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Russia Study Abroad 2017 Video

Posted by: Oksana Ingle | 07/09/2017 Comments Off on Russia Study Abroad 2017 Video |

 

under: Articles, My Travel Journal, Study Abroad 2017, Videos

Study Abroad 2017 — My Reflections

Posted by: Oksana Ingle | 07/09/2017 Comments Off on Study Abroad 2017 — My Reflections |

OUR ENCOUNTER ON THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN with Boris reminded me of when I lived in the Soviet Union and my experience going through the chaos in Russia during the 1990s. It is a different country now, and it continues to change each year when I visit.

I love taking students to my home country, particularly because I get to see it through their eyes. American travelers to Russia, especially those learning the language through immersion, help break illusions that exist in both countries. They are often surprised to learn just how much Russians appreciate them and want to hear their personal opinions and impressions, not just about Russia, but about America and their larger view of the world.

In the case of my students, they also get to see Russia through my eyes, through the first-hand experience of a native who has family and close friends there, and who knows people in different cities. The average tour to Russia doesn’t even begin to compare with what students get exposed to and have the chance to see, largely as a result of so many people in Russia who welcome us and spend time with us on these trips.

I cannot thank all of them here because it would take pages. But I would like to thank three special people—the professors of Russian literature at Mordovian State University who, together with their colleagues, made us feel at home for nearly three weeks by treating us like extended family, such as by bringing us a set of dishes to use in the dorm, baking cakes for us, taking us to their favorite places, and introducing us to their friends and family:

Dr. Elena Alexandrovna Sharonova took care of a multitude of details and logistics, both before our arrival and during our entire stay. Among other things, she coordinated visa invitations and registration, dormitory accommodations, classroom schedule, cultural excursions, and much more.

Dr. Svetlana Petrovna Gudkova showered us up with her warm, vivacious energy wherever we were: cooking for us in the dorm kitchen, taking pictures of us on our outings, and pampering the girls in the bathhouse with her homemade food, special creams, and helpful advice.

Dr. Svetlana Anatolievna Dubrovskaya always made a point of spending her free time with us, lecturing in the classroom, researching information for us, and even involving her husband who was always ready to give us a ride late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.

 


 

NEEDLESS TO SAY, I also enjoyed getting to know my students during this trip. They were very receptive, each with their own interests, and as a group very appreciative of every opportunity. Here’s a short profile of each of them, along with entries from their daily journals (in English and Russian).


 

George

In Saransk, the home of the university where our group studied for 3 weeks, English translators were sparse. Usually I was interpreting during our excursions and events. When we visited the World War II museum, I didn’t know some military terms and weapons. But George knew them all, in both languages, and helped me translate. Earlier, at the military museum in St. Petersburg, he so impressed the curator with his knowledge and interest that he got the promise of a job once he masters conventional Russian!

From George’s Journal: When we arrived in Volgograd, we went to the hotel and rested for a few hours. Then we went to Mamaev Kurgan. I have never seen something so sad and grief-inducing, yet so patriotic.

Когда мы прибыли в Волгоград, мы отправились в отель, где мы отдыхали. Затем мы отправились на Мамаев Курган. Я никогда не видел ничего более грустного, но столь патриотичного.


 

Sam

A friend asked me if we would like to come to in Pushkin Park for a third-grade English class in preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It was to be broadcast on local TV. Michael and I arrived first. By the time the girls arrived, the kids had finished working on all 10 phrases for the day. I told my group to get ready for the “show.” Everyone looked worried. I said to Sam, “Come on, Sam, you can’t be afraid of the camera. You want to make professional movies.” Sam replied, “I am used to holding the camera, not being in front of it.” I went to talk to a young man who looked like the manager and, pointing at my group, told him that the third-graders can practice their English with real Americans. He spoke to the director and the cameramen suddenly pointed their cameras at my students. The director introduced each of them over the microphone which was also connected to  loud speakers. My students looked terrified and started backing up. The third-graders were excited and came very close to my students. Sam and Michael then found their courage, put on their guarded American smiles, and introduced themselves in Russian. They soon relaxed, became charming, and spoke for several long minutes into the microphone, warmly answering questions for the young children.

From Sam’s Journal: In the morning, we listened to a folk music group Torama that will play at the FIFA World Cup in 2018. They were amazing. I am really glad that we were allowed to watch their rehearsal. We took a picture with them. After we were able to talk with some of them. Also, we have hot water for the first time since we arrived in Saransk. Today was a good day.

