Category Archives: Russia

To Be A Russian

From – http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/exposures-russian-patriots.html

I know this is primarily a blog about Ukraine…but I think this applies to Ukrainians as well…..I have always found Russians / Ukrainians to be some of the warmest, most giving people I have ever met.

Please click on the link about and read this article….its very cool.

Fr the past several months, through a series of photographic portraits, I set out to explore the unique and often strange ways people in Russia think and feel about the motherland. I know, from growing up in the former Soviet Union and studying the region’s politics, that Russia is a country of many contradictions.

I made numerous trips across the country, photographing and interviewing more than 130 people, of all ages and social groups, and even a few visitors. I asked each person what made someone a Russian; whether they had done something patriotic; whether love of the motherland and love of the government were the same thing; and whether one could disagree with the government and still be a patriot. Had the person ever considered emigration? What were his or her thoughts on migrants? I approached some people on the street; others, I met through friends. Most seemed happy to take an unexpected break from their routines to have their photos taken and to share their opinions.

The first question made many pause, for I didn’t ask what makes someone “Russkii,” a common term that signifies an ethnic designation. After the fall of the Soviet Union, President Boris N. Yeltsin popularized the use of “Rossiyanin,” a citizen of Russia, to unite the country of many different nationalities. This is the term I used; it is the equivalent of asking what made someone in the United States an American.

Almost everyone displayed a love for the motherland, a notion they felt was very different from one’s government. Motherland, to many, meant land and nature, history and literature. Governments, they said, change. Despite the propaganda, it appeared that for my interviewees patriotism went beyond the current government. My second question, about patriotic acts, was the most difficult for people to answer, as many considered it something done only during war.

Immigration is a controversial topic in the country, but some people I interviewed in the Russian republic of Chechnya said they were glad to see people come. One person said that seeing foreigners in Grozny, the Chechen capital, without armed protection was a sign of peace and normalcy.

Many of the subjects I photographed had never been abroad, or traveled much in their country. In Siberia, in particular, people were taken aback by the question about emigration. They had never thought of leaving; their land gives them the energy to live.

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In my opinion, a real Russian is someone who works first and foremost for the sake of his or her family. Working for the sake of your family is the same as working for the good of the state. I have always respected hard workers who produce and accomplish something.

— Movsar, a neurosurgeon, near Grozny, Chechnya

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It is possible to be a patriot and disagree with the government. I don’t know how, but I think it is possible.

— Alexander, who is homeless in St. Petersburg

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Sometimes, when I feel scared, I think of emigrating. For example, when I see someone persecuted for his civic activism. What if it gets to be like it was during Stalin’s times? But the fact that my relatives are here stops me. For that reason I wish to stay in Russia, to make this country better.

— Oksana, a lawyer, in Samara

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A real Russian is a kind, responsive person, someone with a big heart. In my family, everyone is like that.

— Vera, a retired nurse who was born in Ukraine, in Kaliningrad

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One of the lyrics by the Lumen rock band is, ‘I love my country so much, but I hate the state.’ I cannot say that I hate the state, because I understand that sometimes the government has to resort to drastic measures with regard to the people. There is, however, nothing to love the government for.

— Dmitry, a theater student, in Volgograd

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How can one love one’s motherland and at the same time disagree with the government? If someone disagrees, then he should be banished from the country so as to prevent him from getting in the way and spoiling everything.

— Konstantin, a retired truck driver, in the Tyumen region, Siberia

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In my opinion, love for the motherland includes the knowledge and understanding of one’s country and its many layers. Governments, on the other hand, change. In Russia, the government is always a sort of artificial superstructure.

— Maria, a painter and art teacher, in Moscow

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There are migrants all over Europe. Some work, others study, still others just take it easy. Life made me come here to earn money. If I had work at home, I would not have come here.

— Khan, a migrant worker who was born in Tajikistan, now in the Tyumen region, Siberia

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Throughout my childhood, it was impressed upon me to love the government and the Communist Party. There is love of motherland, love of labor, but one mustn’t love government.

— Stanislav, an entrepreneur, in Moscow

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I do not think about leaving Russia. I love the place where I was born.

— Nikita, a middle school student, in Kaliningrad

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Everything is so changeable now; you don’t even know who a Russian is.

— Vyacheslav, a former construction worker, who is now homeless in St. Petersburg

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Being of service for the good of people consists of small things: helping one person, then another. So I’ve tried to help; I’ve dealt with the issues of treating elderly people, giving them medical help. They are our fellow citizens, so this might actually be called a patriotic attitude.

— Anatoly, a doctor, in St. Petersburg

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A real Russian is a person who cares about his country, supports its ecology, and just loves his country.

Ksenia, a high school student, in St. Petersburg

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What can one think about migrants? One can only wish them luck. Migrants are ordinary people who come to Russia in the hope of a better future. Some people leave Russia in the same hope.

— Kirill, a banker, in Moscow

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I think that love of a government is a somewhat social thing, a matter of whether you are pleased with the taxes you pay, with the politics of your state, both foreign and domestic. But love of motherland, to me, is love of birch trees, daisies, spaces and forests, and of the scent of the freshly cut grass.

— Alina, an event planner, in Moscow