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Greetings from the KRG-Iraq:
No, I'm not in Russia anymore but since Russia, Russians and their government leaders have been in world news for the last week, I thought I would start with a provocative image. Provocative to many who have never visited, let alone lived in Russia but who are willing to condemn Russians and Russia simply because of being saturated with false narratives, slanted news, peer and societal pressure.
Most westerners have never stepped one foot into the largest country (by measurement of landmass) on our planet. That's correct, Russia is first in terms of the percentage of Earth's land surface at 11:%. China and Canada are respectively 2nd and 3rd, while the USA is 4th.
I had a dim view of Russia before my first visit to Moscow while it was still the center of the Soviet Union. Because of some nerve wracking experiences the first time I was in Russia, I had reservations about accepting a position there again- this time in Novosibirsk, Siberia in 2011-2012. My job required me to stop first in Moscow for meetings at the US embassy and Russian ministries. There I revisited "Red Square" in the Fall of 2011, when this photo was taken. I describe my encounters and some of my more memorable experiences in Siberia in my next book, "Getting Off the X-II" which I hope to finish this Fall 2018.
After about 6 months of winter and hard work in Siberia, I changed my mind about Novosibirsk, Russia and my Russian colleagues. While there were some stereotypes which were hard to dismiss, most of my preconceived ideas were dispelled by my actual experiences in Siberian society. I was there during the "reset" time declared by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. What a disaster that was. The cool relationship between our two governments turned to ice after that era. Russophobia became a pervasive thought pattern drummed incessantly by all media, especially in the lead up to and the post 2016 election cycle. "All Russian contacts" were suspects. "All Russians are/were spies, untrustworthy, thuggish, brutal, war mongers, etc". These stereotypes are still portrayed in the main stream media in the US and other western countries today.
These images and fear inducing examples hearken back to the very real dangers of the Stalinist World War II times and the Soviet era. However, they are no more true in the 21st century than the images from the 1950's during the civil rights troubles in the South of the USA, are today. Echoes yes, but the majority of laws and/or people's attitudes and actions no longer reflect the soviet way of thinking.
People are often ignorant or overlook the beauty of the arts in Russia. The Russian love and support for poetry, music, dance and sweet melancholy exquisitely expressed by Russian arts including film, is unique. A wonderful contribution to their body of work in the last decade is the film Battalion. This is a 2015 Russian war movie directed by Dmitriy Meshiev presenting a dramatic historical account of the First Battalion of Death, a women-only Russian combat unit that fought in the First World War. Actress Maria Aronova plays the role of real-life heroine Maria Bochkareva. Battalion won four awards out of nine nominations at the Golden Eagle Awards in 2015. You can view it with English subtitles for free online. Go ahead, take a risk and watch it. Well worth viewing.
The ethnic dances in Russia are dynamic and athletic yet not often shown in the west. I am including a link so you can see a rehearsal of one professional men's group for yourself. www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-Y7oKPdV70
I had the good fortune to see a number of live performances of ethnic and classical dance and music in Novosibirsk, which boasts the largest opera house in all of Europe.
There is a vast repertoire of Russian music to listen/view online as well as classical and contemporary dance. The most famous contemporary dancers are probably the husband/wife duo of Sergei Polunin and Natalia Osipova-here is one of their breath taking original duets: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRmCuac-u_0
Contributions from Russian scientists, educators, doctors, linguists, engineers, designers, strategists and theologians are evident in many parts of the world. The possibilities for human potential is best pushed to higher levels with a diversity of thought not uniformity. We could and do learn from each other. Even the way we discipline ourselves is different in our respective countries.
It is important to remember we all have blue blood flowing in our veins and all human beings exist under the same embracing sky "yearning to breathe free." We just approach the path to freedom in divergent ways.
The recent shift in language from our leadership in the USA, from saying "enemy, adversary" (in regard to the Russian leader)....to "competitor".. is huge. In psycho linguistic terms it is a shift for the positive, in my opinion. This doesn't mean we have to be friends with, to like or include Russia in our "circle of trust"; but it does mean we don't have to collectively maintain a national posture of enmity and hostility for Russians and Russia as our "enemy".
Let's hope all sides are able to expand their consciousness, their visions of the future and open their minds- even a little bit more- to include the possibility of peace and recognizing what we have in common with a large part of our human family.
As the graffiti at the bus stop near the apartment building where I used to live in Siberia pointed out: "Evolution" is the future...not just revolution. (see photo above)
Here's hoping from the KRG.
Until next time,