Russians have always been fond of self-flagellation and self-analysis. As far back as in the century, the model of national thought, Alexander Pushkin, wrote that no other nation was so merciless to the Russians as the Russians were to themselves. No other literature contains more cynicism and hopelessness in describing the drawbacks of its own nation as Russian literature does.
Every time Russia rushed to develop relations with the outside world and every time the country's future depended largely on that development, the Russians launched vigorous attempts at self-comprehension. Few of these attempts have shed much light on Russia and the Russians or made the country and its people more understandable to other nations but have begotten a myth about the mysterious Russian soul, which for the last several centuries our neighbors on this planet have tried again and again to comprehend.
The following material is not intended to be a yet another attempt in this direction. I think, at such a stressful and crucial time there is no point in raking out illusionary mysteries of the russian soul.
As the winds of change gain momentum, Russia has become more open to the world and Russians have rushed to communicate with other nations on various levels. And here is the paradox. the world has essentially remained the same, with the same laws and ways of life, while the Russians have changed.
Trying to understand how the Russians have changed, we interviewed well-known politicians, writers, philosophers and artists whose opinions are respected in this country as well as foreigners who live and work in Russia. In these interviews, we tried to concentrate not on abstract allusions to Russian mentality' but on the present situation and the impact of the decade of radical reforms.
We hope the project will serve the purpose of mutual understanding and communication.