St. Petersburg(17)
Leonid, 34, industrial alpinist, Saint Petersburg

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

False patriotism helped me to f*** up one American in a bar.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are cardinally opposite things, as a rule. The current, somewhat lapsing powers and love of motherland are things that have nothing in common.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot might disagree with the government. These things are not in any way related.

Have you considered emigration?

I don’t like the thought of emigration. I think that it’s a dishonorable retreat from one’s territory. Both of my grandfathers were military people. So it looks like we relinquish our inner territories to our inner enemy. This is all very offensive. I was born in the city of Leningrad, so where else could I go? Where is better?

What do you think about migrants?

Someone creates artificial tension in order to distract people and earns big money on cheap labor. It’s so obvious.

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Mikhail, homeless, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

I’ve never actually thought about what a real Russian is. I guess it’s someone who adores Russia, tries to make things better for it.

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

I might have done something patriotic. It might seem patriotic to someone else, but for me it was ordinary.

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

I wouldn’t say that love of motherland and of government are the same thing. Governments might change, but there is only one motherland.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

You can be a patriot and disagree with the government. It seems like everyone lives like that.

Have you considered emigration?

I have thought of emigrating, and I still think [of it]. But I’m already old now; no one would take me.

What do you think about migrants?

As a human being, I can understand migrants. But they cause many troubles here, of course.

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Marta, photo retoucher, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

I haven’t got a concept of a “real Russian.”

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

I suppose I haven’t done anything patriotic act. Well, I received a college education.

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

Love of motherland is not the same as love of government. Motherland is the place where you were born; you might have some pleasant memories about it, associations, beloved people, but a government doesn’t always match our expectations and desires.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot might disagree with the government. There are many such cases, in my opinion. I feel critical both of the authorities and of patriots. My father is involved in politics to some extent, so I’ve got some understanding of all this—from phone calls, etc. That’s why I’ve got quite a double opinion on the mater.

Have you considered emigration?

Yes, I’ve thought of emigrating. But only because I like a warm climate and would like to live somewhere where it is warm and there is a sea, and the weather is not so sadly melancholic.

What do you think about migrants?

I don’t think anything about migrants. They don’t bother me—well, maybe only sometimes. It all depends on parenting: if one behaves well, then what’s the difference what country he’s from? A person from Europe can also behave like a savage.

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Vyacheslav, 53, homeless, used to work in construction, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

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

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

I might have done a something patriotic act, I don’t know.

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

It is possible to love your motherland. But there shouldn’t be any love for your government. It is changeable, a position program—nothing else.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

One can of course be a patriot and disagree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

I haven’t thought about emigration. Why would one need it? There’s no need to do it. Whatever happens, we don’t need a foreign country.

What do you think about migrants?

Migrants are politics; it’s not our business. It’s the government that makes it possible for migrants to work here. They pay them little money.

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Ivan, entrepreneur, DJ, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

This question makes me think really hard, because I haven't ever conceptualized this idea.

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

I think that in order to do something patriotic, there should exist certain circumstances, like a war or some other related incident. Luckily, I haven’t participated in any military actions, so I haven’t done any heroic acts.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are cardinally different things. Love of motherland is love of a place, of a mentality, of your own environment. Government and motherland are different things.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

One might love his motherland and disagree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

It seems to me that many have thought of emigration. But I don’t see myself in another country; I’ll have nothing to do there. I look at many of my friends who have emigrated, and I understand that I don’t want to live like that.

What do you think about migrants?

How do I feel about migrants? It depends on what they are. If they are Europeans who come and start marketing companies here or, let’s say, automobile plants, thus giving people ways to earn money, then I feel good about that. But I feel strongly negative toward migrants from our former Soviet republics.

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Igor, sculptor, Saint Petersburg

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

I think that if it all works out, then my patriotic act deed will be a monument to the tsar’s family, to the Romanovs, I mean, the last tsar. There will be a church built in the Primorsky district, and here’s a sketch of this monument.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are, of course, different things. Motherland is the place where I’m from, the place everything draws back to, the place where you want to go. But what is love of government? Love of a tsar?