У нас не было занятий утром. У нас были занятия днем. Утром мы слушали музыкальную группу “Торама”, которая будет играть на чемпионате мира по футболу в 2018 году. Они были потрясающими. Я очень радa, что нам разрешили посмотреть их репетицию. Мы сфотографировались с ними. Также у нас есть горячая вода, впервые с тех пор как мы прибыли в Cаранск. Сегодня был хороший день. 


 

Sidney

We had purchased every last ticket on the train from Kazan, which was packed with parents and grandparents taking their kids to the south on the first days of summer break. Each of us had to travel in a different wagon! Everyone was a little (or a lot) worried. Sidney looked the most concerned, but when we regrouped on the platform after our 9-hour journey, everyone had a story to tell, and Sidney was radiant. She energetically told us about a Russian babushka who bought her tea and was feeding her sweets all the way and how she, Sidney, was speaking Russian with her host. Forced to be on her own, she had discovered that she knew more than she realized, which delighted her—and me.

From Sidney’s Journal: In the train I was assigned a cabin with a little babushka who was extremely sweet. We were also with her daughter and her daughter’s little son. The babushka kept giving me sweets and candy and tea. She was very persistent that I keep eating the candy and we had a nice chat. The conductor on the train was also especially nice and kept introducing me to other people he worked with. He eventually came to our little cabin and I was sitting on the bottom bunk and all of the Russians were telling me I looked like Cindy Crawford. I’m hoping they meant a younger version of her.

Я была в купе с очень милой бабушкой, ее дочерью и сыном ее дочери. Бабушка купила мне чашку чая и подарила мне много-много сладостей. Я съела пять конфет, и бабушка сказала: «Тебе не нравятся конфеты?»

Today we went to a place that said it had “Russian Japan” food. Its kind of comical how they try to bring different kinds of foods from various cultures together. We went to the Russian Ballet and saw some amazing story telling through dance. I loved the one called “Passionate Love.” It told a story that I could follow a little more easily than others. I enjoyed the traditional sort of tribal ballet too.

Сегодня мы пошли в итальянский ресторан. В ресторане не было Wi-Fi, и я узнала, что он не работает. Мы спросили у официантки, почему, и она сказала, потому что он не работает. Я думала, что эти забавные русские не задают вопросов.


 

Yelle

Yelle was usually the last to speak in our group conversations. But when she did, I was often impressed with her insights. Once at dinner at an Indian restaurant (everyone wanted a break from Russian food), we started talking about Indian religions, then about the Mahabharata. I asked if anyone knew the story of Krishna, and Yelle said she had taken a course where she learned… and then told us the beautiful story of Krishna.

From Yelle’s Journal: I didn’t really know what to expect out of this trip when I thought about coming to Saransk, I kept imagining so many different scenarios and events, but I’m happy to say that not one of them happened because everything turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined. I loved the city, everything was so beautiful there, and I loved being able to walk everywhere, it was kind of like being in Charleston. Even the classes were great because I enjoyed everything we did and I learned a lot about Russian culture, both by reading about it and experiencing it simultaneously, the entire city/country has been our classroom for the past three weeks; everything we do is a learning experience here.

Сегодня был наш последний день занятий. Все работали, чтобы закончить их сочинения, но мы потом пошли в парк, чтобы праздновать день рождения Пушкина. Многие студенты читали стихи и танцевали. После мы снова встретились с фолк-рок группой “Торама”, и они сделали нам флейты, но я не получила флейту.

I met so many wonderful people and every single one of them made us feel welcomed, I can’t remember meeting a person who was ever unwelcoming to us, not even strangers we interacted with on the streets; when people found out that we were American they immediately tried to help us out and make us feel comfortable, I don’t think something like that would have ever happened in America. I’m so heartbroken to be leaving Saransk and while I’m eternally grateful for the experience, I do believe that it is time for me to go home.


 

Michael

Whenever students needed a handy interpreter (for example, at the cloakroom at the Kremlin museum or in the dorm where we stayed), Michael was the one. On one of our last days in Saransk, he had two twenty-minute conversations in Russian with two Russian students during a taxi ride. They discussed various topics, including, “What is your major?” and, “What do Russians think about Americans?” Michael also had some excellent questions in Russian for his interview about the Russian revolution with a distinguished professor and writer. After they finished talking about the revolution, the professor inquired, “May I ask, what do you think about your government?” Michael quietly replied, in perfect Russian: “Мне очень стыдно за мое правительство (I am very embarrassed for my government).” On hearing this reply, the professor gently and quietly, said: “А мне очень стыдно за мое (I am also embarrasessed for mine),” after which they both were silent. It was a powerful moment for me, watching a fine young American and a fine old Russian looking at each other in silence.

