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The Russian mind is a great mystery to me. It's the reason I'm interested in communicating with you. Native insight is essential when you're trying to put the complex pieces of an ethnic puzzle together. People often ask me to opine on the differences between Russian and American culture. For me one of the prime distinctions is the way we view foreigners. Since my first Russian post some of your compatriots have accused me of being a native, the next Anna Chapman, a former KGB officer and other absurd allegations. I suppose I should be flattered by the Anna Chapman comparisons. :) However, it's very strange that some Russians can't accept the fact an American is genuinely interested in Russian history and culture, with no ulterior motive. Xenophobes - in my mind they suffer from one of the most dangerous mental diseases, and this affliction is far more prevalent in Russia.

I'll point to a recent example. I read a lot of Russian blogs but rarely comment on other posts. The reason is simple - I don't wish to hijack or create chaos in other comment threads. The appearance of English text in a sea of Russian sometimes generates immediate rage and suspicion. It happened this weekend when I made an innocent comment in a post by puerrtto.

First, I only write English comments when I know the blogger speaks English and has readers who do the same. Second, I almost always write the blogger ahead of time to ensure he or she is comfortable with it. Alexander Lapshin provided consent for such comments. So I chimed in on a recent post about relationships and immediately received this response from another user:

Люби Россию - пиши по-русски!

The fun continued when another user formulated yet another conspiracy theory. I must be a former Soviet English teacher! Creative Russian immigrant, living in the States for a long time. Here are some highlights:

Мне тоже кажется, что английский в процитированном блоге идет скорее от очень качественной советской учительницы английского языка, чем от реальной американки. Так как неестественно много пассива, past perfect, have been, придаточных предложений перед главным и т.д.

Она не американка. Она употребляет perfect там где американки употребляют indefinite. Наверное советская учительница или что-то в таком роде.

У меня очень странное впечатление. Понимаете, ведь я живу в США 22 года, общаюсь на работе с американцами, учился в местном коледже, в том числе английскому, и каждый день читаю десятки е-мейлов от американцев и других национальностей. Если это американка, то это очень странная девушка....

Another Russian decided to comment on my English skills:

У меня очень слабый английский, но и то я вижу ошибку в её первом же комменте.

If you want to read all the comments they begin on the first page of this post: http://puerrtto.livejournal.com/412441.html.

I'm sorry but I don't understand the immediate suspicion of outsiders. Why are you here? What is your objective? Other forms of lunacy and xenophobia which seem prevalent in Russian society. The common intolerance for people or beliefs that vary from the norm. Readers will occasionally write Russian comments in my posts and I'm not phased by it. If I don't understand, I simply use Google translate and respond.

America is a blended nation, with many nationalities and languages co-existing at every corner. This doesn't mean there's no racial or ethnic tension, but most Americans don't question the purpose or motive of foreigners they encounter. If an American did so, they would have time in their life for nothing else. Why? Because racial and ethnic minorities will soon be the dominant population in America. I'm not troubled by this realization. I've written numerous times about my position on immigration and acceptance of most foreigners in my homeland. I welcome them with open arms. People should be judged solely on character. Nothing else.

I understand the main tensions in Russia are with people from the North Caucasus. What do you think? Do you live in a xenophobic nation? If so, is it becoming better or worse? Help me understand.


