Never ending dispute about Russia's civilizational affiliation is, indeed, never ending--one gets this idea whenever one visits any serious Russian urban center. Come to think about it, even not so much urban centers increasingly do exhibit this Russian dilemma of the state of being torn between Asia and Europe. I have to go with Limonov's assessment here, again--Russia is Europe now. Not current Europe, obviously, despite Russia as a whole exhibiting all attributes of "western" modernity from Wi-Fi even in the underground (Metro) to public restrooms, to a lines in the hip joints, to shopping malls, to whatever else makes place look like a European, that is Western, place.
Getting into St.Petersburg and encountering gigantic crowds of West Europeans, from Portuguese and Italians to armies of Germans and Spaniards doing their touristy osmosis (or diffusion, if you will) into St.Pete's environments (see, I do not write about ever-present Chinese and Indians--half of our Sapsan to and from St.Petersburg was occupied by them, BTW) makes you think why these people flock to Russia in general and St.Petersburg in particular thus making it for a number of years in a row the number one destination in Europe? Then it occurred to me, observing German family with children standing in a front of Eliseevsky and watching figurines of old Russian bakers and merchants moving around (up and down too) in the front window--it is a typical nonchalant, no excuses required, Russian contemporary attitude towards all those Westerners who visit Mother-Russia which makes it click and is so attractive, granted one appreciates both scale and immense cultural significance of both Moscow and St.Petersburg. It is an easy attitude of a very confident nation and civilization--it is absolutely not afraid nor gives a damn about showing its both bright and dark sides. Yet, as my son noted, a huge number of pairs of young men and women walking together, hugging and kissing--it is a sight to behold today. The same as a bunch of bands setting up on Nevsky and delivering some good rock-n-roll and blues--Dostoevsky would have loved that.
Me and my dear friend were sitting in one of the pubs and he confessed--he said he couldn't believe himself a miracle of this revival. It is a miracle--from a new wealth to an absolute confidence on the streets. Yes, Russians always are bitching and whining--it is a Russian thing--but each time I get to the country I see something special. This time in Leningrad it was SPIEF with France's Macron, Japan's Abe and other luminaries (with American business delegation being by far the largest) arriving to Putin's favorite city to talk and do business and... you should have seen those girls from MVD University being deployed for additional security. Russians are keenly aware of themselves being now a global player of immense significance. They are also very aware of Washington and NATO.
Yet, similar to St.Petersburg's warnings about parking in the wrong places, promising the cars in the wrong being towed away and owners eaten, there is always a good deal of fun to be had at the expense of NATO. Novyi Arbat in Moscow featured Putin's Gastrobar and a mysterious dish called NATO Waffle. One can only guess what that is--we didn't have time for this joint, being attracted to gastronomical riches of Obed-Buffet (the best A La Carte place in the world--yes, they even serve Scotch and Jack) but the next time...
Moscow, certainly, has her own version of hip (me and Israel Shamir had a lovely rendezvous there), but the joint with the title Funny Kabany (Kaban being a Boar in Russian) decided to treat the title literally--they do have funny and lovely boar hanging around visitors and one can not resist feeding this lovely thing cucumbers.
So, this is Russia today where hope springs eternal as is the discussion on what Russia really is. My answer comes from a magnificent Tretyakov Gallery when looking at Russian art and recognizing Russia's history and aspirations as universal, as a spring from which anyone can quench their thirst.