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Eye on Russia: Your Views

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(CNN) -- Have you been to Russia? What were you experiences of this diverse and rapidly changing country? Send us your thoughts on Russia past and present. Here are a selection of your comments:

I went to Russia a little over two years ago, but as someone who is fairly young and who traveled with a small group of people my age I thought the experience was well worth it, which seemed to be the group consensus.
The Russians have made it fairly difficult to go for any extended period of time, but most of the people of Moscow and its surrounding towns are very friendly and still fairly open to meeting Americans. Despite many peoples fears at that time that we would be shunned or in personal danger because of the perceived 'world climate', most people enjoyed laughing about Bush and his mistakes with us, and were even open to talking about what they though of Putin's fast approaching exit from office and the politics that have formed under him.
Going in groups is a good idea, and staying near the center is safest, where transportation is cheap and very efficient and there are a ton of things to do.
Though crime was visible to us and sometimes shocking, no one from our group was hurt or threatened. I thought it was a very enjoyable country (or the part I saw) and despite the great expense would love to return as long as Americans are that welcome.
Robert No, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Thursday June 28, 2007

Having lived in Russia since 1998 and seen Russia "rise" and as a Slav who speaks fluent Russian and Polish, I can say that Russia remains a highly stratified, hierarchical and stressed society. It is one matter to visit and enjoy the country, its diversity and peoples, but quite another to live, sustain and raise a family, let alone build a career in this country for average people. It remains a far fetched dream for most.
Moscow has seen a boom, but now it is highly crowded and swelling to the seams. Despite the newborn wealth most in Moscow and St. Petersburg and large regional cities, the majority of people still live on the margins. Even those smartest from the regions have left to find their fortunes in Moscow or large cities; some have benefited and many have fallen flat. Russia's leaders still need to sort out its greatest asset -- its people. They have failed to do this for those real Russians living in the other forgotten half of this huge country. So I wish them luck as I am going home.
Jan Kowalski, Moscow, Russia
Thursday June 28, 2007

I went to Russia in June 2003 with my daughter, niece, and Russian speaking cousin who lived and studied in Russia for two years.
It was great to be with somebody who spoke Russian and made it easy to travel around freely.
I loved all the churches in the Kremlin and Red Square was just so unique, and overwhelmingly interesting.
There is lots to do as a tourist in Moscow, river cruise, Bolshoi ballet, lots of churches to visit which was just extra special for me, Arbat Street, history, museums, just great, interesting railway stations.
We traveled by train to St. Petersburg in a sleeper overnight.
It was satisfactory, just don't use the toilet facility too often.
St. Petersburg was fabulous, the Hermitage was so interesting, although sometimes too much "gilt" as all over Europe gets a bit "too much"
The Peterhof palace is a must.
The food in Russia is very good and if not on a strict budget you can eat variety of cuisines. The service is good.
The hotel service can be abrupt if you don't know the language, however, if you visit or stay in Expensive hotels you are treated very well and English is OK.
You need to watch out for gypsies and their children otherwise, had no problem with safety.
I generally found Russians to be distantly friendly and helpful.
I loved my one visit to Russia and plan to go with my husband for a visit soon.
p.s. one drawback is we had difficulty in travel arrangements from Australia with accommodation arrangements and obtaining visa. Visa did not come through until the last few days before travel and accommodation can be allocated by the Russians and not particularly your choice. All works out in the end. Great memories still live with me every time I think of Russia.
Susan Harris, Melbourne, Australia
Thursday June 28, 2007

I just wanted to say thanks a lot to all the nice people I have come across while reading this article. This is what really unites people from all over the world! We are ONE but we are not the SAME... ONE world, ONE life and we have got to live it like we should. Thank you all so much for the love you have in your hearts. Russia is indeed a great country and we, Russians, are always ready to extend to you the warmest welcome! Spasibo! (which is "thanks" in Russian).
Timur Rakhmatullaev, Astrakhan, Russia
Thursday June 28, 2007

I went to Russia on a solo trip as a 26-year old woman. Though this concerned some friends back home (one even warned that I may wake up to find myself in a tub full of ice, missing my kidneys), I experienced none of that sort of negativity during my week in that vast country.
My plan was to visit an Internet friend, and I had a wonderful experience getting to know him and other friends of his in both Nizhny Novgorod and Kostroma. Though I stayed in a hotel, I wasn't doing the "touristy" activities, and it was a pleasure to spend all of my time with local Russians.
One of the qualities I appreciated about my new friends was their dry and slightly sarcastic sense of humor. There was an "Independence Day" holiday during my visit, and while pondering the origin of it, they would remark that it must mean "Nothing depends on us." Their ability to view their ever-changing and developing country with humor struck a chord with me and I've always remembered my time with them.
It was such a positive trip and I keep in touch with my new friends to this day. I hope to go back soon.
Michelle Ritzema, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada
Wednesday June 27, 2007