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

One might be a patriot and disagree with the government. Many people live like that. It’s absolutely normal. Governments come and go, but people stay and live.

Have you considered emigration?

I haven’t thought of emigrating. I just don’t need it. When bad times come to a country, one probably shouldn’t leave, but should stay and live through it until it’s well again.

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Let migrants work if Russians cannot do it. Nowadays, Russia does not produce anything. People have no jobs. They don't know how to take care of their land. People do not even know how to milk a cow.

 

Sergei, 35, activist, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think a real Russian is someone who thinks about the future of his fatherland, at least sometimes.

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

My latest patriotic act was when I went to Dvortsovaya Square alongside along with other civil activists and tried to demonstrate my civil position on the politics drawn by our current government toward migrants, gays, and other oppressed groups of people. But I think that the inner moral labor of your soul is a real act of patriotism.

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

Love of your motherland is not the same thing as love of your government. Moreover, I would say that our current government can by no means be thought of as a legitimate one, nor as equal to the concept of a “state,” because what we’ve got now is the usurpation of power. That is, the current leaders who usurp the power have nothing to do with a state, a government, or a parliament, or anything that stems from the definition of the term “state.”

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

One ought to be a patriot and disagree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

I’m thinking of emigrating. Sometimes I think of what it would be like for me to live in a foreign country.

What do you think about migrants?

I’m really happy about migrants. I always think how great it is that someone else wants to come to Petersburg.

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Anna, interior designer, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

I don’t understand the meaning of the term “a real Russian.” Maybe it’s a person who tries to live here somehow, to find a way here, who’s got a family here.

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

I suppose I haven’t done anything patriotic. To doa patriotic act is, maybe, when you go somewhere and try to represent your country there through your deeds.

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

To me, love of your motherland and love of your government are different things. Motherland to me is, I think, more the society with which I communicate, and the government exists somehow separately.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot might disagree with the government. I think I’m one of such people now.

Have you considered emigration?

I think of emigrating all the time.

What do you think about migrants?

Migrants come to earn a living. They haven’t got any other choice, so they come here. How do I feel about it? Well, it’s a process that has already been started; it can’t be stopped. But we should live with it somehow and try [to see to it that] everything goes peacefully and friendlily. Migrants bring additional color; maybe it’s even a good thing.

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Said, street cleaner, Saint Petersburg

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

I have not done anything patriotic.

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. The motherland is the motherland.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

I do not know if a patriot can disagree with the government.

What do you think about migrants?

People living in St. Petersburg are normal human beings—they respect me and treat me decently. This is why I work here. I live here alone. My family is in Uzbekistan.

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Ksenia, 16, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

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

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

I haven’t done a patriotic act. If you’re talking politics, then I think that a patriotic act means changing something in your country.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are definitely different things. A man might love his motherland dearly but at the same time be against his government and absolutely dislike it.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot can disagree with the government. That is why if you love our country, it doesn’t mean that you like its political regime.

Have you considered emigration?

I’ve thought of going to study somewhere, but to move abroad forever—no.

What do you think about migrants?

I think migration should be strictly limited, because there are so many people who come without registration, who just bribe the police and commit illegal and unacceptable things.

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Aleksei, aid worker, former soccer player, Saint Petersburg

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

I've done a patriotic act, in my understanding, when I played for my team at a FIFA championship during our trip to Hungary. I think that for me, a young boy, it was a patriotic act: to spend three nights on a bus trip and then play football the next day, feeling absolutely worn out. Another patriotic act occurred in Finland, when our all-Russia team played there and the Finns came after us, starting fights with ordinary people. So we had to stand up for them, because there were women and children amongst us. We even had to hit Finns in the head. Thus, I protected Russian people.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are different things. Firstly, I haven’t got any love for our government at all, because all the laws that they’ve passed during the last twenty-something years—starting with sports and ending with healthcare (which is what I do now)—it’s all been done kind of crappy. Besides, there’s corruption again. I’m now monitoring who buys what and at what price. I used to sell metal furniture to state museums. So I bribed and gave “kickbacks”; otherwise I wouldn’t have sold anything. So motherland and government are really different things. Motherland is a motherland; it can’t be measured in money or anything else. But in our government the only things that matter are money and connections.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