From Michael’s Journal: I am increasingly convinced that to physically experience and see a building or work of art carries with it an intangible power quite distinct and unique from viewing the same building or work online or in a book. I have viewed Ilya Repin’s works before, and they have produced emotions in me—some being powerful ones. Yet as I stood before his works in the Tretiakov Gallery, my feelings toward his works were so much more visceral than when viewing a reproduction of his work. The brushwork, the textures, the colors—all were so much more alive. If I had not come to Russia, these experiences would have never happened, and I would be a lesser person for it.

Я не знаю, как начинать. Наконец я в России. Сегодня я увидел здания, места и соборы, о которах я только читал. Книги и фотографии не передают красоту этой страны. Эти русские места красивее, чем фотографы показывают.

Why does everything here seem so much more amazing? Maybe routine and familiarity blinded me to the small pleasures of life—trees, flowers, vistas. Perhaps I have been too focused on the wrong things in life, and only now, after being thrown into an alien land, have I paused and questioned my life. It seems to me that I am not so distinct from Akakii Akakiievich or Ivan Ilych. I’ve lived for the wrong things; I’ve lost sight of what’s important.

Какой интересный день! На улице у моста, у Кремля в Москве бабушке нужна была помощь, но я ее не понимал. Я думаю, что она хотела знать, как переходить улицу, но я не понимал. А потом, снова перехожу через мост, вторая бабушка, которую звали Ирина Антоновна, ей тоже нужна была помощь. Она искала метро. Какое странное место!


 

Carol

When we were checking into our dorm in Saransk, the students introduced themselves to the security guards who watched everyone coming in and out of the building and who kept room keys whenever we went out. Carol, a retired CofC psychology professor, was among our students. At one point, the guards took me aside and asked why this older lady is with the students? I explained that in the States many educated retired Americans take college classes and travel abroad. I said that Carol is very interested in Russia and Russian, and she has surprised the younger students with her ability to physically keep up with them. She even climbed all 262 steps of the winding, treacherous stairway inside Isaac’s Cathedral (the fourth largest cathedral in Europe).

From Carol’s Journal: As a retired professor and victim of wanderlust, being in the student role and traveling with a knowledgeable instructor who is also a native of the place seemed to me to be the best way to experience Russian culture and to work on my fledgling language skills. As a social psychologist, it was also a great opportunity to ponder a topic that is important to my professional interests, namely stereotyping. For example, a trip on the Moscow metro might lead you to believe that most Russians are curt and unfriendly, rarely making eye contact as they race by and cram themselves into packed subway cars where they wait silently with morose expressions to reach their destination. When we’re short on experiences, however, we’re likely to generalize from a few observations and end up with a shortsighted view of a different culture. In the case of Russia, a bit more time and thoughtfulness helped us realize that the subway travelers we saw on their way to work were behaving very much the same as in other cultures.

Я спала в одном купе с советским офицером в России! (Ха-ха!)


 

Our Group

One evening after attending the theater, we were on our way to dinner when we met a professor I knew. As we were talking on the sidewalk, her student and his girlfriend stopped to say hello, and my students tried to speak Russian with them. My students were also nicely dressed because they had learned from their textbook that you dress up when you go to the theater in Russia. The Russian boy’s girlfriend seemed impatient. She finally pulled him by the sleeve and said, “Let’s go, they don’t look American”—which, coming from her in that context, was a fine compliment to our group. That brief encounter also led to a wonderful conversation during our dinner.

under: Articles, My Travel Journal, Study Abroad 2017

Russia Study Abroad Bridges the Cultural Divide

Posted by: Oksana Ingle | 07/09/2017 Comments Off on Russia Study Abroad Bridges the Cultural Divide |

AS WE BOARDED THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN FROM MOSCOW and entered our compartment, I introduced my students to the elderly Russian man who was already seated. To my surprise, he looked away and said brashly, “I don’t talk to enemies.”

