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 Russia


 
Geography and Culture
 Russia has part of its roots in European culture where the ideas of goodness,
 honor, and freedom are understood as in the West. The Viking raiders came from
 the North. Traders from Scandinavia also settled. They became the rulers of
 Rus, the city-principality of Kiev and forerunner of the Russian state. The
 other part of Russia has Asian roots. The Mongols, [Tartars] conquered Moscow
 in 1234 and Kiev in 1240, and ruled with despotism, invaders unstoppable,
 making Russians their slaves. Russian blood is a mixture of Slavic, Finnish,
 and Tatar. Kievan Rus had converted to Orthodox Christianity in 988. When
 Moscow liberated itself from the Tartar yoke in 1480, the modern Russian state
 was born. Distant from Europe, the new state was cut off from Constantinople
 which in 1453 had fallen to the Muslim Ottoman Turks. The Russian Orthodox
 Church, isolated from the rest of Christianity, developed independently as a
 national church. Russia regarded itself as the third and Last Rome, successor
 to Rome and Constantinople, the two capitals of the Roman Empire which had
 fallen to barbarians and infidels. It's mission as the new center of
 Christianity was to unite the people of the East and West. The rulers of
 Russia began to use the title tsar, derived from Caesar. Remote from the West,
 Russia experienced none of the major developments which shaped modern Europe.
 The Renaissance happened in the West, with its revival of classical influence
 and the flowering of the arts, development of modern agriculture and commerce,
 the scientific revolution, economic liberalism and recognition of individual
 rights, the beginnings of political liberty, and the growth of a strong middle
 class. In the West, the middle class was in the forefront of reform. Russia's
 failure to develop a strong middle class delayed reform. Russia remained a
 vast, backward, largely agriculture empire, regimented and ruled by an
 autocratic dynasty with a holy mission to defend its faith against the
 barbarians of the East and the heresies and pluralism of the West. Thus, to
 remote Russia, many things "Western" have come late - manufacturing, higher
 education, science, etc.
The Cold North
 Living for centuries in a very harsh climate explains the Russians' strength,
 their ability to endure extreme hardship, and their bleak outlook on life. It
 also explains their patience and submission. Climate has also contributed to a
 cautiousness they exhibit.
Distance and Isolation
 Russia is a great distance from other centers of civilizations; for example,
 3,000 miles from Paris, a month's journey before railroads. It has only
 limited access to the sea, deterring development of a mercantile tradition.
 Geography also has made Russia vulnerable to wars, due to her lengthy borders
 which had no natural defenses. The Russian people see Russian expansion as a
 consequence of victories over foreign invaders. America's commercial
 experience and Russia's lack of a mercantile tradition have given the two
 countries different world outlooks. Commerce is by its very nature conducive
 to compromise. Nations raised on it instinctively seek a common ground for
 agreement, that exact point at which the other side might be prepared to make
 a deal. Compromise is native to America, but not to Russia. The oceans,
 moreover, have been bridges to America for cultures and ideas. The new has
 been welcomed in America; the old has been revered in Russia.
Communalism
 Communal spirit and togetherness distinguishes Russians from Westerners.
 Individualism and competitiveness are more common in the West; they are
 esteemed characteristics. Russia has a history of the agricultural village
 commune, with the land held in common and decision-making determined by the
 assembly of heads of households. The objective was to find the collective
 will, which after discussion and opposition ceased, a consensus evolved which
 became binding on all households. This system endured until 1930 when it was
 brutally replaced by force into collective farms. The immediate result was
 famine and the death of millions in the countryside. The affinity for the
 group can still be seen today in everyday life, in group dating, and physical
 contact with strangers. Pushing and shoving in crowds bring no hard feelings.
 In restaurants Russians will not hesitate to join a table with strangers
 rather than dine alone. Men kiss men and show affection, women hold hands
 while strolling. Recreation is often arranged in groups, often with colleagues
 they work with. They prefer organized sports with set teams. Russians feel
 free to tell you if you or your child is not dressed warm enough. In general,
 in a collective society, everybody's business is also everyone else's.
