Despite the title of this post, I wouldn’t presume to pass judgement on this vast country or its 143.5 million people. We spent just a week there and stayed only in the two largest cities. All I can do is to share my experience of a very enjoyable week. In doing so, I have to make generalisations based on my very limited experience. But I’m aware that’s what I’m doing, so I hope that makes it “all right.”
Both cities are perfect for tourists and have plenty to see. They are also full of enormous parks – something I miss in my little country. We saw some of the famous sites.
The next three paragraphs were originally published on Tim Taylor’s blog.
As a child, I heard a lot about Russia. My brother visited and then studied there. My aunt and uncle visited. I heard about stern officials, supermarkets only for foreigners while Russians queued for meagre supplies, Jews in a synagogue too scared to talk to foreigners.
Russia is very different now. The two cities we visited, Moscow and St Petersburg, look like thriving European cities. Moscow’s Jewish Museum is modern and prominent; interesting, too.
A couple of things I saw fit with my impressions from the many Russians I’ve met here in Israel. One is that they smoke a lot. The other is that sometimes they have a strange way of thinking; things that are obvious to them are not for anyone else. In what other capital city do you exit the metro and spend half an hour looking for the train to the second biggest city in the country? No, this wasn’t a language problem because OH knows how to read Russian. There simply wasn’t a sign.
I have another observation about something – or rather some people – who I found lacking. In Israel, I’m used to seeing people of colour on the streets. There are Jews from Ethiopia. There are also Jews whose families are from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, etc. There are non-Jews from Africa who generally come for a limited time to make money. I’m also used to seeing people who are identifiable as Muslims.
I saw about one Muslim and two non-white people during my visit. I don’t think that shows there aren’t other populations in Russia, but only that they don’t live in the two largest cities.
One day, I would like to return to Russia and visit other places. Maybe I’ll even find out where my grandparents came from.