I wish my attempts to study Russian hadn’t stopped there, with only a few more words and the ability to decode the Russian alphabet. I would have had much use for such skills today, as I seem to be surrounded by Russian-speaking colleagues at the EU Council’s Press Centre, where the EU’s foreign ministers and assorted colleagues will wriggle around the question what to do with the EU-Russian summit on Friday when the two are so at odds with eachother that they aren’t even pretending that there will be any outcome of that meeting; and when plenty of EU member states want the meeting called off altogether. (The reason for the fuss is a quick deterioration in EU-Russian relations, due to Russia’s blocking of Polish meat, which Poland takes as retaliation for being too friendly with the West, and due to Russia’s retaliation against Estonia for moving a Soviet-era monument, with thinly-veiled acts of economical warfare against EU member Estonia. Russia, on the other hand, seems to be having problems with the plans to post new US missiles in Poland and Hungary, pointing at Moscow.)
So you understand that I would have liked to do a little eavesdropping here and there, but sadly, twice have I started studying Russian and twice have I failed. The first time because I was only eight years old, and the second time because I was working as a journalist with irregular hours, and couldn’t attend a fixed-schedule evening course with any consistency.
On that occasion, my reason for attempting again was the increasing threat at that time of unrest in the former Soviet bloc, and the very real prospect of waves of refugees trying to make their waves across to Sweden, where I worked. In fact, another student at that same evening class turned out to be the head of the local state-run refugee camp administration. We quickly agreed that although we were there for the same reason, we equally hoped we wouldn’t have any imanent use for our newly acquired language skills. (We didn’t, it turned out.)
But maybe this time, it’s time to dust off the old Troika 1 textbooks in my bookcase once again. After all, the political development in Russia is becoming increasingly disturbing, and it is certainly casting its shadow over an increasing number of areas.