A Game of Democracy

September, 18th.: It is the Election Day in Russia. People want to believe in democracy but it does not feel like it.

It has been the first time the most powerful party took part in the debates on TV. It has been also the first time more than ten parties participated in the elections. It has been the first time the system of voting has changed as now the people have to vote not just for the party but also for one candidate. This seems to be democratic but in reality, it is not.

Firstly, not all debates were shown on the main TV channels. This makes sense when we see that the government owns these channels. Of course, people could find all the information about the debates on the Internet but not everyone has access and desire to search the Internet or to watch some oppositional TV channels just to receive some other perspectives. Propaganda has been done quite well. The topics of the debates have been prepared beforehand and everybody knows what to say. There have not been any heated and intense discussions, just well-known words and promises.

Secondly, many parties participated in the elections but not all of them were equally represented in the media so that many people were not even aware of their party program.

It seems to be unbelievable, but in 2011 the opposition seemed stronger than in 2016 after the annexation of the Crimea, the sanctions and the crisis in the country itself.

However, if the people wanted some changes, how could it happen that the ruling party won again and got, even more, votes than in 2011?

So, who voted for Putin’s party? First of all, it’s well-known that all people that “serve the government”, for example, the army, the police, doctors and teachers have been forced to vote for the ruling party. It took place in 2011 and it happened again in 2016.

How does it work? The heads of the state institutions were told to make all their subordinates to vote for the ruling party. Otherwise, they could lose their jobs easily. The amount of people who work in state institutions equals to 33 million people while 110 million people in total can vote. Then the state subordinates are either given a right to vote beforehand or they just come quite early to the voting place and the head of the department controls which party the subordinates have chosen.

Secondly, even at schools parents were told to vote for the “you-know-which-party”. Seems to be crazy but it’s the reality of life at the moment. While it is not possible in this case to check, who has voted for whom, this method of persuasion is often times successful which is not a good sign for any political system that calls itself a democracy.

Thirdly, all elderly citizens who receive the pension money have been promised to be given a present of 5000 rubles in 2017. Moreover, in small villages and towns, people hold no interest in the political life of the country, they just believe the official state propaganda and blindly vote for Putin’s party.

The key argument here is: “Who else if not Putin?”. They do not understand that Putin is not the only person in the country nor that he is not the tsar of Russia. Adding to this is that the observers at the polling stations have the power to change or even destroy bulletins in favour for the ruling party.

Why did the real opposition lose? It is sad to admit that but that is the reality that we have to accept and live with. Firstly, there were many oppositional parties and Putin did not allow them to unite before the elections. Secondly, unfortunately for all, the most popular oppositional party, the “PARNAS”, ruled by a former Prime Minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, and the most popular oppositional, young politician Alexey Navalny, did not agree about the official leaders of the party and the process of voting for them. When there is no unity in the party, it is clear the party loses in popularity and in votes.

Thirdly, it is not really possible to speak out against the current system, as it is impossible to freely go to the streets and take part in demonstrations against the authorities. Therefore, many people who would like to go out and voice their opinions are unable to do so.

Moreover, there is a new rule since 2016: foreign residents with Russian citizenship have to be registered to vote, but in order to be registered you have to pay around 100 Euros. Russians living abroad will most likely not vote for the current authorities as some of them left the country due to them. The ruling party most probably knows this and this might be a reason for the new rule.

What does the future hold for us?

It’s absolutely clear who is going to be the President in 2018. The only unclear thing is whether the citizens of the country get a right to vote and to be heard. It is partially the general mood throughout the society to ignore the elections and protest against the current situation.

However, how can it be that the ruling party can already announce their victory the minute the polls are closed? How could they have known that they won if the votes are not even counted? The answer is clear.

This moment makes you feel sad and diminished because you realise that your vote does not decide anything, as everything has already been decided for you. You have no vote, you just have to accept the decisions given to you from the top.

Is this democracy? No. Your vote has been stolen and this is no form of democracy, but a rather a game for show.

