:
    94
    There is a new blog out about the real nature of contemporary Russia, in terms of its culture:

    www.alternativerussianculture.space

    This attempts to look behind the cliches and propaganda (from both sides). It is not just of interest to those interested in Russia either: there are reviews of Strugatsky, horror films and comics.

    (Edit to add: It's by an expat and from a Western European perspective. No covert `soft power` stuff going on here).

    Do check it out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018 at 9:29 AM
    James_H, ramonmercado and Coal like this.
  13. ramonmercado

    ramonmercado CyberPunk

    Messages:
    44,925
    Likes Received:
    14,526
    Trophy Points:
    284
    LOCATION:
    Dublin
    Gogol film looks a blast and good to get an update on tATu
     
    Zeke Newbold likes this.
  14. James_H

    James_H And I like to roam the land

    Messages:
    4,977
    Likes Received:
    1,170
    Trophy Points:
    184
    LOCATION:
    Hong Kong
    That's a blast from the past! BTW, I get the impression that the official line in Russia on is very anti-gay. Has this changed? Would they have got more of a pass for their titillating fauxmosexuality back in the day?
     

Share This Page