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Posts Tagged ‘ellen barry’

A political analyst from Russia who has lived in the U.S. off and on for 20 years has written a book for Russians thinking of living in America, and it’s a knockout hit. It turns out that even Russians who are not planning to go to the U.S. find our culture deeply puzzling and want to learn more.

Reading about Nikolai Zlobin’s book in the NY Times is helping me understand how differently Russians see some everyday things. Live in a cul-de-sac with few neighbors? That’s a dead end. Very dangerous! Leave curtains open at night, and let people see what you’re up to? No way!

“In Russia,” adds Ellen Barry, “children are raised by their grandmothers, or, if their grandmothers are not available, by women of the same generation in a similar state of unremitting vigilance against the hazards — like weather — that arise in everyday life. An average Russian mother would no sooner entrust her children’s upbringing to a local teenager than to a pack of wild dogs.

“But of course much in everyday American life sounds bizarre to Russians, as Mr. Zlobin documents meticulously in his 400-page book, ‘America — What a Life!’

“It seems strange, 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, that ordinary Russians would still be hungry for details about how ordinary Americans eat and pay mortgages. But to Mr. Zlobin’s surprise, his book — published this year and marketed as a guide to Russians considering a move abroad — is already in its fifth print run, and his publisher has commissioned a second volume.” Read more here.

Photograph: James Hill for the NY Times
Nikolai Zlobin, the political analyst and author, in central Moscow near the Kremlin.

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As readers know, I really believe that “one and one and 50 make a million” (a concept articulated by folksinger Pete Seeger). That’s why I can’t resist a recent story from Moscow, where a few writers decided to have a “stroll,” and 10,000 individuals individually decided to follow.

Ellen Barry writes in the NY Times: “It was only four days ago when 12 prominent authors, disturbed by the crackdown on dissent that accompanied President Vladimir V. Putin’s inauguration, announced an experiment. They called it a ‘test stroll’ …

“No one knew quite what to expect on Sunday. But when the 12 writers left Pushkin Square at lunchtime, they were trailed by a crowd that swelled to an estimated 10,000 people, stopping traffic and filling boulevards for 1.2 miles. …  The police did not interfere, although the organizers had not received a permit to march.

“ ‘We see by the number of people that literature still has authority in our society because no one called these people — they came themselves,’ said Lev Rubinstein, 65, a poet and one of the organizers. ‘We thought this would be a modest stroll of several literary colleagues, and this is what happened. You can see it yourself. … I don’t know how this will all end, but I can say that no one will forget it.’ ” Read more.

I can’t help thinking that one and one and 50 have been growing for a long time in Russia and that the 10,000 who joined the march are just the tip of he iceberg.

Photograph: Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

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