Such Different Beggars

You see them in big cities. You usually do not pay any attention to them as you are just used to. They are where people are: on subway, on trains, on central streets… How to recognize them? They have no definite age, gender, clothes and no definite scheme. They have only thing in common. It is the goal:all  of them want to get your money.

Who are they? Beggars…What are you associations when you hear this word?

Of course, people need the money since they need it. But here things can get differently. I will show some interesting examples of beggars that I met in my life and we will see…..

I always thought that well-dressed and intelligent kids cannot be beggars since they have what they want and they do not want much. Guess how much I was surprised when on a hot June evening I met a teenage boy, well-dressed and polite, who asked me for the money. It was about 10 pm and they boy was almost crying, asking me to give him 100 rubles (3 US dollars). I was surprised that he said exactly the amount of money. Then he told me a story how his things were stolen and that he wanted go home by train. I advised him to go to the police office but he answered as an adult that police would not help. To be honest, I did not believe his story. However, I was thinking that he is an innocent kid and he cannot lie. I was doubting but I decided to help. I gave just 10 rubles to the boy, he did not say thanks, just grabbed the coin and went away. Of course, after that I realized all his stories were not true. But as we say “Let the God  be the judge for this boy”.

A more usual situation with the beggars is when it is a young woman with many kids who is staying in the street and asking for the money. Everyone who lives in a big city sees such kind of beggars every day. They ask the money for the surgeries for kids, they are pregnant but they still earn the money. Most of them work every other day for many years. It seems like they must go to work or go to special agencies that could help them since they are not the only ones who need help for the surgeries. The thing is that such people mostly pretend. They work for special crime group and bring income to them…

Let me say that some people do really need the money and their intents are innocent and honest. In winter 2014 I met many times a young man who was asking for the money on a subway train. He could not walk properly, he was almost falling when the train was stopping. He did not say many words. His eyes were very kind and full of sunshine. He did not take the money from old people and from kids, saying that they needed they money more then him. I believe he really need the money and I hope everything goes well with him now.

When we speak about young people, they are very creative in finding legal ways to earn the money. Many of them play musical instruments, some sing, others dance. All these activities bring positiveness to lives of other people. Some young people get eve more creative: last week I met on a subway train a young girl who was asking for the money for a duck and the duck was with her. The animal was not scared of loud voices and noise. It was walking here and there, observing the people. I hope you admit that you cannot see a duck in a big city every day. That’s why people were keen on giving the money to such a creative owner of a duck.

You might read it and wonder why I am writing this post. I think all of  you meet beggars no matter where you live. And it is often very difficult to distinguish who of them is honest and who is not. But why wouldn’t you give some money to some creative singers to to people who do not take money from old people and from kids?

 

Breaking Stereotypes: People at Another Places are Better

First of all, let me say that the idea of this article was not to show anything from a bad perspective, the idea was to show the reality. And you are those who will judge if the attempt was successful or not.

Many of us, when live abroad or just travel, think that people there are much better than where we live or come from. But sooner or later we break this stereotype, which is rather good as people are the same everywhere. There are always good people, and always, unfortunately, bad people, while the place is not of a great importance. The only problem is that when you are abroad, you can have more troubles than at home due to culture, language and judicial differences. In this article I am going to share 3 various stories. All of these 3 stories happened in different years, at different places and with different people.

Olga, 26, St. Petersburg, likes to travel. It’s rather interesting but when I interviewed her, she wanted to reveal her emotions and forget that bad experience as soon as possible, though the story happened some years ago when the young lady went to Barcelona, Spain. «It was a rainy day, it was about midnight and we were tired. We came to the hotel, threw our things on the floor. The camera with many photos was in one of the bags that Olga put on the floor». In the morning the girl was not able to find the bags. It turned out that the chambermaid had thrown the things away. When Olga tried to talked to the receptionist, the conversation was not pleasant at all. The receptionist didn’t want to pay any repayment. The chambermaid pretended not to be able to speak English. However, she said that the trash had already been taken out.  «I was not that much sad about losing the camera itself but about losing the photos and memories», says Olga. She adds that after this situation she has no desire to go back to Spain.

