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Guest Column

Imaginary Enemies
By Ekaterina Yuvasheva
May 28, 2014 - 8:03:19 AM

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I had a lot to think about when I've met my relatives from Russia a couple weeks ago and asked them what the regular people in Russia think about their country's activities. So far, I mainly considered the international perception of Russia's politics when I formed my opinions. Looking from the outside in, it is easy to believe Russia's leaders are delusional, if not insane, in their foreign politics. What I have heard recently changed my mind.

Few people would argue that the country currently known as Russia -- and formerly known as the Soviet Union -- used to be great. I am not going to defend my former homeland and try to excuse the Gulags and purges which took place during its 70+ year Soviet history. Evil can never be excused. But no one can deny that, for a while, Russia could be called a great country. Just think back to World War II, or any of the Cold War events, and (if you belong to the older generation), you will have to agree that my former homeland used to be the place others feared... or, at the very least, respected.

This is precisely where everything becomes complicated. People in Russia see their Soviet days as the time when their country meant something to the world. Considering Russia's complete failure at creating a democratic government, such sentiment is not surprising. Russia has no historical incentive to be a democratic state. Some degree of respect for individual rights, some sense of personal liberty have to exist for democracy to work. But Russian people have not been free, in their majority, from the days of the Mongolian invasion.

Unlike Europe, it has not had the chance to learn to respect the individuals. As the 90's attempts at democracy stalled because of our historical mindset, people became more and more disappointed in this "western" tradition, and looked more and more fondly at their "great" Soviet past. I see this as the major reason why a vast number of the Russian people now think that Putin's foreign policies are great.

For centuries, Russians have felt the strongest when they knew their country was threatened. Russian people come together naturally whenever they sense they are under attack. Our leaders have long used this powerful sense of unity as a mechanism that helped them stay in charge. To blame America, or the Jews, or "gays in Europe" for whatever is going wrong instead of admitting the government's shortcomings is so natural to Russian leaders it has become a knee-jerk reaction. That is what seems to be happening with the situation around Ukraine. According to my relatives, many people in Russia believe the "war" on Ukraine was sponsored by "the West," and honestly believe that taking over Crimea proves that Russia is still great and able to stand its ground!

Do I believe this? I would've still lived in Russia if I did. To me, my former homeland is losing its mind battling the demons it imagined. But I can't blame it for that. It's very tough to be logical when you live in a world where everyone's out to get you... whether that world is made up or not.

Ekaterina Yuvasheva
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Ekaterina Yuvasheva was born in Rostov, Russia a few years before the fall of the Soviet Union. A bookish kid, she let her imagination run wild, which became an important part of understanding the world around her.

At fifteen, her family moved to America where she graduated college, then Temple University Pharmacy school and become a Pharmacist.

She recently published a 470 page novel titled: "I Am Angelo: Sense of Direction." Many aspects of the story -- from her character's loneliness and opportunities at the School to his choice of a Healer career -- are drawn from experience.

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