30 December 2010

2010 Year in Review

The year started with a Moscow love affair and shall end as one.  And like any tale of love, there were some ups and downs.

The City

I started the year stating that Moscow is a great city; at the end of the year, I still think so.  Moscow is a cosmopolitan, international, thriving, fun city.  The city, like the country, has huge potential.  The arts, restaurant, and night scene is wonderful.  The city is a living museum, keeping 700-year-old artifacts in plain slight and creating new history every day.  And given its highest world population of 40-year-old billionaires in the world, it is not surprising that it sports spots as posh as Beverley Hills's Rodeo Drive.

The People

Russians are wonderful people.  As a group, they are generous, pleasant, and highly educated.  I have found my encounters pleasant and delightful for the most part.  To be fair, the same can be said of many peoples around the world.  So, when it comes down to it, Russian people are people:  They display the same wonderful qualities as most people do worldwide, and they have the same flaws.  Go figure.

There is one exception to the "people" rule:  Russian women are exceptionally beautiful.  And there is probably a good reason for it.

The Problems

Sure, there are many problems with living in Moscow, like bad but exorbitantly expensive roads, unreliable infrastructure, extreme hot and cold weather swings during the year, and a corrupt and seemingly inept government.  The problems are mainly the Russians' problem, meaning that 150 million people could do better and would be doing better if they addressed these issues.  But, there is a fatalistic "but what can I  do" attitude that permeates the Russian mentality.  If Russians were to overcome this attitude, they would reaffirm their world leadership role well into the future.

The Threats

Unlike what any populist Russian politician may say, such as Russians' number one threat being Georgia, the West, the United States, or NATO, Russia's biggest threats are internally generated.  Corruption, high heroin, tobacco, and alcohol usage, and ethnic strife tug at the integrity of the Russian fabric from many angles.  It is to the West's interest to see a strong Russia.  The risk of a weak Russia is balkanization.  And a balkanized Russia would play nicely into the hands of rouge states seeking nuclear armenent and China seeking resources worldwide. 

The Verdict

Clearly, there I have had personal challenges adopting to Moscow.  But, for various reasons, and for the richness that the city offers, the transition from California to Moscow has been well worthwhile.  To those who know me:  Consider this an open invitation.  You will enjoy your time here. 

Happy 2011.  Over and out from Moscow for 2010.

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