A Train Ride Through Russia's Black Earth Belt

The world has flipped on its head. Now it's Russians who can't believe the propaganda being served to Americans

Tue, Aug 8, 2017 | 3566 Comments


Yesterday I traveled by train back to Moscow from the city of Kursk, which is a bit closer to the Ukraine border than even the city of Voronezh. During this six and a half hour journey, I had the pleasure of chatting with the conductress Natalya in between her servicing other passengers.

As we rolled past rivers, fields of sunflowers, small and large farms, wheat fields, flocks, herds, and although it was Sunday, you could see activity in the small agricultural villages and towns we passed and their many churches with their onion domes and crosses.

The topics we discussed ranged from the benefits of cold pressed Linseed Oil which is famous in the region through to Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Victoria Nuland, John Kerry, Rex Tillerson, Nord Stream, South Stream, Vladimir Putin and the truly ‘off-the-wall’ state of affairs going off the rails without logic or objective facts between the USA and the Russian Federation.

As she spoke good English and was a regular surfer of the worldwide web in both languages, she honestly was questioning the sanity of those representing the interests of the people of the United States. I'll roughly paraphrase some of her words:

“I remember the days of agitprop (agitation and propaganda) and other party emotional appeals orchestrated for the brain dead we often subjected to during the Soviet times. After we buried that false communist ideology more than a quarter century ago, we finally came to the practical and pragmatic business of living for our families and ourselves.

We can do this in our independent country that does not bother or needlessly try to micromanage its citizens, or the world far removed from our borders. I am shocked to the core of my soul that Americans would allow; much less welcome such thought policing as something liberating or positive from their own government.

We here have learned the hard way that such propaganda neither liberates nor gives birth to anything remotely positive. Believe me, it has a stink of evil we know all too well, and I would not begin wishing it on my worst enemy.

Just next door in the Ukraine our neighbors are being slaughtered in their civil war by their own regime in Kiev, and this it seems is just fine with the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ who now talk of even supporting this corrupted evil with weapons”.

She could only shake her head sadly, adding that she originally was from the city of Kharkov in the Ukraine and moved to Russia in 1992. Many of her relatives remain in the Ukraine.

One item which we touched on at a lighter moment after she brought me a glass of tea was the anticipated start of rail traffic today (August 7th) between the towns of Zhuravka and Millerovo, which now completes linking the Voronezh and Rostov regions of Russia entirely bypassing the territory of Ukraine. This also guarantees that freight and passengers will no longer need to enter and exit the Ukraine twice along the same route with all the time delaying petty inspections and checks each such entry and exit demands.

The plans to build this new railway line leading to the south of Russia, bypassing Ukrainian territory, was announced in 2014 after the deterioration of relations between Moscow and Kiev. Actual construction only got started in 2015. The length of this new line is more than 270 kilometers with eight stations, 15 platforms, about 100 different structures: overhead crossings, overpasses, culverts.

Not a bad performance in the midst of sanctioned economic times. I tried to see if any English language press noticed it, but as of this writing, I did not find any. Seems it is not considered strategic or newsworthy, or perhaps the civil war is no longer of interest to anyone except those citizens of the Ukraine trying to live through it.

The new railway circumventing the Ukraine


Before she got up to continue her work she asked me why, as it seems I was the only American on the train, did I choose to live and work in Russia. I gave the first reason that spring to mind – “I guess I have come to deeply appreciate the freedom of thought, of being open and truthful even if it is not necessarily politically correct”. As the train rumbled onward to Moscow I thought to myself, maybe I could have given her a deeper analysis, but then it hit me…. Isn’t that what my America guaranteed in its constitution? How this world has flipped on its head.

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