Comments

( 152 comments — Leave a comment )
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my_coast
Jun. 30th, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
Well, Russia is a strange country.. Russians are xenophobic and suspicious sometimes, and at the same time Russia absorbs other cultures and many Russians are more friendly to Westerners than to other Russians, especially in services.. I've read comments in puerrtto's livejournal, and think people just have nothing to do, and what has happened there is not xenophobia, but just stupidity.
(no subject) - supdurak - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: а мы на часах - my_coast - Jul. 1st, 2013 06:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 02:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
notabler
Jun. 30th, 2013 11:04 pm (UTC)
They are and they always been xenophobic and racist nation. I remember my ordeal when I in 1970 went with my fellow student , 2 Ethiopian to "Moscow" hotel's restaurant. It was a nightmare I will never forget. I experienced hundreds insults and humiliation on my way to and in restaurant. And our evening finished with fight, because my mates needed to defend me from physical assault. We hardly managed to run away and went to student hostel by taxi. Couple months later I was invited to KGB office and they wanted to make me a agent to spy after my black friends. I know even in Soviet time there were at least 2 black student killed in Moscow every year, just from racial hatred. I believe now is much worst.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
I saw only a few black people in Russia during my visit. This story is horrible and could easily have happened in America pre-civil rights movement. Perhaps there's still a lot of racial tension in the southern States but I don't notice it in my area.
maryasha_b
Jun. 30th, 2013 11:19 pm (UTC)
I would really like to apologize for my people... (and for my English as well) Please, forgive us. I am ashamed of behavior like you've described above, but it is very common here. And indeed it is difficult to find explanation for this. Yes, we are very intolerant to other people, either foreigners, weak, gay, or simply different. Indeed, you cannot be different in Russia - this will cause suspicion and even hatred. We are not open-minded. We are not positive. And we are not friendly to strangers. And i find it awful. Maybe that's why Russian people are so unhappy: It is not Putin that makes our lives so miserable, but the way we treat each other every day... being rude, insulting, etc. As for foreigners - russians are just afraid of foreigners, consider the country was absolutely closed until recently, and Americans were like aliens. Most people, even young people do not speak English, they live in Russian speaking world, even when they go abroad they expect people to know Russian language and are very surprised if someone doesn't... So you left a comment in English - it must've been like an exploded bomb - real American actually writing in English - wow, you cannot see real americans even in the zoo. I find myself quite adapted for international environment, but many russian people are absolutely not. How to change this??? Please, come to visit Russia more, come with friends, make russian people more used to other nationaties, languages, foreign tourists, help us to understand the world is much bigger than our huge country.
And once again, please, forgive us, we are just wild and like kids do not know how to behave. But i hope we will learn. Eventually.

llueve
Jul. 1st, 2013 05:43 am (UTC)
Second part of our souls - always feeling guilty for all Russians. It's not right way too. We have a great history, many great compositors and writers. And also not only good people are living in Russia. It's normal. And of course we should improve our country.
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - maryasha_b - Jul. 1st, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maryasha_b - Jul. 1st, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Oct. 19th, 2013 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - whiteeye - Jul. 2nd, 2013 03:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 2nd, 2013 02:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
g_kar
Jun. 30th, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
What an interesting conspiracy theory! I think it should include people who met you IRL as KGB agents :)))
Anyway, this case looks like mr. Panchul being strange, not "immediate suspicion".

This doesn't mean that Russians are open-minded and open-hearted, sadly :( And there's really a lot of suspicion around - probably left from "good old soviet times".

Thing is that commies fed people with "enemies are around us" and "all our problems are due to capitalist spies/our publicly denoted enemies/etc" tales since late 1910s, right after they came to power. And many ordinary citizens - literally hundreds of thousands - were repressed by accusations of being Polish/German/Japanese spies in 30s...
And even later, in the 60s and 70s, commies urged soviet people to treat foreigners with caution - as those could be spies.
Eg, if you worked in any field of importance, being seen with foreigner could lead to unpleasant talk with local KGB office and even to career problems.

As for second question, I do believe that we live in a xenophobic nation and it is becoming worse...
g_kar
Jun. 30th, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
And I still wonder why Anna Chapman became such a fuss :)
According to limited data we common people have, she isn't a spy at all. She appears to be a daughter of some FSB nomenklatura, who helped her obtain the position only to funnel money into their pockets using her "cover" company...
TBH, she should've been jailed back in Russia, not hailed as a hero.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
I understand that older Russians are merely victims of the fear/suspicion mentality instilled by the Soviet regime. But what about the younger generation? Some of the people who send me these crazy comments and messages are young. And Anna Chapman became a sensation because she's a beautiful woman. If she was ugly, the media would not have been as intrigued. :)
(no subject) - g_kar - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
andrush_da
Jun. 30th, 2013 11:57 pm (UTC)
Все верно, кроме некоторых вещей. Чтобы показать глубину кроличей норы необходимо родиться в России, прожить в ней и выскочить из той ментальности потом. Журнал puerrtto как и он сам, специфический, может быть вы уже заметили что он не русский, то есть совсем не русский хоть и пишет на русском без ошибок.
Проблем с кавказцами у меня нет и повода любить у меня кстати тоже их нет, они бывают только у той части русских, которые трусливы к сожалению. Это сейчас у многих до сих пор осталась такая черта из прошлой рабской жизни или если у молодых, через воспитание их родителями трусами ну и ксенофобия оттуда же.
И нормальный русский ненавидит ГБ в лице чк-гпу-мгб-кгб-фсб, у них много названий было и есть, суть одна. Вашу Чапман раскрутили на ТВ, что совсем не значит что у остальной нации такое же отношение к ней.

