I received an interesting message from Yuri Gagarin (he came back, just for this!) who unfortunately didn’t leave a real e-mail address. (Thanks for the book recommendation — “Туманность Андромеды” — I’ll give it a try.) But, like I said, it was an interesting letter so I’ll post some here and then address it a little bit:

It’s nice to see a non-russian who is curious about our culture. That “Moscow-Petushki” post is not bad, not bad at all.

However, I find it quite russophobic and I’m surprised, because you don’t seem like a russophobe.

I do think that this “Moscow-Petushki” post is russophobic because it is based around alcoholism and depression. You could have made a post about something else – Russia is full of historical aspects that are not in any way connected to alcoholism and depression.

I have to disagree that the Moscow-Petushki post (and the book itself) is particularly “Russophobic” — I think it was a natural exploration of a different side of Russia, rather than simply the beautiful, magical parts of Moscow. All I can say is that I think it’s important to remember not only the good, but bad aspects of someone’s history. I’ve been exploring Moscow for the past three years and have posted many (many, many) examples of wonderful things to do and places to visit.

I don’t leave posts all over internet about your people killing and raping indians and calling it a “discovery of america”. When, in fact, it was a disgusting massacre. An annexation of a land that never was yours, never will be.

Well, yes. And I thank you for not doing that, my anonymous Russian. However, I will say that Americans themselves openly acknowledge that atrocities like this happen. America has done awful things in the name of America: destroying native races, oppressing people of color, not to mention the countless wars we’ve started over the years. Trust me, you don’t need to convince me that America (the government) is pretty awful. I don’t assume people talking about those parts of our history are anti-American, I think they’re acknowledging a powerful part of the past in order to process it and try to move past it. That’s healthy.

I love my second home in Russia — acknowledging that somewhere has negatives doesn’t negate that fact in the least! I guess what I want everyone to take away from this is that this blog usually talks about Russia and America — not Russians and Americans. I think it’s important to distinguish between them because while governments differ, in general, as people we’re all quite similar. No matter which passport we have, some of us are drunks, some of us are cosmonauts, and most of us are just normal people.

I’m interested in hearing your opinions: when living (or visiting) a foreign culture, is it appropriate to criticize? Where do you draw the line?