The vast majority of Russians are proud of and love their homeland. The paradox being that Russians also find it strange, and even suspicious, that any foreigner could fall in love with their nation.
Last spring I was sitting across from six or eight Russian journalists. Whenever I speak to a journalist, I promise myself in advance that I will keep my cool. I am rarely successful.
We were discussing the Amerikanets YouTube channel and these journalists were gushing with flattery as we watched a video clip from the city of Kostroma.
But then they began challenging the fact that I had decided to do the channel in the Russian language. Of course, I had thought about this before, and the default choice would be to do video blogs in English, for the folks back home. But I found myself simultaneously more comfortable and passionate about addressing a Russian audience. It seems 20 years in Russia will do that to a man.
But the journalists didn’t stop at flattery. One of them began to strongly recommend that what I was shooting needed to be shown to the West, in English. That’s when I broke my promise to myself and lost my cool.
You see… Representing Russia to the West is not my job. It is the Russian people’s responsibility to represent themselves. I laid out these points a bit passionately and then the conversation continued quite amicably.
Representing the beauty, creativity, and value of Russia is too large a task for any single person. There is no nation in the world that expects a single entity to represent it. Ok, North Korea might be an exception to that, but you get my point.
I published a book in Russian earlier this year where I outlined some of the points for Russian businesses to better represent their products, services, and ideas to the world. Here are a few points I have found to be fascinating with my small experience with this book.
- I am being approached from time to time by Russian businesses asking me to represent their interests to Western clients or partners. At times I agree to this gainful employment, but I remain surprised, that when we get into the details, many of these businesses’ lack the basic belief that their products or services could be interesting to anyone outside of Russia.
- I certainly agree that there can be an advantage to having an American in the room, representing your company, but I also believe that Russian business is more than capable of representing itself. This point has been proved countless times over the years. Perhaps just a little training would help, that, after all, is why I wrote the book.
- Getting back to YouTube: When I have chosen to highlight Russian businesses on YouTube, there has been nearly no interest from viewers. I believe that there are absolutely fascinating Russian businesses with incredible ideas that will both add value to their local communities and bring international investment interest. This is why I find it strange that there is such a low interest for this subject on YouTube.
Because of that third and final point relating to the book, we are now doing very little business content on the video blog and focusing more on travel, and specifically visiting lesser known Russian cities.
It is always fascinating to read the comments after a video has been published. 🙂 We are generally accused of being:
- Too positive. I think whining and complaining requires no creativity (or real life action!) and is already more than covered by other blogs
- Too negative. The latter happening recently, much to our surprise.
- We are also consistently chided for not visiting some of the local tourist spots that the local citizens think would be interesting to us. But this is the secret of much of international business and tourism: One man’s (nation’s) trash is another man’s (nation’s) treasure. No, I didn’t see the statue or the building, but I jumped in the freezing water with the “walrus club” and that has created a lifetime memory for me.
Despite its challenges, Russia is bursting with opportunity, and I hope that these YouTube videos will serve in a small way to show the Russian people the beauty and value (yes, even in business) in their cities and businesses to the world. Because when they see it and believe it, they will begin to represent their nation to the world.
Are you ready to watch a few videos? To give you a taste of some of the video work I have been doing, I made a playlist that includes the videos with English subtitles (just be sure to click on the CC button on the bottom right hand of the video!). You can watch the whole play list in about an hour, and be introduced to parts of Russia, and some of it’s most colorful citizens, that are most likely unknown to you.
By the way, it’s been cool to hear from folks learning Russian about how they are watching the videos with subtitles as a fun learning tool.
Here you go:
In 2019, I am super pumped about the places around Russia that we plan to visit with our little Russian travel blog. I hope that the cities we visit will be unexpected for our Russian audience (and you!). And I’m also stoked, about some of the Russian business that I will have the opportunity to represent with their partners and clients, and I hope that some of their cool and creative products and services will somehow slip into the YouTube channel.
A micro-history: I stumbled upon the idea of doing videos via my Amerikanets Facebook page. I had always thought of myself just writing about Russia, but when I did a few Facebook videos, the subscribers told me that it felt more natural. And although I plan to continue to write in Russian, I understand their point: after my writing has been worked through with a Russian translator, it loses some of the “flavor” (shall we say?) of my accent and ever so occasional (haha) grammar mistakes.
Which brings me to one of my main New Year’s resolutions for 2019. Because I was focusing so much on the YouTube channel, I sort of let this Planet Russia blog slip a little, but in 2019, I plan to write a whole lot more. Please let me know if you have any questions about Russia or perhaps areas that would be of interest, and I will work to include those in future posts.
What parts or details of Russia do you find particularly enjoyable or endearing? Or maybe there is a Russian product or invention that you find fascinating? Let me know, and maybe I can include that in one of my future videos for my Russian audience.
Thank you for joining me in this blogging journey. Let’s continue to enjoy Russia together!