Visiting Russian author talks Russian-American relations at UMD roundtable

By Brian Abate

Five guest speakers, including famous Russian author Lev Lurie, explained the importance of Russian-American relations in history at the Maya Brin Residency event “Russia: Looking Backward and Forward” on October 13th at St. Mary’s Hall.

Lurie explained how the lessons learned from events in Russia and America’s past can be applied to solve current issues. “Putin’s ideology is very conservative, and from his point of view, revolution means a very bad change,” said Lurie. “There are some similarities with Trump.” Trump and Putin aren’t the first leaders of the United States and Russia to experience conflict with one another.

“Putin’s ideology is very conservative, and from his point of view, revolution means a very bad change,” said Lurie. “There are some similarities with Trump.”

Trump and Putin aren’t the first leaders of the United States and Russia to experience conflicts with one another.

Corey Flintoff, a former NPR Russia correspondent, talked about John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev’s standoff during the Cuban Missile Crisis 55 years ago. “Kennedy and Khrushchev were forced to sit down and communicate with each other,” said Flintoff. “Even though Kennedy had a strong belief in capitalism and Khrushchev had a strong belief in communism, eventually they found a way to come to an agreement.”

“Kennedy and Khrushchev were forced to sit down and communicate with each other,” said Flintoff. “Even though Kennedy had a strong belief in capitalism and Khrushchev had a strong belief in communism, eventually they found a way to come to an agreement.”

Current leaders like Trump, Putin and Kim Jong-un may reach a point where they too have to sit down and come to an agreement. But Flintoff said the two situations are not exactly comparable.

“Kennedy and Khrushchev had military experience which helped them,” he said. “I think that was very important. The current leaders don’t have that military experience, and we’ll have to see if that plays a factor in their decisions.”

One of the event’s organizers, Zhanna R. Gerus-Vernola, said that the Maya Brin Residency Program has been organizing events similar to this one for the last five years.

“We try to work with different departments every year, and this year we worked with the Russian department,” said Gerus-Vernola. “It’s a great chance for students to learn about other cultures, and the events are open to the public so anyone can go if they’re interested.”

Some University of Maryland students who attended compared current issues in the United States with issues Russia has faced in the past. Students said Americans can learn from the way Russia handled these issues.

“I think it’s interesting how Russia has dealt with statues of leaders such as Stalin or Lenin,” said Allison Winston, a freshman finance and accounting major. “They’re mostly on private property. The U.S. is now in a similar position with statues of Confederate leaders.”

Over the last few months, many Americans expressed anger about statues of Confederate leaders on public property. Now politicians are under pressure from protestors to remove the statues from public places.

“I was really interested in the way Lurie talked about how most Americans think of issues in Russia as complicated,” said Ross Ward, a freshman government and politics major. “In the United States we tend to think of our problems as simple, but the truth is the issues in the United States are also very complicated and there aren’t any easy answers.”

Photo courtesy of Brian Abate

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