Despite the slew of controversies swirling around the XXII Olympic Winter Games’ host country, SUNY Oneonta professor Yuriy Malikov, who grew up in the Soviet Union, called Russia a “great country” and said there is more to it than meets the eye.
Malikov, an ethnic Russian who was born and raised in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, said Russia’s ability to host the Olympics is, symbolically, very important for the country.
“For Russia, hosting the Olympics demonstrates that it is still a great country,” he said, “capable of putting on this great event.”
Malikov said Russian pride suffered greatly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He said the Olympics will hopefully restore some of the country’s self-esteem.
The choice of Sochi as the host city, although widely questioned and criticized, was a good decision, Malikov said, and is the best place Russia could have chosen for the Winter Olympic Games. He compared the city, which he has visited several times, to California or Florida because of its warm Black Sea and appealing temperatures.
Malikov said Russians have mixed opinions on whether hosting the Olympics was a good choice for the country.
“Some Russians think the money could have been spent on more pressing matters,” Malikov said, “but some think it is a good thing.”
Despite the enormous amount of money spent, Malikov said, he believes the Olympics will ultimately be good for Russia’s economy and self-esteem.
Malikov teaches various history classes at SUNY Oneonta regarding modern Russia, Central Asia, Europe, the history of empires, borderlands and nationalism studies. His classes include History of Tsarist Russia, History of Soviet Russia, History of Modern Central Asia, and Cossacks and Cowboys: Russian and American Frontiers in Comparative Perspective, among others.
With the improvements made in preparation for the Olympics, Malikov said, Sochi will now be able to compete with other warm-weather vacation spots in Russia. He said the event provided a good reason to develop the region, which was in dire need of an update.