Tatarstan is the Muslim girlfriend Putin locks up

Venetia Thompson dislikes the resignation she finds in the most quiescent of Russia’s Muslim states. But other republics will be less apathetic in the face of Moscow’s provocations

2 April 2008

Venetia Thompson dislikes the resignation she finds in the most quiescent of Russia’s Muslim states. But other republics will be less apathetic in the face of Moscow’s provocations

Kazan, Tatarstan

The 12-hour train journey from Moscow was a blur of vodka, of only visiting the bathroom in pairs for our own safety and, most frustratingly, of being told repeatedly to ‘calm down’ in Russian by our formidable escort, Natasha. As we got further away from Moscow the stops became littered with people holding miscellan- eous objects for sale, ranging from stuffed and live animals to general household clutter. A feeling of pronounced claustrophobia began to take hold; gone were the romanticised Russian train journeys and boundless steppes of 19th-century literature. Instead, I had been in the country less than 24 hours and had already decided that I felt trapped and that I hated it.

This feeling reached its height when I found myself locked in my host family’s tenth-floor apartment on my first night in Kazan, with no fire escape and no means of getting out because the door had been dead-locked from the outside. I asked the 24-year-old girlfriend of the Russian who had locked us in whether this was normal, and she had merely shrugged and gone to bed. I never managed to establish whether he had locked us in for security purposes, or to ensure that his girlfriend didn’t leave the flat. I thought of my visa, which restricted when I could leave; of whether I could get a flight out of Kazan’s ramshackle airport the following morning; or whether, failing that, I could face another 12 hours on that horrific train. I resorted to downing as much of the dubious local vodka as I could manage, and went to sleep dreaming that the building was on fire.


Tatarstan is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to Russia’s Muslim states, in that it has remained relatively stable, and has been ruled by the same man since 1989, Mintimer Shaimiev. It is just over 50 per cent Tatar (who are mostly Muslim), with ethnic Russians making up the bulk of the remainder (roughly 40 per cent) alongside a small percentage of various other ethnic groups such as Chuvash, Udmurt and Azeri. In light of this I was expecting Kazan to be a culturally and historically rich city, where I would be able to at least get a sense of Russia’s diversity without the risk of being taken hostage.

While Chechnya, the most notorious of Russia’s Muslim republics, has seen endless violence, spawned countless terrorists and been constantly exposed to Russia’s horrific methods of ‘control’, Tatarstan has seemingly achieved the impossible: Shaimiev has appeased the Kremlin and yet managed to preserve the republic’s identity, and obtained enough of the attributes of an independent state to give the illusion of autonomy. At first this looks like a rare Russian success story; a relatively peaceful Muslim state slap-bang in the middle of Russia and only an overnight train journey from Moscow.

However, aside from the Tatar flag, the magnificent mosque and the odd conversation with a drunken taxi-driver who claims to be a distant relation of Attila the Hun, there is nothing here to differentiate Kazan from any other soulless grey Russian city made up of grey Soviet-era apartment blocks, grey bread and the grey Volga. No amount of red and green Tatarstan flags or freshly painted golden domes can alter this resounding sense of oppressive greyness. It is like being permanently stuck in a black-and-white photo or an Eisenstein film.

Such extremists as there are have obviously been neatly silenced — a Russian speciality — and there is scant evidence of a push for outright independence. I had spoken to many Tatars and Russians living in Kazan about Putin — whether they approved of his presidency, whether they felt that their republic was well represented and sufficiently independent — and the responses were all disturbingly similar.

These were a mixture of well-educated young people, university professors who could barely afford to eat, and taxi-drivers, yet they were all equally apathetic about the future of Tatarstan and of Russia as a whole. Putin was unquestioningly approved of, for no discernible reason other than that they thought that he had stabilised the country in all senses, and had been gracious enough to leave their people more or less alone. The future of Tatarstan? They really had not thought about it, but were sure that Shaimiev would protect their interests.

This unflinching sense of resignation and blind faith is the part of the Russian psyche that I have the most difficulty understanding. While the concept of suffering is inherent within Russian Orthodoxy and philosophy, it seems to have spilt out across Tatar Muslims and atheistic young people alike. Tatars are proud of their history, that remains clear, yet they do not seem particularly concerned about their future. Currently the situation is fairly benign, in as much as Shaimiev is allowed to run Tatarstan relatively untroubled, and in turn he gives the Tatar vote to the ruling United Russia party. Yet the Kremlin also has the ability to remove Shaimiev at any time, which is becoming increasingly likely as Russia continues to centralise power and regain control of its oil-rich regions.

