Editor's Letter - Moscow expat Life

John Harrison, Editor, Moscow expat Life

My experiences in Russia since the late 1980s have led me to thinking that culture in Russia is extremely important. I am not talking about ‘High Art’ although that is part of it, I am talking about the mind-set, the way that people do things, relate to each other, view the world. The popularity of western culture based on the individual in the last decades of the Soviet Union paved the way for the introduction of western capitalism in my opinion. However, (and this is where I am not so sure) the rise of a more regulated form of capitalism and political control in Russia is possible because of the resurgence of a more collectivist, Russian way of seeing the world. Attempts to encourage the re-emergence of Russia on the world stage and the appearance of Russia as a credible nation state can be said to really be about re-establishing Russian identity on an individual, collective and national stage. This is what happens when you have a bunch of people who speak their own language and possess their own history and culture. We perhaps got so used to Russia being a basket case of nostalgia for the past, a country which didn’t know what it was, that most people other than long-term expats still don’t really accept Russia or Russians. This has all led me to believe that culture and identity are the most important underlying forces in Russia.

It is possible to see similar forces at work in the rest of the world. Figuring out who ‘we’ are, and do we want to play with them today seems to be the order of the day. The implications of Brexit are too far reaching for me at least, to comprehend, however we seem to witnessing the return of the nation state in Europe. This could be because of possible misuse of structures set up to prevent further wars in Europe after the Second World War. It could also be because culture is being used to highlight differences rather than accentuate similarities by goal oriented politicians, or a mixture of both. What is happening in Europe and in the States to a certain extent seems to make Russia a comparatively stable place at the moment. It’s the West’s turn to have an identity crisis.

Naturally enough this issue is preoccupied with Brexit, which at the time split the British community into two well defined camps. Fights did not break out between expats in Moscow’s expat hangouts, but they could have, easily. All of our Brexit articles are under the rubric Opinion.

An article in this issue is dedicated to disengagement of the long term British community with the British embassy. Such a sorry state of affairs is not so much the fault of the diplomatic staff in Moscow as the uncanny ability of Russian ‘experts’ in London to consistently get it wrong about Russia. I have been told by my publisher that the Tower has Wi-Fi, and the location is superb. I do hope I get some visitors.

This issue we concentrate on Austria, that small yet influential country in the very heart of Europe. Luc Jones gives us the low-down on the World Cup 2018, which is coming up fast, and Chis Weafer gives us his usual sober look at the economy, and there’s much more in this issue. Enjoy.

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