What an amazing day #2 in Moscow. Up and rested at almost noontime here after 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. My two bags arrived around 7 pm, and the second Samsonite bag arrived ripped along the zipper. So much for Samsonite quality.
My friend Nickolai arrived around 5 pm to visit and to make dinner. We were joined by Ruzhena around 7:30. For two hours and a half I asked dozens of questions of Nickolai and listened almost spellbound as he demythologized much of the anti-Russian propaganda. I will share it with you now, at the beginning of my three week visit to Russia, because what I learned has everything to do with what is happening in the US and West regarding President Putin and Russia.
Nickolai’s English is quite good and agreed to do this on camera this week. It will be more directed and his replies will be briefer. I’m sure many will find this fascinating. Nickolai at first winced saying, “I’m not a pretty face.” I told him I don’t film pretty faces, only real people.
The story began with the Soviet Era and the foundations of the Soviet Union. “Soviet Russia” refers to the few years after the October Revolution of 1917, but before the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922 and its collapse in 1991. Moscow was actually founded in 1047 AD. By comparison, the white European explorers only came to America and planted they deadly seeds in 1492 and the U.S. didn’t become a country until the end of the 18th Century.
During the Soviet Era there was universal healthcare throughout the Soviet Union as well as free education for all. There was a stipend for institute and university students that paid for meals, lodging, books, as well as theater and cultural events. Students were encouraged to attend music conservatories and to study the arts, history and culture. I learned that they are more aware of American literature than most of us. They can quote from Mark Twain, Hemingway, Thoreau and many others.
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, life changed dramatically for all Russians. Millions died of starvation, diseases and illnesses. President Gorbachev and his successor Boris Yeltsin introduced “Capitalism” to Russia and this caused prices to rise dramatically and it caused the entire economy to change. No longer was free healthcare available to all. There were free clinics, but no specialists there to perform surgeries and provide other special services. These now had to be paid for and became so expensive that most cannot afford them. The same is true of pharmaceuticals. Both have been privatized.
Simultaneously college and university fees began to rise. Students now had to pay as much as $17,000 for a four year bachelors degree. Not much I guess by US standards today.
Today, Russia is a Capitalist country just as is the U.S., Europe, and most of Asia. My hosts insist that Russia is no longer “Communist” or “Socialist.” Can you imagine that! There is a Communist party, but it only has 7 seats in the State Duma, where the United Russia Party holds the overwhelming majority of seats. That was President Putin’s party. Interestingly enough, Russian presidents do not remain party members of any party once elected.
By the way, Capitalism here is also more and more unregulated just like in the U.S. and Europe and many state services are being privatized.
That said, my Communist friends told me the recent election was sort of rigged…sort of. Many people were apathetic and did not vote. People with jobs in the government and agencies “knew” that had to vote for the Russia United Party, and of course, politicians voted in the election which had a much smaller turnout than usual. It was like what has been happening in the U.S.. They found that quite blatant and unbelievable.
President Vladimir Putin – according to my friends. His career began with the Soviet Era KGB as a mid-level analyst in Berlin. After a period of time he was sent back to Russia and to school. It was rumored that he was an agent of the West, but that has never been proven.
Putin was then assigned to St. Petersburg as an analyst, NOT an operative agent. He was never involved in the massacre or persecutions of anyone. His western reputation as a thug, monster, assassin and another Hitler are blatant lies and propaganda.
Putin rose through the ranks of the Liberal Democratic Party that was espousing American type of Capitalism. At some point, he was recognized by Boris Yeltsin and later appointed by Yeltsin as his successor. For a short period of time he hand-picked Dimitri Medvedev to succeed him. After the Constitutionally required period of four years out of office, Putin again ran for president and won, and just recently ran again and was unanimously elected. His popularity with Russians is at an all-time high, hovering around 90%.
My hosts insist that Putin has not assassinated his political challengers or jailed them. All western lies and propaganda. Fewer people are in jail during the Putin years and the streets of Moscow and the larger cities are essentially free of crime. Ruzhena walked home tonight at 10 PM and said she has never felt afraid to go out at night in Moscow.
The news we received a few weeks ago regarding Putin’s driver having a fatal accident on one of Russia’s main thoroughfares is a complete fabrication. They scoffed when I said many in the West believed it was an assassination attempt.