Whether the Tatars will invoke the spirit of Genghis Khan and leap into action should Russia decide fully to reclaim Tatarstan remains to be seen. Tatarstan’s location is not particularly conducive to it becoming a breakaway Muslim state. And it is arguable that the natural impulse is actually for the state’s inhabitants to simply shrug, suffer and go into hibernation, however much Moscow closes in on them, in much the same way as that young girl on my first night in Kazan unquestioningly resigned herself to being locked up by her boyfriend. While this would perhaps be preferable to people blowing themselves up and taking schools hostage while calling themselves ‘freedom fighters’, it is a no less worrying impulse.

Russia is a country that I can only understand theoretically, despite my fluency in the language and love of the literature. Unlike most Europeans, Russians need a godhead — whether this is Stalin, Putin, Shaimiev or Medvedev is becoming increasingly irrelevant as their stoic desire to anchor themselves and blindly endure whatever is to come is unflinching. It is perhaps this trance-like, beaten attitude that annoys the rebels. They want to do whatever they possibly can to break the spell of complacency and trigger some sort of normal reaction to the Kremlin’s systematic human rights abuses and fading out of democracy.

If Tatarstan allows itself to be swallowed up by a Putin-Medvedev government, the knock-on effect across Russia’s Muslim states could be catastrophic. You can guarantee that for every Tatar who allows his identity to be stripped away, there will be an Ingush rebel, if not a Chechen, perfectly willing to use this as an excuse for a fresh wave of destabilising violence.

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  • Harry

    This is a bit like the Harlesden adventure, isn’t it? Ms Thompson delivers a self-aggrandising sermon about how wonderful it all is, but does so safe in the knowledge that she doesn’t have to live there.

    Personally, I’m pinning my hopes on Putin, China and states with a large mafia element in them, such as Italy, to protect us from the Caliphate coming to fruition.

    It seems that all European governments can do is roll out the red carpet for it.

    Repugnant as living under the yoke of Communism or mafiosos must be, the grovelling of the West means I’m having to look at the lesser of two evils and I’d rather face the agony of serving Vlad or Tony Soprano than submit to Venetia’s fantasies of people who might be disposed to “invoke the spirit of Genghis Khan”. Harlesden guns and Genghis Khan, eh – my, but this girl has romantic relationship with violence, dun’t she?

    Pray God you stockpile the nukes, Vlad and George. The last thing I want is Venetia Thompson and friends glorying over my dead body in a Caliphate. Please give them as good as they’d give us – and more.

    Happy travels, Venetia.

  • Tiggy

    I agree with Harry; no thank you to the advance of the Caliphate.

    Be careful what you wish for Venitia. Or is Miss Thompson one of those poor ladies who need to wear a veil or,even worse, has no gay friends? The vodka would be out of the question too…

  • Herbert Thornton

    I concur with both Harry and Tiggy. Ms. Thompson claims that she senses apathy in Russia, but apathy, it seems to me, is much more evident – and more dangerous – in Britain. In Britain, apathy is combined, in the case of mainstream politicians, with a frightening level of insouciance.

    Melanie Phillips’ piece “What the west needs to know” shows a much firmer grip on reality, and the explanatory video that she refers to
    is profoundly insightful. To anyone who has the patience to watch it (it’s over half an hour long) it points to the conclusion that Russia and President Putin have a better appreciation of the dangers that face civilisation than do most British politicians.

  • prinkipo

    Harry, Tiggy, Herbert – do you really exist or are you simply pseudonymous Mates of Venetia’s? This Sixth Form-level drivel has no place in a serious magazine like the Speccie. I note that despite Venetia’s self-proclaimed fluency in Russian she offers no direct quotes or actual people to populate her airy ramble through Russia’s geopolitics. As for the kicker – the story’s last paragraph – its simply glib, half baked and badly-argued. Please, God, spare us more effusions from this fool.

  • Max Kaye

    Editor, Matthew – please send her away again. Far away. For a long time.

    I’ve heard Mogadishu is nice this time of year. Email links are down, which is a bonus.

  • Tamsin

    What’s the problem, prinkipo?

    This girl clearly has developed a peculiarly nasty line in fetishising unjustifiable violence.

    If she can salivate over it being dished out to others, how can she complain if people turn the tables on her?

    Don’t look for any sympathy here if you get more than you bargained for on your travels, Venetia.

    Mind you, I do wonder if there’s any dramatic licence in the way you tell your tales. After all, you were the silly girl who sat next to a stranger in the Donmar theatre and read their mind without the person even so much as opening their mouth to say a word.

  • Alex

    I also found this article very patronizing, in the style of the Economist, perhaps. I think that most readers of the Spectator won’t take kindly to being told – so dramatically – that Russia is reputed to sideline critics of the state. Yes, Russia is not the UK.

    I learnt most about Ms Thompson, namely that when people are say they are content, she finds a lack of bloodthirsty rebellion disomfiting. Why she links contentment in Tartarstan to imminent Islamic insurrection in other Russian Republics (which she did not visit) escapes me. A case of interpreting the facts to suit her existing prejudices, probably. If there are no mass graves and no WMD, they are yet to be found!