Edited at 2013-06-30 11:59 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:54 pm (UTC)
I think you're right. The only way to truly understand Russian mentality is to be Russian. :)
(no subject) - folgakauchuk - Nov. 18th, 2013 10:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - folgakauchuk - Nov. 18th, 2013 10:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 18th, 2013 01:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Nov. 18th, 2013 01:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
descolorio
Jul. 1st, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
Lol I saw this thread in puertto blog as well, so funny. Russian paranoia at its bestest:)

>>I understand the main tensions in Russia are with people from the North Caucasus
Wrong, the main tensions are with people from anywhere in the world. But closer they are, more tensions.

I think if you'd like to get this blog into top of the ratings, with 500+ comments and money from ads, you should really travel to Israel and then write how do you rate it in comparison with Russia:) you'd get a really epic срач.

peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:56 pm (UTC)
I would never survive as a top blogger because I'm always trying to find the best in people. Trying to understand the reason for their odd thoughts/views on life. It would probably consume me, although I suspect you grow numb to these trolls very quickly. In my first Russian post, I dealt with many of them and just gave up at a certain point. :)
(no subject) - descolorio - Jul. 1st, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
new_forester
Jul. 1st, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
This is just hilarious. Basically, they accuse you of using better English than your average Joe. Well, duh...! With your JD, you are a part of the top 3% of Americans in terms of education. So, yeah, better than average indeed.
I enjoy reading your English, it's what English writing should be.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
I was a writing major during university and clients pay my law firm a lot of money for me to write legal arguments on their behalf every day. To question my grasp of English grammar and focus on variations in semantics is absurd. If he doesn't like my writing style, fine. Don't read me. I write most of my posts late at night, after very long days at work. I'm not agonizing over every word or phrase. This is a personal blog for recreation, not a professional journalism outlet. Thanks for compliments. :)
(no subject) - new_forester - Jul. 1st, 2013 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - new_forester - Jul. 1st, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - descolorio - Jul. 1st, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
wojzeh
Jul. 1st, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
The worst is that the fact that the majority of Russian bloggers tend to consider this way of communicating as a free speech without any responsibility. So, do not pay much attention to that, they never walk the talk.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
Sure, the biggest cowards in life suddenly become brave heroes when their cloaked in the anonymity of the internet. :)
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
inamora
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:36 am (UTC)
Shannon, darling, don't care! Some people like to expose everything and everybody. I still feel their position about me. They think that I'm bearder man or project or skilled psychologist or journalist ))))
It's OK, don't pay much attention, we love you ))
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)
Julia, my dear, thanks! :) I read the comments on your posts and someone recently attacked me on your blog also. I think they called me an "American whore," which is really funny because I'm usually commenting about monogamy in your posts. I'm not sure if the user or you deleted the comment. But you don't have to protect me. I can handle these idiots. And remember, I wrote you ahead of time to ask if you speak English? :)) I hope your morning sadness is gone.
(no subject) - inamora - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inamora - Jul. 1st, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:41 am (UTC)
It's not xenophobia that you've encountered - it's Russian hatred of their own or supposed to be their own at its best - or worst. You can see it in the comments above as well by the way.
You see they've obviously taken you for an emmigrant writing in English - because it's just strange for them that someone outside the Russian-language sphere (ex-USSR, ex-socialist countries and Israel) can understand Russian. If they knew for a fact you were that foreigner they would have been much more courteous (though there would be still jokes about spies).
Now if you are an emmigrant writing in English then you've either forgotten Russian so you have to be punished, or you'd become too good and American to use Russian and you have to be punished, in their reasoning.
As for xenophobia - that's a complicated question. As a product of the Russian melting pot and proud of my mixed heritage (never had any problems because of it either) I would love to say - no xenophobia, but there's no denying the climate is getting worse lately...
laurenziana
Jul. 1st, 2013 02:56 am (UTC)
It was my comment :)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - laurenziana - Jul. 1st, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
pogona_delirium
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:37 am (UTC)
Okay, i was kinda shy to comment your posts, but now i really want to throw in a word of support :)
For many different reasons the world has countless numbers of inadequate people. Sadly, but in my life i encounter the most of them in my own country. Worth to say, when i was in America, i noticed that americans were all extremely friendly and curious about my culture when i said i was from Russia. But when a russian sees an american, there is a whole spectrum of reactions - from excitement to agression. Explaining that would take a long separate conversation, so i'm not going to do that here (although, if you get interested, i will be more than happy to chat with you about that).
The point is very simple - it takes too much patience, nerves and frustration to reconvince every hater, i'm sure you know that. You should also know that there are more people here who are genuinly interested in your culture too, who read you on a daily basis, not being active in a comment section, while lots of LJ trolls spend their time writing all those shenannigans.
So, i want to thank you for your posts, i find them very interesting and would really like to read more. :)
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your support. Our cultures are different in so many ways! What States did you visit? And don't be shy! I'm happy to communicate with readers, answer questions, or exchange thoughts. I'm glad you find my posts interesting. :)
That's so sweet, thank you :) - pogona_delirium - Jul. 2nd, 2013 01:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: That's so sweet, thank you :) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 2nd, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: That's so sweet, thank you :) - pogona_delirium - Jul. 2nd, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: That's so sweet, thank you :) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 2nd, 2013 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
yarowind
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:41 am (UTC)
On the Internet a lot of strange people, do not pay attention to them:).
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
It's true! But I never see these strange comments in your blog. :)
(no subject) - yarowind - Jul. 2nd, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
xpo_xpo_xpo
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:57 am (UTC)
It's very easy.
I haven't seen any American hating America. They may hate Bush, they may hate Clinton, it's very easy to hate Obama or Rice :) One may hate police and other will hate his boss; the third will hate capitalism. But all of them will love America. On the other hand, among Russians there is a trend to hate Russia. Many people who left Russia (and who hasn't yet; and who won't as they are so stupid that no one abroad will ever need them) are proud to hate their motherland. Probably they just want to justify their poor fate outside Russia. Probably they were beaten in childhood as all the children like to kick shit off scoundrels and traitors (and I'm afraid such people weren't real boys but rather pieces of shit) and now they are so happy with their good lives that they need to show everyone how good they are and to troll everyone even exaggerating their hatred. Probably they just hate Russia :)

