I have always admired the expressiveness of the Russian language. Popular turns of phrase that have become enshrined in everyday language reveal quite colourfully Russians' attitudes towards themselves and ongoing events. In particular I am struck by the way Russians reflect on failure with easy humour, as captured in the phrase 'they hoped for better, but it turned out as usual'.
Despite all of the influences on my national identity, I carry one passport. But sometimes I feel as if I could carry three - from the country of my birth and of my parents and all its values, the country which brought me up and educated me, and the country of my husband and any children we may have together. All these nations have a special meaning to me and I root for them all in different ways...
Should optimistic views about globalization like those of Michael Mandelbaum hold true, Europe may manage to defuse the crisis as new markets open, economic ties strengthen, and member states realize they have a common goal. Namely, to increase prosperity and profit from the ongoing technological innovation.
Are you a Nationalist? I often ask myself the question, '"Am I a Nationalist?" Ah... nationalism. That seemingly pivotal word. I found it hard to use myself twenty years ago and often succumb to the fear of its worst interpretation. It's used and misused hugely but never more scathingly than when its held up as the nightmare we must all retreat from.
I should probably point out that I'm not against the original meaning behind Poppy Day: remembering how Britain twice sent a whole generation of its young men off to be slaughtered, and that future generations should be able to live without the fear of enduring such violence. Yet that meaning often seems to get forgotten as Remembrance Sunday becomes a celebration of jingoism and militarism, where the victims of British aggression in wars past and present are rarely mentioned.
On Friday 6 September, David Cameron refuted a Russian official's summation that Britain was 'just a small island' by delivering a speech that reeked of a Gove-esque approach to popular history entwined with petulant patriotism. He seemed to cry out that "Britain's one of the bigger kids too, even if it wasn't allowed to go to war this time", calling upon the rhetoric of the past as if to prove Britain's place in the present world and reimagining it as it suited him.
Like any country with a reputation for extremism, it's history will always be judged on the actions of extremists. The usual saying that history is judged by the victors does not yet apply to Northern Ireland, as it sometimes seems that the state of conflict has never really ended in the minds of much of its population.
I have to admit to a certain amount of confusion of late. I was asked recently by a friend 'what' I considered myself. I live in Scotland and here, in the run up to the referendum on independence next autumn, most people are trying to figure out, in essence, if they're more Scottish than British or vice versa.
As the debate in Scotland rumbles on the SNP and the wider YES campaign are promoting the message that the only way to get change is to vote YES, and that the union is stubborn and impossible to reform without splitting it in its entirety. It's a widespread view, and it usually only takes a few minutes of debating devolution in cyber space before someone gives you the 'jam tomorrow' line, but is it really true?
Luxembourg's Prime Minster is warning that Europe's demons of war may be coming back. It's a small country, but Jean-Claude Juncker has a big voice. Until January, he was President of the Eurogroup that manages political aspects of the single currency. Juncker is worried about the disintegration of the Euro and the bad blood growing between north and south (resentful Germans bailing out irate Greeks and so forth).