Many French people compare their arrival in the ‘Russian universe’ with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. There’s a revelation about
To make the car ahead of you in traffic
Over the past few
I don’t think that such things can happen in Europe, at least not as easily and quickly as in Russia. Maybe it’s a strictly Moscow trend? Invitations for modern art exhibitions are sent out on Facebook only two or three days before the event. The CEO of a big Russian-French company told me that it’s the same in the business world across the globe, but there are fewer barriers in Russia. A barrier is simultaneously something that protects you, but also something that goads you on. In Russia, we live to the maximum and in the present moment, both the good and the
This intense rhythm allows and forces us to see life differently, which sometimes in the West is considered as harshness. But perhaps we should see it as harsh sincerity. Russians don’t understand why you must smile to a stranger. Yet, when a friend is an hour late don’t be offended, be flattered and happy that he is here. When you’re grumpy, you’re punishing yourself. “My friend, you’re finally here. DAVAI!!! Let’s spend a great evening!”
The more I spend time with Russians, the less I understand what it means. Russia is not a country, but an empire, an entire universe. I studied the notion of ‘empire’ at the Sorbonne over the course of several years, but I started to only comprehend it by walking along Moscow’s streets. In Russia, there are two concepts: nationality and citizenship.
Each person has Russian citizenship, but there are many different nationalities: Kalmyks, Tatars, Chechens, Buryats, and so on... There are even different words for a Russian citizen and an ethnic Russian. But all these nationalities share a common history, and they cry and laugh watching the same movies. They share a sense of being part of a whole.
This deep continuity from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok is not only cultural but it also has the flavor of a strange dose of syncretism deeply influenced by Orthodoxy. Taxis in Moscow often have a Muslim chaplet hanging above Orthodox icons, and I remember my Jewish friends’ calendar, on which Saturdays were crossed out with the word SHABBAT. But above this calendar was a sublime Orthodox triptych.
“Donatien, we’re not only Jews, we’re also Russians.”
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