Nationality
 With a population of 290 million in 1990, the former Soviet Union was the
 world's third most populous country - after China and India. The three Slavic
 groups - Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians - made up about 70 percent of
 the total Union. Nations with an Islamic or Turk heritage constituted another
 20 percent of the population. And in the far north are many Arctic peoples
 with distinct cultures, similar to those of their North American cousins. To
 complicate this ethnic mosaic, some 65 million citizens live outside their
 republics or places of origin. There is a strong determination to preserve
 their distinct languages and cultures, despite 70 years of Soviet attempts to
 force Russian language and culture on everyone under their control. (The war
 in Chechnya is an example.) Americans may find it hard to comprehend the
 complexity of the Soviet nationality problems and their political importance.
 This is because America's immigrants largely assimilated into the American
 culture, and we prided ourselves on our ability to create unity in diversity.
Russian Orthodoxy
 Russian ethnicity, culture, and nationalism are identified with Russian
 Orthodoxy, the state religion in Russia for almost a thousand years. In every
 ethnic Russian there is an Orthodox heritage. It can emerge when least
 expected., even among convinced Communists. Russian Orthodoxy believed that it
 had solved all the basic problems of belief and worship, DEFINED for ALL TIME,
 by its councils. Changes in dogma or even sacred phraseology could not be
 tolerated. The Russian sense of community end egalitarianism also has roots in
 Orthodoxy. The consensus of the Orthodox congregation was seen as the truth -
 a singularity of truth in which there was no room for a pluralism of opinion.
 In this idea lie the roots of Russia's traditional disdain for dissidents -
 political as well as religious. Under the Soviets, atheism became the official
 doctrine, and the Orthodox Church, with its tradition of submission to state
 authority, proved easy to suppress and vulnerable to Communist control. Since
 1985, the severe anti-religious policies of the Stalin years have been
 reversed. In 1990 a law on religious freedom was passed, and militant atheism
 was dropped from the Communist Party platform. Churches have begun to open.
 America, by contrast, has had neither a state church, an official ideology,
 nor a single truth. Rather America has known a pluralism of beliefs and truths
 and has tolerated, if not encouraged, dissenters from these beliefs. Church
 and state have been kept separate. Religion and ideology have been kept
 separate from state affairs. Diverse views have often been welcomed. The very
 right to be different has been respected. If Americans have to have an
 ideology, it is probably pragmatism - if it works, do it.
 Although the 1990 law on religious freedom was passed, the Russian Orthodox
 Church has often tried to interpret the freedom as related to the Russian
 Orthodox only. Originally other Christian groups were welcomed by the Orthodox
 Church to help make religious material and training available. In recent years
 the feelings have shifted. The other "sects" are not seen as legitimate
 religions. Recent laws have been passed in the Duma to restrict other
 religious groups from meeting publicly. Since the Orthodox Church does have
 clout with the government, the potential for excluding other religious groups
 could become a reality.
  
Culture and Character
Egalitarianism
 Egalitarianism is a social philosophy that advocates the removal of inequities
 among persons and a more equal distribution of benefits. This is rooted in the
 agricultural village milieu, not an invention of Communism. Peasants could not
 leave the mir without an internal passport, issued by their heads of
 household. Russians are still required to carry their internal passports with
 them at all times. Respect for authority was high. The concept of reward tied
 to performance was also alien, as was individual initiative. Many still view
 entrepreneurial actives as illegitimate.
Caution and Conservatism
 Russians are more likely to be cautious and conservative defenders of the
 status quo. Their cruel climate, harsh history, and skeptical outlook on life
 has caused Russians to value stability, security, social order, and
 predictability, avoiding risk. The tried and tested is preferred over the new
 and unknown. Americans, as a nation of risk-takers, can have their patience
 tested by Russian caution, and anticipation of the negative.
