DISTANCE | Kazan, Russia 2018

The division between Russia and the Western world has been growing for several years. Russia may have regained geopolitical influence, but has cut down its moral reputation through numerous conflicts. The political disruption is accompanied by a cultural alienation between Russia and the West.

Even though I was born in a Russian community in Kazakhstan, I myself have had harsh judgements of my own culture and have had to grapple with them. This feeling of distance from my own cultural identity and the alienation I noticed that the world at large creates towards Russia resulted in my choice to travel to Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia. I wanted to check the adequacy of my perception of the country through a firsthand experience.

I found myself immediately noticing that there is a substantial difference between Russia's political system and the lives of the people in Kazan. Most of the Russians I met take distance to the political class because they view them as corrupt. On the one hand, the autocratic system creates a political climate of mistrust and erodes solidarity in the society, while at same time there is so much warmth, joy, and diversity beyond the distanced facade of the Russian people. Unfortunately, that human side is largely hidden in private. It is reserved for home and is shared primarily with friends and family.