It is of course possible to be a patriot and to disagree with the authorities, because those people have got their own opinions. If some bureaucrat says, “Let’s separate from Caucasus”—or rather, separate Caucasus from us—in my understanding this is wrong, because it’s a Russian territory; it has been integrated into Russia in one way or another. But on the other hand, if some bureaucrat says that we should stop financing Caucasus so much, it’s now a hot issue. If we stop financing them, people will revolt, and terrorist attacks and all those things will begin again, because people are very impulsive there.

Have you considered emigration?

I thought of emigrating once, when I got an offer to play in Germany. I was very anxious about it, because those were the ’90s, and I really wanted to get out of this country. But I don’t want to leave now. I don’t even get thoughts like that any more.

What do you think about migrants?

I’ve got a solid opinion toward migrants: I’m against illegal migrants because there are too many of them, and too much criminal activity. My family has suffered from them, unfortunately, so I feel very emotional about it. My father was beaten up severely, and the doctors said that he didn’t have any nerve cells left. He became a vegetable and finally hanged himself. So I feel negative toward illegal migrants. But if they are the people who study here—why not? And it doesn’t matter what country they are from: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Italy.

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Asya, 16, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a person who was born in Russia, who basically respects this country, respects its rules, traditions, its history, and other Russian citizens.

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

I’ve hardly done anything patriotic act. I don’t understand the meaning of these words, so I can’t even give an example. I guess it means to change the course of history, the politics—something like that.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are different things, of course. Motherland is the place where we were born, where we live, a place that we love and respect; it’s something spiritual. But the government is [made up of] separate people who are busy with politics; I think they are less related to the motherland.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course it is possible to be a patriot and disagree with the government. This is widespread now. But one should be well informed of what’s happening in the government and not just keep saying “I don't like Putin because he’s a dummy and doesn’t do anything.” This is absurd. There should be some proof to that.

Have you considered emigration?

I used to think of emigrating about a year and a half ago. I thought that I didn’t have education or a work field for myself here. But then I decided that I didn’t know what it’s like abroad. Like, my mother studied in America, but she’s got a technical profession. I know that liberal professions are more difficult, in the sense that there’s higher competition, and I’m just afraid that I wouldn’t cope with it. Then, I’ve got a friend who studies in Finland now. They might give a good education there, but there’s almost nothing to do there.

What do you think about migrants?

There’s nothing to like about migrants. Well, it doesn’t have a direct impact on me personally yet, and I don’t care about it. But when I walk down the street and someone grabs my hands, saying, “Hey, girl, let’s go somewhere,” it is disgusting, of course. A Russian man could hardly afford to do something like that to me—well, at least I haven’t experienced it. So yes, there are reasons to treat them with disrespect, maybe even with some anxiety. I know that I’m not secure with them. On the other hand, there are people who come here to study, to work—so why not? If I go somewhere, others will also tell me, “Russian, ew! What a mess. What are you doing here? Get out.”

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Alexander, 29, unemployed, homeless, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

Real Russians are ethnic Russians.

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

I might have done a something patriotic act. I don’t even know.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are different things. It seems to me that government is never even related to love.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

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

Have you considered emigration?

I wouldn’t like to move from Russia.

What do you think about migrants?

You should chase migrants away from here! They are so annoying. We are living here like we are their guests already. We, Russians, live like guests in Russia now!

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What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?

Lin Yutang
Valentina, graduate student, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

Who is a real Russian? It’s a complex question, considering what’s happening. I think that it is a patriot, a person who loves his country, is tolerant in in every meaning of the word, ready to do practically anything for his motherland. He should possess some moral qualities, of course, and shouldn’t lose them. And he should possess a so-called “Russian idea,” which has been very popular lately.

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

I think I've done patriotic acts for Kazakhstan, where I used to live. I volunteered at the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] summit, at the economical forum, at the winter Asian games. I think these are patriotic acts because I worked for free.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are different things. A government is just an institution of public power.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course it is possible to be a patriot and to disagree with the government. I think the opposition now represents such people perfectly.

