Understanding today’s Russia

With President Obama in Moscow, America’s attention has been focused anew on its former cold war adversary. But nearly two decades after the fall of Communism, Russia remains an enigma to many Americans.

In an excellent example of explanatory journalism, Clifford J. Levy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, offers a simple six-step guide to “decoding Russia.”

Mr. Levy’s broad ideas about modern Russia are quite perceptive and accurate (no earth-shattering revelations), and should be read by every American who wants to gain a better understanding of the new Russia.

They reflect a strong understanding of what makes Russia tick – an understanding no doubt fed by Mr. Levy’s command of Russian and his efforts to reach out to Russian readers and sources.

Through all of Mr. Levy’s points runs a common thread – to understand Russia today, one needs to have an accurate understanding of Russia’s past. As I’ve written about before, this includes an appreciation for the massive toll of World War II – the Great Patriotic War – on Russia, and Russia’s perception that it bore the brunt of the conflict.

Beyond World War II, it’s important to acknowledge that Russians have a mixed view of their past – and that for many, the Soviet system had favorable aspects, while the current capitalist system has its pluses and minuses as well.

For more on what you need to know to understand Russia, including a brief overview of Russia’s take on former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (TIME Magazine’s 2007 Person of the Year), check out Mr. Levy’s piece.

Have your own questions about Russia? Leave them in the comments or send me an email, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Advertisements

2 responses to “Understanding today’s Russia

  1. Dear Friends!
    From may 2009, (insted the old – “nikotev.wordpress.com”)I have a new blog for modern and contemporary world history – “Nikolaykotev’s Blog” with URL: http://nikolaykotev.wordpress.com/ . If you want, you can see it on this adress!
    Best wishes
    Nikolay Kotev
    NEWS: approximately 1600 pictures and photos from the Second World War

  2. When I was in China, I found that the people I met, who were prospering in the new capitalism still felt suppressed by their inability to express themselves politically. They also knew about and were unhappy with the degree of corruption perpetrated by party members who had even a little power. While everyone played the game to survive and each family had its one kid, this was not a truly happy society.

    Your views of Russia, while descriptive of its history and beautifully photographed, were devoid of impressions of the people and their attitudes towards their government and the rest of the world. Can people express themselves to you? Is big brother watching? (He is in China). Is there general paranoia? Can’t wait for your next blogs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s