Voices from Russia

Friday, 28 April 2017

Mind the Culture Gap: “Russian Soul” Meets “Big Mac” Culture

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If Russians and Americans learned to understand our cultural differences, it could ease diplomatic tensions a great deal. In the 1980s, Sting sang the lyrics:

I hope the Russians love their children too!

In Russia, the popular group Lube lovingly joked:

Don’t be silly, America, we’re all the same!

Yes, for a few years, we lived learning our similarities. However, why was this Russian-American romance so short-lived? Why did we turn to hate again? Geopolitics and financial issues aside, it’s worthwhile to ask a question:

Are Russians and Americans culturally complimentary or do our cultural differences get in the way of our ability to understand each other?

Samuel Huntington observed in his 1996 The Clash of Civilisations:

Cultural commonalities and differences shape the interests, antagonisms, and associations of states, accordingly, countries with cultural similarities are more likely to cooperate economically and politically, and the major differences in political and economic development among civilisations are clearly rooted in their different cultures.

Are Russians more aggressive by nature?

According to Washington and all of the Western mainstream media, this isn’t up for debate… Russians are bad! How many movies have you seen with Russians portrayed as the good guys?  I can’t recall even one. Russians are the quintessential badass guys, according to Hollywood or any political thriller. Don’t even bother with the portrayal of their politicians! According to Hollywood and most of Washington, Russia has been always up to no good. What do you get by reading Russian history from Western textbooks? According to some, the Russian state expanded left and right like crazy to amass 1/5 of the Earth. Just keep in mind this simple fact… most Russian wars were defensive wars! The acquisition of Siberia and the Far East wasn’t done by wars, but rather by including the native populations with acceptance of their cultural traditions into the Russian Empire.

Villains became humans for a while

In the early 1990s, there was certainly excitement on the both sides of the Atlantic to discover that we are all humans… “Reds” and “Yankees” alike! The peaceful dissolution of the “Evil Empire” took everyone by surprise. Unlike previous Soviet leaders, Gorbachev charmed the West with his smile and promising words of “glasnost” and “perestroika”. In doing so, he dissipated the fears of “Reds” for some time. Later, the perpetually drunk Boris Yeltsin added more humanity to the face of Russians:

Hey, they’re just like us, except that they prefer vodka, while we prefer beer!

At this point, one can almost imagine the archetypal American hugging the badass Russian in mutual understanding. Yes, we were more similar than different.

Manners

Have you observed on the Russian subway that you can spot Americans right away? Just listen up for their loud speaking. It isn’t that they don’t mind revealing the most intimate details of their lives to the public because people around might not understand English… they do it on American public transportation as well. Russians whisper… God forbid people might hear!

Courting/Dating

If any Russian dates an American or vice versa, you can expect a long list of surprises ranging from believing that opening the door for a woman might degrade her as a human being (some American young men seem brainwashed by feminism) to Russian girls’ entrenched belief that men should always pay the bill at the restaurant (even if you are just friends) just because Russian men would never let Russian woman pay for them.

 Smiling

Don’t expect Russians to show a full row of front teeth just because your conditioning in the land of Hollywood leads you to do it for every stranger you meet face to face. Russians consider American smiles fake and insincere. If Russians smile at you, it means:

I like you and it’s a pleasure to be near you.

There is one major difference between Americans and Russians… it has to do with keeping your word!

Russians don’t waste words and they’re direct in their language, foreigners often misunderstood this as rudeness, but the truth is, there’s little tolerance in Russia for hypocrisy. If you don’t like a person… you don’t give them a full-front teeth smile. Russians look down upon duplicity. Russians value each other by how much they can trust each other and any sign of insincerity is enough to break a relationship. For Russians, a man isn’t a man if he can’t keep his word. Either you’re a man of your word, or you’re a little, unreliable, and worthless weasel…  a chatterbox. Men keep their promises; weasels throw away words without meaning or consideration. You learn it early as a child in Russia. When Bush Sr made a promise to Gorbachyov not to expand NATO, Gorbachyov treated him and the USA as a trustworthy partner. Therefore, when every Russian leader after Gorbachyov told the world that they have a problem with NATO expansion and took a break of the promise as an offence… you have to understand that they mean it!

What Washington fails to grasp is that Russians mean what they say. American leaders have to learn to understand that we aren’t the same. Perhaps, the Pentagon and State Department ought to have positions for cultural advisers? It’d be much cheaper than military advisers are; in the end, it might prevent unnecessary wars. Let’s admit it… from rituals of courting, conducting yourself in public, raising children, to high diplomacy… Russians and Americans aren’t the same and it helps to understand our differences to avoid foreign policy and diplomatic blunders.

28 April 2017

Angela Borozna

The Duran

http://theduran.com/mind-the-culture-gap-the-russian-soul-meets-big-mac-culture/

Monday, 3 August 2015

More Russians are Sceptical about Growing Role of Religion in Society

00 orthodox believer with candle 030815

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A just-published VTsIOM survey showed that, these days, Russians are more sceptical about the growing role of religion in society than they were 25 years ago, but at the same time, a majority still acknowledged that faith helps them cope with various problems and misfortunes.

“In 1990, a majority of those polled (61 percent) agreed by-and-large that greater religiosity benefits society, in contrast to 31 percent who say so today. Before, 41 percent mentioned positive effects of religion for them personally; now, 33 percent have this opinion. This POV is most frequent among Orthodox Christians and followers of other religions, elderly people, and those from Moscow and St Petersburg. Potential harm from the increase of religious conviction is mentioned far more often these days than decades ago… 23 percent see an unfavourable impact on society (in contrast to 5 percent in 1990) and 18 percent on the individual (3 percent in 1990). There’s been a noticeable increase in the group who believe it should play no role in society (28 percent in contrast to 18 percent in 1990), whilst the number of those who see no impact on themselves personally remained practically unchanged (43 percent and 39 percent respectively)”.

