This site is our response to everyone who has ever asked us what Russia is like, and for anyone who might have never wondered, but should have. It’s an attempt to put into words Russia as we see it; our go at explaining that big old riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that in fact, never went away. It’s about understanding the views, opinions and psyche of a nation that hits our headlines daily, without many of us ever really knowing why. And ultimately, it’s about providing a picture of Russia, as seen first-hand by two people, who think that although the journey they’re on to try and understand this country might never end, the process itself is worth sharing.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

From Russia... with Love?

Photo: Evgenii Karmaev. "To the finest and most charming girl ever, with wishes of happiness."
Vlast’ magazine’s question of the week “Does the world love Russians?” gave rise to an interesting array of opinions from respondents. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Dmitri Rogozin, Russian Ambassador to NATO
By my observations the world loves Russians less than Soviets. Even back then, the word “Soviet” was met with more sympathy in the West than the word “Russian”. Ballet – Soviet, cinema – also Soviet. Rather than creating optimism that the meeting will be productive, “Russian” sets off the warning signs in the minds of Europeans and Americans.

Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs
It all depends on how we behave ourselves abroad. If we behave like Europeans, then they love and respect us; if we behave like newly enriched natives of a third world country, then they look down their noses at us. In the early 90s a friend of mine, on holiday in Thailand, asked some businessmen about their impressions of Russia. They replied “The Absolut was always cold, but we never set foot outside.” With such behaviour we deserve neither love nor respect.

Pavel Bure, Ice-hockey player
We are not loved, but we are respected and that’s the main thing. Russia is a strong country, everyone respects our opinion. The Americans are now intending to reset US-Russia relations - they understand that it’s long since been time to get working positively together. We will deal with the financial crisis quicker if we work together.

Georgii Boos, Governor of Kalingrad Region, Russia
Normal people all over the world love Russians, and politicians and businessmen respect us. Russia is a strong country; we are the West’s competitors and that’s why they don’t let our businesses onto their markets.

Ralif Safin, Federation Council Minister
The world both loves us and fears us. They started to fear us after the fall of the Soviet Union. When we turned up in the West we were uncivilised and rude; we thought we were so great, but were incapable of saying hello politely; couldn’t speak any foreign languages; never opened doors for women… They still fear us now because they know what kind of revolutions we start. But they love us all the same for our big hearts and souls.

Efim Malitikov, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States for Spreading Knowledge and Adult Education; General Consultant to the UN
I don’t think they love us, but exploit us - for Russians are very talented and support the economies of leading countries. They don’t love us because God gave us the ability to adapt to anything. In Britain and in America our emigrants have high-level positions in the economic sphere and this makes them jealous. Moreover, our country is big and powerful, with massive natural resources. Many would like to be in our position. They don’t love us because Russians can go to war or to work not for money but for ideas.

Leonid Zamiatin, Soviet Ambassador to the United Kingdom 1986 – 1992
What do we need to be loved for? We need to be respected. They didn’t love the Soviet Union; they were afraid of it due to its massive nuclear capabilities. In the 1990s we sold that all away in return for metallurgy. But we need to do everything possible so that our opinions are respected, not so that we get showered with compliments. We should clearly lay out Russia’s stance on the issues of creating a world currency and taking cooperative action against terrorism and drugs from Afghanistan. We need to clearly specify where our interests lie.

Marina Bukalova, Managing Director, Airline Company Sky Express
The world is wary of Russians because in the minds of people in the West, a Russian is still someone in a fur hat and paralytic drunk. They don’t love us because Russians are unpredictable, impulsive, brave and a lot more talented than others. No-one likes a competitor. This is compounded by the fact that Russians don’t know themselves, and people are scared of the unknown.

Lilia Chekhover, First Secretary; Embassy of Israel in Russia
In Israel Russians are very much loved. We have a lot of immigrants from Russia and the USSR and strong cultural links. We highly value works by Tolstoi, Pushkin, Lermontov. We remember how much the USSR did for the formation of the Israeli state.

Anzori Aksent’ev, Businessman
What love can you talk about when even our closest brothers – Georgia and the Ukraine have turned away from us? He who is loved is not left alone. The West doesn’t love us because it sees us as competitors. The East traditionally respects us. Of course sometimes they don’t like us for unsubstantiated reasons - the US has been refusing to grant me a visa for years, accusing me of god-knows-what. It’s the same for any Russian citizen. The 22,000 warheads our country is armed with however can only be a cause for respect.

1 comment:

Robert said...

'They (Russians) are right foul folk and fell and full of malice'.

John Mandeville, The Book of John Mandeville, c.1360.