Thursday, November 1, 2012

General Thoughts on Russia

It is interesting talking to other travelers and people we meet about the election in the US and their feelings on America. Almost everyone seems very confused as to why we wouldn't re-elect Barack Obama. He is, generally speaking been very good face of America, as far as we've seen. 

Specifically in the English class we spoke at in Tomsk, the students very much felt a kinship to the US. These are 20-something kids that grew up post-cold war. Some students were vocally anti-Putin and feel that their government is corrupt. But at the same time, there was a strong feeling of pride and hope for the future of their country. 

Siberia is perhaps more progressive than the west of Russia. Which at first may seem odd since the biggest cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg) are on the far west of the country. But when you think about all the intellectuals and artists that were exiled in Siberia, only to eventually found Universities, learning institutions and settle their families in the region, it starts to make sense. 

We ran into one guy (an American working over here) who was talking about the availability of hacked software. He assured us that is it all works perfectly. "Siberians are the best software hackers in the world." he said. 

Putin is a polarizing leader here. All I've seen from him in mainstream media were images of him with his shirt off hunting bears. And I am cautious to get too pushy about asking about his stances. I read that Russians are in the process of attempting to create an opposition party to the Putin/Medvedev regime, something that hasn't ever really existed. There is also the hinting of a split that seems to be going on between Putin and Medvedev, who've been wingmen for a while. Medvedev has been speaking out against corruption in Russia and passed (or is trying to pass) a law doubling the salary of the police force, whom are considered among the most corrupt. 

Russia is a massive country with a fascinating history, and it is definitely clear that it is still changing and trying to find the right way forward.