  • Irene

    Seriously, public display of such stupidity and ignorance should be outlawed.

  • Ioru

    Stuped article!!! Are you drink Vodka everytime??? In dark time in Russia very dangerous…

  • Konstantin

    I’m living in Russia so i want to say that all things that i read in this magazines is really boolshit!!! this is the photos of REAL Kazan!!! http://www.photokzn.ru/?cat=objects))))) And Putin is realy Great Man

  • guest

    Please don`t drink so much vodka again Venetia..Your article is direct result characterized by delirium tremens, anxiety, and vivid hallucinations..

  • Ali from Kazan

    Cool… Dear Venetia, I do not understand, what for you say lies. My Kazan is one of the most beautiful cities of the world. And I happened in different cities.
    I know that you have arrived to search at us for a trouble. It will not turn out. As Russian speak: “Khren tebe.” Search for a trouble at itself. Thank God, we have now a chance not only to live, but to live well. I am the inhabitant of Kazan and the teacher of university. As you write – very poor. I could during Putin’s board earn the house. My American dream was carried out. When there was Yeltsin, I had nothing to eat, at us in a city killed among white day of people. And it you named democracy. Take away it to itself!!
    I wish you that such democracy was at you. That it you sat without light, bread and water, instead of those people whom you “gumanitarno” bomb and burn white phosphorus whom your butchers from Kosovo cut on bodies for change.

  • Mark

    This is Delirium tremens.

  • GloomyGonzales

    She was really surprised and disappointed with the fact that Muslims and Christians can peacefully live together. This proves that Europe is badly sick with intolerance and Islam phobia and has no future since in several decades Muslim population in some European countries will prevail.

    From Russia with love

  • Andrew

    Perhaps the high level of idiocy in this article was caused by the author’s self-described excessive drinking?

    “I never managed to establish whether he had locked us in for security purposes, or to ensure that his girlfriend didn’t leave the flat”

    No mystery here:
    The girlfriend probably had keys to her own apartment. The door was probably locked to keep Venetia from drunkenly stumbling around Kazan, doing unspeakable damage to that fine city and/or herself.

  • vladimir

    ..The best from the west!!
    Wright more baby – amuse me 😀

  • MUSLIM from Tatarstan

    Hey Lady, to much alc is to bad for the brain.

  • SinW

    with best wishes from Russia.

  • Archi

    Kazan is a beautiful city. Venetia, next time don’t drink cheap vodka!

  • No_Spam

    Well, now it’s clear why Putin is so popular in Russia.
    Really, when people like “Ali from Kazan” read such kind of article, they get a good proof of the “long hands” of CIA and MI6 which dream only about how to destroy Russia.
    It looks like Venetia made her trip just to make sure that people in Tatarstan are ready to rebel against 450 years of “occupation”. Unfortunately for her she found that sometimes Christians and Muslims can live together for centuries without war…
    Sorry for Ms. Thompson…

  • Murat

    Like they say in Russia “my 5 copecks”.

    I want to ask the opinion of British people. What is the purpose of this article? Any smart enough person even without any Russian expeience can easily identify the content as bullshit.

    Ms Venetia wanted to show her stupidity or alcohol addiction or nervous problems? But why? Strange exhibitionism.

    If she really read any piece of Russian literature she read only letters:)
    May be I am wrong but she looks very disappointed having found no traces of hatred towards Moscow and Russia.Is she unhappy if people do not hate each other?

    Ms Venetia if you even have a “cultural shock” do not use vodka as a medicine. I am Russian and somehow an expert.

  • yaro

    It’s looks like author dreamed about a new civil war in Russia while been writing…

  • Yury

    Looks like in Kazan Ms.Thompson missed for some war and hatred. Send her in Iraq, please.

  • Andrei Maiboroda

    First I wrote in Russian, because the author said she was fluent in it. But in case the russian encoding is not provided or Ms. Thompson is not that good in Russian as she says, indeed, once more my opinion.

    I agree with the previous guys that it is clear to see in the article that Ms. Thompson wanted to write about uncontent people in a grey city suffering of all the evil of the world (that would be Kreml, of course). How dissapointed she was to exit the train with a terrible hangover and find the picturesque and prosperous city of Kazan, where Tatars and Russians live together!

    It’s impressive for an Englishman to say one would travel 12 hours in a train. But among us – it’s just one night, and it’s not the reason to drink so much alcohol. And don’t tell stories about unsafe russian trains, it’s b/s.

    Weak and comic are the attempts to call people, who are pleased with their present, victims of the propaganda. The ones who know Russians will gladly assure that they will not be shy to say smth if they don’t like it, and that they wouldn’t lie if it’s not necessary. I don’t think that an “inostranka” with possible vodka breath (after the train) could make the people lie.

    But it is really the comparison of Tatars with Ingush people which is really supposed to show, how incompetent our author is. Britain and the Bretons also sounds “disturbingly similar”, doesn’t it.

