How Ordinary Russians Experience Their Lives and World: A Report of a Participant-Observer

Author: Holmes, Larry E.
This study examines in an historical and a contemporary context the Russian attitudes and behaviors that fuel Western misconceptions. The work focuses on how Russians perceive themselves and outsiders and how those preconceptions affect outsiders’ perceptions of them. Historical, academic, and biographical this book alternatively confirms, challenges, and even defies the prejudices and impressions held by not only students and scholars, but also Russian specialists.


“There is nothing quite like Holmes’ book. . . .Yet his approach, while concentrating on the seemingly trivial, the world of daily interactions. . . builds upon a long tradition of Western commentary upon Russia, a commentary which has recently gained far more sophistication. . .” - Dr. Ben Eklof, Professor of History at Indiana University

“Dr. Holmes fills his account with personal stories that illuminate Russian ways of thinking and behaving. This is a very personal work, based on Dr. Holmes many visits to Russia, his travels, and the people he has met over the years. These experiences have served him well as he attempts to decipher the Russian “soul” for American readers.” - Dr. Harold J. Goldberg, Professor of History, Chair, Asian Studies Program, University of the South, Sewanee, TN

“Several aspects of Holmes’ story distinguish it from existing accounts of journeys to Russia. First of all, it focuses on life at the cultural periphery, the country’s outlying regions, which rarely draws the attention of foreign visitors and researchers. . . .It is significant that in this view of Russian life provided by a Western scholar the author never assumes a patronizing stand. ” - Dr. Vera Kaplan, Research Associate, Cummings Center for Russian and East European Studies, Tel Aviv University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Ben Eklof
1 The More We Know, the More We Don’t Know
2 Where and What
3 Down with Authority, Up with Authority
4 The Personal Touch: It’s the Who that Counts
5 She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not
6 The Velikoretskii Pilgrimage (June 3-8, 2001)
7 Mixed Signals
8 The Nitty Gritty
Conclusion: Becoming Russian and Baby Cat
Appendix: In Search of Calmer Seas