Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, writing in the Moscow Times:
I have recently returned from a two-week visit to Moscow where I gave lectures to university students studying international relations at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow State University and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. While their views are not representative of all Russians —the students themselves readily acknowledged this — they were nonetheless extremely interesting and a very hopeful sign.
While critical of U.S. foreign policy, the young Russians I spoke to very much want Russia to have good relations with the United States and the West. They see this as being in Russia’s national interest and in their own personal interest as well.
This is because they highly value their ability to travel to the West, something that neither their parents nor grandparents could do in the Soviet Union. Indeed, most of the students I met had traveled abroad. They all fear that deteriorating Russian relations with the West could someday result in their becoming unable to travel there. Many expressed a fear that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s belligerence was going to lead to this.
I was especially surprised at how often I heard students use the expression “this stupid country” to describe Russia. I took this, however, not as an indication of disrespect for their motherland but of disappointment in it not being the modern democratic country that they want it to be.
As expected, the students were uniformly proud of the great Russian cultural figures of the 19th century. During two class discussions, I said a country that could produce Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Pushkin and many others is bound to be democratic one day. The students liked this idea but were pessimistic about whether it could be true.
But is precisely this pessimism among educated young Russians that makes me optimistic about the country. There cannot be positive change without the desire for it first. And the young Russians I met definitely have a strong desire to improve the country they live in.
NOTE FROM LR: We condemn in the strongest terms the racist filth poured out by some apparently Russian commenters below in response to this post. We leave them in place for two reasons: (1) they show this writer’s words touched a raw nerve in Russia, exposing the country’s stark barbarism and failure, and especially its deep internal, unspoken dissent and (2) they are representative, in our experience, of wider Russian racism which we have documented many times on this blog. We apologize to any normal reader who may be offended.