    Best wishes to Ms. Thompson! Write more, the Europeans will understand faster that they are being fed with cheap horror stories. à , è è!

    B reg
    Andrei Maiboroda

  • Sergey_S

    Ms Thompson at all does not perceive or does not know about that as the tartars have suffered from encroachment of Genghis Khan (previous capital before Kazan was erased). The Ural Cossack army has of the christian priests as well as Mohammedan, as well as Siberian Cossacks. The Cossacks, Bashkirs and Tartars heroically shadowed Russia from encroachment of Napoleon and were constrained to visit Paris.
    Ms Thompson does not perceive historical tradition of absence of interethnic discrimination and segregations. She was too lazy to visit the Kazan university and has remained ignorant. Ms Thompson does not know about the conventional polyethnic state status and federative national statehood in Russia. Ms Thompson prolongs historical tradition of Anglo-Saxon national oppression of Scotland to similar genocide AmerIndians. Freedom for Scotland, Texas, Tibet, Kurds!

  • Masha

    Female alcoholism the most terrible…

  • Anatoly

    Reading comments to a Russian translation of the article, I have noticed that many Kazan Tatars are very keen to write their opinion about at this web site. But they have some problems to express it in English properly. I think that it’s very easy to help them by publishing a remix of the article in the Spectator’s next issue. Just using an auto replace, please, change Tatarstan for Scotland, spirit of Genghis Khan for spirit of William Wallace, Chechen for Welsh, Ingush for Cornish etc. I’m sure that comments from Scotland will be a very great help to Kazan Tatars, as drafts for writing their opinion to this particular article.

  • Slava

    As we saying in russia – “pig will always find a mud”. I’m really sad that the readers of this newspaper will create their opinion about Russia and Tatarstan from article like this. DON”T believe her!!! Kazan is really beautifull city!!!

  • Jason_K

    Ms Thompson is just stupid girl who read too much classical literature. If anybody come to London, he/she wouldn’t find city looking like Dickens’s tales. So Kazan and any other russian city don’t looks like Chehov’s or Dostoevsky’s cities of XIX century. This is problems of whole european civilisation. We have to live with muslims, but in peace and don’t losing our own christian identity. We have to make much goods, but do not kill environment. Etc. If Ms Thompson thinks what our civilisation have simple and nice decisions for all, she is too stupid and idealistic for this world.

    Hey… And that guy who closed her in the flat… Maybe he looked at Ms Thompson and thought she may steal his property and sell it to buy more vodka? :)

  • Jurij

    Wow. Ms. Thompson, you have forgotten to tell the world about snowbears on the streets, balalaikas and so on.

    Hard to accept, that people with different religion really can live for centuries in peace? Hard to accept, that we ALL want to live peacefully together? You took the wrong ticket, Ms Thompson, go to Baghdad and enjoy your world of invoked spirits and rebellion :)

    Please, let us live without your visits. We don’t like guests who try to find how to break the family.

  • Fred J.Smith

    And moreover – Alaska must belong to the real owner! The Russian Emperor had sold these territories in 1867 not “forever”, but “for ever” – in Russian it means “for one hundred years”.
    As to this article… Typical Anglo-Saxon Alcoholic Delirium of the Schizophrenic Lady without Man

  • InS

    Forget road to Russia!! It is opposite to read this delirium.

  • student_

    Since there is about 0 info about Kazan (except some regrets that there is no civil war there) here are my 50 cents. Kazan volleyball team won the champion league this year. Kazan hockey team is a top team in Russia (and, therefore in Europe). Basketball team is in top 3 Russian teams (which means it can compete at any level in Europe). Socker team is probably 5-6th in Russia. There is a good chance it will be in uefa cup next year. Actually, I myself have never been in Kazan so anyone else feel free to contribute. (If I’m not mistaken Lobachevsky was from Kazan university).

  • Codavr

    This opus is result of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

  • uibaan

    where is my comment?

  • num

    We must to give free for american indians…
    writу about USA! In this country many pure people…aspacialli afroamericans and indians…

  • num

    So…i am, as russian, whant to ask you, autor: how about south Ireland?! Or you think, that the England is a paradis on earth, and Russia ia hell? Write the article about you problems! Leave us (russians, tatar ect) along! Hypocrites…

  • num

    And this is Kazan: beautiful town… http://www.photokzn.ru/?cat=objects
    And autor is so lier!

  • Reader

    If you’re interested, there is some info about Valentia’s background: http://news.hereisthecity.com/news/business_news/7641.cntns
    It looks like this ‘Posh Bird’ always have had problems with alcohol.

  • Alexey

    Dear Venetia! It seems that you were in Kazan that is on Mars or in the other galaxy because all that is written in your article is so much different from the Kazan where I live. I think that you shuld stop drinking vodka this is very bad for your health and it also leads to the conflict with police. And if you dont like trains you could use Luftganza or Aeroflot or some other company to travel by air as I did when I was on London.

