Memo to the Americans before traveling to Russia
For people who were born, or at least have spent most of their lives in America, a trip to a European country is considered something completely natural. Foreigners most often don’t think about any special precautions, and therefore for many of them the things that happen to them during their trips to Russia turn out to be a complete surprise, writes Ksenia Kirillova in her article for publication 7 days.
Most often, troubles do not occur with ordinary Americans who come, for example, on business issues. The victims of provocations and other “active measures” of the Russian counterintelligence are usually consular workers, journalists, representatives of NGOs and government funds, scholars of humanities studying Russian society, invited university lecturers - if the subject of their lectures touches on some social or political topics. . Unlike consular officers, repeatedly warned about the possibility of harassment, the last of these categories, most often, do not represent what they might expect in Russia.
At the same time, it is important to understand that in Russia, especially in the regions, almost any American dealing with topics related to society and the state is perceived as an employee of the special services. This is especially true of representatives of non-profit organizations and foundations that provide Russians with various grants and internships. Even if these organizations are engaged exclusively in charitable, educational or religious activities, in Russia there are well-established stereotypes that the foundations and NGOs themselves are nothing more than unofficial CIA branches. If a visiting foreigner meets with human rights activists or other dissidents, he will no longer be able to escape the attention of the FSB.
Immediately make a reservation that many of the surprises that arise are in principle impossible to prevent, but at least you should be prepared for them in advance. Here are some of them.
In this case, provokers are of different types. The first and most common are the brawlers present at open events: lectures, exhibitions, presentations, press conferences, etc. It is almost impossible to avoid them, and therefore the only thing that can help in this case is moral preparedness and good protection of the event. .
The main thing that you can advise in this case is not to be nervous, not to get involved in deep discussions with provocateurs and not to allow harsh statements in the heat of a dispute. It is important to understand that the main purpose of such provocations is to get the right “picture” for a propaganda television program. You also need to come to terms with the fact that if you are faced with such provocateurs, the video will still be freely available, and you will be shown there in the most unfavorable light, regardless of your own behavior. Therefore, the problem should be treated philosophically, and try to avoid the main thing - pronouncing those phrases that can then be taken out of context and used against you. No matter how vigilant the final propaganda video is, the fact whether a person speaks some words or is only attributed to him plays a serious role.
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The second type of provocateurs is somewhat more dangerous than the first, since it is more difficult to recognize them immediately. Such people act rather as “double agents”, with the only difference being that their task is not to inculcate confidence in you for a long period of time, but only to engage in scandalous topics in order to then publicly accuse of “preparing sabotage” and other similar things.
Such people with burning eyes can offer you different radical plans, such as training saboteurs, organizing destabilization in certain regions, etc. You should not explain to them that you are not doing such things, or to prove that their plan is unrealizable. Any dialogue on this topic, any expression of interest can then be used against you. After another public scandal, it will be extremely difficult to explain to someone that you were interested in the details of the undertaking only in order to understand what exactly they want from you. If you do not want to harm your reputation and the reputation of your country, contact with the provocateur should be stopped immediately. For the same reason, it is better to avoid closed meetings on politicized topics, if they do not relate directly to the sphere of your work.
Of course, it is important to take into account the fact that almost all Russian citizens, regardless of their views, are to some extent subject to Russian propaganda. A great many of them really believe in “omnipotent America, dreaming of destroying Russia,” only relate to this myth differently: someone is negative, and someone is completely positive.
It may well be that some of the dissidents will quite sincerely take you for a CIA employee and start expressing their ideas about “fighting the system” without any dirty trick. However, if you really do not intend to overthrow the Russian regime, you better avoid such discussions, being in Russia - neither for you nor for your interlocutor nothing good they will not end.
There are several points that make it possible to distinguish the provocateur from the sincere fighter with the system:
- lack of fear. The real dissident who lives in Russia in recent years has repeatedly been harassed and harassed by the special services. Provocateurs, on the other hand, often do not take into account this fact, fearlessly make appointments with foreigners, they are ready to transmit the most "seditious" information through open channels, because they know perfectly well that they have nothing to fear;
- the primitiveness of the image. Russian special services very often believe in their own myths about dissidents - for example, that all these people are corrupt or hate Russia. Of course, among human rights defenders, sometimes there are those who distribute Western grants unscrupulously, however, in practice they also behave not so flat and of the same type. Provocateurs, especially of low level, most often embody typical FSB myths in their behavior: they play the role of ardent haters of Russia, openly and impudently ask for money, shout about their pro-Western views, demonstrate corruption, and sometimes manage to do it all at once. This is another warning sign: beware of a combination of incompatible characteristics in one person. Yes, personalities are complex and multifaceted, but for honest people this versatility does not resemble schizophrenia;
- abundance of pathos. This moment is quite difficult for Americans to understand, in whose culture pathos and sincerity are completely combined with each other. Solemnity in the American tradition goes side by side with patriotism, while ordinary people sincerely cry at the sounds of the hymn. However, in Russia, where beautiful words were utterly discredited back in Soviet times, genuine dissidents (often hunted and tormented people) do not speak with slogans. They try to convey even sincere sacrifice in simple words, ashamed of excessive pathos.
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If you decide to attend a “closed” event, where only a narrow circle of the most trusted people will meet, you should not hope that the content of this meeting will not be known to the FSB, especially if it concerns political or social issues. This does not mean at all that your Russian acquaintances are “double agents”. Most likely, it is quite sincere and respectable people. However, the level of surveillance of such people in Russia is such that the most closed meetings become known in advance, and even the most private conversations can be recorded on a hidden video camera. In short, while in Russia, you can forget about privacy.
In this case, we are not talking about conscious provocateurs or professional "informers." However, it is important to understand that many oppositionists and human rights activists may simply not withstand the pressure of the special services. Those who meet with foreigners can often be summoned for interrogation by the FSB, where quite understandable logic is often included with the interrogated people: “a foreigner will go home, and we need to somehow survive in Russia”. This does not mean that all dissidents argue this way, but, nevertheless, there are always people who make at least small and harmless compromises in their eyes. Such a compromise can be you.
I would stress that all of the above does not mean that in Russia you can expect a gulag or a shooting, as in Stalin's time. Most likely, you will do your work and calmly return home. However, with the modern Russian regime, it is better to be on your guard and understand that, in addition to arrests and camps, there are provocations, compromising materials and possible subsequent blackmail, which can also ruin your life considerably. Therefore, it is better to be on your guard.
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