Episode 007: Moscow with Thomas Callahan

This week we catch up with American expat Thomas Callahan–a human rights worker turned corporate law attorney who’s been living in Moscow for the last seven years. He provides an enormous amount of insight into what Russians think about Americans, their overall toward the Clintons, vodka, and life under surveillance and an authoritarian regime.

Thomas Callahan practices corporate law in Moscow. He was a funded international justice scholar at Fordham Law in New York and has worked on numerous human rights projects in Moscow as well as in Thailand and Burma.

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00:28 ABC News announcement of FBI investigation of Trump administration and campaign.
01:51 GQ Russia clip of Thomas Callahan describing the American electoral process in Russian
[02:01] Tom discusses Russia’s framing of Trump narrative and the portrayal to its citizens.
[02:54] Recap of transition from Gorbachev to Yeltsin
[04:52] Cynicism towards elections
[05:39] NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
[06:10] Reasons why Clinton is not held in high regard by Russians
06:29 Yeltsin re-election efforts with American spin gurus. Politico, Time
[06:25] “The Bill and Boris Show” common reference to Clinton & Yeltsin’s friendship
07:46 Spinning Boris– a 2003 movie based on a true story
[08:15] Russian/US meddling in elections, surprise of Clinton loss
[09:45] Kitchen table politics, restrictions on expression and protests
[10:45] Government surveillance
[12:01] Dictatorship or Authoritarian?
[13:18] Putin’s increasing restrictions on freedom, Tom as human rights worker keeping an eye on neo-nazis and other hate groups
[14:45] Ban on homosexual propaganda and Russian liability at international human rights tribunals.
[15:32] Human rights worker to corporate lawyer
15:50 Boris Nemtsov asassination
[18:00] Tom discusses reasons for transitioning into corporate law
[19:20] Being a journalist in Moscow
[20:10] Journalist Julia Ioffe @juliaioffe
[20:50] Russian misconceptions of Americans
[21:40] Culture of corruption
[20:10] American misconceptions of Russians
[23:46] The individual vs the group
[25:00] Average pay of worker in Moscow
[25:50] Are Russians cold? Is it harder to make friends?
[27:00] Income inequality
[28:00] Health care, finding a doctor, bribery
[29:21] Finding a place to live and the benefits of speaking Russian
[30:15] Learning Russian
[31:56] What do people do for fun in Moscow?
[33:14] Russian weather
34:00 Vodka
34:48 High level of vodka consumption Euromonitor
[35:19] Regulation of food, quality of food
35:48 Consumption of dill
35:56 Facebook group Dillwatch
[36:09] Russian cuisine, restaurant scene
[37:10] Tom discusses how the move has changed him

NOTE: This episode features the story of one individual’s experience. Experiences of a country and its culture will obviously vary from person to person and it is important to do your own research from a multitude of sources. In addition, immigration rules and regulations are subject to change at a moment’s notice–always check with a country’s official embassy for the latest updates.

Additional links

Russian Consulates in US
Cost of living in Moscow
Russian Language

Follow Tom on Instagram @roving_tc

Tom’s recommendations on Russian electronic music:
Tesla Boy
Simple Symmetry

A Man Too Free Documentary on Boris Nemtsov.(Just released 2017)
Spinning Boris