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Opinion » Columnists

America and Russia through the eyes of an American

07.07.2004
 
Pages: 12

I want to thank the staff of Pravda for inviting me to write this article.  The Pravda staff are very good people and I enjoy Pravda.
Through a series of articles, I will explain America, how to prepare coming here, how to communicate, how to find help, and what to see and do while you are here.  I want to help guide you, both student and or tourist, to become prepared for your visit, and I hope that your memories of America will be as wonderful as my memories of Russia.  I also want to give you insights into the average American way of life.

Both our countries have faced serious problems with each other.  At several times, we were very close to war.  We each developed attitudes towards the other.  Attitudes that we were fed by our governments, told us to hate and mistrust each other.  But hatred is a government thing.  People on the other hand, have different ideas, for we have common bonds. 

Our language, customs and culture are the only things that separate us.  Those are not the basis for hatred, but these are what make us humans.  It is those differences which are a common blessing as we learn from each other.  We have so much to give and receive from each other. Neither country is better than the other.  We are countries that are trying to find the higher meaning of ourselves. 

Russia, as far as the world goes, is once again reinventing itself.  Russia is for all practical purposes, a very new country, but yet it is still a very old country. Russian history has given Russia a soul and an identity.  Russia has a soul that lies in the very heart of the Russian people.  I remember walking through St. Basil the Blessed.  Here is a church that goes back hundreds of years and provides a solid and colorful pillar of continuity from the past to the present.  I toured the Kremlin and I was absolutely amazed – I stood in the vestibule where the Tzars were crowned.  I walked through Red Square where Lenin spoke. I rode the subways of Moscow and each central stopping point is an art form unto itself.  I saw the Russian White House.  I have felt the Russian soul.  Be proud Russia. 

Why I bring this up is because Russia has so much from their past that is still standing.  America, unfortunately, tore down much of its older buildings and with that action, part of America died with it.   To the Russian people, I urge you to retain your past and cherish it. 

Russian has yet to discover tourism – and, you will eventually.  You have so many beautiful show cases of history and culture.  Russia truly needs a Department of Tourism.

Having been military, I stood at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin to pay my respects. I reflected, as a military person would, the significance of what was before me.  Russia withstood one of the most savage attacks in the history of modern warfare and repulsed the Nazi invasion.  I looked at each one of the granite boxes, filled with the earth from Star Cities that fought back.  Unless one has been in the military, one can not appreciate the solemn and hallowed changing of the guard in their ever vigilant salute to Russia’s unknown soldier.

I should also like to extend congratulations to President Putin on his re-election.  Russia has a very capable leader in him.  As an American, I like him – he is straight forward, does what he says he is going to do and he has the background to make sound decisions. Actually, I’d like to meet him and hear more of his plans for this new Russia.

During the fall and winter months, American companies will recruit Russian students to come and work in the United States during the summer months.  Many students agree to participate in this work program, and when they arrive in America, they find that there are poorly prepared on what to expect.

First time visitors to America are also unprepared for the American experience.

Why are they unprepared?  Because they view America through the eyes of the American movies they see, and the books they have read.   It is easier to tell you what America is not, rather than what it is.

My background – I am a middle aged man, and I am a Rabbi.  I came to Russia about 4.5 years ago, met a beautiful Russian woman, and she is now my wife.  I’ve known people from America who went to Russia and did not have a good experience – the question becomes “why”.  I prepared myself for my trip, I studied Russian culture, I studied the history of Moscow, and I used the internet effectively to learn all I could.

When I came to Russia, I wanted to have no pre-conceived ideas from an American point of view.  I wanted to experience Russia as best I could with an open mind.  I’m glad I did.

My trip to Russia was very pleasant and wonderful.  I have many, many good memories, and I hope to return again soon.

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