Julia has not been that much impressed in a negative way by foreign experience but she still has not the best recollection of one day of her winter trip to Portugal. Julia, 25, Germany, is a student. «When me and my friend went to Portugal this winter, we had to spend only one night in Lisbon though we wanted to spend more. The hotel was disgusting. The central heating was not working properly and it was very very dirty. We had to go to Porto the next day». However, the lady says, she loves Portugal so much that this tiny situation has not changed her attitude to the country and its people.

And here comes my own story. One of my hobbies is traveling but after this situation, I travel much much less. It is senseless, of course, but this story influenced my traveling a lot. Summer 2013. A train Mannheim – Wiesbaden via Frankfurt Airport. It’s about midnight. Next morning I was supposed to take a plane to Prague. Let me say that the tickets for the trip (it was a trip from Dusseldorf to Stuttgart with some stops) were the most expensive train tickets in my life, so I expected a super first class service. But as it often happens in life, expectations and reality are totally different. First of all, the train didn’t go to Frankfurt Airport as it was supposed to go. Secondly, the conductor on a train saw that I was a foreigner, I told him the story about the plane next morning. But he didn’t want to help. It was not his business, as he said. That was the biggest shock for me while traveling. But life is like a zebra: something bad happens, and then immediately something good. In Mannheim just a typical railwayman helped me, he advised me to take the regional train to Frankfurt Main Station and then get a train to Dusseldorf. And I was the lucky one that night – I took the train and managed the early plane to Prague. But this rude attitude of the German railway conductor damaged my stereotype of foreign countries and other cities as an ideal place, full of happy and friendly people. True and open.

Maybe we should just be prepared to unexpected situations and we also should not expect perfect attitude from the other people, even when we are relaxed on holidays.

just want to show that the stereotype mentioned in the beginning should be broken.

Breaking Stereotypes: Clothes

June, 11…. 10:15 am… Saint Petersburg subway…

One of the main subway stations in the city. The rush hour is almost over, so the trains are not packed. A typical gloomy morning. All people are wearing black, grey and white. They do look serious. Big Business Deals are waiting for them… Suddenly a girl in a bright dress has just walked in. She is a bit plum. Her yellow dress is making people pay attention to. She is not a fashionable chick. About 30 years old. All people have just stared at her. She is sitting down and reading a newspaper. She is not smiling but looks happy. And she really is. Why? Because she doesn’t care about stereotypes. She just breaks them. Maybe she is going to work, maybe just to see the city. She is a bit fat but she doesn’t care what people think of her. She is going to have a sunny day instead of a gloomy one. She is an example to follow.

July, 15…. 15:30 pm…. Moscow subway….

Moscow centre. Not too many people. A sunny day. The weather is very hot. All girls are wearing short skirts and high-heeled sandals. The one is wearing a summer dress and sneakers. She is about 25, slim and not too tall. An ordinary pretty girl. All girls at the platform are looking at her as if she is from the other planet. «Sneakers and a dress means no taste. No Moscow city style…», whispering all the girls around. She comes obviously from a village. But the girl is smiling. Her bright eyes are shining. She is happy. Why? Because she doesn’t care about stereotypes. She just breaks them. And she is going to have not just a sunny day, but a double sunny day.

Why have I decided to write this article? To break silly stereotypes about the clothes. Why should we break them? Because You are who You are and Only You decide what to wear.   😉

Why have I decided to write this article? To break silly stereotypes about the clothes. Who creates them? Only You create. You. 😉

Breaking Stereotypes: Your Town is not the Best

F9fdMGvW8oU

Many of us belong to one place, one city. It does not mean we were born in this particular city: a person could have studied there or maybe just moved for some reasons.

No doubt we do love such a city or a place. But this Love to One City must not grow into Disrespect or even Hatred to all the other places. Unfortunately, it happens everywhere. And very often people compare their own town with another town, which makes these 2 towns rivals and divides people into 2 groups. And obviously that is a stereotype.

As far as live in the North-West of Russia, such two cities for me are Saint Petersburg and Moscow. I should admit that I live in the first one but I sometimes visit the second one.

