“The American-Russian: Thinking Double”

Almost everyone in the U.S. has met - or knows of - at least one so-called "Russian-American." Since the fall of the Soviet Union, scores of these hyphenated citizens have appeared in both big cities and small towns. What is a lot less known is the phenomenon of the "American-Russian."

This term refers to a U.S. citizen who has willingly left his or her country to live long-term in Russia. That term applies to the hybrid creature writing this essay.

Because of circumstances called “life,” I chose to live and work in Moscow for 25 years and just recently returned home to my country of origin. I am representative of a new breed for sure; one that will grow in number as time goes on. 

Disillusioned with their lives in America or simply curious about life in Russia, this new breed could play a useful role in bridging the gap between Russia and America during these highly contentious and dangerous times, if the parties involved decide to utilize the insights obtained by these hybrid creatures. That’s a big “if” of course.

Thoroughly socialized in America and then re-socialized in Russia, this hybrid citizen has assimilated opposing values that do occasionally overlap and intersect, but which nevertheless come from different states of consciousness. Living long-term in Russia has given us the ability to understand how and why Americans and Russians see things differently. We are able to entertain two opposing thoughts at the same time without going insane… I think. To quote a hybrid “Canadian-American” we “look at life from both sides now.” It is both a reward and a punishment — a wonderful blessing and a terrible curse. It is a reward and blessing because our understanding of human behavior has been enhanced by perceiving reality in stereo. In our consciousness, you might say “the twain have met.” Both East and West. It is both a punishment and a curse because we know Russians and Americans will never see eye-to-eye. To borrow terminology from the renowned anthropologist Ruth Benedict, Russians are “Dionysian” for the most part and Americans are primarily “Apollonian.”  We know that the American spirit and the Russian soul will never co-exist easily because we ourselves are living a bi-cultural schizoid life filled with inner contradictions and epistemological tension. I am sure Russian Americans share this condition as well. Perhaps this dialectic of consciousness will produce a synthesis that heralds a higher state of consciousness. Time will tell. But we may be running out of that precious commodity as both the Russian and American governments engage in a geopolitical cat-and-mouse game that threatens the survival of both the cat and the mouse.