Introduction to Russia

Author: Dmitry Paranyushkin (on 20 Jul 2015)
Russia is truly polysingular: one moment you’re feel like you’re in a scene from Blade Runner, another moment you find yourself inside a beautiful fairytale. The next moment you’re lost in chaos, and then before you know it you’re walking through the orderly airport passageways on your way home. And the most interesting thing is that each moment you really truly believe that this is the only way possible, even though you know everything could change at any moment.
 
To say that Russia is the country of contrasts is an understatement. It is the place that realizes itself through extremes. It’s a country that has so many influences clashing with one another every day, every moment, that you feel like you’re in a constant warzone between different epochs, mentalities, ideologies, religions, styles, and ways of being. And somehow magically all of this coexists together and even manages to develop and evolve.

Vladivostok, Russia / Photo by Kevin McCaughey

For instance, you may be walking along a polished sidewalk, all those shiny facades of the luxurious shops along the way, and then somewhere from under the ground you see a spurt of another reality: someone wrote “Clairvoyant, 8 916 913 4245” with a paint on the asphalt, advertising their promise to bring you into another dimension from all this glittering frenzy.

Then suddenly it’s winter, there is no sun, it’s cold, everyone is running around, huge black dirty cars are rushing back and forth – and in the middle of all this craziness you see the beautiful white snow flakes gently falling down from the skies, caressing the harsh reality around, with an occasional one diverting from its trajectory and playfully touching your nose or getting into your eye as if to say “it’s fine, everything is ok, enjoy it with me.”


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After that it’s the summer and you are coming back late home. You stretch your hand into the river of cars, a random one stops to give you a lift, you get in, the driver looks like a retired boxer – or even worse – some crazy bandit, you think that you probably won’t make it home, you start talking and he turns out to be the sweetest person ever, telling you about his whole theory of the world, how much he loves to lie down on the wet summer ground in his countryside place and enjoy his inner peace, how much he wants to do something great in his life, something that would make everyone happy... You don’t notice how you made it home, he asks you 300 rubles for the trip and you wish each other good night...

This is the thing about Russia: it teaches you to look beyond the surface, to appreciate the beauty in chaos, to move forward despite all the obstacles, to know that there is something much more important than the outside world, some kind of inner depth, a hidden river of energy or maybe even spirituality (however discredited this word has become), which is the carrier of the ultimate truth... And even if all of this doesn’t exist, you still act as if it does, because everything may change at any moment. You learn to enjoy this pure contingency - and even more importantly - to develop the ability to appreciate those moments in time when you can access the sublime that is trying to sprout through the layers and layers of grit, dirt, dust, money, glitter, concrete, dark matter, and who knows what else.

The extreme capitalism that the country is going through right now is surely obscuring all this. If you read the brochures or ask your friends, they’ll probably tell you about the cool clubs, the amazing nightlife, the beautiful girls, the Kremlin, Putin, the caviar, vodka, expensive cars, the booming real estate and fucked up prices. All this is also part of the deal, of course, and you should definitely try it to get the full taste of what Russia is like. But don’t forget that all these little delights is just a test: it’s too easy to get lost inside the surface and to take it for the real thing. However, if you attempt to look a bit deeper, to stay a little bit longer, to talk to someone you’d never talk to, you will definitely access the whole country on a totally different level, which is going to be inspiring, unforgettable, and definitely something that you’ll be able to carry on with you wherever you are. Russia is the country of polysingularity.




 

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