Pessimism
 Americans expect things to go well and become upset when they don't. Russians
 expect things to go poorly and have learned to live with misfortune. The
 American habit of smiling all the time can get on the nerves of some Russians.
 Despite their pessimism, there is an admirable durability and resiliency about
 Russians, a proven strength and endurance.
Extremes and Contradictions
 "West and East, Pacific and Atlantic, Arctic and tropics, extreme cold and
 extreme heat, prolonged sloth and sudden feats of energy, exaggerated cruelty
 and exaggerated kindness, ostentatious wealth and dismal squalor, violent
  xenophobia and uncontrollable yearning for contact with the foreign world,
 vast power and the most abject slavery, simultaneous love and hate for the
 same objects...the Russian does not reject these contradictions. He has
 learned to live with them, and in them. To him, they are the spice of life."
 -George F. Kennan, Memoirs
The Russian Soul
 The Russian soul has been described as: sensitive, revere, imaginative, an
 inclination to tears [but not publicly], compassionate, submissive mingled
 with stubbornness, patience that permits survival in what would seem to be
 unbearable circumstances, poetic, mysticism, fatalism, a penchant for walking
 the dark, introspective, sudden unmotivated cruelty, mistrust of rational
 thought, fascination - the list goes on. Russians maintain their integrity in
 a way that conforms to their inner notion of what a human being should be,
 with a blatant honesty and integrity seldom seen elsewhere in the world. Above
 all they have an appreciation for wholeness or complete commitment and faith,
 no matter what that faith might be related to.
Big is Beautiful
 Russians are impressed with size and number, and much that they do is on a
 grand scale: military size, buildings, sculpture, etc.
Personal Encounters

The City
 Russian cities swarm with people. Most city dwellers live in small apartments
 in large multi-storied buildings rather than in detached houses. Around 15%
 live in communal apartments with several families in one apartment. Shopping
 takes an inordinate amount of time, and most items were formerly scarce and
 hard to find.
Friends and Familiar Faces
 Russians rely on a close network of family, friends, and co-workers as
 protection against the risks and unpredictability of daily life. This extends
 into the business world as a way of getting things done. Friendship with a
 Russian is not to be treated lightly.
At Home
 In public and at work, Russians can be brusque and discourteous, and they
 watch what they say, even in the age of glasnost. At home, within the intimate
 circle of family and friends, they feel secure and relaxed, warm and
 hospitable, sharing and caring, and they speak their minds. Hand shaking is a
 common practice, both on arrival and taking leave. (Shaking hands over a
 threshold is an omen of bad luck and should never be done. Moreover, if you
 bring flowers, bring only odd numbers.)

Nyekulturny, Bad Manners
 Nyekulturny is the wrong way, uncultured, bad-mannered way of behaviour. Some
 examples are: wearing coats in public buildings that have a cloakroom,
 standing with your hands in your pockets, sprawling in chairs, placing feet on
 tables, crossing legs while seated so as to show the sole of a shoe, sitting
 with legs spread wide, crossing arms behind the head, draping an arm over the
 back of a chair, eating lunch on park lawns, whistling at home or on the
 street, whistling during applause, public displays of affection, telling a
 Russian that you have to go to the restroom (you should just excuse yourself),
 and merely lounging or sitting on the steps of a public building. Nearly all
 of these things seem rather "normal" to Americans. (Which of these things
 haven't you done today?) Drinks are always served with something to eat, even
 if only a cookie. (In conservative church circles the list of unacceptable
 behaviour goes on: Praying sitting, praying chewing gum, or with your legs
 crossed, women with their heads uncovered, etc.)
