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J.B. Gattini, Survival Manual for Diplomats Appointed to Work in Russia

Every day we hear a lot about Russia, about Russian spies, Russia’s interference in the US presidential election, Russian politics in Syria, and the Russian propaganda machine on Facebook….

Picture by Pixabay.com, CC0 Creative Commons

The US and the EU expelled hundreds of  Russian diplomats in recent years.  In return, Russia ordered the US Embassy staff in Moscow to reduce by 755 people and hundreds of diplomats serving in Russia are being sent home every day and …… nobody really cares about them.

The situation is out of control… We are running out of diplomats, aren’t we?  I am sure that the Russians have the same problem…

Here I decided to help the way I can. As a former diplomat in Russia, I decided to write a Survival manual for diplomats appointed to work in Russia. It is a list of recommendations, all based on my personal experience (except #8). Hopefully, it will help to preserve world peace!

Here we go:

Welcome to RUSSIA! This is gonna be amazing! The culture! The history… the architecture! The vodka!

Recommendation #1:

Upon arrival in Russia, don’t unpack your luggage! Just open the suitcase on the other bed and kind of take out what you need. In fact, only bring the bare necessities. This way, you will be always prepared to go back home in case the power games between Russia and other countries go wild…..  Don’t ever forget that at any moment, you can be asked to leave – nicely, not like in the old days, “You are coming with us.”

It’s not personal, its politics and you are a little pawn. (Russia and America, for example, have a long history of Chess rivalry.)

So – “Keys, Phone, Wallet, Passport” – just in case you are suddenly sent to the airport, and just remember it’s probably not something you said or done.


Don’t use the phone! And if you must, don’t talk on it. And if you do that, remember that someone is listening…

Anything you say on the phone can be used against you and the person you are talking to.

So don’t trash talk the government (that’s what the internet is for.) And if you’re going to order ham and pineapple on your pizza, be prepared to defend your position.


Russia is a huge, beautiful country but as we went over in Rule #1 you may be asked to leave with only a moment’s notice. So, visit all those places of interest as soon as you can.

Since you don’t even have to unpack you should be able to get right to it.

As soon as you arrive in Moscow, hit the museums, theaters, parks, churches, and palaces.

If you want to linger over a coffee and watch the people go by, go to Venice or Paris. This is Russia – tomorrow is promised to no one. Okay, that’s a bit much, but if you are considered “persona non grata,” you will never be able to come back and see “Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi Theatre, and you came all this way.


Please pay attention, it is very important – before going to Russia, practice drinking vodka.

It’s pretty easy to practice and you can do it almost anywhere. You can buy in bulk and do it at home while watching Hunt for Red October.

In Russia drinking vodka is like shaking hands. And a firm handshake is everything.  Learn to consume a lot of it without breaking into “Don’t stop Believing,” in the middle of a bar. You may be asked to leave. The country that is.

Vodka is the greatest ally and a friend of a diplomat in Russia, and very much respected by everyone.


Don’t watch Russian TV – as hard as this may be to imagine as an American (or European), they have passionate, eloquent, persuasive reporters and journalists that will barrage you with the propaganda that the government influenced news outlets wants you to hear – in other words, they can “brainwash” you in 15-25 minutes.

Remember, when it comes to propaganda, the Russians wrote the handbook so you may be better off not paying too much attention to the view of the world coming to you through the Russian news outlets.

Stick to the news outlets that you are familiar with for pure undiluted facts.


Remember, the average Russian citizen is just like you and me and has as little to do with international politics. So be kind to them.

Most of them do passionately support their president who happens to be a superman – he rides a horse, speaks several languages, sings like a rock star and will always be around.


Don’t take anything too seriously, it is only a game. Like chess or the Olympics. Because the Russians don’t seem to take games that seriously. Kidding aside, though. Use your head, have fun and don’t stress.

Final Recommendation#8:

Don’t “break the air” in front of the TV cameras!

Video technology including body mics are all state of the art and there will be nowhere to hide once you let slip the dogs of war. But if you do slip up – own up to it. Smile like you just may do it again at any moment.