Vladimir Kornilov: A Christmas Story About an American Missionary in Wild Lyubertsy

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The Western press has a long-time tradition: at Christmas it publishes a series of moralistic articles and essays, the primary purpose of which should be the revival in readers of the festive spirit of benevolence, mercy, and compassion.

And, it would seem that the newspaper The Wall Street Journal – the flagship of American business journalism – would have to demonstrate an example of how to awake in people bright feelings and aspirations.

So, and indeed it demonstrated it by posting exactly on the eve the holiday an article entitled “A Christmas Encounter With the ‘Russian Soul’”. Only instead of a good story it turned out to be a racist skit.

Epic “victory of good over evil”

It’s the infamous American journalist David Satter, which worked for many years in Russia, who took the role of the expert of the “Russian soul”. It’s to him who the work, spreading conspiracy theories and outrageous statements, belongs: it’s precisely him who actively promoted false rumors about the FSB’s involvement in the apartment explosions in Moscow. In 2013, in connection with the violation of immigration laws Satter was refused entry to Russia.

Apparently, resentment against Russia can explain the “holiday” beginning of the article: “it may seem as if Americans have little in common with those living under Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship.” “But I have witnessed the triumph of good over evil in Russia,” writes Satter.

However, the epic “triumph of good” has been reduced to a description of a banal scene, typical of Russia in the period of the 90’s. On the eve of New — 1992 — Year the American lost his wallet somewhere in Moscow, after which he was granted a meeting in Lyubertsy. There, a certain thug named Yury described how he spent energy and resources to find the owner of the wallet, and asked for compensation for his efforts. The American meekly counted out 50,000 rubles (a huge amount at the time, by the way).

READ:  Aleksandr Zhilin on Why Canadian Instructors Are in Ukraine

Yury, seeing how easily a foreign guest parts with their money, asked for another “fee”. Satter “heroically” (that’s the way he presents this story) refused this request, saying: “You must give me the wallet, because it belongs to me”.

Apparently, the resident of Lyubertsy realised that he can’t get more money from this foreign eccentric who already sacrificed a significant amount, so, he shared with the guest his vodka and gave back the unneeded wallet (especially since there wasn’t money any more).

The American mission

Probably Yury had forgotten about this episode the next day. But the American journalist believed that he was at that moment the personification of “good, which defeated the evil” in the mysterious “Russian soul”. He put such belief in it that he can’t forget this “heroic” scene even after a quarter of a century.

“I often wondered,” writes Satter, “if our brief encounter had a lasting effect on him.” I.e., imagine – an American journalist seriously imagines himself as a kind of missionary, who has taught something to a “savage” from Lyubertsy.

From this mission he made far-reaching political conclusions, and transferred them from the 90’s to our days. Satter writes: “Westerners wondered how to answer Russian propaganda. Speeches were made and learned conferences were organised without getting us any closer to penetrating Moscow’s false worldview. But as the encounter with Yury that night in Lyubertsy showed, Russians can be reached if basic moral principles are made clear to them. Russians do not share the ethical heritage of the West, but moral intuition exists everywhere, and is able to be inspired.”

“Colonial anthropology of the 19th century”

Imagine if we drew conclusions about the moral level of the American people in the instance of a bully with a gun who demanded your wallet in a dark quarter of Chicago? We would immediately be accused of racism and of spreading feelings of superiority of one nation over another (and rightly so, by the way). But the leading business newspaper in the US thinks that it’s okay to print such a theory — and even to present them as “Christmas” stories, claiming to be moralising.

Even the correspondent of the British newspaper The Guardian Shaun Walker, known for his critical approach towards Russian politics, was forced to note: “This “Christmas encounter with the Russian soul” reads in places like 19th century colonial anthropology”. And the analyst Daragh McDowell continued: “I’m just grateful the text doesn’t mention “oriental barbarism’ or some such.”

Copyright © 2022. All Rights Reserved.