Have you considered emigration?

I used to think of emigrating before. But now I think that I will stay in Russia because there’s basically everything here for bringing it to life. There are already enough immigrants abroad, and they are second-class people there.

What do you think about migrants?

Migration has ever been and ever will be here, because Russia’s development index is a lot higher than Central Asian countries. It’s just that people should be more tolerant of each other. And those who are guests in this country should behave better.

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Grigory, aid worker, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

To me, real Russians are citizens of Saint Petersburg, for instance—with such delicate intelligence, a couldn’t-care-less attitude, light consumption. And the second type of “real Russian” is like an idealized figure from somewhere farther away than the Urals—tough guys who don't talk a lot but who’ve got a gun under the floor, and they’ll get it all right if anything goes wrong. I think the symbiosis of these two is what makes us all keep going.

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

I try to go out on Victory Day to congratulate the veterans. I think of going to elections as a patriotic act. And I have also spoken out somewhat angrily about the nationalists in other countries, risking getting a punch in in the face a couple of times.

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

Of course love of motherland and love of government are different things. There are times when one should forgive his government, like during the Great Patriotic War. Or like during the putsch, when those who stood up announced a state of martial law. They were trying to improve the situation in some way, and maybe they thought that it would be better if the Soviet Union remained. But there are also times when one shouldn’t forgive such things—like now, for instance.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Naturally, a patriot might disagree with the authorities. Unfortunately, our government is developing in a totally wrong direction. What they are doing now—“tightening the screws” (strengthening control)—makes people more unhappy.

Have you considered emigration?

On the one hand, I’m thinking of leaving. The idea of getting out of here is constantly present in my mind. But on the other hand, I’ll have to leave only if it gets really messy. For some reason I don’t want to leave Petersburg, or the country, either.

What do you think about migrants?

Something makes those people leave their places, go away from their villages for a better life. But frankly speaking, I think that migration is a bad thing. The total lack of control over this process has caused the number of newcomers to become so large that their culture has begun to dominate a little bit. I honestly don’t want streets full of women in headscarves. I don’t like this.

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Roman, medical equipment supply, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

What is a real Russian? I do not even know. I think this must be someone who knows the national anthem, a bit of history, and also the Russian language.

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

I doubt that I have ever done anything patriotic.

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

I am not interested in politics at all. I am not interested at all in what politicians do, because they live their own life that is different from Russia’s life. I couldn’t care less about who the leaders are.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Patriots can disagree with the authorities. Disagreement is a natural position that demonstrates an independent opinion.

Have you considered emigration?

I have not thought about emigrating. Why would I think about that? This would be a waste of time. I have traveled abroad; I was bored there. There is nothing to do there. I did not find other countries interesting.

What do you think about migrants?

Migrants can be different. If they come to Russia to work, let them work, I do not mind—they will not take my job. But if they come to sell drugs, then that is a different story. Then, of course, they should be fought against.

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Anatoly Yevgenievich, doctor, Saint Petersburg

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a person who lives on Russia’s territory, admits it, possesses a kind attitude toward the country and its people, and wishes the best for his country, of course. That’s who can be called a real Russian.

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

I haven’t blocked a firing squad with my body, but 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.

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

Love of motherland and love of government are different things. Governors can vary. One might agree with a governor, respect him, support him in many ways, but one can also feel neutral toward him.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

It happens sometimes that authorities act unpatriotic, in which case there will be no agreeing with them, of course.

Have you considered emigration?

As people say, where you were born, there you’re good. That’s why I haven’t thought of emigrating, but I would like to see the world. It’s just that there is never enough time. Even during vacation, there is so much fuss. Besides, my financial opportunities don’t always allow me to have what I’d like.

What do you think about migrants?

I have a good attitude toward all people, regardless of nationality. I don’t care much about it. But if newcomers behave rudely, force natives out, or gather together to beat up others, then I’ve got due cause to care about them. All in all, if you are a guest, we’ll accept you with love and peace; but if you’re an enemy, you’d better go away.

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