|'Before' picture of my Matryoshka|
Wow, I can't believe we're already over the halfway point of our trip. Back in Vladimir, we woke up this morning for a Russian lesson and a couple of lectures throughout the day that provided interesting perspectives. The first was from the same Russian professor of political science from last week (his English wasn't great, it was a bit difficult to understand) and the second was by an immigrant from Uzbekistan who'd lived in Vladimir for the past several years and worked with social programs that assisted other immigrants. Both lecturers were old enough to remember the USSR, and both had different takes on modern Russia.
The former discussed national identities of Russians, and about how there's been an identity crisis in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR throughout all of society: intellectuals, the wealthy, and politicians as well as the working class, immigrants, and people living below the poverty line. He talked about the strange Europe-and-Asian position that Russia is in, and how many are divided on whether Russian national identity should be based on the idea of a united nation or constructed out of the many ethnic groups that make up the country. Although the population is about 80% ethnically Russian, there are a variety of other groups, primarily made up of people from places that used to be part of the USSR, that make up and play an influential role in modern Russian society. One of the main points that he made was that it was important to be aware that his country is not all one nationality, and that the culture was not entirely homogeneous.
The rest of the day was great! We had a little masterclass in painting Matryoshka dolls (those Russian dolls that fit inside each other), in which I re-discovered why the art I pursue is musical and not visual, and went to a Vladimir Torpedos soccer game. We had a blast, and I had a couple good conversations with the English teachers at the American Home, all of whom are students from the US.