Love it or Leave It: Nowhere to go

Back when I was an edgy little shit in the US, I had one surprise advantage over those “patriots” who said “Love it or leave it!” I was already planning on leaving it, and eventually I did. For those who don’t know my history, I’d fallen in love with Russia during an exchange in 1999, and a few years later I’d bought into the Putin myth hook, line, and sinker. Like many misinformed Westerners today, Putin’s Russia appeared to me as the direct opposite of everything I didn’t like at home. To use Tim Kirby’s concept, where in the US I was rejected, in Russia I’d be accepted because the society supposedly reflected my values.

Of course I didn’t even manage to make it back to Russia before I figured out how wrong I had been about Putin and his system. But I did not conflate Putin with Russia, and back in those days few in Russia did. The anti-Western paranoia and “patriotic” propaganda were there, but nobody was constantly trying to ram it down your throat, and Russians I knew just laughed it off. The point here is that I bet on Russia, and there were ways in which I had been right and other ways in which I had been horribly wrong, but I made my bed.

Now occasionally I encounter these Western Putin fanboys in America or Europe who say I should leave here because I don’t love it. There’s no diplomatic way to say this so let me begin with my short-version response: No.

For those among that group who erroneously believe themselves to be entitled to some kind of explanation, you’re in luck. Today I’m happy to provide a list of reasons why you are objectively wrong, and why you should feel bad about yourselves as a result of realizing that fact. Enjoy.

First of all, however idiotic your personal politics might be, I’m willing to bet that you sincerely believe you are in some way helping your nation. You might be on the political fringe but you’re no doubt convinced you’re a patriot. Now is not the time to discuss your specific beliefs or whether or not they are actually, objectively positive, I’m just going to assume good faith on your part.

Bearing the premise above in mind, what’s your reaction to people who tell you the love it or leave it argument? If you sincerely believe your beliefs are positive for your country, then I’m guessing your reaction involves anger, and probably frustration at your opponent’s seeming inability or unwillingness to actually debate the merits of your argument or opinions. If this is the case, perhaps you can explain what gives you the right to insist that people living in Russia, including Russian citizens who don’t think the way you believe they’re supposed to, “love it or leave it?”


Secondly, I really don’t see what I should be the one who leaves Russia, particularly since I now have family here. For the record I have been actively looking for suitable alternatives since 2013, but if we set that aside for a moment there’s a few facts one ought to consider in my defense. I’m not the one who steals from Russia’s state budget. I’m not living in a luxurious compound outside of Moscow thanks to an ability to skim a cut out of Russia’s national wealth. I did not piss away billions on the military and propaganda while cutting back in education and healthcare. Hell, I’ve had nothing to do with Russian politics since 2008. I don’t label Russians traitors and threaten them, and I don’t treat them like utter morons the way the state-run media does. I just live here. So with that in mind, perhaps I’m not the one who should be leaving. Perhaps it’s the “patriots” who ought to leave. They’ve certainly had their turn at bat, haven’t they?

Lastly there is one more point, and it is a really important one. If you live in the West and you think Russia is just so great, you really ought to move here and not vice versa, i.e. me moving to your country (unless I can have your house). This one takes a little explaining so let me break it down.

If you love Putin and you think his regime is so great, you should move to Russia because you will, at least for the time being, fit in quite well. At the moment, your positive view of Putin and the system is shared by many. It is constantly promoted by the media. Regardless of your nationality, you will have many Russians hanging on your every word about how terrible your country allegedly is, and how much better Putin’s Russia is. And of course you’ll be living as a Western expat, which almost certainly guarantees a higher standard of living than average Russians.

Again, Tim Kirby’s words ought to be your guide. The Kirb thought he’d fit in better in Russia, and then he put his money where his mouth is and moved there. He says that in America he was “wrong” and in Russia he was suddenly “right. He’s sunk down far deeper roots than I, doubling down on his Russia bet and if I understand correctly, obtaining Russian citizenship. I don’t believe he has renounced his American citizenship and indeed I know of no pro-Kremlin fanatic who has in fact renounced their American, British, or European citizenship and given up their reserve chute, so to speak, but unlike so many armchair Putin fanboys in the West, Kirby’s apparently gone more or less all-in on Russia. If you’re so enamored with the Kremlin and you despise your own government so much, then you ought to do the same.

As for me, well I don’t have that luxury, the luxury of being able to move to a country where the government and media reflect my values almost exclusively. Hell, I’d settle for living in a country where my values are represented in just a portion of the mainstream, both in media and in politics. If I landed in America tomorrow, I’d have to contend with Trump supporters, libertarians, mainstream conservatives, liberal “realists,” politically illiterate leftist hippy types, “social justice warriors,” and more.

You moving to Putin’s Russia accomplishes something for you that moving to America or virtually any other country cannot accomplish for me. In Putin’s Russia your pro-Putin views will be welcome and mainstream, and those who disagree are marginalized, intimidated, and occasionally jailed or even killed. You’ll never have to worry about your precious beliefs being challenged again, because in Russia you’ll feel totally fine with labeling a Russian citizen a traitor to their nation for not sharing your delusions about Putin or his system.

So for those of you Putin fanboys sitting at home, taking full advantage of your freedom of speech to publish and disseminate all manner of anti-government vitriol, the answer isn’t for me to leave Russia at your behest, but for you to shut up and move to Russia so you can enjoy the full benefits of that system you think is so great. In all likelihood, insulated from daily reality by your ridiculously easy job and expat lifestyle, you’ll do just fine. And when the system does eventually go tits up, you can wave your American or British passport and return to the nightmarish hell on Earth that is your home country.

