On Wednesday, I flew out of a New York airport around which armed soldiers in camouflaged uniforms wandered — a New York area that had long ago hidden in the hardest to reach corner of New Jersey the monument that Russia gave the United States in sympathy with the horror of September 11, 2001. I left a country where the corporate media used “ties to Russia” as the equivalent of “servant of Satan,” and treated financial and criminal corruption as honorable or offensive depending purely on whether anyone Russian was involved.
I flew on an airplane named for Pushkin, along with over 400 other passengers, up over Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the beautiful mountains of Norway and Sweden, perfectly visible below, the great expanse of Estonia and Russia, and the suburban houses in pine woods approaching Moscow — the largest city I’ve ever been to with over 20 times the population of Washington, D.C.
It’s a city that I have found, thus far, full of people eager to express their love for the United States and its people. Moscow is a safe, clean, beautiful city of unarmed police, free Wi-Fi on fast trains, traffic jams of shiny new cars, new construction everywhere, and a sense on behalf of at least many people that more is improving than is getting worse — a notion not widely encountered back home in some decades. In Russia, more expatriates are returning, and more young people staying. Many have grievances, but the Canadian Embassy is not overrun following elections.
Many speak English and are happy to assist you in learning Russian. On a tour of subway stations, as above ground as well, you’ll see everywhere efforts to remember the good and the bad of every period of Russian (and Soviet) history. You’ll see monuments to every type of worker: architects, farmers, geographers, and every other occupation rarely thanked for its service back home. And you’ll see monuments to peace (the same word as world) alongside monuments to the defeat of numerous invaders over the centuries, most prominently the Nazis.
Even the major holiday of Victory Day just passed on May 9 resembles the old Armistice Day in the U.S. more closely than it does the current Veterans Day. People march with portraits of those killed in war, not support for ever more wars around the world.
Moscow is alive late into the night. You can call an uber car on your smartphone, for which the restaurants (and I doubt there is one better than this one) will give you a charger. And the hardest thing to find is resentment, even over the U.S. openly taking credit for imposing on Russia its own Donald Trump in the person of Boris Yeltsin.