The first time I ever really drew my attention to Russians as actual people was when a friend of my girlfriend met a Russian sailor in a bar at the New Zealand port town of Lyttleton. She was a strange girl, abused as a child, and had gone from being a Catholic nun to a Hare Krishna member. When she met the Russian sailor she was in an in-between stage. Anyway the Russian sailor took her back to his ship and violently raped her. She didn’t go to the police.
About ten years later I was at a bar in the same area with a new girlfriend. It was New Year’s Eve. There was pool, and I started playing, as the next in line. He was a Russian sailor, and he and his mates kept moving the ball when they thought I was not looking. That was something Kiwis would rarely, if ever do. It just wasn’t sporting. Then one of these Russian guys, a huge solid guy with a shaved head asked me if I would arm wrestle him for my girlfriend. Amusingly he didn’t offer any prize if I won. I didn’t take him upon his challenge, and we moved on, after losing the pool game.
I travelled for many years after that. I ended up in Shenyang, in China. There I met many Russians. The women were mainly students or “dancers”. Some were extremely beautiful. My friend was a big Kenyan guy. And one thing I can tell you is Russian girls like “big” black guys.
The Russian males in Shenyang, like most of the other foreigners, were OK. There weren’t many in Shenyang, and the ones who were living and working or studying there were just like any other foreigners.
Later I moved to Beijing. There were more Russians in the bars there, but they kept to themselves.
And then I moved to Harbin, in the north-east. There were a lot of Russians there. I taught English with some of the girls, and they were fine. But the men were different. There were a lot of them and many were anti-Western. In China, many expats could drunkenly abuse, or threaten Chinese people, but they rarely if ever got into fights with the Chinese. The Chinese did not like fighting westerners. Probably mostly because if they did they could get into a lot of trouble if the foreigner was injured. If you pushed a Chinese male to the point of violence, usually you would have pushed them to the point of using a weapon, and you would also be facing a group. I saw a drunk abusive threatening Russian guy do this in Shenyang. He was taken away in a van and stabbed multiple times, before being dumped in an alleyway. He lived.
So the aggressive anti-Western Russians would surprise drunk Westerners in the bars there. A bit like the Russian football thugs took the Brit football thugs by surprise.
I can recall going for a piss in a bar, and turning around to see a huge Russian guy eye-balling me with a very menacing look. And Westerner after Westerner had a story of tangling with the Russians. They were feared.
That didn’t stop me having a few drunken brawls with them. I have the fifty stitches in my face to prove it. Russians can fight. Their punches and kicks being the hardest I have experienced.
Having said that, I also met many pro-Western Russians, who were extremely nice people. Many of them wanted to leave Russia. Many of them had already lived in the West.
I also met a gay Russian who was living in a backpackers in Beijing indefinitely, rather than risk returning to Russia where he could be beaten in the streets.
So it seems to me there are two types of Russians. Anti-Western, and the rest.
Putin seems to represent the anti-West. To me, Putin has brought shame to Russians. For example, the Russian Olympic athletes.
One would like to think he could be ousted. But then again, can he? If he becomes a normal citizen again, surely he risks being arrested for corruption, theft, and murder? So it is hard to see him giving up power, even if he is forced to step down as President.