Friday, September 17, 2021

Russians Need a New Mental Map of Their Country, One More Complicated than ‘Moscow and Everything Else,’ Atnashev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 16 – Timur Atnashev, a specialist on intellectual history at the Higher School of Economics, says that Russians overwhelmingly have an inadequate mental map of their country, one that divides Moscow from the rest of the country rather than recognizing the enormous diversity that exists in Russia.

            This mental map, he continues, informs much of the intellectual work of scholars in Russia and has spread from them to the powers and the population, thereby ensuring that “we do not know the country in which we live and work” (

            Atnashev says that public and even intellectual discourse all too often remains within a single schema: “the liberal-creative minority of Muscovites and the worker-peasant deep majority of people who live beyond the ring road.”  There are some happy exceptions, like the “four Russias” idea of Natalya Zubarevich; but they are rare.

            For the scholarly community, the powers that be, and the population as a whole, there are only two Russias, Moscow and everything else, an attitude that guarantees that Russians do not really know the country in which they live and work” and consequently make mistake after mistake in their judgments about it.

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