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People from Russia - Interviews on the Streets - September 24, 2003

Read what common Russian people think about foreigners and life in general...

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Sasha, driver of a minibus-shuttle
Explains how Swedish people are different from Russians and more...
Sasha - a driver of Moscow shuttle - marshrutka

How we met: I took “marshrutka” - the popular mean of transport in Moscow nowadays. It is a minibus which serves the same routes as usual buses but it’s speedier and costs a bit more. I had a seat near the driver and started to talk with him...

Sasha is the driver of the shuttle in Moscow. He also worked for three summer seasons in Sweden as a driver.

Recommendations: I asked Sasha what would he advise to the foreigners to do in Russia.
Sasha: “I don't know. It depends on the person. If he’s interested in the architecture, then - let him wonder round the city. In general they should communicate more with Russians to find out what Russia is.

Quotes: I asked him if foreigners use his bus and if they are different in a way.
Sasha answered pointing to a black man standing in the street: “Look there are many foreigners like him - students... I like them, they come to study. Students are same everywhere, no difference. Well, foreigners feel themselves more relaxed in the bus, they drink beer inside and have no complexes”
Then I asked him what he thinks of foreign countries in general and it is occurred that he worked for three years in Sweden.
Sasha: ”Life in Sweden is definitely better, we will never have such a life here. Look, in their villages there are hot water, central heating and asphalt… But, Russians, how to say, are more open. You know what, if I have problems I will discuss it with my mate. If Swedish has problems, he will sit silent like nothing happens. Besides, If I want to visit my friend I will go to him directly, Swedish would make an appointment 2 weeks beforehand, can you imagine this?”
Me: “Would you like to live in Sweden?”
Sasha: "No, I don’t. I’d like to earn money there, but spend it in Russia.

Alexey, guide in Altay region
Alexey - Altay tour guide

How we met:
When we were at Olkhon island on Baikal lake we met there this guy Artur at Nikita Bencharov's bed & breakfast, who was renting mountain bikes. We told him we were going to Altay soon, and he gave us the contacts of Alexey, whom, he said, was a very good and knowleadgeable Altay guide. When we arrived to Novosibirsk, we contacted Alexey and arranged to meet in Barnaul. He is a really great guy and it was interesting to spend one week at Altay with him.

Alexey was born on Sakhalin island (which is near Japan), but moved to Barnaul (near Altay) to become a student. Since then his life was always connected with Altay: he used to be part of the national rafting team, worked in the local rescue team, directed huge teams of construction workers, and now he is working as a tour guide in Altay region. He has three minibuses and arranges auto trips to the mountains.
Thanks, to him, WayToRussia.Net team could see the best places at Altay, and he told us a lot of interesting things about the region.

About Altay mountains: Alexey thinks that Altay mountains are very good for rafting. In fact, this is his favourite activity there: to go down the river, and stop at the new unexplored places. In fact, many of the stories that he told us were used in our Altay Guide, so you can read it for more info.

About Altay people: Alexey respects Altay people, but he thinks that they are quite weak. Actually, it is true — a lot of people at Altay, especially men, are alcoholics. When the Cossacks were exploring this region a few hundred years ago, they brought with them the "fire water" - vodka - and local people got addicted to it. They don't have any immunity against alcohol, so they become drunk very fast. Often, there are problems related to it, like bullying and trying to get money from travelers. However, it's not something too common.
However, generally, Altay people are very kind and sincere. They have a great respect for older generations and for their culture.

About his car:
Alexey has two own cars Toyota Camry and Nissan. Both are 8-seat minibuses made in Japan more than 10 years ago. If you saw through what kind of roads we were able to go with his Toyota, you would be amazed. It seemed to be more like a 4WD jeep, rather than a small old rusty minibus. Alexey says that all old Japanese cars didn't have too much electronics, and the engines were quite good, that's why they're so reliable and powerful and easy to repair. Also, he said, that if you have a manual gear it's better in the mountains, because you can always start your car with a "push" even if you accumulator is dead.


Kostya, a taxi driver from Barnaul,
Kostya, taxi driver from Barnaul

How we met: I ordered a taxi from Barnaul to Novosibirsk airport and Kostya was the driver. We drove in the night for about 4 hours and had an interesting conversation.

About being a taxist:
"Working as a taxi driver used to be quite hard in Russia a few years ago. You were always at a risk of being stabbed by someone from the rear seat... Now it's not dangerous anymore, but still, just in case, in our taxi company we have this rule that if anybody is in trouble, it's just enough to say "desyatka" in the radio and in 1 minute there will be thirty cars at the place where you are.”

About working as a truck driver: Kostya used to work as a truck driver in the early 90s. He said it was a tough job. "We used to driver in groups always. We had these old trucks, Kamaz, which is a really uncomfortable car. Every journey something breaks and all the parts are so heavy, that only two people can carry it, if you need to repair anything... But the worst thing were those bandits who stop you on the road and ask to pay money if you want to go further or they take the stuff you're carrying. Some drivers who were carrying expensive things were even killed. It's not like this with everybody. If you're driving a TIR truck, they are protected by FSB (Russian Federal Security Bureau) and nobody wants to mess with them. But then the license to have a TIR costs a lot..."

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