Respondents tend to approve of a new church or religious establishment in their neighbourhood if it belongs to their own religion (48 percent), this degree of support dwindles by half (to 20 percent) if a building for the adherents of other religions is on the agenda. As follows from the opinion poll, over the past quarter-century, the share of those who acknowledge that faith supports them in certain situations has doubled (from 23 percent to 55 percent). Those unable to recall cases in which religion helped them in life are fewer now (33 percent against 55 percent in 1990).

27 July 2015

TASS

http://tass.ru/en/russia/810890

Monday, 14 October 2013

Poll Sez Over Half of Russians Say Life is Hard, But Bearable

00 Russian Party. Three Generations at Table. The Evil Empire! 09.07.13

Russians don’t have the Me First attitudes of Americans… remember, “the Evil Empire” was the invention of a slobbering old doddard who was one of the greatest enablers of evil in the 20th century. Red October happened for a reason…

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According to a new survey released by the independent Levada-Centre on Monday, some 57 percent of Russians feel that life is hard, but bearable, five percentage points higher than in 2011. 25 percent of respondents said that the phrase “things aren’t that bad, it’s liveable” best sums up their view of life. This is four percentage points lower than two years ago. 15 percent said that “our disastrous situation is intolerable” best expressed their feelings, against 17 percent in 2011 and 32 percent in 1994, whilst three percent didn’t answer… unchanged over the last poll. Levada conducted the survey on 20-24 September 2013 amongst 1,601 urban and rural residents aged 18 and above in 130 cities, towns, and villages across 45 Russian federal subjects. The statistical margin of error was +/- 3.4 percent.

14 October 2013

RIA-Novosti

http://en.ria.ru/russia/20131014/184148414/Over-Half-of-Russians-Say-Life-is-Hard-But-Bearable–Poll.html

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Scandalous Truth About Russian Men

02c 8 March International Women's Day

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Earlier this month, Russian-American journalist Diana Bruk shocked the delicate sensibilities of the American reading public by writing a no-holds-barred account of why she loves (and hates!) dating Russian men. In her essay, published by Salon.com, Bruk talked about how her feminist sensibilities came up against her carnal desires when she dated Russians. She talked about how fun, scary, unpredictable, and exciting it is to date a Russian man if you happen to also be a modern girl who graduated from Sarah Lawrence. She talked about the possessive and aggressive nature of many of the men she dated, and how it combined itself with the sort of passion and tenderness her American lovers frequently lacked. She talked about how the Russian ideal of masculinity is both thrilling and damaging… a kind of conundrum that, to me, immediately brought back the words from that old U2 song, “With or without you / With or without you / I can’t live / With or without you”.

Many Russians were outraged, saying that Bruk stereotyped them. Many other Russians were delighted, saying that Bruk’s incredible honesty about her personal experiences proved once and for all that Russian dudes simply do it better… and not just when it comes to sex. Some Americans were also obviously offended. Other Americans used Bruk’s essay as “proof” that the feminist movement is a bunch of bullshit. What was most interesting to me was seeing the number of commenters who essentially told Bruk that they hope that she eventually marries a Russian… and that he’d go on to knock her teeth out. That, they reasoned, was appropriate punishment for an uppity girl who dared to be open about the fact that she wants “a man who’s a gentleman at dinner and an animal in bed” and that every once in a while, she just wants to scream to an awkward and conscientious Western lover that sex “isn’t a dinner party. You’re not writing an essay. Just let go”.

Like Bruk, I’ve also encountered the notion that domestic violence should be a kind of punitive experience for a woman who’s chosen to associate with the “wrong” kind of man. A reader who disagrees with me on something will dig around on the Internet, find out that I married a Russian, and start sending me hate mail with such charming sentiments as, “I hope he hits you regularly… since that’s the only thing these guys are good for”. At the heart of this issue is the archaic notion of “our women” vs “their women”. A woman can’t belong to several cultures, you see. She must be “claimed” by someone… and to suffer accordingly. This possessiveness isn’t exclusive to Russians by a long shot, and seeing the number of people wishing Bruk ill made me realise that they all protest too much. “Yeah, we think domestic violence in Russia is wrong… and that’s why we hope it happens to you!” Right.

According to the latest findings of Russia’s State Statistics Service, one in five Russian women is abused physically by her partner, whilst a total of 40 percent suffer from verbal abuse. These aren’t numbers to be taken lightly… and the idea that a “real man” must dominate his woman in every way, which is common in Russia, does feed into the problem of abuse, whether we like to admit this or not. Yet, I also think it’s very silly to assume that a woman who wants a man to take charge every once in a while… particularly in bed… is simply asking for abuse. Furthermore, dismissing Bruk’s internal struggle on the subject of equality and desire as a form of adolescent posturing is a cop-out. It amounts to whitewashing the complexities of relationships in general. The strength of Bruk’s piece lies in the discomfort it generates for everyone. Bruk admitted something that she wasn’t supposed to admit… the idea that desire doesn’t deal in absolutes. It’s no wonder people want to see her get her teeth knocked out.

27 August 2013

Natalia Antonova

RIA-Novosti

http://en.ria.ru/columnists/20130827/182993648/Trendwatcher-The-Scandalous-Truth-About-Russian-Men.html

Editor’s Note:

The good news is that a majority of Russian women DON’T suffer abuse from their partners… the bad news is that the minority who do is too large a number. We have a job of work to do…

BMD

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