начало (Nachalo)…The Beginning

Posted: August 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

It seems like a long time ago I was in Russia. In fairness, it has only been a year, but that last time was only a visit for four days. Hardly long enough to re-assess what I had learned during my time living there. But in that short space of time I reacquainted myself with some of the wondrous and magical melange of things I think you can only find in Russia.

Back in 2007 I was selected to partake in an exchange between my university, Carleton, and our sister institution, Saint Petersburg State University, in Saint Petersburg. The programme was a two month exchange at the Philological Institute for the purpose of language immersion. For two months I lived in conditions that I would have described as primitive, but which my Russian friends knew, was just part of being a student in the former Soviet Union. I learned my perfective and non-perfective verb conjugations from a professor, who if she hadn’t been a smokin’ blonde, I would have described as a dragon. But I’ll tell you what, I can still remember the difference between “I am going” and “I went” like it was yesterday. I had my first experience bribing a policeman, played drunken bowling until 6 AM, was warned to avoid gypsies, jumped out of the way of speeding Escalades with tinted windows, was carried out of a club unconscious after mixing vodka with antibiotics, and was told by my Russian girlfriend that I “behaved too much like a westerner” when I asked who was paying for lunch.

Russia is a country that leaves an impression on you. I’m a research analyst by trade. My job is to understand Russian policy and the Russian market. To know their leaders , what their strategic and economic capabilities are, and what their future potential is. But you can get all that from a spreadsheet of statistics. Something that tells you GDP numbers, or fighter aircraft numbers, or the background of the former-spy President.  That only paints half a picture. Russia really is peerless.  The largest geographical country in the world. Geopolitically a cross road between Western, Islamic and Asian values, being of not quite any of the aforementioned cultures.

It is a land of incredible openness but also mystery, of generosity and selfishness, strength and weakness, of riches and poverty, faith and science, and hope but jarring reality.

This blog is meant to be two pronged. Primarily it is to provide a platform to examine transition in the former Soviet Union. From geopolitical machinations in Moscow, to ethnic conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the struggle for democracy in Kyrgyzstan. But it is also a chance for me to explore my own feelings and experiences in Russia, which has left a lasting and durable impression on me as well as every country in the Former Soviet space. For how are we supposed to understand the changing politics of a region without understanding its history and it’s people?Image

начало (Nachalo)…The Beginning 

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