Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Real Novosibirskite Carries a Siberian Passport and Avoids Moscow, One of Them Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 19 – One of the most important underlying factors in Russian life is that ethnic Russian identity is fragmented, with local identities often far more important for ethnic Russians than the Moscow-promoted “Russian nation.”  But for obvious reasons, the central Russian media seldom discuss and pollsters avoid even asking the question.

            That makes statements emphasizing this fact by people in the regions of the Russian Federation that officials and commentators invariably describe as “predominantly ethnic Russian” especially important. One of those, from a blogger in Novosibirsk, appeared on the web this week.

            On her LiveJournal page, Olesya Valger writes that “a Novosibirsk resident doesn’t feel himself to be a Novosibirsk resident because to be such is just as natural as to drink water, breathe air or walk on one’s legs and there is no need to call this natural condition by some sort of special word” (

            Her city, Novosibirsk, is “the default setting” for its residents, just “as Rome was for the ancient Roman.”  To ask such a person to rank his or her city thus reflects “unenlightened ignorance” of reality.  Novosibirsk residents never feel out of place because they carry within themselves “an inner Novosibirsk” – and the world recognizes that.

            According to Valger, “the world is always to receive the gift of a part of that mythical Novosibirsk” where people are inventing new nuclear technologies and “every child learns the Mendeleyev table in kindergarten.”

            She says that “the Novosibirsk resident is free from complexes. He never takes part in arguments about ‘the capital of Siberia’” because he is confident of where he lives and “all cities around are beautiful – Tomsk is no worse than Paris and Krasnyarsk no worse than New York” but “it is simply that none of them is the equal of Novosibirsk.”

             Someone from Novosibirsk doesn’t want to be in Moscow, she continues, because life there seems closed in – narrow streets, shallow rivers and streets that end rather than stretch to the horizon. He or she feels somewhat less alienated in St. Petersburg and often travels to that city or through it on the way to Europe.

            Moreover, people in Novosibirsk don’t understand prejudices. “To be a xenophobe in Novosibisk is approximately the same as criticizing spots if you are a giraffe.”  The city’s residents are “settled nomads who only recently put their suitcase on the balcony and come from elsewhere “for thousands of reasons.”

            Some descend from “hunters and merchants,” others from military groups and exiles, resettlers, travelers, “those who were repressed and those who did the repressing, immigrants from other countries, from villages, and from other Siberian cities.”  But being a Novosibirskite is not about genetics; one can become one “immediately upon arrival.”

            What is especially important, Valger says, is that the city’s residents are “autonomous” and believe that “the best government is one which they don’t notice” just as “the best house is one where one doesn’t hear one’s neighbors.”

            “It is easy to recognize a Novosibirskite in an airport,” she continues. He’ll have “in his hands a white-blue passport ‘I’m Siberian’ and an apple green ticket” on any airline but Aeroflot because Aeroflot doesn’t pay taxes in his city.” And after a brief talk with him, Valger concludes, “it will become perfectly obvious: Novosibirsk is the best city on earth.”

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