Turks in Moscow: Okan Yildiz

okan yildiz

How old are you? How long have you been in Russia?

I am 31 now. I have been here for just over a month now. In 2015 I worked at Coral Travel (Aviation) in Moscow and before 2015 I worked for three years in a sister company of Gazprom in Turkey as finance expert. I had the chance to understand and experience Russian culture in a Russian company, but of course this is not the same as actually living in Russia. Eventually, I decided to come here. This is a very exciting time for me. I always believed that Russian and Turkish cultures are close to each other, you can see that in the fact that so many Russians like to go to Turkey for holidays. When we get together, we can get on very easily.

This of course completely goes against all the stereotypes that I had about Russians before I came here. Most people said that Russians are cold, they won’t help you of you fall. So far, I have found this to be completely wrong.

There must be some aspects of Russian culture that you don’t like?

I can’t say that there are any, but I do notice that when you get to know Russians, there is a certain line that they won’t cross at first. It takes a little time. In corporate life, friendships are formed and they continue outside of the workplace. I find it amazing how seriously Russians take their hobbies. Here, they try to do their hobbies professionally, this is something that I like.

How do you meet people, in clubs?

I haven’t spent a lot of time in clubs over the past month but I have attended meetings of various international organisations where I meet people. This is important for me because I’d like to live here for a long time. It’s a very serious decision to make, but I’d like to have a family here. I have many plans, and I want to manifest all of them in Moscow. That’s why I left my family home in Turkey to come here.

You left your family to come here?

Yes, I left my mother and my brother.

But what about the whole Russia-Turkey political situation, it’s rather difficult to predict what will happen isn’t it?

Just this last week there have been many signs that the relationship between Russia and Turkey will improve soon. Because as far as we know, there are still pressures on Turkish companies and expats, and some of them still have difficulties in finding work because companies have quotas on how many Turks they can employ. But there are some political relationships now between Russia and Turkey, and I think we need each other culturally, and economically. That’s why I am sure that soon it will be a lot better. Our political leaders are holding meetings, and I think there is a will for things to improve on both sides.

Do you feel that culture is important?

Yes, that is why I am studying Russian 4 days a week at the Higher School of Economics while preparing for a master’s programme, and it is also why I have started a project to teach Turkish culture and language to Russians. I don’t want to simply live here, go nowhere and do nothing. I want to learn more about Russian culture and language, and to get to know more Russians, because every Russian has a different perspective. I am working on two major projects in my spare time. The first is a website designed to help Turks learn Russian (www.ruscaogren.com). We have already prepared a site with content that will enable them to learn Russian in a way that they can relate to. There will be some sections on the site which will help Turks find out more about Russian culture, as well as Russian politics and economics. The other website will be the same concept in reverse; helping Russians to learn Turkish and explaining Turkish customs, culture, politics and economics. I feel good about helping people and have been overwhelmed by the positive reactions I have received when talking to people about these projects.

Do you think that culture is as important as politics?

Yes, if people understand each other culturally, then they will understand each other politically.