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English version of Introduction

31.12.2000 10:10

This site is dedicated to the discussion of my book How to Make Russia a Normal Country. Even though Russia has always been, is, and will be a “normal” country, the title of the book was not meant in jest: the book aims to describe the Russian society as it really is, at the same time making a comparison of the Russian society with the standards that exist in the West. The hope here is that the Russians would be willing to modify their definition of “normalcy”.

To do so, the book seeks to describe Russian national character, to pinpoint the undercurrents that surreptitiously determine Russia’s economic, political, and social life, to discover the logic of its historical development, especially in the 20th century, to make sense of its legal system, and to discuss the future of Russia, suggesting the strategy for its development. I doubt that this is a task that any one man can accomplish. I started writing this book in 1985, and have been working on it, on and off, at work or after work, ever since. For three years, I was able to work on this book full time. But one simply cannot hope to learn and to understand everything that one needs to know about the history, psychology, sociology, economics, and jurisprudence of Russia, though I did give it my best try. It is also not possible to postpone the publication of the book, as it concerns the issues that cry out for urgent resolution. At the same time, I understand that the book could well have benefited from another fifteen years of study.

Therefore, I propose to give the book a status of foundation of discussion and a trigger for thoughts. When I say something, I honestly believe it to be right, but I also know I cannot be right every time. The point is that I do not have to. I was not writing an authoritative encyclopedia and I did not seek to show how smart I was. I respect the intelligence of my readers, and I very much hope that my mistakes will be corrected by them. My primary aim is to make the readers think about the issues I discuss. I want the text of this book to be a living text, the foundation of an interactive internet project. I am willing to change every word of the book as soon as a reader convinces me that a change is warranted. Since Russia itself will be changing, updates, which I will be making continuously, will be necessary anyway (even though the book does not aim to “describe” Russia). I want to spend the rest of my life making changes to the text and to the structure of this book, and I very much count on your help and participation.

The only thing that I avoided in this book are direct quotes (I did quote two poems by Pushkin and discuss one piece by Nikolay Leskov), references, footnotes, bibliography, and disclaimers. The book is 320 pages right now, and could probably be even shorter. I could easily balloon its size to a thousand pages, but I will not do it. The aim is to get a manual for life and for social action, not to create another volume aimed at a narrow group of scholars.

Read the text with an open mind, and use it to build a better life for yourself and to make Russia a better place for its people and for the entire world. And remember: I may have made some mistakes: please point them out for me and I will gladly correct them.

Matthew Maly

Мой Мир

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