If you ask any person from St. Petersburg about Moscow, 99 out of 100 are going to say something not good about the city. It seems to be a real contest between 2 places. But should it even exist? How many people out of these 100 were to Moscow? I don’t believe that all of them, maybe a half, maybe even less than that. Some of them hate Moscow so much that don’t even want to visit it. So it is just a common and silly stereotype that people don’t want to break. It’s comfortable for them to think they are the best and to live in their own closed world. I must say that not everyone thinks like that. However, the majority does. I should also admit that I had such a stereotype myself: from childhood I heard that all football teams from Moscow are the worst teams in the world, that people from Moscow are selfish, very rich and very impolite, that Moscow underground is dirty and crazy, that traffic is hectic, lifestyle is too fast and that Moscow consists of immigrants. I thought like that till my first trip to that city at a relatively mature age. I broke this stereotype. And now I am going to give the following list of reasons why Moscow is not that bad and why St. Petersburg is not the best place. These two cities is just an example. However, to my mind, the following reasons are so frequent all over the world when we speak about big cities that it can also be applied to rival cities in many places.

1. People

Stereotype: angry and impolite.

Reality: of course, all people cannot be polite, kind and nice. But just think: the population of Moscow is about 14 million people. Can all these people be really rude? The answer is obviously «no». If they really were, probably Moscow would not be the capital anymore. Moreover, it would not have such a great influence. Who would like to have deals with unfriendly people? No one.

2. Underground

Stereotype: too complicated and crowded.

Reality: Just think: if the city is too big, if it has many offices, Universities, Ministries, hospitals etc, should the transport system be complicated? I don’t think so. Moscow underground is just different. The stairs are not too long and trains come almost every minute. Maybe the underground itself is crowded during rush hour but that is common for all big cities. No one is late for work or school. Moreover, the underground system is rather well-spread. Better than in St. Petersburg.

3. Traffic

Stereotype: traffic jams 24/7.

Reality: yes, traffic jams do exist. But they are everywhere. You just can’t avoid them if you live in a big city. What I have noticed in Moscow is that there can be a middle-sized traffic jam in the centre because some politicians are moving, but just in 10 minutes it is over. Everyone is in a hurry and people don’t want to wait. The lifestyle is too fast to wait time.

4. Lifestyle

Stereotype: too fast lifestyle, people in Moscow sleep a bit and work a lot

Reality: If a person sleeps a bit and works a lot, he should go to a doctor almost every day or die very fast as sleeping means a lot. All people who I met in Moscow and from Moscow sleep 7-8 hours a day. Sometimes they sleep less, sometimes more. Just as normal people do. Despite the lifestyle, they don’t lack sleep, they just have a little bit less free time and are more organized.

4. Immigrants

Stereotype: too many, everywhere all over the city.

Reality: If Moscow was a bad place, people from other places would not come there. However, It is a well-known fact that many people dream about moving to Moscow. Why? Moscow gives you opportunities to achieve your dreams when you work hard. No matter where you come from, you are given a chance. At the same time Moscow has some limits on the amount of immigrants. I must say that we also should not forget about Globalization. It is everywhere now and if you want to achieve success in the future, you should admit that people from other places can bring something innovative and good.

5. Weath

Stereotype: Moscow people always show their money off

Reality: Silly people always show their wealthiness off, no matter where they come from. It comes from the upbringing and the family, not from the place or city.

Different People

Image

Every person belongs to one or two states. Some people live in several countries. Many of us travel al around the world. And of course, plenty of us (I say plenty, not all) think that people from «our» countries are the best. Even those who immigrated many years ago still think that mutual motherland means a lot. Therefore, many people unconsciously or sometimes consciously divide all the members of the society into good and bad, only according to their nationality.

By the way, I can’t say that’s a feature of one nation. It’s widespread all over the Globe. Thanks to History, conflicts and wars.