  • Alexey

    And one more thing I have read some comments about Lobachevsky Yes he worked in Kazan State University so as Zinin Butlerov Zavoisky( Electron Paramagnetic Resonance) Vishnevsky and many others also KAMAZ trucks (Dakar champion 200-2007!!!) are manufactured in Tatarstan, Mi-8 Mi-17 Helicopters, Tu-160 and Tu-204 aircrafts and many other things that is why out city is considered as one of the most important (in fact third after Moscow and Piter) cultural and industrial centers in Russia

  • Serg

    Venus next job- Magazines @Modern astrology” and “Practical UFOlogia”. This level of she skills.

  • Viktor Russian Patriot

    Such feeling that I live in Africa instead of in Russia) Thanks for a fairy tale.

  • Vadim

    Venetia, stop drinking cheap vodka.

  • I do not speak English, so I translated this text through an electronic translator. Therefore I am sorry for translation quality.
    So, I indeed am the habitant of Qazan. As far as I understood this text about that, how the certain Britannic alcoholic travels on Russia in the company of the same dirty and stupid as she drunks. Well, she wanted to see dirt and shit and she saw it. Now I want to tell you, what in actual fact presents from itself our city.
    But in the beginning will tell a bit about itself. My name is Pyoter Zarifullin – my mother is Russian, and father Tatar. Mother – orthodox, father is a moslem. And we ABSOLUTELY haven’t religion and cultural disagreements in my familie. In our Tatarstan IN GENERAL it is no religion or cultural contradictions. We have enormous and great culture and we will not allow some alcoholic to talk that we haven’t any culture. Apparently, she saw that we have not culture, because all time she was in a state of alcoholic intoxication. Qazan is a sacred city for orthodox christians. One of the most reverent icons of orthodoxy – kazanskaya icon. On all Russian sities there are many churches that devoted to this icon. One of them you can see on the Krasnaya(Red) square in Moscow. At the same time Qazan is the main center of moslem faith in Russia. Thus, exactly FAITHS, but not ridiculous Arabian-style of islam fanaticism. Tatars live in Russia from a 13 age (much before what Scotland was added to England). They feel itself the valuable citizens of country, not at all worse Russian. The Tatar roots (and relatives) have a more than half (!) of Russians. Here photo of my class (when I yet went to school): /vkontakte.ru/photos.php?act=show&id=1772232_78983883&uid=3147050&self=1>

    Can you distinguish Tatars from Russians on it|? (There are more then half Tatars in this photo)

  • Tatars brought in an enormous contribution to Russian art, culture, policy, business. Here for example the known Tatars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tatars/ . If you some time were in Sankt- Peterburg would see an enormous mosque not far from the bank of Neva. you would think, that this mosque is built recently, as well as mosques in England. But it is not so. This mosque was built in a 19 age Tatars which made the life-guard of emperor. Do you understand?! A trust to Tatars was so great, that a main man in the state entrusted to them his life. In this connection appeals some Britannic alcohol journalists to islam terrorism in a republic look foolishly. Never, NEVER the people of Tatarstan will become brainless islams and fundamentalists. Women here practically do not carry hedjabs (or shawls), but all they are true believer moslems.

  • People in Qazan are very kind and friendly.
    So, if she needs some islam extremism, let she rides to Iraq. England already did all possible for converting of Iraq into the aggressive terrorist state (a English speciality!)

  • Andrey

    I live near to Kazan. It is fine city where there live people of various nationalities and religions. She would want probably that Russia became continuous the Chechen Republic or Iraq or Afghanistan? Better let Venetia goes to travel somewhere to Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and describes as there there live beside moslems and christians and jews.

  • Help!

    The poor girl!
    Its business are absolutely bad. It had to imagine all because could not recollect anything because of vodka. I suggest to begin gathering of money for treatment of Ms. Venetia Thompson.

  • Help!

    It is a genuine democracy when the person has a free choice – to be a moslem, the Christian or the Buddhist, not being afraid of slanting sights. Thus all religions are absolutely equal. In Kazan of Ms. Thompson could not see the main thing – tolerance as a basis of a genuine democracy. She is not the political writer. It simply girl. We shall forgive it.

  • Now in respect of that Russians are nation of idiots and slaves, and that they need a God-style head of the state. How much time it is already possible to spread this foolish bull sheet! We are the same peoples as you! We are not some masochists which like when they are humiliated and offend! Yes – we want to be proud of the leader. We like strong anymore, decisive and intelligent head of the state, but not always drunk El’tsin ( which also by the way was partly Tatar). By the way, one of main trumps of Putin is counteraction to West in a foreign policy. And anti-western moods in our country appear to due to all the same to the articles like this. ( In spite of assertions of western “specialists”, that we live in the world of propoganda we have an enormous amount of sources, givings the alternative point of view – one of them is site inosmi.ru) Exactly Putin allowed the national culture of Tatarstan dynamically to develop, exactly at him the enormous amount of educational establishments appears on the study of national language and culture. Exactly at him melted to select a government money for the feasance of traditional Moslems Hadj . On one of measures in Tatarstan Putin talked on tatar lunguage. And you talk that he represses national interests somehow. Vice versa! you will look at that Chechnia (violence in which was already a long ago completed). Of course, he have some failings. And we didn’t like it. But to talk about them to the drunk western journalist which sticks to the people in the street apparently nobody wanted simply.

