Abroad(7)
Ksenia, 33, restaurant manager, from Saint Petersburg, lives in Kiev

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a person who lives in Russia, loves his country, and wants things to be decent and nice there.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I’ve hardly done anything patriotic. Even if I have, I did it unconsciously, so I can't remember. A patriotic act means doing something for the good of your motherland, writing or organizing something. I listen to the station “Echo of Moscow,” but it’s like this: I listen to it, then turn it off and go on working at a restaurant.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of a government is quite a scary phrase. I haven’t got it in me. I have got love for my motherland, by I don’t feel any love for a government—never did and never will.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course one can be a patriot and disagree with the government. I think that most patriots disagree with the authorities.

Have you considered emigration?

I have thought of emigrating, and even my first foreign trip was related to emigration. When I came to Amsterdam, I was shocked by everything that I saw: the people, and how clean and pretty it was there. But I realized then very well that I’d never move from [Russia] and I understand now that I won’t. Only if something happens that forces me to leave. Never say never. And many things have happened in my life, things that I couldn’t even predict. But, well, if I ever move somewhere abroad, it won’t happen just because I wanted to do so, but because of the circumstances.

What do you think about migrants?

If migrants come, it means that the quality of life in their countries is even worse, I suppose. I’m not against them coming here, but there are just so many of them already. I think there are more of them than of the native population. When my friends—who are not racists at all, but, on the contrary, very intelligent people—tell me, “But what kindergarten should I take my child to? There are only Uzbeks and Tatars everywhere,” then a question arises of what should be done. All people are brothers, of course, and everything is fine, but they’ve got a Tatar girl as a teacher in a kindergarten, six little Uzbek girls, and all the other children are Koreans, and only two white boys. So my friend has to go all across Moscow to find a place for her kid in a kindergarten. So there’s something definitely wrong in this policy. They miscounted something, I think. But it’s all done on purpose; it’s big politics. It just can’t be like that.

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Sergei, 32, from Saint Petersburg, lives in Tallinn

What makes someone a real Russian?

For me, a real Russian is a patriot of his country.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Patriotism is a very vast concept; it includes many aspects. A patriotic act can be, for instance, smoking Belomor [cigarettes] when Parliament is also sold.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

To love your motherland and to love your government is not the same thing. A government might be very different.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course it is possible to be a patriot of your land and disagree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

Of course I have thought of emigration. I’ve spent two years abroad, in Ecuador, so I know what it’s like from my own experience. But I came back to Russia because you still long for your motherland when you live in an alien country.

What do you think about migrants?

I don’t think anything bad about migrants. I don’t communicate with them, so I can’t say anything about them.

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Peter, editor, New York City

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a patriot, who loves Russia and serves Russia.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

That would be too big of a compliment for my actions. And actually, the word “patriotism” makes me a bit nervous. I would prefer to use different words. So, in my opinion, patriotism is about alluding to your past, to your ancestors and to those pillars which shaped you into the person you are. It's also about judging your actions in reference to actions of your forebears and those people around you whom you respect. My ancestors have always lived in Russia, they were from the so-called service gentry. This means, they have served people, those who need support and assistance, and they have also served their country. Many of them were in the military and they have defended Russia. One was a famous Decembrist, Ivan Pushchin, who suffered for his patriotism. I was brought up understanding these people's actions, their motives and their intentions.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I think, these are different. When politics and patriotism mix, patriotism disappears and motherland disappears. I believe patriotism is not about person vs person, nor one system vs another system. Patriotism is for something, not against something. I think, it's one of these words which has been misused the most in our civilization, not only in Russia but in many countries, including the US.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course, the biggest patriots are always very critical not only of the government but of themselves. You can't be critical of those in charge and not critical of yourself. I think, patriotism as a concept is something that is community-based. It always starts local, from your own community. Those people, real patriots, whom I have met in my life and in my travels, were always patriots of their communities in the first place. For example, firemen, paramedics in the US, they help everyone. These people will probably find it difficult to answer a question, whether they are patriots of their country. I have met such people in Russia too.

Have you considered emigration?

I have considered this when Russia was a country where optimism and idealism existed. Unfortunately, this was a very brief period in its history. I have even moved to Russia in the beginning of the 1990s, and I have really good friends who gave up their American citizenship for a Russian one, despite having a very successful business here. Of course, it's still possible, but not in today's Russia, where patriotism has become a warped term.

What do you think about migrants?

I believe, people can be patriots of Russia as well as their own country's patriots. Of course, one still has to look at their actions and their motives. When I lived in Moscow I didn't oppose migration. Every country needs these working people. And it's the government's responsibility to make sure these people are integrated into the society.