To be honest, just until recently I also thought that people from my country are the best, they are helpful, responsible, kind etc. Owing to some experience and just attention, I noticed that it absolutely doesn’t matter what country a person is from, what language he or she speaks and what he or she does. Communication is about mutual respect, not mutual motherland. In this article I am going to share my own experience and that of my friends and relatives. The age, the places and the time are absolutely different which shows it is not a recent trend.

«The Baltic countries were always special for all people of the USSR», says Tatyana, 56. «When I was a student, I went there with friends to have a look at «Europe». When I got married, I went there with my husband to buy clothes for children». Tatyana says all of the three Baltic Republics were different from Russia. It was one country but each republic had its own language, though Russian was the official language. «I remember having a nice dinner in a restaurant with my husband in Tallinn Old Town. The dinner was so amazing that we left it very late!», recollects Tatyana. After having payed for the food, the young couple got lost and they couldn’t find their way to the hotel. What do people usually do when they get lost in an unknown place? Of, course, they start to ask the locals. So did Tatyana. «I guess it was our destiny that evening but all people we met were either Estonians or Russians who had been living there for a long time and they simply didn’t react to the questions», remembers the woman. «Only the tenth or the eleventh person, who was not a local, showed us the right way». The young couple was very surprised that the person, who helped them, came from Armenia. He was in his thirties, spoke Russian with an accent but he showed them the way. «Now when I hear the word «Tallinn» in the news or on the radio, I always remember this situation and that Armenian man who helped us a lot!», says Tatyana. 

«Many people think that traveling means a lot of money. To my mind, it’s not true and I try to prove it», says the Alina, 24. The young girl goes to different cities or countries very often. Moreover, sometimes she manages to save up money and buy nice things. In 2010 the girl went to Dubai and bought a laptop. «It was not a cool laptop, just the cheapest one but it was my first laptop which I had bought on my own», says proudly Alina. When the girl was flying back home and changing her planes in Frankfurt, she had 6 free hours. «I was eager to charge my new laptop and so I plugged it in and started to surf the Internet», remembers the girl. Suddenly Alina heard an announcement to go to the other gates so the girl took her bags that were far away and went to the new gates. «Of course, many people would say it was stupid to leave your laptop and go away but people who travel long distances understand that it is easy to do as when you travel you get exhausted», says the girl. She just took her bags and went straight to the other terminal when a man stopped her and asked if that laptop was hers. «I didn’t get the question because the man spoke English with a heavy accent. «There I realized that I had forgotten my new laptop! I thanked the man and just had a small talk with him», recollects the girl. His English was not perfect, he was somewhere from Africa, he was immigrating to Canada with all his family. «He turned out to be a nice man who helped me. I do realize he could just take my laptop and go. However,  he stopped me and told me about my forgotten gadget», says Alina. The girl was very thankful to the man and gave him a postcard from Dubai as her «thanks».

And here comes my own story. In summer 2010 I was in the USA. I was the only Russian in the area but that was my aim just to improve English and get rid of the accent. When I was in Russia I thought it was cool to live without people from your country as I would have a great experience of living in a real American atmosphere. However, I also faced some problems. The owner of the flat that I rented had to sell it immediately because of some reasons. I had less than a week to get packed and leave the flat. And I had no relatives, no friends, nobody to help me find a new place. A few weeks before that I got acquainted with a girl from Puerto Rico who helped me find the flat and move all my things. Moreover, my new landlord was neither American nor Russian. She was from Chile. For the 3 month I lived with her, she had become like the second Mom for me. On the on hand, the woman was just renting the space in her house so she just wanted to get money. On the other hand, she was so very welcoming and nice that I still remember her and I think of her as of a very nice person first, and only then as of my ex-landlord.

All these stories show that people from other countries, who may have the other culture or not even know your language, are not worse than the people from your country. It also shows that it might be unfair and a bit silly to judge people only by their nationality or language.  So maybe next time you travel, you will just simply talk to people from other countries and places, people whose citizenship, religion and culture differs from yours, and you will find them nice and welcoming. Just try it out! 😉

 

You can’t cope the system: two are worse than one

We always think we have an angel that protects us from things that happen to the other people, not to us. Whoever but not me. However, one day something really tragic can happen to us. Unfortunately. And no one will be able to help. No one, even the social system, although welfare and security are the 2 state values.

