Russia II

Moscow, June 16, 2014

Vacations are normal thought of as time rest and relaxation. If you visit a foreign country, however, is it also a time to learn?

How does one learn, then, about a people whose language you do not speak? Naturally books and news articles begins the process. But for first hand information where should one look?  Tour guides, either hired in country or provided by the organizers of your tour are a place to begin.

Tour guides, of course, are only one source of information. Common sense demands one to confirm through observation whether the guide’s information is plausible. Monuments, museums, and landmark buildings also document history most of which I had not read in my history books. All of these inputs added up to an impression rather than hard learnings.

The guides I encountered provided general information on historical as well as  every day life. They were quick to point out the information contained “personal opinion”. The opinion part always contained a mix of critical notions sandwiched between positive statements. Their general observation was that life in general has become better and people were more satisfied.

In trying to better understand these impressions, one needed to listen carefully, observe a lot, and blend in what ever Russian history one knew.

Russia has a long, rich history. There have been two major “dynasties”, the Ruriks (some 700 years) and the Romanovs (300 years). The Bolshovics and Communistis over threw the Romanovs. Post World War II, arose the Soviet Union which in turn morphed into the Russian Federation. Historically, Russia has always had an educated and general well to do upper class and a large, poor, and loyal lower class. Even in the times of communism, most Russians were poor but some comrades were better off, more equal that others.

The guides spoke sympathetically of the ups and downs of Russian history and tried to overall honor their country’s past. A difficult task to say the least. The impression I receive is as follows.

Like most European countries, Russia’s past was full of authoritative leaders who killed when it was convenient and did it ruthlessly when it was necessary. Some were called noblemen, others Czars or revolutionaries. Their actions were normally associated with some greater good, like saving the country against an invader or building some great edifice.

All the leaders were themselves prisoners of the noblemen class (those who surrounded them) and if things did not go well, their lives were in jeopardy. So some killed to keep alive.

Stalin’s era was special and a very bloody one at that. Many Russians learned that communism and their great leader did not bring peace and prosperity.  One guide expressed it this way… “Russians are very loyal, hard working, and patriotic people. They will be loyal and do what the nation asks… The problem is that they will tolerate a despot for too long a time.” Hmmm.

More for later.

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2 Comments on “Russia II”

  1. List of X Says:

    You shouldn’t be surprised by that last quote. Russia never had a working democracy, except for a few years in the 1990’s maybe, which were, coincidentally, the worst years in recent history for the majority of the country’s population, so many Russians don’t have a warm feeling towards democracy. But Russia has had an excellent assortment of various despots, some better, some worse, with every era of Russia’s greatness associated with a despot, so a “good despot” (or, as they call it, “a strong hand”) is often preferred to democracy.


    • X, thanks for the added info. Never the less, to judge Russia by the average person one saw walking about Moscow or St Petersburg, one could understandably think they were in the US…


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