Prior to finding out about the Olympics, I think I had a mostly positive but limited opinion about Russia. I read Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn which was very moving and I was equally deeply moved by a video of his Harvard speech and an interview.
I was born and lived in the 70s to give some context, I have also lived in Turkey and was married to a Turkish man at one point for a number of years. I have read very little about Russia over the years. I remember commenting on a martial arts blog about Steven Seagal and Vladimir Putin but that’s about it. One of my martial arts instructors has lived and taught in Poland.
I have seen some fantastic, beautiful photos of natural scenery in Russia and heard from people who have visited and loved the warmth of people, the hospitality and friendliness – their eyes light up & they smile when they talk about their experiences and planning future trips.
So as I’ve tried to find out more incl context of Eastern Europe & Central Asia I’m really shocked and outraged again at what I have been reading in articles and social media. The appalling #Russiaphobia would have seemed unbelievable previously but sadly Brexit has shown in the UK that if you allow zenophobic messages to be delivered in multiple channels and formats then people say & do increasingly aggressive actions.
I am trying to figure out on Twitter for example who are bots or not, with computational propoganda on the rise, I will no doubt make mistakes.
I have been learning the Cyrillic alphabet via a really good app- Read Russian in 3 hours which does exactly what it says on the tin (albeit quite a lot of fast food references) and I have found a recent Russian newspaper to try and delve into. Am not really up to reading tweets or short posts yet as have not done the fundamentals of the actual grammar but can recognise odd words.
I have read some books about Russia / EE / Central Asia, in the middle of another and attended a talk at Pushkin House following a duckduckgo search on ‘cultural events in London’. I am somewhere to forming an opinion about the ‘British establishment’ view of Russia but not ready to be coherent – other than those of similar backgrounds who visit or live briefly in Russia and meet people briefly will form certain kinds of opinions. That could apply anywhere too.
I will continue to fit in learning Russian so that I can read Russian perspective rather than English language views / versions of views. I am also part way through reading about Russian healthcare – more on that another time.
I recently took my twin niece & nephew to Greenwich and did a rather inadequate job of explaining lines such as Meridian, longitude, latitude and how people’s assumptions can be based on where a group of people gathered / shared ideas at a certain point in time. We also had fun with finding different types of music from different countries on youtube. We went to the Maritime museum where they can run over the giant map upstairs and see that America and Russia are really neighbours ‘across the pond’ which is the Bering Sea.
Why should their imaginations be limited by prejudice?