“I still can’t imagine it happened to me”, says Alisa, 23. Almost one month has already passed but the girl still remembers the story. To be honest, when I was listening to her, I thought it was a joke. I couldn’t believe it. It was something unreal. Fake. Mystery. But it turned out to be a 100% true.

February, 23 is a public holiday in Russia. Military and all men are congratulated on this Day. Wives and daughters, sisters and grandmothers, aunts and nieces congratulate their male friends and relatives. People usually try to make surprises or presents. Alisa also wanted to congratulate her Dad and just spend one evening with her beloved parents. The girl invited parents to a bar to have a nice dinner, to have some kind of family reunion.

The food was marvelous. The wine was magnificent. Karaoke and dances were excellent. But the end was awful. It was about 1 am when Alisa went outside the bar to call her friend. She just walked 50 metres from the bar, when a huge man, aged 40, Russian, hit her in the face. The girl started to lose consciousness. The man picked her up and started to carry somewhere. Luckily, Alisa’s Dad went out to smoke and saw the scene. He ran after the man, screaming, the criminal was not expecting such continuation. He hit the girl’s father in the chest and also in the face. Alisa’s father fell down which made the girl run away. Owing to some pedestrians, who saw the scary scene, the girl and the father were saved. They called the police. I must say the police office in a 2-minute walking distance so the policemen came very quickly. They were young, about 25 years old. Both not Russian. “I was telling that the criminal was there, waking down the street, I could see him. I asked them to stop him, to do something. And I heard laughter as a response. I wanted to cry. So unfair”, says Alisa. Laughter. The girl could be killed or raped and she hears only laughter from those whose obligatory work is to protect people. Laughter. Just Laughter. The policemen got into their car and drove away very quickly. Alisa and her Dad were left alone in the street. Desperated.

Meanwhile the pedestrians called the ambulance, which came rather fast. The father went home and Alisa was taken to the hospital. Although the girl was already 23, she asked her mom to go with her. Alisa, like millions of Russians, did not trust the system. Mom was waiting for her girl at the hospital hall while Alisa was asked to leave all the rings and necklaces on a special table. She went to a shower, the nurse gave her injections and Alisa went to sleep. “I woke up because of unbelievable pain. I could not understand anything. I was fastened to my bed. I was wearing strange dirty clothes. I turned my head and saw 3 men, all lying in dirty clothes like me. I was the only girl. It was scary. I called the nurse”, recollects the 23-year old. The nurse came only in 20 minutes. She was unhappy because probably Alisa stopped her to do something. The nurse’s words shocked the girl:”There’s a crazy woman in the hall. She wants to see you very much. I think it’s your Mom. Be quick. Unfasten yourself. We don’t have much place and time for you. Go home with your crazy Mom”. Alisa could barely speak. She didn’t even want to. It took the girl half an hour to unfasten. A bit later when Alisa met her Mom, she was crying. “I felt like I was maybe 3 but not 23. I was a little child at that moment”, recollects Alisa. Mom was crying, too. Speaking about the jewelry left before the medical procedures, 2 golden rings were stolen. However, the girl and her mom didn’t want to talk to the hospital staff about it. All they wanted was to leave that nasty place as soon as possible and to forget that weekend, though it was a holiday.

When I heard this story with my friends, we were listening to it as if it was a story about aliens. It was something strange for us. We agreed on not telling this story to our parents as they would not let us go out late at nights anymore.

Life is life. Of course, a maniac can attack you everywhere in the world. In any safe city or any rich area. However, in civilized countries people do get welfare. At the hospital they are treated like human beings, not like animals. And this does not depend on your wallet. In civilized countries people do have security. The police always help, especially when people show them the criminals. And where do we live? Why do we agree on what we have? Why do we vote for those who can’t guarantee us safe life? Why do we say Russia is a great country when we have such tragic situations on our own doorstep? Of course, we can forget and live in our own dreams but isn’t it high time to do anything about our lives in our own country?