Time and Patience
 Time is money to Americans, and punctuality a virtue. Meetings are expected to
 start on time, and work under pressure of the clock is a challenge routinely
 accepted. To Russians, with their agricultural heritage, time is like the
 seasons - a time for sowing and a time for reaping, and a time for doing
 little in between. Communism reinforced this native disrespect for time
 because workers could not be fired and there was no incentive to do things on
 time. Russians are notoriously not on time, but do not necessarily consider
 themselves late. When they do arrive, there are a number of rituals before a
 meeting: First the small talk, then tea or drink, then talk of family and
 personal problems, then finally the business of the day.
The Russian Language
 It takes about 10% longer to say something in Russian than in English. Russian
 is a Slavic language and easier to learn than Chinese or Arabic. In recent
 years there have been national discussions on the concern of the
 Americanization of the Russian language. As Russia flirts with the West again,
 many Western terms are entering into the vernacular. Slavophiles are quite
 concerned about the compromise of the language.
Misunderstandings
 Language translation problems can happen. In English, one word may suffice to
 convey an idea, while Russian will have several words to choose from, each
 with a slightly different shade of meaning. Many Russians are not used to
 conducting business on the phone. The phone system is poor and telephone
 numbers are difficult to obtain. "Nyet" is the common response to a request.
 Keep talking, smiling, don't get upset, don't raise your voice, and keep
 repeating your request. Sometimes money is needed to turn Nyet to Da.
 
 
The New Russians
 Russia has gone through several changes in the last few years. Visitors to
 Moscow just a couple of years ago would be very surprised at how "Western"
 downtown has become. Expensive shops line the main streets. International
 businessmen have rated Moscow as the most expensive city to conduct business,
 more costly that even Tokyo and New York.
 The term "New Russian" has been coined for many Russian businessmen, some
 being quite well to do, even by American standards. This new
 pursuit-of-the-gold mentality is affecting the culture in general. Large
 screen TVs, VCRs, car ownership, remodels of city and country homes are now
 all commonplace. The zeal for the almighty dollar, or more accurately,
 less-than mighty ruble, is affecting everyone from the rich to the pensioner.
 Materialism has even roosted on Russian relationships. Russians have always
 had time for each other. Walks with friends, long conversations on the phone,
 and meals together were of great importance. With the pursuit of the microwave
 ovens and computers comes the requirement to work more hours, and for most
 Russians, at a variety of positions. While many Russians maintain their employ
 at their "main" job, such as being a teacher, or city employee, or doctor,
 they also have jobs on the side, such as tutoring, or selling things on the
 street, or developing a business. Recent observation is that many Russians
 have less time for walks and talks. Perhaps the days of several workers
 standing around idly will come to an end...certainly a welcome thing for
 improving efficiency. But will the superb Russian character of closely
 connected relationships be compromised in the process of "getting ahead"?
Epilogue
 The younger people are very open minded, well educated, and interested in new
 ideas. Many new things are happening politically, but "whatever happens," says
 George Kennan, " and whatever restructuring of the Soviet society, Russia is,
 and is going to remain a country very different from our own. We should not
 look for this difference to be overcome in any short space of time."
 
Welcome to Russia
 
Geography and Culture
 Russia has part of its roots in European culture where the ideas of goodness,
 honor, and freedom are understood as in the West. The Viking raiders came from
 the North. Traders from Scandinavia also settled. They became the rulers of
 Rus, the city-principality of Kiev and forerunner of the Russian state. The
 other part of Russia has Asian roots. The Mongols, [Tartars] conquered Moscow
 in 1234 and Kiev in 1240, and ruled with despotism, invaders unstoppable,
 making Russians their slaves. Russian blood is a mixture of Slavic, Finnish,
 and Tatar. Kievan Rus had converted to Orthodox Christianity in 988. When
 Moscow liberated itself from the Tartar yoke in 1480, the modern Russian state
 was born. Distant from Europe, the new state was cut off from Constantinople
 which in 1453 had fallen to the Muslim Ottoman Turks. The Russian Orthodox
 Church, isolated from the rest of Christianity, developed independently as a
 national church. Russia regarded itself as the third and Last Rome, successor
 to Rome and Constantinople, the two capitals of the Roman Empire which had
 fallen to barbarians and infidels. It's mission as the new center of
 Christianity was to unite the people of the East and West. The rulers of
 Russia began to use the title tsar, derived from Caesar. Remote from the West,
 Russia experienced none of the major developments which shaped modern Europe.
