At a time when the U.S.-Russian relations at a governmental level are frosty, the positive impact of civil society organizations, such as the Russian American Foundation, and their initiatives cannot be overstated.
They walk among us and no one screams in fear, "The Soviets are back!" Because it's clear to everyone that they've returned and, swimming at our beaches or drinking a mojito in some tourist bar, they are -- clearly -- Russians.
Laughing mockery of power may let off steam. But it may also be a sign of something consequential: that many Russians, audacious and without fear, feel that Putinism has become an embarrassment and a hindrance.
The Catholics are preparing their liturgies and their pomp to receive Benedict XVI, while others wonder if his arrival will bring some significant transformation in the political or social situation of the nation.