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Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#5 - JRL 9309 - JRL Home
From: "Dale R. Herspring, Professor of Political Science, Kansas State University" <falka@ksu.edu>
Subject: Re: 9308-Johnson's Russia List [re: Western Journalists & Russia]
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005
[re DJ's request for comments on "There are those who feel that Western journalists are too harsh on Russia and Putin."]

My own experience both as a diplomat in Moscow and an academic dealing with them is that one has a mixed bag. Most of them work their butts off with deadlines in the middle of the night and editors who always want something difficult if not impossible -- and they want it yesterday.

On the other hand, like many diplomats sent to Moscow, few of them know Russian or Russia. They are simply dropped into the country and told to become an expert. The result is that their knowledge of what is happening is uneven and they often get close to this or that local (usually the elite) which has its own ax to grind. There are exceptions, but many don't realize how complex the country is -- due in large degree from their tendency to treat it like following politics in Washington, London or Bonn. In fact, politics in Russia is different. You cannot use the same concepts in Russia without understanding that they have a very different meaning to Russians. For example, the concept of democracy has a very different meaning to a Russian (with the exception of some parts of the elite) than to someone in the West.