 The Renaissance happened in the West, with its revival of classical influence
 and the flowering of the arts, development of modern agriculture and commerce,
 the scientific revolution, economic liberalism and recognition of individual
 rights, the beginnings of political liberty, and the growth of a strong middle
 class. In the West, the middle class was in the forefront of reform. Russia's
 failure to develop a strong middle class delayed reform. Russia remained a
 vast, backward, largely agriculture empire, regimented and ruled by an
 autocratic dynasty with a holy mission to defend its faith against the
 barbarians of the East and the heresies and pluralism of the West. Thus, to
 remote Russia, many things "Western" have come late - manufacturing, higher
 education, science, etc.
The Cold North
 Living for centuries in a very harsh climate explains the Russians' strength,
 their ability to endure extreme hardship, and their bleak outlook on life. It
 also explains their patience and submission. Climate has also contributed to a
 cautiousness they exhibit.
Distance and Isolation
 Russia is a great distance from other centers of civilizations; for example,
 3,000 miles from Paris, a month's journey before railroads. It has only
 limited access to the sea, deterring development of a mercantile tradition.
 Geography also has made Russia vulnerable to wars, due to her lengthy borders
 which had no natural defenses. The Russian people see Russian expansion as a
 consequence of victories over foreign invaders. America's commercial
 experience and Russia's lack of a mercantile tradition have given the two
 countries different world outlooks. Commerce is by its very nature conducive
 to compromise. Nations raised on it instinctively seek a common ground for
 agreement, that exact point at which the other side might be prepared to make
 a deal. Compromise is native to America, but not to Russia. The oceans,
 moreover, have been bridges to America for cultures and ideas. The new has
 been welcomed in America; the old has been revered in Russia.
Communalism
 Communal spirit and togetherness distinguishes Russians from Westerners.
 Individualism and competitiveness are more common in the West; they are
 esteemed characteristics. Russia has a history of the agricultural village
 commune, with the land held in common and decision-making determined by the
 assembly of heads of households. The objective was to find the collective
 will, which after discussion and opposition ceased, a consensus evolved which
 became binding on all households. This system endured until 1930 when it was
 brutally replaced by force into collective farms. The immediate result was
 famine and the death of millions in the countryside. The affinity for the
 group can still be seen today in everyday life, in group dating, and physical
 contact with strangers. Pushing and shoving in crowds bring no hard feelings.
 In restaurants Russians will not hesitate to join a table with strangers
 rather than dine alone. Men kiss men and show affection, women hold hands
 while strolling. Recreation is often arranged in groups, often with colleagues
 they work with. They prefer organized sports with set teams. Russians feel
 free to tell you if you or your child is not dressed warm enough. In general,
 in a collective society, everybody's business is also everyone else's.
Nationality
 With a population of 290 million in 1990, the former Soviet Union was the
 world's third most populous country - after China and India. The three Slavic
 groups - Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians - made up about 70 percent of
 the total Union. Nations with an Islamic or Turk heritage constituted another
 20 percent of the population. And in the far north are many Arctic peoples
 with distinct cultures, similar to those of their North American cousins. To
 complicate this ethnic mosaic, some 65 million citizens live outside their
 republics or places of origin. There is a strong determination to preserve
 their distinct languages and cultures, despite 70 years of Soviet attempts to
 force Russian language and culture on everyone under their control. (The war
 in Chechnya is an example.) Americans may find it hard to comprehend the
 complexity of the Soviet nationality problems and their political importance.
 This is because America's immigrants largely assimilated into the American
 culture, and we prided ourselves on our ability to create unity in diversity.
