The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
Author: Paul E. Richardson
Page 4 ( 1 pages)
On our trip to Georgia chronicled in this issue (page 28), since we were driving through Gori, we couldn’t not stop and take a look at the Stalin Museum. Given the man’s impact on Russian and world history, we had to at least take the measure of the place.
But we decided not to plunk down the 15 GEL (about 8 bucks) and devote an hour or more to the tour. Partly it was our desire to not support a museum dedicated to one of history’s most brutal dictators. But also, truthfully, we had no wish to cast a depressing pall over our very enjoyable trip.
Russia and Georgia are having a rough patch, what with the 2008 war, occupations, trade wars, cutoffs in diplomatic relations, etc. And yet, as far as we could tell, there is still a genial, welcoming relationship between their peoples. Georgians were as happy to talk to me in Russian as in English, and they seem to want nothing more than to live in peace with their Big Brother to the north.
Up until about six months ago, we could say much the same thing about Russia and the US: the two governments might have been on the outs, but there was still plenty of good feeling between the peoples of the two countries.
Sadly, recent events – from hacking and the election to Syria and Europe – have changed that. Americans of all political persuasions are increasingly Russophobic. And who can blame them? Months consuming a steady diet of disturbing news, in which Russia is repeatedly the bad guy, is a pretty difficult reality to get beyond. Indeed, I cannot recall a more difficult time to defend Russophilia. And I have been on this beat for nearly 30 years.
It helps, for me, to stream episodes of The Americans, the fantastic TNT television series about Soviet sleeper spies living undercover in Reagan’s America and doing really evil things. Because even though we hate what they are doing and disagree with what they stand for, the show is so well written, acted, and filmed, that it is difficult not to have some sympathy for all the characters’ predicaments, be they Soviet spies or FBI agents.
Even in the worst of times, we need to remember that the people “on the other side” are human beings too (even if their leaders don’t always act like it). That is why, despite all that is going on, we are pushing forward with our history-gathering Children of 1917 project (you can still join, just visit childrenof1917.org), and will be traveling around Russia this summer, gathering the stories of centenarians who have endured and seen far more than we could ever imagine.
We must slog through these hard times. And perhaps in that Russia’s blind soccer athletes (page 40) can serve as inspiration. To paraphrase a coach cited in the article: true Russophiles are not the sorts to bang heads with someone once or twice and then lose interest. It’s difficult. Painful. But we are not quitters.
Enjoy the issue.
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