Under Putin, the economy has improved for many Russians, but there is still a large majority of Russians whose lives have worsened because of Capitalism and not Putin’s policies. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of Russians trust him and believe in his foreign policy which is all about challenging American expansion, imperialism and attempts at world domination. They are not so favorable about his economic policies, but given the current situation with the US and NATO’s aggression, they love him and agree that he has restored pride in being Russian and he has restored the credibility of Russia throughout the world.
Russians are also confident now because of their technology, military and their nuclear capability.
Regarding Putin’s return to the Russian Orthodox Christian faith, they chuckled a bit about his “conversion.” “He was a Communist and atheist. Like all politicians, they embrace religion to win over the people.” They do not believe he is sincere about this religious conversion. Like all American presidents.
Furthermore, they told me that most Russians are not religious and believe more in nature than a god. They celebrate Christmas on January 7, but not as a religious celebration. It is more a holiday from work.
Bottom line, they believe that Vladimir Putin and now with China, Iran and Syria are standing up to America and that the future of humanity is on the line. But as Russians, they are not easily disturbed or threatened. They have always been stoic in the fact of invasions and threats.
That Putin ordered 40 million Russians to prepare for a nuclear attack by conducting drills and going into bunkers is a complete and total fabrication. Nothing of the kind happened. They laughed when I asked about it saying nobody in Moscow or Russia had ever heard about it.
My friends are very much aware that we are indeed “Thirty Seconds to Midnight” because of the threats of Nuclear war, unsafe nuclear power (they remember Chernobyl), and climate change.
Crimea since Catherine the Great has always been part of Russia unlike some other countries that became part of the Soviet Union. Russia has always had naval bases and military bases in Crimea, and had some 28,000 troops stationed in Crimea at the time of the coup in Ukraine. Russia did not invade Crimea. In fact, when Nikita Kruschev, during the latter part of the Soviet Era, “gave” Crimea to Ukraine, it and all of the Ukraine and other Soviet states were all one in the Soviet Union, all under the same law, and all speaking Russian. (These other countries also retained their own languages, but Russian was the language of the Soviet Union.
So, when Ukraine and the West complained that Russia “invaded” Crimea, Russians know the truth, that Crimea has been Russian since Catherine the Great and that Russia was not about to let Crimea fall into the hands of the US and NATO. They know that President Putin offered a referendum to all of the people of Crimea that would clearly make Crimea Russian again, the people voted overwhelmingly to “return.” As many as 90% voted to “return.” And the West continues to lie and insist that Russia is the aggressor.
I’ll hear it straight from the people of Crimea when I visit there from October 25-30.
The US sponsored coup in Ukraine Russian people know it was a U.S. sponsored coup in Ukraine and the names of Victoria Nuland and Ukraine Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt are well-known and reviled in Russia. Russia sees it as American expansion and military threats to Russia.
I’m sure there will be more about Ukraine in future conversations.
US Elections They certainly know all about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but know little about Trump except that he doesn’t want war with Russia. They think it is hilarious that Americans believe Russia was involved in Hillary’s hacked emails, the rigging of the Democratic primary, and the idea that Russia is rigging the entire U.S. election. They are paying attention because of Hillary’s past and promises vis a vis Russia and the Middle East.
Russian Technology My friends who are software experts at home told me that Russian software and computer technology are ten years ahead of the U.S., and that they have technology Americans have not even dreamt of yet. My Russian friends readily acknowledged this today. There are also reports that the U.S. and NATO have seriously underestimated the technological advances of Russia in all areas including military! Maybe that’s why Vladimir Putin is so calm, cool, and collected when facing down John Kerry and Barak Obama and their constants threats over Syria. More on Russia and Syria later.
Moscow after only a few short hours is an enormous city with ancient architectural buildings, modern high rises, expansive roads and highways, an incredible subway and public transportation system, parks and trees everywhere, and many, many old downtrodden buildings from the Soviet Era. Everyone has at least a cellphone, and it seems like most have smartphones with outstanding WiFi coverage in the subways.
There’s nothing in America that has anything like this when one considers that Moscow was founded in 1047 AD….
I hope this helps to hear the Russian side of these topics. I know for me it was most rewarding.
One final thought. My Communist friends are all peace activists because they told me Communism was always about universal peace and harmony between workers and farmers. That’s the real symbolism behind the Russian Red Star and the Hammer and Sickle .
Please share this widely.
From Russia with love….Je suis Russia