My three trips to Russia – twice in Soviet times, once in the post-Communist era – were fascinating (more about them here), but always contained weird overtones of paranoia. Communist and post-Communist Russia both struck me as one of the most brutal places I ever visited. It’s not the kind of country in which anyone would volunteer to live. The Russians aren’t stupid, far from it, but their vision of life is skewed by a projection of their continual struggle to exist.
For that reason, I think, they frequently make decisions that are absurdly self-destructive, like hitching their wagon to the likes of Hugo Chavez. In the Byzantine Russian mind, they are convinced that we are out to get them and they must fight us. Life for them is such a struggle they can’t let go of that simplistic conception, even when allying with us would be so much better for them economically (we sometimes have trouble too, but mostly in reaction to them). It’s quite bizarre really, and sad, sad like Russian music and Russian literature.