One does not simply walk into Russia

14 Apr
Moscow's Kremlin

Moscow’s Kremlin

One does not simply walk into Russia. This is a saying that has meaning beyond the arduous process of getting your visa. One could say that any country can bring culture shock to a newcomer, and that you can’t simply walk into any country. But here’s the truth: some countries are far more strange to Americans than others.

This week I’m doing a school project on Russia. Next week I’m visiting Russia itself (Moscow and St Petersburg for a few days each).

I’ve realized, through my reading about Russia’s history, that the Russian mentality is, seemingly rightfully, seen as very mysterious and strange by many westerners. Russian culture, from an outsider’s perspective, is bursting with mystery, paradoxes and contradictions in ways that few other countries do. How has such a massive territory managed to be governed by a central government in such an authoritarian manner? Why is it that Russia simultaneously looks up to the west for its technology, and yet increasingly rejects western progressivism on issues such as gay rights? Why is Russia struggling with a wave of racism and extreme nationalism, despite being so much more open to foreigners than it was during the USSR? Is Russia Eastern, Western, or something else entirely?

These are questions rooted in history and culture that have no easy answers.

When I return from Russia, I will give my thoughts on my experiences in the country.

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