I just returned from a 20 day stay in Russia on June 22, and I have to say it was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. From the glitz and glamour of Moscow to the history of St. Petersburg to the bustle of Saratov, I saw all sides of Russia. I have to say: I loved every minute of it.
The country is modern and safe, the people warm and welcoming. I can only speak a little Russian (I've studied a year in college) and my parents can't speak it at all, yet we all felt safe in Moscow and St. Petersburg. This was at the time of the G8 conference when the talk-of-the-town was the possible missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, yet we still felt no ill will toward us.
In Saratov, I found an exciting night life and saw the traditional Russian way of life. I experienced banya and ate traditional, homemade Russian food.
Don't expect the Soviet Union if you travel to the nation as well; Russia is a whole new animal. Dolci and Gabana billboards line the streets, along with information about concerts and new movies. Pirates of the Caribbean is very popular at the cinemas. Russia is still far from perfect in terms of governing, but they are still adapting to the changes from communism to capitalism. As my good Russian friend Val said, "We understand it's a slow process; you can't jump from one to the other overnight."
In short, do not be afraid to visit Russia. It's a wonderful country with a great culture and a fascinating history. Visit once and, like me, I'm sure you'll fall in love.
Aaron Bonar, Terre Haute, Indiana
Wednesday June 27, 2007

What's not to like about Russia? I am in love with Russia. I had never been to Russia, I never thought of living in Russia before, but with the good vibes that I am getting from it now I am thinking of moving there.
It is not because of its recent economy boom but there is just something about the people of Russia that fascinates me. They are so driven, determined and firm about what they desire. Like the many young Russians who are very much into their education and career, and work hard to achieve their goals toward building a great country. It is fair to say that they have a broad vision about their very lives and I feel that within me, I need that kind of nurturing. It is an inspiration to see everyone so young really concerned about what to do with their lives.
Russia is an amazing nation that has a colorful history and, yes, I also agree that Russia has a promising future. All she needs is just some time to develop its own distinctive ways.
Mira Hill, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Wednesday June 27, 2007

I am an American who has been living in Moscow for nearly five years now, after receiving a degree in Russian history from the University of Maryland. Overall, my impressions of Russia have been very good, much to the surprise of my relatives who, I think, still believe that bears really do roam the streets here.
Surely, Russia is a developing nation with a large problem in terms of poverty, especially if you are in rural Russia. But despite this, Russia is a quickly developing nation with a people undeterred by the problems they face. In fact, that may be my most prominent impression of Russia/Russians -- perseverance and hope. I have never seen a people more dedicated or more hopeful.
Another thing which I find particularly interesting here is the enthusiasm for life which surrounds you. Sure, not many Russians will walk around alone with a smile on their face, but this says nothing at all about what they are feeling inside. Living in the United States, I often found that people lacked a certain spark, a certain, well ... umph. I myself am a person simply in love with life and I find myself surrounded by people of the same mind here. No matter how hard it is, there is always a way, always something to smile about, a nugget of joy in everything.
This enthusiasm is what is going to make this a great nation. And I am patiently waiting for the day that it does.
Susan Kelly, Moscow, Russia
Tuesday June 26, 2007

I am an Indian student on vacation in Russia. I have a question for the youngsters of Russia ...
Why is there so much hatred among Russians towards non-whites? Many of my friends who are studying in various universities in Russia had warned me about racism here. I myself experienced it first-hand when I came to Moscow, which is supposed to be a "Cosmopolitan" city. Besides, every now and then there are news reports of Asian or African students beaten to death by some of their racist Russian counterparts. When will young Russians accept outsiders, as Americans and Europeans have?
Sharath Krishnan, Moscow, Russia
Tuesday June 26, 2007

I was in St. Petersburg Russia and Moscow Sept 2004. It was beautiful country and trip; I loved St. Petersburg, the artwork and the buildings. Also, the nightlife i.e. night spots/bars were fun, I'd definitely go back.
William Hoover, Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday June 26, 2007

It's very easy for the West just to give light opinions on the situation of Russia without taking into account the dramatic process Russian society passed through in the last 17 years.
It's at least very short sighted to say that democracy is sliding back or being lost; Russian people never knew democracy!! From the czars tyranny fell into the Soviet regime, and they are just starting to learn now! They can't become Switzerland in one or two generations! It took USA a civil war and 170 years to solve some of their problems, such as civil rights, which took until the end of the 60's!! Even France and Spain struggled as well! Why should the West expect that Russia should become Athens in 17 years??
One might or might not like the current regime, that is another story which concerns solely the Russian people and is quite difficult to assess, even for us foreigners living in Russia. Ultimately, its between having a Russian version of Berlusconi or to continue the process they have now. Let's hope the Russian people make the best choice for the benefit of this wonderful and magical country.
Arturo Fortun, Krasnodar, Russia
Monday June 18, 2007

I traveled to Russia in the summer of 2003 while I was an undergraduate at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had initially started to take Russian language classes because of an interest in my own heritage and eventually grew to love the language, history, and literature so much that I am currently seeking my MA in Russian History at the Ohio State University.
The trip was absolutely amazing. For six weeks I was on an intensive language course in Saint Petersburg and also spent a week in Moscow. Our trip also took us to many other locations, such as the historic Borodino battlefield, and the ancient capitals of Vladimir, Suzdal, and Staraya Lagoda.
Even though I had studied the region nothing could prepare me for my experience as nothing was what I had expected. All of the people were extremely nice and interested in us as much as we were interested in them. Their historic sites were awe inspiring. And most surprisingly was how busy the entire country appeared to be with still rebuilding since the fall of Communism. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life and I feel that Russia has become a part of my soul as it is one of my greatest loves to this day.
Peter De Simone, Columbus, Ohio
Monday June 18, 2007


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