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Anastasia, 22, studies international relations, born in Moscow, living in Tallinn

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think that if someone says that he or she is a real Russian then he or she actually is.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

My whole life is a patriotic act. It is a pity that the government does not appreciate my patriotism. I follow politics carefully, and I believe that Russia should be the most beautiful and richest country, the best country in the world, and that depends not only on foreign policy but on domestic policy as well. It depends on what is currently happening in the country. The government and I disagree on this. As a result, I’m now hiding abroad, but I am sure that I will return to my country when we kick out the invaders.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of the motherland and of the state are, of course, different things. The motherland consists of things that one can really love, such as nature, the country’s greatness, a rich history, the Russian language and culture. But when you see the bloody government destroying everything you love, how can you care for such a government?

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

If the authorities are destroying your land and your culture without thinking about the people, you obviously have to protest. You have to protect your country.

Have you considered emigration?

I have never thought about emigrating, but I have always wanted to study abroad. In Russia, the educational system is too corrupt, and its quality is not as high as in Europe. This is why I wanted to study abroad and then return home to use my knowledge in my country.

What do you think about migrants?

I do not see anything bad about newcomers. The European Union and the United States are full of migrants. This is an absolutely normal situation, especially since these people are close to us culturally, because they come from the former Soviet republics, from our beloved “near abroad.” Migrants should just be required to pass the Russian-language test and make sure they have all the necessary legal presence documents, and that should be it. The problem is not in migrants, but in cops, the government, and corruption.

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Indira, make up artist, born in Chechnya, living in Sweden

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is probably someone who wholeheartedly supports his or her country, who does not sell out to the United States.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I do not know if it can be considered a patriotic act, but every time I come to Russia, I visit an orphanage and bring them clothes and other necessities that I buy in Sweden. This home houses around one hundred children who have neither parents nor relatives. But in general, to do something patriotic, in my opinion, to do something for one’s motherland, not to be indifferent, to empathize.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love for the motherland and for the government are not the same thing.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

You can be a patriot and disagree with the government. Governments do not always share the people’s interests, because power changes people. Many politicians go back on their promises and do not fulfill their duty with regard to the people.

Have you considered emigration?

I have obviously always wanted to go abroad to see how other people live and to learn about how the world works. But I have never had plans to move abroad.

What do you think about migrants?

I understand migrants very well. This is why I have no problems with them. I think that migrants come to Russia not because they want to but because they have to, and if they can build themselves a better life in Russia than they had in their native countries, then why not? They are welcome to come. However, much depends on where migrants come from and what the purpose of their coming is.

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Khristina, 30, financial analyst, originally from Saratov, lives in Kiev

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is someone who was born in Russia and does not want to leave, someone who likes living in Russia.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I do not believe I have ever done any patriotic acts.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

In my opinion, love for the motherland and love for the state are different things. I love my motherland because it gives me energy. For example, when I come to my hometown, where I have not been for five years, it gives me an energy boost, gives me new ideas, a new, fresh impulse. The state, on the other hand, is a certain structure by the means of which we all function. That is to say that the motherland and the state are two absolutely different things.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Patriots can disagree with the authorities. You can be fond of Russian birch trees while disliking the president and disagreeing with him.

Have you considered emigration?

My family and I thought about emigrating two years ago. After making a list of countries for possible emigration, we were supposed to spend a month in Vietnam, but after the first two weeks we felt miserable, because we longed for those Russian birch trees and Russian-speaking people. We found Russian TV channels there and watched them, although I do not usually watch Russian TV at home. It made me feel better, and I realized that it would probably be hard for me to emigrate.

What do you think about migrants?

Migration is usually work-related. I can understand migrants since I myself moved from Saratov to Moscow because it was hard for me to fulfill myself and have a decent salary in Saratov. I have a positive attitude toward migrants. I respect them because moving to another country is a serious step that is not easy to venture.

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My image of a real Russian is of a man who drinks vodka, works at a factory, and talks to a TV-set.

 

Aleksei, artist, born in Moscow, currently in New York

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is someone who never wants to leave Russia.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I do not think I have ever done anything patriotic. I think that a patriotic act is something you do to protect or to glorify the place where you were born and where you live, the place with which you identify yourself.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of the motherland and of the state are two different things. Love of the government is love of certain people or their specific actions. As for me, I cannot love such things. Love of the motherland is a more appropriate feeling; this is the affection that you have for your village or your neighborhood or, for example, Russian literature.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course you can be a patriot and disagree with the government. In my opinion, today, the so-called patriots are actually the ones who disagree with the authorities. I think that this is absolutely normal, since the government does not always do what is good for the state and, consequently, for its people, because there is no state without people. You cannot love an empty house: chances are, it is its inhabitants that you care for. Consequently, if you are a patriot of Russia, it is probably not some abstract Russian borders that you like, but the people who live in this country and their specific traits.

Have you considered emigration?

I am currently engaged in the emigration process. I am trying to leave Russia for good.

What do you think about migrants?

I have no specific attitude toward migrants. But I do not think they should be banished from the country. I think this is a natural process: people migrate from one part of the world to another. I am, so to speak, a labor migrant myself in the United States, and I know what it feels like to be a migrant. Moving from one county to another is very hard, especially considering that people do that because life is not a bed of roses. They have to work for peanuts while feeling despised by everyone around them. This is why I sympathize with migrants.

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