I think that most Ricochet members who haven't had daily interactions with Russians would like them.
To me, Americans and Russians share a common swagger - a sense of proportion, that I think comes from being a great power; a frontier-building nation, which gives a certain confidence and pride to everything the two nations do. In my opinion, America and Russia share many more similarities than they do with most European countries.
However, Russia's history and government is like going through the looking glass, darkly. If most things have broken right for the U.S. (and, when you compare countries' histories, America has it about as good as it comes), Russia is the mirror universe, where there's a bearded Spock and an insane Captain Kirk in charge with an agonizer booth. Communism was bad enough (as my country had the misfortune to experience for 50 years), but that's just the tip of the iceberg with the kind of leadership that Russians have suffered under for roughly 800 years.
And the Russian people, for that reason, can be some of the most pessimistic people on the planet because of that history. The glass isn't half empty, it also contains large quantities of mercury and lead.
Today was another ugly (situation normal) day in Russia. Three members of a teen-age female punk band, Pussy Riot, were found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in jail (after already serving five months awaiting trial), after an impromptu performance in a Russian Orthodox church, in which they called for the downfall of the present czar, Vladimir Putin.
(A little context: Although most people find invading a church for a crude demonstration distasteful, the Russian Orthodox Church has always been hand-in-glove with the ruling parties in Russia. During Soviet times, many of the priests were KGB informants on their own flock, and when Estonia got its independence back in 1991, the Orthodox Church here broke with the Moscow diocese and aligned itself with the Greek Orthodox branch).
No matter how you feel about the circumstances - two years for singing in a church? Really?
During the reading of the verdict, Gary Kasparov, the international chess champion and anti-Putin agitator, was arrested and hauled off. Some reports say he was physically attacked by the police during the arrest.
I have hope that the burgeoning middle class, and access to other media through the Internet might lead to come kind of sea change, but that would be going against type in this particular country. Ask a Russian.