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This October, I will be following the “advice” of some of my most ardent critics and literally “going back to Russia.”
I’m joking, of course. I don’t care for those trolls. That argument was always self-refuting because I had left in Russia in the early 1990s as a dependent. My parents had left because the Russian government had ceased to pay its scientists their salaries (i.e., Egghead Emigres). You could blame the pro-Western Yeltsinite kleptocracy for that brain drain, or you could blame the commies who had led the USSR into stagnation and ended up selling a superpower for some jeans, but you certainly couldn’t blame either Putin for that nor could you legitimately condemn my supposedly “Russophile” writings from abroad as hypocrisy or even a matter of “revealed preferences” for the West. (In any case as soon as I go back to Russia I am sure my critics and trolls will transition seamlessly from condemning me as a Putler stooge enjoying the good life in California and ignoring the plight of ordinary Russians to claiming that I am held hostage by the KGB and/or shilling for all I’m worth to survive the Russian economic collapse).
The more banal reality is that I have not lived permanently in Russia since the early 1990s – my last visit, for that matter, was a decade ago – so I am exceedingly curious to see for myself how it has changed since then. I suspect most of those changes are for the better, since most of the statistics seem to point that way and it’s not like I invent them or manipulate them. Still, it never hurts to see things for oneself, to become grounded, or “based,” as some might say.
I also like to think I will be fulfilling Richard Spencer’s dictum of “becoming who you are.” That said, I am under no particular illusions that I will ever truly belong to either Russia or the Anglosphere, and that my fate is to remain a rootless cosmopolitan until death or technological singularity. Charles de Gaulle is alleged to have said “He who does not love his mother more than other mothers and his country more than other countries, loves neither his mother nor his country.” A corrolary would be that he who has more than one country has none. In Guillaume Durocher’s essay on the phenomenon of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) – the highly mobile and frequently bilingual children of expats – it is pointed out that they have a number of “rather strange” characteristics: “They tend to be more educated, more likely to experience depression, more likely to commit suicide, more likely to feel alienated, and, paradoxically but perhaps unsurprisingly, more likely to be nationalistic (they often superficially embrace and advertise their nation of origin in response to identitarian unease).” So I suppose one could also view my repatriation as a sort of psychotherapy.
I will be leaving on October 3, but I will be stopping in London for a couple of weeks to a month, so blogging is likely to remain light until sometime in November. However, I expect to pick up pace once I’m settled down in Moscow thanks to the magic of purchasing power differences (aka shit is cheaper in Russia than in California), which will free up more time for blogging and pursuing my other projects. I suppose this also makes my move a case of “downshifting,” that quintessential expression of rootless millenial anomie.