Since 2011, I have taken College of Charleston students for a Maymester abroad, but this was the first time I had encountered a Russian who fit so well the image portrayed by the American media of an average citizen who is hostile toward Americans. But here he was. Sitting next to him, I kept thinking how the U.S. media is trying fervently to revive the image of “dangerous” Russians with a mindset of soviet aggression and hatred—an image fostered primarily by the notion of online hackers. This man, however, had a flip phone. He was by no means a computer wizard. Russia’s government controlled media is also working hard to create a negative image of Americans, but it is an image that most Russians don’t buy into. So I was curious how this healthy, older man who seemed successful had come by his strong prejudice. I asked his name.

Drawing by Olivia Ingle

“Boris,” he snapped. I asked if he was traveling or going home, and if he travels a lot.

He replied curtly, “I don’t travel. I go where the service takes me.” I asked where it takes him. He stood up, took out his briefcase, and handed me a home-made photo album.

“Here,” he said.

I started looking through dozens of spectacular pictures of nature on Sakhalin Island in the Pacific and began asking him about it. He provided fascinating details, and after I flipped the last page I asked if I could show his pictures to my students. He nodded. I looked through the album again with Carol. She was very interested in the pictures and complimented the photographer. Then I took the pictures to another compartment to show some other students.

When I returned Boris’s album, I said, “You noticed such beautiful things in such a barren place. They are great pictures.” He grinned and looked like he wouldn’t mind talking more if I wanted to. We ended up talking about his children, grandchildren, his work, and my work. I learned that he was a senior service officer. I asked what rank.

“Very high,” he said proudly. After a pause, he added, “A soviet officer would never hurt any women or children. He is trained to protect them. There is no Soviet Union anymore, but I am still a soviet officer.”

It was getting late and so we said goodnight.

The next morning, the four of us in the compartment drank tea together. As we reached our destination, which was also his, he left the compartment first and said a friendly goodbye to each of us.

As in most instances, a little time spent with someone from another culture—even a supposedly hostile culture—had been enough to dispel the reinforced notion of “the enemy.”

It was a good lesson for us, and I think for him, too.

Coming soon: my travel notes and a video of our 2017 study abroad journey.

under: Articles, My Travel Journal, Study Abroad 2017
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CofC Russian Festival Spring 2017

Posted by: Oksana Ingle | 04/23/2017 Comments Off on CofC Russian Festival Spring 2017 |

Video with music in ENGLISH

Video with music in RUSSIAN

 

under: Articles

Book Review of “The Romanovs”

Posted by: Oksana Ingle | 07/19/2016 Comments Off on Book Review of “The Romanovs” |

The Romanovs, a rich history of a rich, noble Russian family line

BY OKSANA INGLE • Special to The Post and Courier • Jul 17 2016

INSIDE the elegant, azure cover of this fascinating book about the Romanov dynasty lies an abundance of new facts about Russian personalities, power, intrigue and, yes, romance.

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a brilliant storyteller who knows how to keep your attention. He structures his narrative in three-acts with multiple scenes. Each scene begins with its cast list, which helps you follow the story and keep track of all the Russian names. He also includes a family tree, lots of portraits and photographs, and a helpful map of the expansion of Russia.

His story unfolds chronologically as he deftly switches the focus from one person to another in different cities and countries. Through the use of memoirs and letters, the characters come alive as though conversing with each other.

Montefiore’s retelling and interpretation of history is never boring. There are plenty of details, but they never overwhelm you, and you certainly don’t want to miss a single one of his informative, sometimes juicy, footnotes.

In a television interview, Montefiore told how during the 1990s he became a war correspondent in Chechnya, then a historian and novelist: “I had money from banking and I could afford to do and go where I wanted to.”

This explains how he was able to visit “the great majority of Romanov palaces, many key sites, and state archives” across Russia, Europe, the Middle East and Asia where he met not only with directors of museums and archives but even with some Romanov family descendants.

Among all the welcomed new information in this historical narrative are tidbits and gossip about the Russian court: people’s physical traits, foibles, idiosyncrasies, sexual liaisons, gender-bender relationships, torrid love letters and more.

It is known, for example, that Peter the Great (1682-1725) was 6-foot-8 and had tireless energy, which he needed to build his “window into Europe”: St. Petersburg. Less known is that Peter had a constant tic in his face and was subject to epileptic fits that only his wife, the orphan of a Lithuanian peasant, could soothe.

One of Peter’s 12 children, tsarina Elizabeth (1741-1762), was recognized for her beauty and grace. No wonder, then, that she became a “fashion despot” who issued firm decrees about court attire. By the time of her death, 15,000 outfits hung in her vast closets.

