Street Life: My ex-friend, the Fascist

SAMOTECHNY LANE, MOSCOW

I WISH I knew who or what has hurt Sergei for, as I keep telling myself, it is hurt that lies at the root of hostility. But I will probably never know, as he has stopped visiting me at Samotechny Lane and now regards me as an enemy.

It was not always so. On the contrary, 11 years ago he was such a good friend that my husband, Costya, and I invited him to our wedding. But for Sergei, who has become an extreme Russian nationalist, the honeymoon with the West is over, and so, therefore, is his friendship with me.

Sergei had unnerved me before with odd, anti-Semitic things he said. But it only became clear how far apart we had grown when he dropped in for a drink a few weeks ago and we ended up having an argument. The conversation began harmlessly enough, with a few jokes, but before I knew it we had plunged into politics.

"It's all the fault of the foreigners," said Sergei.

"Pardon?"

"The West is to blame."

"Well, yes," I said, "the West has made some mistakes, raised expectations that life after Communism would be easy. Unfortunately Russia has not always seen the best side of the West. You've seen our unscrupulous businessmen, our cheap products in the kiosks: but surely Russians themselves must bear some responsibility for their problems. After all, Yeltsin, the members of the government, are Russian."

"They're traitors," said Sergei. "They have got us into debt with the IMF. The only mistake we Russians have made is not resisting the aggression of the West."

I was stunned. If I had heard that argument from some shaven-headed blackshirt in Alexander Barkashov's Russian National Unity Party, I would not have beensurprised. But Sergei is a highly educated man whose father was a famous writer who advised Mikhail Gorbachev on literary freedom.

In the heady days of perestroika and glasnost, when Russians and Westerners met with excitement, we used to sit in Sergei's flat, speaking French because my Russian was still rudimentary, and Sergei would talk of dreams of knowing the wider world.

"Yes, then I only wanted to listen to Western rock music," he said, when I reminded him. "But now, I get tears in my eyes when I hear the balalaika on the radio."

There is nothing wrong with Russian folk music, but something disturbing about Sergei's new-found appreciation for Stalin. And his hatred-filled form of Russian Orthodoxy seems very far from true Christianity.

Most of all, I was shocked by Sergei's definition of the West. It was, he said, not a place, but a world-view based on respect for democracy (to him, a pejorative word), women's liberation (also negative) and a positive attitude to Jews (very bad indeed).

I said I would like to think of the West as a community of countries where everyone counted, man or woman, black or white, Christian or Jew. He called me a "rootless cosmopolitan".

He said that once England, France and Germany were countries with a strong national identity but "the West" had "colonised" them. Russia was falling, too. The Great Satan was America.

"It is an incredibly corrupt and decadent place. It is not only the enemy of the Arabs but of the whole world. But you mark my words, soon it will be destroyed. The Statue of Liberty will be shattered in a thousand pieces."

"I think you really want to see that, don't you?" I said incredulously, remembering how a few years ago Sergei had gone in great excitement on a business trip to Florida. (He also spent two weeks in my family home in Yorkshire, and ought to know that we in the West are human too.)

"Yes, I do," he said, "I dream of seeing America on its knees."

At that, I stopped debating.I felt stone cold, despite the summer heat.

"Well, I'm sorry," I said, "I came to Russia to learn, to help if I could, I did not mean any harm."

"We do not need your help. It's nothing personal, Helen, but you represent the enemy. You are on a Masonic mission."

He was my friend. Those were his parting words.

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes