Moscow conversations

Hi there, travel fans!

I’m back from another Moscow trip. To be in Moscow when the weather is great is very unusual for me, but this week the sun was shining and temperature was around 20C. It just didn’t feel right!

The high temperature, little wind and tall buildings don’t help to dissipate the fumes from the millions of cars, most of them gas guzzling exhaust fume monsters. The air quality in Moscow must be amongst the world’s worst. It really was a breath of fresh air to return to Warsaw. I know that to all Poles, Warsaw is “the big city” but compared to Moscow, Warsaw is a small country village with fresh air, few cars and everything on a very easily managed scale. It’s nice to be back.

Conversations I had on this trip included;

“Is Putin gay?” – the answer was howls of laughter. “He’s married, he’s got two kids”, they said. I said I’d never seen them, all I’ve seen is him doing his bare-chested gay horse riding routine and prancing around on stage with his new best mate wearing leather trousers. “Russia is a man’s country, women are not important.”, I was told. “If anyone even thought for a second he was gay, he’d disappear”. I asked if ticking the “be nice to gays” box wasn’t important to be considered a civilised country these days. “Not in Russia”, was the answer. So, there you have it, on good authority, Putin is not gay and neither is anyone else in Russia!

We visited the building site and I saw, like I always see in Russia, a female plasterer up a ladder plastering the ceilings. “You see, women ARE important after all! Without women, this country would be unplastered!”. They had to concede my point, although nobody had ever noticed this before. I explained that in the UK, you don’t see many women labouring on building sites. They found this strange.

I was asked the question, “Do Polish people hate Russians?”. Not wishing to be an Ambassador for Poland I tried to waffle around but it didn’t work. “I think the younger generation are cool about Russians but you can’t expect the older people to forget the hardships of living under Soviet rule.”. “But that was the Soviets, not Russians. We all had the same problems here!”. I found that hard to argue about so I just said “Well, for most people in the world, the Soviets and Russians are hard to separate.”. They then explained, tongue in cheek, that everything was the German’s fault because Marx and Engels and so on were Germans and they invented the whole stupid idea. We did agree that for most of the country-dwelling folk in both Poland and Russia the old days were better.

“If you’ve been to Russia a few times, why didn’t you ever stay here?”, was another awkward question. “Because, to be honest, I don’t really like it here.”, I said. “What don’t you like?”, they pressed. “This place only really has one attraction and that is money. As money does not turn me on, it is therefore not an attractive place for me to live because I’d have to put up with the traffic, the lack of oxygen, the difficulty getting anything done, the ostentatious rich people with their big cars and flashy training shoes, the not terribly great food, the high prices, the stuck-up ex-pat communities, the 3 hour drive to work……..and so on.”. “I agree, but what about the people?”, they kept going. “The only people I have met here and didn’t like, were most of the ex-pats. The people who are only here to try and get rich quick. Those people, generally, are not people I want to meet again. The majority of Russian people I have met here, have been very nice.”. “Yes, I know what you mean.”, she said. “The trouble is that Russians like foreign people but sometimes the wrong ones! As for the Russians, it is said that each individual Russian is a nice person but when you put them all together it becomes something not so nice. I think there is something in that.”.

All this while being driven, at zero speed, across town by a Turk in a shiny new Range Rover! ;)

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9 thoughts on “Moscow conversations

  1. Another person giving the readerhood a warning about Moscow not being how it used to be. Tell you what. If they still speak native Russian around there, one of the three most beautiful languages in the world, that would work for me. For a visit.

  2. You can find nice and bad places everywhere, London, Moscow, NY, Warsaw and so on.

    But Moscow is just way too expensive…

  3. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Russia: Moscow Conversations

  4. My great grandfather used to say tat Russia is not a normal country, and required a promise that even if I was to gain a lot of money or something, I would never go to Russia. Many things change, but some things don’t. It is still possible to go there and find yourself killed in the street or in prison for not having some piece of paper.

    As to Russians – and the questions you were asked if Poles hated them…. I don’t think Poles hate Russians. We know Russia. We know what Russia is like. I think Poles in general view Russians as inferior, as incapable of producing a democratic state that is treating everyone with respect and fairness. As incapable of a rebellion against bad leaders and wrong system. Russians don’t do and don’t want to do anything to make Russia a better place. Therefore Russians don’t respect themselves. And that is also why Poles have little respect for Russia.

    Russia as a country, even when it conquered lands, it never brought growth or prosperity. It always brought violence and backwardness. There is nothing to like about Russia.

  5. PS. (this was supposed to be in the previous comment) Of course individual people bear no fault for how the country looks, and acts (especially in Russia individual person never mattered)… Poles like Russians as individual people. We usually have a lot in common and we like to talk and have things to talk about.

    To sum up:
    Poles despise Russia.
    Poles like individual Russians.
    Poles feel sorry for Russians as citizens.

  6. Pawel, I didn’t include in the post but we did discuss democracy and I asked why they are apparently happy without any real democracy.

    To summarize, the reasons seems to be mostly because they are not sure what they will end up with if they do get to vote freely, they would not know who to vote for anyway and they are scared that they might end up with one of the “old style” dictators rather than one, like Putin, who seems to be improving things. There was also a healthy dose of “What are we supposed to do about it?”.

    I suggested that things are unlikely to change until the vast majority of people take to the streets and demand real democracy. This seemed to give some pause for thought but I never got the impression that this is likely to happen in the near future.

    It’s quite sad really.

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