I wrote a little article about my decision to open a branch of my law office in Moscow. It was published in the Tucson Weekly, our local source for all Tucson goings-on. Check it out, if you like. I’d be much obliged. It makes me feel like a real-life author.
An interesting thing about this article, though, is that it sparked a little controversy. I always wondered if my writings would touch a nerve with Russians, or maybe with Americans who still see Russia as some sort of Evil Empire. What I had not expected, though, was for my article to provoke the ire of Russians in the U.S.
Natalia Polukhtin, an immigration attorney in Phoenix and originally from Russia herself, took issue with what she sees as my overly rosy view of contemporary Russia. She wrote about my article in her livejournal. She is not the only Russian expat who holds such views, as is clear from the comments section. It’s only in Russian (sorry about that) but perhaps I’ll translate it one of these days.
Are you a Russian expat that is bothered by the tone of my writings? If so, please comment below. I’m fascinated in this examination of how Russians view their country from outside its borders.
Well, since I’m a Russian blogger, to read that some Americans see Russia as an Evil Empire is kind of encouraging 🙂
The vast majority of people living in the US that Americans refer to as “Russians” in fact are Russian-speaking Jews from Ukraine who came to the country in 70s and 80s as refugees who have been allegedly denied their religious freedom (to practice Judaism that is) in the USSR. Most of them are russophobic to their bones. That includes many commenters of Natalia’s blog. Why would you care about their biased opinion? Their views are in no way representative of the opinion of ethnic Russians living in Russia.
Hey, just saw your shamelessly self-promoting post on TA, then found this old entry 🙂
For starters, I’m a little obsessed with cultural differences and the experiential aspect of the whole culture shock business, and have read dozens of blogs of travelers and foreign exchange students in Russia and Russian exchange students abroad.
Most of them invariably follow the standard pattern of honeymoon/frustration/adaptation/reverse culture shock, but there are fascinating exceptions (not to say that it makes all the other ones less fascinating).
There is, for instance, this wonderful example of positive bias, where Mark Kalch, a (handsome) bear of an Australian bloke, a brown belt in jiujitsu and one of the few people to have completed a source-to-sea descent of the Amazon decided to paddle the whole length of the Volga. The whole 2-plus thousand miles of it. He had the stamina and, more importantly, the willingness to not only paddle an average of 35 miles a day, but also talk (and drink) through the night with pretty much anyone he met on the river. He seemed to have a blast and for years now won’t stop talking about his love affair with the Volga and its people. His descent, though, went nearly unnoticed, except by the paddling community.
Then there is Laura Kensington, a self-described athlete and adventurer, who decided to repeat Mark’s experience (the glorified athletic perseverance part of it, anyway) and had somewhat naively advertized her plans on Facebook. A month and about 300 miles later she decided she was not really keen on paddling after all, plus all the media attention and unwanted encounters with the locals (some, for instance, flew their private helicopter to bring her supplies that she never asked for) made her really uncomfortable. She quit, claiming harassment from locals was the reason – now, THAT did make a big splash in the global media – after all, it was 2015, with the Evil Empire rearing its ugly head in the background.
And then of course there is Jean Jeong, a Korean round-the-world cyclist, who had a dream of seeing Northern Lights in Murmansk. Right before she got to Murmansk, though, cycling away on a highway in the middle of Russian winter, she got hit by a truck. Unscathed but shaken, she escaped Russia, its awful winter, inedible food, and horrible, unfriendly, and totally non-English speaking people and didn’t have a single good word to say about that godawful country. The Aurora turned out to be just as beautiful – or, more likely, much more beautiful – in Finland.
Now, to the Russian emigres diaspora. They are, by and large, a community of escapees and survivors, having fled from Soviet persecution and stagnation of the seventies and eighties, Russian economic nightmare of the nineties, and, most recently, human rights violations of the Putin’s years. Wave after wave, they came looking for – and finding – a better life. It comes to be expected that they will see any story from Russia – good or bad – through the prism of their own close encounter with a truck on an icy Murmansk road.