Chapter 2: An East–West Dialogue
Russians know too little about Russia. Alexander Pushkin Wretched and abundant, Oppressed and powerful, Weak and mighty, Mother Russia! Nikolai Nekrasov The discussion that follows can be seen as a snapshot of the kind of dialogue that took place between ‘Western’ contributors and Russian ones during the writing of this work. As a snapshot it represents an archetype, reﬂecting some of the biases Westerners have toward Russia. The original discussion on which this interchange is based took place in an obscure spa hotel outside Petropavlovsk, a city in the Russian Far East. Petropavlovsk is considered the largest and most important city on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Although located in a beautiful, mountainous environment, to Western eyes the city is quite decrepit with decaying houses and a dwindling population of people who were brought to the peninsula by force or worked for the military. The city offered a very different perspective, far removed in more ways than one from the impressive central districts of Moscow or St. Petersburg. Petropavlovsk can be viewed as part of what the French would call La Russie profonde, deep, basic Russia. The setting offered the opportunity to explore Western perceptions of Russia. There the following dialogue took place, between a Russian business leader and a Western academic. The Russian executive (East): One hundred years after Peter the Great’s death, Alexander Pushkin said that the first Russian emperor ‘cut a window to Europe’ for Russia, where the country now ‘stands on a firm foot’. One century after...
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