  • Yesaul

    Too much vodka, mylady. Too much russian vodka. It may be harmful for your psychics. Did you ever heard about “delirium tremens”? I saw in your issue some symptoms… Be care!

  • Alex

    Dear Brits, please stop trying to unleash a civil war in Russia as you have done in many other regions all over the world.

  • I love British reporters

    This article is all lie with very few true elements to sound convincing, and typical manipulation. We (both Russians and Tatars) don’t want an ethnic conflict here, Venetia, and you seem not to like this. Next time you better pay money to buy a comfortable train as well as stay in some quality hotel, rather than fabricate travel expense report for your boss.

  • Alex the Pik

    I’m delighted to see here the utmost degree of stupidity. If the pure idiotism may be called an art – this is a masterpiece. But let us just smile reading it, because it’s evident that even the brits who have never been to Russia will feel a good share of disgust just from the very style and spirit of the narration, let alone the [non]sense.
    Greetings from Russia!



  • ????

    And as soon as such idiots can work in the newspaper? Or I have lagged behind the western Europe?

  • ???

    spectator it is the newspaper about what? Probably scientifically – fantastic political newspaper?

  • Viktor

    Not drink anymore alcoholic and will appeal to the clinic

  • Natasha

    So,i’m not very familiar with travelling in England.. but is it actually normal for english women to travel in a “blur of vodka”.. or say whisky? Or did she think it is russian tradition?
    I guess after drinking “as much as she could” indeed everything appears grey and unfriendly and whatever. And i bet she forgot to mention those unfriendly policements who prohibited her to puke on trottoires.
    This “woman” did visited one of the most ancient and beautifull russian cities, didnt see anything of it, since she was probably sick from too much drinking and she is bragging about it.. this is just rich.
    I guess is also explains why she was actually searching for some racism or religios problems there – drunk too much, was very excited after that and wanted some fight :) Too bad… maybe next time you rather should go drink in some irish pub, get drunk with irish beer and then insult some irish guys? Maybe then you get what you want? just a thought

  • Chingkeze Khan

    Dear Venetia and all the rest from the west!)
    Thank you very much for you soul commotion concerned our Republic and our Russia, but we’ll solve our problems by our own. The only problem, that Russia has, is aspiration of west – USA, UK and other agressors and its drunk stupied jernalists and politicians to solve not your problems but to intervene where you haven’t any right to! Keep solving your problems with IRAQ, Afanistan, the ethnic conflict of the Northern Ireland, inner economic cris but stop talk about our Great state! Or have you forgotten about atomic missiles?

  • Denis

    I just love it from beginning-
    The 12-hour train journey from Moscow was a blur of vodka, of only visiting the bathroom in pairs for our own safety and, most frustratingly, of being told repeatedly to ‘calm down’ in Russian by our formidable escort, Natasha…
    Over-night train running between Moscow to Kazan, everyone usually goes to sleep, but Ms. Thompson decided to drink vodka and stay awake over night. With hangover and lack of sleep (and don`t forget, she already over her travel expenses limit)- otherwise she would not “find herself” in suspicious flat with strange man locked inside. They are plenty of quite nice and affordable hotels in centre of the city, which is, from mine point of view one of the most beautiful in Russia.
    I m thinking that Ms. Thomson is no different to the army of pro Putin propaganda journalists. I m Russian living in UK on business matters and the most important lesson for me was to learn as much as I can about English culture. Unfortunately, people like Ms. Thomson do not make our life easier or relationships between our countries (any countries) any stronger.

  • Evgeny (rus)

    The artickle is a kind of old aristocrat’s expressive delirium.. A person who never leaved her mansion and for whom New York is sutuated in Manhattan, France only in Monaco and other world in BBC channels won’t never be able to write something worthwhile. So if you thust this bullocks I don’t, just because of my own knowing of Russia. Thank you