Russian Orthodoxy
 Russian ethnicity, culture, and nationalism are identified with Russian
 Orthodoxy, the state religion in Russia for almost a thousand years. In every
 ethnic Russian there is an Orthodox heritage. It can emerge when least
 expected., even among convinced Communists. Russian Orthodoxy believed that it
 had solved all the basic problems of belief and worship, DEFINED for ALL TIME,
 by its councils. Changes in dogma or even sacred phraseology could not be
 tolerated. The Russian sense of community end egalitarianism also has roots in
 Orthodoxy. The consensus of the Orthodox congregation was seen as the truth -
 a singularity of truth in which there was no room for a pluralism of opinion.
 In this idea lie the roots of Russia's traditional disdain for dissidents -
 political as well as religious. Under the Soviets, atheism became the official
 doctrine, and the Orthodox Church, with its tradition of submission to state
 authority, proved easy to suppress and vulnerable to Communist control. Since
 1985, the severe anti-religious policies of the Stalin years have been
 reversed. In 1990 a law on religious freedom was passed, and militant atheism
 was dropped from the Communist Party platform. Churches have begun to open.
 America, by contrast, has had neither a state church, an official ideology,
 nor a single truth. Rather America has known a pluralism of beliefs and truths
 and has tolerated, if not encouraged, dissenters from these beliefs. Church
 and state have been kept separate. Religion and ideology have been kept
 separate from state affairs. Diverse views have often been welcomed. The very
 right to be different has been respected. If Americans have to have an
 ideology, it is probably pragmatism - if it works, do it.
 Although the 1990 law on religious freedom was passed, the Russian Orthodox
 Church has often tried to interpret the freedom as related to the Russian
 Orthodox only. Originally other Christian groups were welcomed by the Orthodox
 Church to help make religious material and training available. In recent years
 the feelings have shifted. The other "sects" are not seen as legitimate
 religions. Recent laws have been passed in the Duma to restrict other
 religious groups from meeting publicly. Since the Orthodox Church does have
 clout with the government, the potential for excluding other religious groups
 could become a reality.
 
 
 
Culture and Character
Egalitarianism
 Egalitarianism is a social philosophy that advocates the removal of inequities
 among persons and a more equal distribution of benefits. This is rooted in the
 agricultural village milieu, not an invention of Communism. Peasants could not
 leave the mir without an internal passport, issued by their heads of
 household. Russians are still required to carry their internal passports with
 them at all times. Respect for authority was high. The concept of reward tied
 to performance was also alien, as was individual initiative. Many still view
 entrepreneurial actives as illegitimate.
Caution and Conservatism
 Russians are more likely to be cautious and conservative defenders of the
 status quo. Their cruel climate, harsh history, and skeptical outlook on life
 has caused Russians to value stability, security, social order, and
 predictability, avoiding risk. The tried and tested is preferred over the new
 and unknown. Americans, as a nation of risk-takers, can have their patience
 tested by Russian caution, and anticipation of the negative.
Pessimism
 Americans expect things to go well and become upset when they don't. Russians
 expect things to go poorly and have learned to live with misfortune. The
 American habit of smiling all the time can get on the nerves of some Russians.
 Despite their pessimism, there is an admirable durability and resiliency about
 Russians, a proven strength and endurance.
Extremes and Contradictions
 "West and East, Pacific and Atlantic, Arctic and tropics, extreme cold and
 extreme heat, prolonged sloth and sudden feats of energy, exaggerated cruelty
 and exaggerated kindness, ostentatious wealth and dismal squalor, violent
  xenophobia and uncontrollable yearning for contact with the foreign world,
 vast power and the most abject slavery, simultaneous love and hate for the
 same objects...the Russian does not reject these contradictions. He has
 learned to live with them, and in them. To him, they are the spice of life."