Elizabeth chose Catherine (1762-1796), the Prussian-born Princess Sophie, to marry her nephew Peter III, who was later murdered by those loyal to the young Catherine, later known as Catherine the Great. She never remarried, but went on to rule Russia for 34 years, significantly expanded its borders, and ushering in the Golden Age of Russian nobility. She was a disciplined, dedicated and respected matriarch who started each morning at 6 a.m. making her own coffee, and who ended most evenings in the arms of a lover. As Catherine wrote in one letter, “The trouble is that my heart can’t be without love for even an hour.”

Nicholas II (1894-1917), the last of the Romanov tsars, had impeccable English manners and was unerringly calm in all circumstances, even while abdicating his throne during the February 1917 Revolution. When he learned, however, that the Romanov dynasty was coming to an end, he cried with his mother like a naive little boy who didn’t understand what was really happening.

Whereas parts of his book are based on material already known to educated readers, many new facts are pulled from recent research and analysis.

For example, Montefiore draws from Russian archives that include letters and diaries previously considered “too shocking to publish.” Some were the letters of Alexander II (1855-1881) to his lover, Katya, “perhaps the most explicit correspondence ever written by the head of the State, using their pet names to describe their love-making.”

During the 304-year reign of the Romanovs, Russia was transformed from a medieval Muscovite fiefdom into an Empire, the largest and one of the most powerful countries in the world.

“No other dynasty except the Caesars has such a place in the popular imagination and culture, and both deliver universal lessons about how personal power works, then and now,” Montefiore writes. “It is no coincidence that the title ‘tsar’ derives from Caesar.” Interesting, too, that this family, who believed their divine mission was to make Russia the third “Rome,” had the name “Romanov.”

Each tsar’s personal characteristics colored the way they ruled, what they accomplished and the kind of relations they had with their subjects, enemies and allies. One of many touching stories that Montefiore tells is when Alexander II (1855-1881) learned about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although Alexander did not share the same philosophy of government, he admired Lincoln, ordering mourning prayers in the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. He also wrote to Mary Lincoln that the president “was the noblest and greatest Christian of our generation — a beacon to the whole world — nothing but courage, steadfastness, and desire to do good.”

Montefiore also describes how Peter the Great so wished to be the first servant of his dream Empire that he traveled through Europe for 18 months incognito, “determined to learn the trade of shipbuilding and return with the technologies of the West.”

Overall, Montefiore’s book leaves you with the strong impression that the extended Romanov dynasty formed the spine of the Russian Empire which was broken in 1918 when the Bolsheviks recklessly executed Nicholas II and his family. Unbeknownst to his assassins, the communists and the post-1991 government established at the end of the Soviet Union reconstructed Russia’s autocratic spine. But they were never able to restore its noble marrow.

under: Books

‘The New Tsar’ — a biography

Posted by: Oksana Ingle | 05/01/2016 Comments Off on ‘The New Tsar’ — a biography |

Putin book cover

Special to The Post and Courier • May 1, 2016

MANY RUSSIANS would love to have a tsar again. But in their hearts, they know that is not what Vladimir Putin is. He is more like a loyal, hard-working assistant who rose steadily through the ranks to become the CEO of Kremlin, Inc., which is how he comes across in Steven Myers’s new book, “The New Tsar.”

Even on the cover, Putin is wearing a gray suit and tie, seated inelegantly on a corporate armchair, staring down with an unprofessional glare of disdain. He certainly does not look like a grand Russian tsar.

This book is pitched (on the jacket) as a “riveting read,” but it will fall seriously short of that for the average reader. On the other hand, scholars, political scientists, journalists and others intrigued by Putin will relish all the details about how a nondescript, hardworking Soviet security officer from an ordinary Leningrad family unexpectedly found himself in the president’s chair in the Kremlin.

It is an incredible journey. After all, who would have thought that since 2000 Putin, despite severe criticism, would garner the favor of 60-80 percent of Russians and in 2015 be selected by Forbes as Number 1 on its list of The World’s Most Powerful People?

Myers is a New York Times journalist who has spent seven of his 26 reporting years in Russia. He is clearly fascinated by Russia’s long transition from the former Soviet Union to its still unsettled and undefined status. He is even more interested in the most common and visible thread running through this transition: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Indeed, when the world thinks of modern Russia, it thinks of Putin, and it is Putin they try to understand as the barometer of what Russia is doing and where it is going.

