I’ve just been to Russia for the first time in 6 years. After my first visit I wasn’t in a huge hurry to go back. Many travelers to the country take perverse pleasure in trumping each other with stories of difficulty, bleak weather, challenging bureaucracy, bland food and incomprehensible complexity. Three hours of traffic from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport made me feel like I might be in for the same again.
What a difference 6 years makes!
Moscow is now alive with a youthful spirit, and truly impressive people. Recent events show idealism on the streets, bars and cafes around the city are full of the best food (check out the Ginza Project restaurants), and busy cosmopolitan people from all over the former Soviet Union, and the world.
That same spirit was found in abundance at TV Rain, where I did a long interview that covered all bases, and from interviewer to production staff everyone was aspirationally global/local, passionately restless, savvy but genuinely smiling. The station, set in a great warehouse type space, is a perfect SISOMO blend built on fresh ideas and a fast philosophy. It’s on TV and online, mostly live and with some great pre-recorded material! (My interview will screen before the New Year). TV Rain express the new spirit of Moscow and those who share the same dreams further afield in Russia. It’s no surprise that they’re tapped into what’s happening on the street post-elections.
Just a few meters away, a day later, any lingering doubts about Russia were consigned to the history bin. I thoroughly enjoyed my public lecture at Digital October to a young crowd stuffed full of potential. I loved the responsiveness, the brightness in the eyes, intelligence and emotion all rolled up together. Not just interested in jobs, the audience understood the idea of being part of a movement, making the future happen. An inclusive and supportive Russia values all of its precious resources, especially its young. The challenge for the young is to grow in the same inclusive and supportive way, recognizing the work and sacrifices of the past, and celebrating the sustainable future that is theirs to develop and enjoy.
Hats off to everyone who made my visit a special memory – my amazing interpreter (a total pro), good, reliable, on-time (and patient) drivers, the great people of Saatchi & Saatchi Russia (proud of you all), the probing and comprehensive media interviewers, and all those who left me wanting to return.
You can’t beat Moscow. A 2012 Lovemark in the making.