  • Elena

    ….Russia is a country that I can only understand theoretically, despite my fluency in the language and love of the literature. Unlike most Europeans, Russians need a godhead — whether this is Stalin, Putin, Shaimiev or Medvedev is becoming increasingly irrelevant as their stoic desire to anchor themselves and blindly endure whatever is to come is unflinching. It is perhaps this trance-like, beaten attitude that annoys the rebels…….. Definetly it’s unlike most Europeans, Ms Thompson probably doesn’t consider the actual size of Russian Federation and that it covers half of the European continent, with people of so many nationalities, cultures and religions. Does anyone really believe that it’s possible to make peace and bring such a country to prosperity without sucrifying anything? That demands a lot of intelligence, efforts and, of course, a strong leader…but not every leader happens to be strong and smart enough. The history, sircumstances and political situation in Russia has been so complicated for centuries, that’s not easy to describe within one article, as Ms Thompson tried to do with her narrow point of view. I have 3 nationalities, cultures and religions mixed in myself- tatar, ukranian and kalmik -Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. I grew up within different religiouse believes -one weekend celebrating muslim holiday in the mother’s family, and the week after going to visit my father’s mother for Easter celebration. Dear Venetia, you won’t be able to undestand Russia even theoretically, you have to be one of us, and since you are not, please don’t judge the people or the places when you have such less of knowledge about what you write.

  • panurge

    Why bother going to Russia? Cross the pond and teach the democracy Americans. Go to Gary, Indiana, Detroit or LA and write the report from there, you supid brainless hippy ass.

  • Mike from Russia

    When I first read the article (in Russian at inosmi.ru) I was so hot to write an angry comment to it (which I usually do not do), that I found the original at the Spectator’s website. But then I read comments of the British readers of the Spectator, and now I want to thank them for SOBER attitude to what is written in Ms Thompson’s “piece of art”, which seems to have been written after a very bad hangover.
    I think it’s a shame when such incompetent articles are allowed to be issued in a serious media. But, thanks God, most people can tell stupidity and incompetence from a professional report (even if the report is negative))))
    Everyone, please do not buy cheap vodka outside a reliable supermarket!)))

  • David

    How can someone become fluent in Russian without ever taking a Russian train or staying in an apartment without a fire escape? You need to get out more, Venetia Thompson. Take another trip to Kazan and try to be more courageous. You’ll see how rich the culture is if you get inside it a little more.

  • Andrew Shelkovenko

    When I read some articles about Russia in the West magazins it’s seem that authors use not ink, but dish-water.
    Of course we have many bad things and many bad buys, but normal journalist should write about real problems and real peoples, but not an entire fabrication like this- absolutely idle talk.
    Nationl relation is very delicate problem and thanks to Shaimiev that “Tatarstan is relatively stable”
    My Englis is too poor to discuss this widely, sorry.

    WBR, Andrew

  • Andrew Shelkovenko

    And respects for Spetator magazine for given chance to leave a comments.

  • Russell & Elena Gardner

    After reading this article, a question comes to mind. “Are you certain you were on the right train for the right destination”? I have travelled to Kazan several times by train and my experiences of the journey and city are very different from yours. Then again, I wasn’t drinking vodka from start to finish!! Sober up, remove you sunglasses,and try again! You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  • Russian – Russia is the great, Britain is pitiful

    Stupid article.I would advise the author not to poke her nose into what isn’t her business. She doesn’t uderstand Russia at all. The Tatars don’t want independence absolutely because they have lived in Russia since the XVI century and they are the part of Russia. They never fought for independence in difference of your lands – Scotland and, ecpecially, Northern Ireland. Give freedom to theese lands.

  • Vsemogusiy

    Venetia, are you a blonde?

  • Tatar

    This is an interesting take on the life of Tatars within Russia. I think it has quite a bit of truth in it. Many of the comments here are unfortunately hateful and ignorant. The author has done a marvelous job despite such a stupid social pressure. Cheers!

  • Ilya, Russia

    It is awful and mendacious! I mean article. Actually there were no truth at all. Nowdays Kazan is a perl of Volga region! Tatarstan is very rich region and people live very well there, really wel than in many other Moslem and non-Moslem regions. Local authority has real power to manage the county. I am sure that ms. Thompson distorted facts.

  • Marina

    dear Venetia, for your information: 1. Kazan is almost 1000 years old. 2.Kingiz khan was mongolian and pegan, tatars are muslims 3. I took personally train trip from Moscow to Ulan Bator and trust me, its safe, maybe you had to go to the bathroom with someone because of too much vodka??? Don’t drink so much

  • Marina

    Dear “Tatar” I think that you have nothing to do with tatars, I have lots of friends from that area and have some tatar blood in me. Have you ever heard saying scratch any Russian- will find tatar?

  • Alexandra Lebedeva

    I am absolutely shocked to see such naive and arrogant article, but maybe you just don’t have any better authors whom you can send on research trips abroad ? I have come to live in Kazan 8 years ago and I am absolutely proud to be there. It is definitely one of the best cities in Russia. If the purpose of this article was to frighten any possible tourists from visiting Kazan – well, you just robbed them of one of the amazing experiences in their life.
    Next time, Ms Thompson, chose carefully, where and with whom you stay in the city. You might find flea-pits in London and Paris, too.

