The Russian mind is a great mystery to me. It's the reason I'm interested in communicating with you. Native insight is essential when you're trying to put the complex pieces of an ethnic puzzle together. People often ask me to opine on the differences between Russian and American culture. For me one of the prime distinctions is the way we view foreigners. Since my first Russian post some of your compatriots have accused me of being a native, the next Anna Chapman, a former KGB officer and other absurd allegations. I suppose I should be flattered by the Anna Chapman comparisons. :) However, it's very strange that some Russians can't accept the fact an American is genuinely interested in Russian history and culture, with no ulterior motive. Xenophobes - in my mind they suffer from one of the most dangerous mental diseases, and this affliction is far more prevalent in Russia.
I'll point to a recent example. I read a lot of Russian blogs but rarely comment on other posts. The reason is simple - I don't wish to hijack or create chaos in other comment threads. The appearance of English text in a sea of Russian sometimes generates immediate rage and suspicion. It happened this weekend when I made an innocent comment in a post by puerrtto.
First, I only write English comments when I know the blogger speaks English and has readers who do the same. Second, I almost always write the blogger ahead of time to ensure he or she is comfortable with it. Alexander Lapshin provided consent for such comments. So I chimed in on a recent post about relationships and immediately received this response from another user:
Люби Россию - пиши по-русски!
The fun continued when another user formulated yet another conspiracy theory. I must be a former Soviet English teacher! Creative Russian immigrant, living in the States for a long time. Here are some highlights:
Мне тоже кажется, что английский в процитированном блоге идет скорее от очень качественной советской учительницы английского языка, чем от реальной американки. Так как неестественно много пассива, past perfect, have been, придаточных предложений перед главным и т.д.
Она не американка. Она употребляет perfect там где американки употребляют indefinite. Наверное советская учительница или что-то в таком роде.
У меня очень странное впечатление. Понимаете, ведь я живу в США 22 года, общаюсь на работе с американцами, учился в местном коледже, в том числе английскому, и каждый день читаю десятки е-мейлов от американцев и других национальностей. Если это американка, то это очень странная девушка....
Another Russian decided to comment on my English skills:
У меня очень слабый английский, но и то я вижу ошибку в её первом же комменте.
If you want to read all the comments they begin on the first page of this post: http://puerrtto.livejournal.com/412441.html.
I'm sorry but I don't understand the immediate suspicion of outsiders. Why are you here? What is your objective? Other forms of lunacy and xenophobia which seem prevalent in Russian society. The common intolerance for people or beliefs that vary from the norm. Readers will occasionally write Russian comments in my posts and I'm not phased by it. If I don't understand, I simply use Google translate and respond.
America is a blended nation, with many nationalities and languages co-existing at every corner. This doesn't mean there's no racial or ethnic tension, but most Americans don't question the purpose or motive of foreigners they encounter. If an American did so, they would have time in their life for nothing else. Why? Because racial and ethnic minorities will soon be the dominant population in America. I'm not troubled by this realization. I've written numerous times about my position on immigration and acceptance of most foreigners in my homeland. I welcome them with open arms. People should be judged solely on character. Nothing else.
I understand the main tensions in Russia are with people from the North Caucasus. What do you think? Do you live in a xenophobic nation? If so, is it becoming better or worse?
If you're interested in helping to bridge the cultural gap between Americans and Russians, please subscribe to my blog on LiveJournal. I write about America, Russia and other interesting topics. Almost all of my readers are Russian and we have an open dialogue, continually learning from one another.