 -George F. Kennan, Memoirs
The Russian Soul
 The Russian soul has been described as: sensitive, revere, imaginative, an
 inclination to tears [but not publicly], compassionate, submissive mingled
 with stubbornness, patience that permits survival in what would seem to be
 unbearable circumstances, poetic, mysticism, fatalism, a penchant for walking
 the dark, introspective, sudden unmotivated cruelty, mistrust of rational
 thought, fascination - the list goes on. Russians maintain their integrity in
 a way that conforms to their inner notion of what a human being should be,
 with a blatant honesty and integrity seldom seen elsewhere in the world. Above
 all they have an appreciation for wholeness or complete commitment and faith,
 no matter what that faith might be related to.
Big is Beautiful
 Russians are impressed with size and number, and much that they do is on a
 grand scale: military size, buildings, sculpture, etc.
Mother Russia, the Other Russia
 In this motherland, women are strong, hard-working, nurturing, long-suffering,
 and the true heroes of Russia. Ninety percent are in the work force, where
 they occupy mostly secondary positions. Forty million Soviet men died in the
 three cataclysmic events of the Soviet era - 1) the collectivization of the
 agriculture, 2) the political purges, and 3) World War II [known as The Great
 Patriotic War] - creating a severe shortage of men for two generations of
 women.
 Although Russian culture is very male-chauvinistic in flavour, usually the
 women of the society are the responsible ones. Research done by Co-Mission in
 1994 indicated that there was a tendency for Russian men to feel an inner
 guilt for being irresponsible, in both family and social roles. Russian women
 contribute to the situation by be excellent naggers. Rather than working
 through the problems, men often retreat to hanging around together smoking and
 drinking vodka late into the night, perpetuating the irresponsibility. Women
 are forced to take hold of the responsibilities, but not given the authority
 in family or society.
Messianism
 A belief and pride in Russia as a great power with a special mission in the
 world.
Rebellion and Revolt
 Conspiracies, coups, insurrections, ethnic warfare, and national independence
 movements all reflect the instabilities and inequities of Russian society and
 its resistance to change.
Westerners and Slavophiles
 Russians with Western thought sought to borrow from the West in order to
 modernize. They were open to the Western enlightenment, rationalism, and
 political thought that came along with the technology. Russian Slavophiles
 also sought to borrow from the West but were determined, at the same time, to
 protect and preserve Russia's unique cultural values and traditions. The West
 has been seen as spiritually impoverished and decadent, Russia as morally rich
 and virtuous.
 
 
Personal Encounters
The City
 Russian cities swarm with people. Most city dwellers live in small apartments
 in large multi-storied buildings rather than in detached houses. Around 15%
 live in communal apartments with several families in one apartment. Shopping
 takes an inordinate amount of time, and most items were formerly scarce and
 hard to find.
Friends and Familiar Faces
 Russians rely on a close network of family, friends, and co-workers as
 protection against the risks and unpredictability of daily life. This extends
 into the business world as a way of getting things done. Friendship with a
 Russian is not to be treated lightly.
At Home
 In public and at work, Russians can be brusque and discourteous, and they
 watch what they say, even in the age of glasnost. At home, within the intimate
 circle of family and friends, they feel secure and relaxed, warm and
 hospitable, sharing and caring, and they speak their minds. Hand shaking is a
 common practice, both on arrival and taking leave. (Shaking hands over a
 threshold is an omen of bad luck and should never be done. Moreover, if you
 bring flowers, bring only odd numbers.)
The Toast
 Toasts are usually given at the beginning of the meal, or at the end, or
 throughout the meal. Very long meals are common. So is lots of alcohol.
Alcohol, the Other "ism"
 "Demon vodka" as the Russians call it, is the national vice, a major cause of
 many social and relational ills.
Vranyo, the Russian Fib
 Russians can fudge the facts, a national characteristic called vranyo. In its
 most common form, it is an inability to face the facts, particularly when the
 facts do not reflect favourably on Russia.