  • DL – Russian in UK

    Seems clear to all: the feature is utterly hopeless in grasp, poorly written, apallingly ill-informed, shockingly spiteful and laughably instigatory. I cannot believe the editors did not see this, so what on earth were they thinking? That anything is OK so long as it is anti-Kremlin? Pathetic, really…
    Your reporter with ‘fluent Russian’ may have read some Bulgakov. One of his characters warns against reading Bolshevik newspapers.
    – But there aren’t any others. – Exactly. So don’t read any at all!

  • Alexander

    It is real stupidity. But you have to know that after vodka you see all in gray definitely. In other words the article is a result of alcohol withdrawal syndrome

  • Michael

    Previous commenters are right – yes, Ms Thompson is blond, and yes, she has problems with alcohol: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?xml=/portal/2008/03/07/ftvenetia107.xml

  • Tatar-de

    Yes, we live together with russians, but soon they’ll live alone. Tatar’s nation, language and culture are disappearing to the applause of russians. Under Russia’s rule Kazan has never been tatar city, and we’ve had no right to live on our own. Thank you Venetia for true story.

  • Tatar

    A piece of rubbish published after the Fool’s Day. Perhaps it should have been published the day earlier, in which case it would not have provoked such reaction.

    Alas, too much vodka and (likely) too little zakuska made the lady sick all the way while in Russia.

  • Mako

    Liar. You saw anly things whicj you was told. It’s not an article about real life. Russia is not an awful country.

  • Artur Safiulin (Kazan, Russia)

    With all due respect, we, the tatars are as secular as anyone from europe and states. What muslim state is she talking about? Useless article!

  • Dana

    Well, I was extremely astonised reading such a trash from Venetia Thompson. Living in Kazan for more than 10 years I’ve never seen anything described here.Complete nonsense!

  • Anna

    Gosh… So sick of this Russia-the-Bully bullshit…

  • Fonseca

    Of course Ms Tompson dislikes the “resignation” of a country that most of its history was a part of Russia, facing Moscow`s provocations (that is: having its own autonomos status? or national flag? or?..) She would prefer to see the escalation of national separatism, terrorist attacks, etnical cleansing etc. Of course it is wrong for a muslim nation to live in peace with etnical minorities – “anomaly” she says. There is no extremists in Tatarstan because the Kremlin “shut they mouthes” in the best traditions. Its a pity that Americans and British dont have such traditions – otherwise they woulnt bomb Iraque ou loose they soldiers in Afganistan. Does one who wrote this crap understands Russia teoretically? My dear, its not enough to know the language – you need to have brains. Good luck!

  • Kacy

    Doubt if anyone is still interested in the story, but just for the record – it’s a damned lie. I had the dubious pleasure of travelling with Venetia on this trip – which was a university sponsored trip for first year Russian students. Most of what she writes is either untrue or grossly exaggerated.

    Kazan is a lovely town and the rest of us had a very good time. It would have been better if Venetia hadn’t come, as her whining took some of the joy out of it.

    oh, yeah, and her “fluency in Russian” – no comment!

  • Alexander

    Its a SHAME for Spectator to publish this kind of materials.
    Fire the liar!

  • Anna Ozdemir

    Every time when I am reading such a lie about relationship between russian and muslim and state policy, I do wondering does the author understand the importance of the Russia and Putin on that part of the world?In good mearning of course.I am russian,my husband turkish and you know- we are really free in minds and actions in the territory of Russia,but not England ,rather Turkey.Why? Because Putin nevertheless is a president that do provide actually not on paper the rights according to constitution.And,sorry, but he is more harizmatic and clever then your Prime Minister now.
    As for dirty trains and so on…Try other trains, a little bit more expensive and clean.I will never go to Harlem by subway,so do you try. And before claiming -first think how it was difficult for country and people to leave and grow economy level after 2 world war and 70 years of social ideas.Except this see statistic about Nobel that russian takes through all this years. Only independent people can do that.

  • Maxim

    I think this crazy writer never been in Russia ))) maybe it’s her DREAM ))

  • Marianna

    I don’t understand just one thing. How Ms. Thompson despite her fluent Russian and loving of Russian literature could blacken and bring in the mire in her brazen manner Russian people Russian culture? “Oppressive greyness”, “apathy”, “sense of resignation”, “blind faith”– this is not total list of abuses we received from her. Seemingly it is her typical English arrogance, elitism, and unwillingness to learn and accept other culture and lifestyle? We are neither English nor Americans and will not apologize for her unlucky trip.
    I have one more question to ask. How does she know about “systematic human rights abuses”, “fading out of democracy”, “stripping away” the Tatar identity? Why does she forecast with firm confidence that there will be a “fresh wave of destabilising violence” with new Chechen and Ingush rebels? Isn’t it a call to extremism and ethnic frictions – an issue for court examination?

  • frank

    OK, city bitch, is any other country side better for you ?
    Go home !

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