But many Russian people don't like such behaviour. Pushkin wrote to Vyazemsky: "Surely, I disdain every inch of my country, -- but it's so disappointing when foreigner shares my feelings". Obviously it's much worse to see such sharing with emigrant :) So people are afraid that reply is written in English just to show ignorance of Russia, Russian culture, Russian people. It's not a xenophobia. Russians are very hospital. You may just ask British fans who attended Moscow final of the Champions League between Manchester United and Chelsea. You may just ask Celtic fans who came to Moscow when Celtic met Spartak. And everyone in Russia will tell you that Muscovites are the least hospital among all the Russians :) But most people can't say anything in English (and even more, French or Spanish; you may find, probably, only Turks from Turkmenistan or Tatarstan) and can be of no help for most foreigners. But when people suspected they are trolled by those fucking emigrants!.. They are really furious :)
peacetraveler22
Jul. 1st, 2013 03:15 pm (UTC)
Re: It's very easy.
You're right about Americans being patriotic and loyal. It's completely true. "They are so stupid that no one abroad will ever need them." Maybe the Russian men and women falling into this category can find an American woman/man to marry them. This is the easiest way for the dummies to enter my country. :))
fesma94
Jul. 1st, 2013 04:28 am (UTC)
People should be judged solely on character. Nothing else (c)
Yes , but I want to ask you question: Is different national traditions and mentalities is interfere to accept groups of foreigners sometimes ? How i overcome it ? In Israel, like in US peoples came from different countries and I see that idea of "melting Pot" is not working good.
fesma94
Jul. 1st, 2013 04:32 am (UTC)
How i overcome it = How overcome it :-)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fesma94 - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
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