Nyekulturny, Bad Manners
 Nyekulturny is the wrong way, uncultured, bad-mannered way of behaviour. Some
 examples are: wearing coats in public buildings that have a cloakroom,
 standing with your hands in your pockets, sprawling in chairs, placing feet on
 tables, crossing legs while seated so as to show the sole of a shoe, sitting
 with legs spread wide, crossing arms behind the head, draping an arm over the
 back of a chair, eating lunch on park lawns, whistling at home or on the
 street, whistling during applause, public displays of affection, telling a
 Russian that you have to go to the restroom (you should just excuse yourself),
 and merely lounging or sitting on the steps of a public building. Nearly all
 of these things seem rather "normal" to Americans. (Which of these things
 haven't you done today?) Drinks are always served with something to eat, even
 if only a cookie. (In conservative church circles the list of unacceptable
 behaviour goes on: Praying sitting, praying chewing gum, or with your legs
 crossed, women with their heads uncovered, etc.)
Time and Patience
 Time is money to Americans, and punctuality a virtue. Meetings are expected to
 start on time, and work under pressure of the clock is a challenge routinely
 accepted. To Russians, with their agricultural heritage, time is like the
 seasons - a time for sowing and a time for reaping, and a time for doing
 little in between. Communism reinforced this native disrespect for time
 because workers could not be fired and there was no incentive to do things on
 time. Russians are notoriously not on time, but do not necessarily consider
 themselves late. When they do arrive, there are a number of rituals before a
 meeting: First the small talk, then tea or drink, then talk of family and
 personal problems, then finally the business of the day.
The Russian Language
 It takes about 10% longer to say something in Russian than in English. Russian
 is a Slavic language and easier to learn than Chinese or Arabic. In recent
 years there have been national discussions on the concern of the
 Americanization of the Russian language. As Russia flirts with the West again,
 many Western terms are entering into the vernacular. Slavophiles are quite
 concerned about the compromise of the language.
Misunderstandings
 Language translation problems can happen. In English, one word may suffice to
 convey an idea, while Russian will have several words to choose from, each
 with a slightly different shade of meaning. Many Russians are not used to
 conducting business on the phone. The phone system is poor and telephone
 numbers are difficult to obtain. "Nyet" is the common response to a request.
 Keep talking, smiling, don't get upset, don't raise your voice, and keep
 repeating your request. Sometimes money is needed to turn Nyet to Da.
 
 
The New Russians
 Russia has gone through several changes in the last few years. Visitors to
 Moscow just a couple of years ago would be very surprised at how "Western"
 downtown has become. Expensive shops line the main streets. International
 businessmen have rated Moscow as the most expensive city to conduct business,
 more costly that even Tokyo and New York.
 The term "New Russian" has been coined for many Russian businessmen, some
 being quite well to do, even by American standards. This new
 pursuit-of-the-gold mentality is affecting the culture in general. Large
 screen TVs, VCRs, car ownership, remodels of city and country homes are now
 all commonplace. The zeal for the almighty dollar, or more accurately,
 less-than mighty ruble, is affecting everyone from the rich to the pensioner.
 Materialism has even roosted on Russian relationships. Russians have always
 had time for each other. Walks with friends, long conversations on the phone,
 and meals together were of great importance. With the pursuit of the microwave
 ovens and computers comes the requirement to work more hours, and for most
 Russians, at a variety of positions. While many Russians maintain their employ
 at their "main" job, such as being a teacher, or city employee, or doctor,
 they also have jobs on the side, such as tutoring, or selling things on the
 street, or developing a business. Recent observation is that many Russians
 have less time for walks and talks. Perhaps the days of several workers
 standing around idly will come to an end...certainly a welcome thing for
 improving efficiency. But will the superb Russian character of closely
 connected relationships be compromised in the process of "getting ahead"?
Last Updated: 3/19/09
Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School    500 Dorset Street    South Burlington, VT 05403    (802) 652-7100
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