This Is Hell

Kolomenskaya Street, Petersburg, July 6, 2017. Photo by The Russian Reader

Here’s a sunny existential question for a Sunday morning.

How can it be claimed that a person sees events “through Russian eyes” if that person is not Russian is any sense of the word, has not set foot in the country for years, has not lived in the country for years at a time, and garners their knowledge of the country and its politics only from the sources available to everyone else who doesn’t actually live in Russia, namely, the media?

And yet cutting-edge radio program This Is Hell! claims to have found just such a person for its latest broadcast.

I would very much encourage you all to listen to the program. My blog, The Russian Reader, is meant as an antidote to the casual Orientalism of almost everything uttered by hegemonic or would-be hegemonic American mouths when it comes to Russia, whether those voices aspire to be liberal or leftist, Russophilic or Russophobic.

And while you’re listening to the new edition of This Is Hell!, keep in mind that, over the past month or so, I’ve been seriously contemplating sending The Russian Reader on permanent hiatus (like its predecessor Chtodelat News, which died a cold, hard death because it was emphatically not supported by the group it nominally represented).

After a year in which I saw a steady and welcome rise in the number of readers on this website, my stats have dropped precipitously in the last two months, even though I have been trying, as always, to see events in Russia through the eyes of Russians, although I’m not Russian in any way and would never have the chutzpah to claim to be Russian, much less have “Russian eyes.”

My method has always to been to “collage,” as I like to put it, numerous and wildly different Russian points of view on what I think are the key topics in modern Russian politics, economics, society, and culture. I have done this by translating the words of hundreds of courageous, thoughtful and very different Russians, almost all of them in the thick of the events they describe and analyze in the magazine and newspaper articles, essays, Facebook posts, and informal reflections that make up most of what I publish on The Russian Reader.

The other five percent of The Russian Reader is given over to my satirical ruminations and, once in a while, serious editorials. I have never claimed they represent “a” or “the” Russian point of view since, I repeat, I am not Russian in any sense of the word.

I’ve been doing this for almost ten years now with no financial support and, if truth be told, very little other real support from anyone else. Yet I have been told by a fair number of smart and even influential people whose opinion I respect that my blog is invaluable and unique and needs to keep chugging along.

Maybe that is so, but if no one is reading it, quoting it, and especially sharing the articles published here with colleagues, friends, and opponents, there really is no point in going on with this.

It’s been a lot of work. Hard work should be rewarded in some way. Stony silence and precipitously falling numbers are not a reward for invaluable, unique work no one else is doing.

If you would not like to see the website go into a permanent coma, especially if you’re willing to support The Russian Reader in a meaningful way (one of the best ways is volunteering to translate things I could publish), let me know either in the comments under this post or via the email address listed in the left margin of this website.

Thanks for listening to my gripes. With any luck, we can get the site back on track in short order, but that will happen only if I hear a more or less loud mandate from you, my mostly anonymous and silent Russian readers. TRR

8 thoughts on “This Is Hell

  1. I don’t read every single one of your posts, but the ones I do always enlighten me. It would be interesting to know what caused such a sudden drop in visits. Do you have any statistics on where in the world people did read you but have stopped for example?

    1. Thanks for the support, Nathan!

      I have statistics on where in the world people read me, but I’m not sure how far out they go out or whether I can compare them month by month. But it’s a good suggestion.

  2. hey, thanks for your important work here! i’d be up for contributing translations. i’ll shoot you an email shortly

  3. Thomas, your work and this blog are super IMPORTANT! I’m not very helpful with translation but perhaps I can help in other ways.

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