Unknown Territories, part 9
This is the final, official instalment in the series derived from my talks with M, an ex-pat American who saw “old-rush”, post-Soviet Russia first-hand, and in fact helped to shape some of its future. That is pretty remarkable if you pause to reflect upon it. Most of our own small ripples disperse easily into the general “pond’” of life and are quickly gone. To have made some kind of lasting impression or helped steer events whose consequences affected thousands, maybe millions (and hopefully for the greater good too) is, well, something.
The housing model that he and his peers introduced did have its successes. Real people benefited, some deserving and others not so. I guess that any broader dissection would quickly become a debate about the general pros and cons of the “social” versus “privatised” housing models respectively. That is beyond the remit, really.
“Various circumstances” (possibly a title in itself) transpired, that resulted in M’s life taking a sharp, 90 degree turn, away from his roots in the USA. Whether these will ever appear in an Unknown Territories post-script is uncertain. But, hey, you’ll be the first to know.
So, I’m just rounding things off and finishing with a few tips from M about general survival at ground level, not wishing to sound too dramatic! (for once).
M found that outside of the synthetic work-bubble environment, the best policy was to “be like a turtle”. Well, they do tend to live longer than most, it’s true. We are talking about keeping a low profile and “reeling your neck in” so as to avoid unwanted attention from certain “elements”. These could be criminals (uniformed or otherwise) seeking to benefit from a “rich westerner”, or simply, xenophobic types with axes to grind, and here you are giving them the opportunity.
This is of course based upon M‘s experience in the mid 1990’s but, he tells me that it still applies today as those elements are still around to some degree. Perhaps they are just less “overt” in their presence? Talking with others too, you also get to realise that it does depend upon location. As with any country, attitudes in a cynical metropolis would typically differ from those in a “laid-back” rural town. Though it is best not to assume, either way. (So, have you seen Easy Rider or Deliverance?).
That famous British export of the p****d – up, gobby, holiday-prat abroad is really not going to work here. Seriously, no. From all accounts: Russian police just don’t mess about, and considering expose’s on police criminality by some of their own in recent times: well, just don’t even bother going down that route.
One of M‘s colleagues would famously not take any **** and was in for some “man-handling” when Russian commandos ordered everyone in a bar to hit the floor, and he took exception. Something about an irresistible force meeting an immovable object perhaps? M also tells me about the “Russian soul”, the tendency to brood, glumly, coupled with a sincerity that is rare back “home”.
He finds less in the way of creature-comforts in his new (now normal) life, but more given in “reality”, perhaps more of the things that matter. If you can wait out the trial-period where your otherness is regarded and assessed, you can, on approval be embraced (probably literally) as family, with the expectations upon yourself that accompany that. And the flipside to the “glumness”: the all-consuming breadth of hospitality and enjoyment of celebration. High contrast then. In any case M considers himself “hard-core” ex-pat, and is not going back. That’s surely got to be some kind of recommendation.
[Photo by lil’latvian]