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Introduction to a thematic issue on ethnographic approaches to contemporary Russia by foreign researchers from a variety of fields. The issue is based on a conference held in Saint Petersburg in 2009, itself modeled after a similar conference in Germany ten years earlier. Integrating the foreign gaze into one’s own self-image is a straightforwardly useful exercise for social scientists from Germany and Western countries that have a history of colonial or hegemonic control over countries from the Global South. In Russia, whose self-image was shaped by foreign observers from the beginnings of academic study, the experiment is more complicated. Nevertheless, foreign ethnographers can contribute useful insights qua foreigners. However, Russia’s alterity, obvious to an older generation of Westerners visiting the Soviet Union, is no longer a matter of course for their younger colleagues with more transnational biographies.