Last week Dickinson students abroad in Moscow met with Boris Yulyevich Kagarlitsky – a Russian prominent Marxist theoretician, sociologist, editor of Left Politics quarterly, and the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements in Moscow. Four times a semester, Dickinson students meet with a Russian expert in politics, culture, or history as a part of their “Moscow Proseminar” class, to better understand the multiple facets that comprise the city of Moscow.
The discussion with Boris Yulyevich revolved around the current political situation in Russia, touching upon the historical policies that contribute to such a political atmosphere, as well as the decision-making process within the Russian Federation. Students asked questions regarding the lack of mass political participation in Russia, particularly evident in the low voter turnout of recent elections. In most areas, however, Russia is not the unique, abnormal country it is made out to be in Western media, but often pushes the policies and situations that are, in fact, present in other countries to the extreme. The meeting ended on a positive note, as the discussion moved to Boris Yulyevich’s future hopes for Russia. Students agreed that the decision-making process within Russia should be decentralized to a greater degree and brought to local communities and, similarly, resources must be shifted to areas outside of Moscow. It was also suggested that, perhaps, the taboo of protectionism must be brought to an end in order for public needs to be better addressed. Such open dialogue regarding Russia’s strengths, shortcomings, and relations with the West represents one of the many opportunities for growth and critical thinking available to those studying in Dickinson’s Moscow program – allowing students to not only question Russia’s policies but broader their perspectives on the foreign policies of the United States as well.