And if you think I should leave sooner, feel free to transfer the deed to your house back home over to me, or donate via Paypal to my site. Depending on whichever you do, I’d be happy to help facilitate your move to your ideological paradise.


8 thoughts on “Love it or Leave It: Nowhere to go

  1. Alex P

    Sir – I love reading your thread.

    I also left the US in 2005 to spend a few years in Russia and Ukraine and so many of your comments resonate with me. I love Russia and Russian people – but have major issues with Putin and how he is trying to destroy Ukraine. I am also very familiar with the totally retarded ruling class in Ukraine and do not simply blame it’s current state on Putin.

    I guess my question is “are you able to achieve (career wise) what you wanted in Russia? If so – great – but it would be interesting for me to understand if you see an economic future in Russia. I did not – so I eventually moved to California.

    Thanks in advance for any insights ~ Alex

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Thanks for your support. As for the questions…

      I think career-wise I didn’t achieve my loftiest goals, but I ended up doing a lot better than I had expected thanks to this blog and the opportunities which derived from it. I often kick myself for not starting this much sooner, but the truth is that I’d been too accustomed to working as an English teacher, which used to offer a lot of money for sometimes ridiculously easy work. And to be realistic, I had a lot of practical lessons to learn about this place and its politics before I could even begin to speak with any real insight. When times were good, it was very easy to miss the storm clouds on the horizon.

      As for an economic future in Russia, for me- no. I’ve been looking for suitable ways out since 2013. The only possible advantage I can see is for those people with capital or access to it who come in after the regime falls and find a good niche. I sincerely hope that these will be more morally upright people than those who came in the 90’s, people with true concern for Russia and its people and who want to do more than make a quick buck.

      1. Alex P

        Understood – thanks for your reply. I think I understand where you are coming from. America for all it’s faults – still has tons of opportunities to advance the career and I had to take this as I needed the $$.

        But I hope to be back in a few years – Kyiv is one of my favorite cities.

        Thanks again !

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        The thing about being a native English speaker in an emerging market is that you have skills that are in high demand, and the barrier to entry for a lot of fields is much lower. Of course when that emerging market starts to sink, so do your opportunities.

  2. Asehpe

    I remember a conversation once with a woman who talks exactly like the kind of Putin fanboy (fangirl in her case) that you’re talking about, and I was curious enough to ask her why she didn’t move to Moscow then since she thought Putin was so right in everything he did. She said she might still, but she doesn’t speak the language and that makes everything so much more difficult.

    So there you are. Separated from their ideal country by the barrier of a foreign language… The fact that she might be able to live in English there (she is Brazilian, but she speaks nearly perfect English) wasn’t enough to tempt her. I guess being surrounded by Cyrillic letters is just too much for people, despite all their love for Putin’s paradise.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Doesn’t speak the language? First of all, if she lived in Moscow she wouldn’t have to beyond a few simple phrases. I know “those” expats who have been here almost as long as me(in some cases longer), love it more than their home country, and yet either don’t speak the language beyond that basic level or speak it horribly.

      Some of the Team Kremlin expats speak Russian horribly after being here far longer than I have. Then you’ve got Graham Phillips sounding like Alex from a Clockwork Orange(and acting like him too).

      Hell, in no way could I say I spoke Russian when I moved here, in spite of having studied it for three years and been on an exchange to Russia prior to that.

      Excuses, excuses. I’m sure some of the bigger language schools could use native Portuguese teachers. Somebody get this woman a plane ticket!

      1. Asehpe

        She might accept if there is a good job there! (She teaches mathematics in a highschool in Rio). She even has connections — she’s descended from Russian-Ukrainian immigrants, which I suppose is the source for her interest in Putin… But she doesn’t speak any Russian. (Brazilians often have this ‘I-can’t-learn-other-languages’ attitude; another friend of mine didn’t accept a DAAD scholarship to go study in Germany because he felt he couldn’t possibly learn German…).

        As far as Brazilians go, however, there’s always been a lot of anti-Americanism in the local intelligentsia — with the knee-jerk reaction that anything or anyone who speaks against American policies must be on the side of the angels. Since Putin does… there is a lot of sympathy for him here. Not that people know much about what is going on; Brazilian TV isn’t really giving an in-depth coverage of the Russian (and Ukrainian) situation.

        But speaking of the current situation in Russia, I wondered what you thought of Brian Whitmore’s new “Virtual Stalinism” column about the current situation in Russia:

        I get the feeling that he is exaggerating, but since I don’t live in Russia, I can’t directly evaluate claims like “fear dominates society, limiting the ability of many to express their true opinions even to family and close friends”. What do you think?

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        It’s funny how they only want to live in Russia for really good jobs. Again Tim Kirby has them beat, because as far as I know he did actually work for a regular Russian company when he first came over. It was a relatively “good” job by Russian standards, but probably not one of those ridiculously overpaid expat jobs. In fact, being an English teacher can actually be pretty low-paying but this is often offset by free accommodation.

        I did see that article by Whitmore and I have to say I’m sick of the use of the term “Stalinism” since this has nothing to do with Stalinism. When the French army slaughtered unarmed civilians in the Paris Commune in 1871, do we call that “Stalinism?” Do we call the crimes of the right-wing dictatorship of Pinochet “Stalinist?” I have to go with Mark Adomanis on this matter.

        Now as for fear in Russian society, most of the fear I suspect is really about economic matters and the loss of that precious “stability” they thought they had. It’s obvious the country is headed back to the 90’s, but the government is sending a clear message that people had better not resist. This I believe is one major motivating factor behind people’s “support” for the government. They really don’t know what it could be replaced with and they fear a crackdown. Thus they keep still in their seats while the train barrels towards the collapsed bridge.

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