Having myself been born and educated in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), and being well-acquainted with Russian culture and history, I am impressed with Myers’ painstaking and accurate fact-finding, his well-considered points of view and his arsenal of sources, which comprise some 80 pages of end notes and bibliography.
Equally impressive is how he resists stating his opinions. Instead, he objectively summarizes the attitudes and explanations uncovered during his research. He also includes many human-interest vignettes about Putin’s personal and professional life, and about Russian politics.

Despite Myers’ tendency to bog the reader down in too much detail sometimes, this book is a thorough, truthful story of Putin’s “Rise and Reign.”

Many Americans view Putin as a secretive and cunning former KGB agent defiant towards the United States. This book describes how Putin grew up in the backyards of a struggling, post-war Leningrad, joined a professional judo team and dreamed since the age of 15 about becoming a spy. To this day, Putin does not trust many people outside the circle of his old Leningrad comrades.

Myers shows how Putin became embroiled in Big Money acquired by the Russian government thanks to a nationalized oil and gas industry. There is no concrete proof, but Putin also is suspected of being behind the murder and/or imprisonment of obstinate oligarchs, outspoken journalists and vocal leaders of the opposition, all of which adds to the impression of him as vengeful, calculating and cruel.

At one point, Myers quotes President Barack Obama describing Putin as “sullen and insolent,” with “that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.” But, as Myers makes clear, there is more to Putin than the outward appearance of an immature, pugilistic persona.

Less obvious, and certainly less acknowledged by the U.S., is that Putin is more adroit in foreign policy than many of our own politicians.

At times, Putin is quick and decisive, such as when he made up his mind to annex Crimea, a move that evoked fierce criticism and sanctions from the West, along with euphoria from many Russians who shouted, “Crym nash!” (Crimea is ours!).

At other times, Putin seems to show restraint, such as when he influenced European leaders to join him in opposing America’s plans to bomb Syria at the beginning of the civil war there.
Then, not long afterwards, he “joined forces” with the West for targeted (and controversial) air strikes. In another instance, when it came time to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, Putin ironically, if not humorously, treated Snowden as a defender of human rights who “struggles for the freedom of information.”

It was another political chess move that showed how adept Putin is at putting himself in the best position to win in the context of what he considers to be the best interests of Russia, even though it remains to be seen whether his moves will be beneficial to Russia in the long run.

Myers describes how Putin is equally savvy about domestic concerns. For example, Putin knows that most Russians spend hours a day watching TV, readily believing what they see and hear. Consequently, he makes a point of being on government-controlled television almost every day. His presentations and image are carefully staged by his Kremlin media advisers with remarkable effectiveness.

This constant publicity, in addition to serving his politics, bloats Putin’s self-esteem. As Myers says, Putin is presented as “an indispensable leader, even a glamorous, elite sexual icon.”
Russians would love to have a real tsar, but an international personality who is a strong, decisive man of action will suffice.

The reason, as Myers explains, is that the democratization Russia experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s ushered in extreme forms of chaos, injustice, inequality and poverty. The majority of Russians did not want that kind of democracy, and American democracy seemed hypocritical to them.
Then Putin came into office and life got much better during his first two terms. St. Petersburg, as well as many cities and towns, never looked so good.

Meanwhile, corruption is not the hindrance that it appears to be from a Western perspective. Russians know how corruption works and, to a certain extent, they expect it and have learned to live with it.
They criticize their government and themselves, but they do not like being criticized by outsiders. They regard most criticism of Putin, too, as Western propaganda and tend to blame not him, but those in power around him for pursuing commerce and profit.

To the average Russian, Putin is a fearless, lonely warrior who has brought economic growth, progress and stability to Russia, as well as revived the national pride that was lost in the chaos of the 1990s.
From his perspective, Putin interprets criticism of Russia, from both outside and inside the country, as a national insult.

He sees himself as the protector of Russia’s place as the largest country in the world. At the same time, he seems determined to be recognized, on the world stage and in history books, as the savior of Russian pride, power and respectability.

Nothing offends him more than being demonized or, even worse, belittled rather than respected for this.
This aspect of his nature ties into one of the key findings from Myers’s thorough dissection of Putin’s background and character: that although Putin is in many ways a simple person, he harbors an indelible pride of country, his ego is growing, his political skills are on the increase and he is willing to take risks. All of these tendencies are exactly why many Russian admire him, and why the rest of the world, especially the West, cannot predict what he might do next, or how to respond when he does act. In this sense, Putin is, as far as he is concerned, The New Tsar.

under: Books
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