Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If you are Russian ...

A couple of years ago, a very good friend of mine sent me a link to the "American Culture" page at Zompist. The idea of the page was a list of topics, that if you are American ... appear transparent and essentially factual from an American point of view.

That page spawned a list of other countries "If you are's .." that are included on the page, as shown if you follow the links. Over time, with discussions and help with Russian friends (big thank you to all who helped and continue to help) I worked on a Russian version of the page. The recent addition of the Ukrainian Culture link certainly stirred the pot in getting this completed!

I consider this a work in progress ... please compare it to the original "American Culture" page and any helpful comments or suggestions should be incorporated. I'll be editing this post as time goes along and hope everyone finds this interesting. I've tried to incorporate the Russian sense of humor into it as much as possible.

So without further ado:

If you are Russian:

  • You believe that all politicians and wealthy individuals had to cheat, lie, or steal to rise to their position of power. This might make you a bit jealous, and certainly permits you to take a little extra for yourself if you see an opportunity. Everybody does it. Where’s the harm in that? The wealthy make enough already.
  • You are familiar with Cheburashka, Koshei Bessmertnii, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Baba Yaga, Ivan Grozny, Ded Moroz, Snegurochka, Ivan Durak, Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears (Moskva Slezam Ne Verit), With Light Steam (S Legkim Parom), Eralash, Ivan Susanin, Santa Barbara, Nu Pogodi, Terminator and MTV.
  • You know how football (not that American stuff) and hockey are played, especially if you are a man. And you likely follow figure skating also. Everyone knows Russians are the best at it. You probably tried basketball in physical education class. Baseball? It is incomprehensible and reminds you of the game that you used to play at kindergarten and in primary school and which is called Lapta.
  • You get 24 vacation days a year, along with many holidays. Plus tea-breaks ... and smoking breaks during the day. After all, I will pretend to work, if you pretend to pay me. Although it seems more and more they expect you to work to make even a little money.

If you died tonight you wouldn’t be surprised….

  • You believe in God (especially when you are in big trouble) and may wear an orthodox cross. But you probably don’t go to church very often. If you are a woman, you know to put a scarf over your hair and to wear a skirt when going to church. You also celebrate main religious holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. You also celebrate and follow many pagan holidays and traditions too. The Church is not against it.
  • McDonalds and Pizza Hut are not cheap food, and are just terrible for you. Americans eat this unhealthy food all the time; it is why they are all fat. You’ve tried these places and their food quality is bad. You might even try it weekly, just to be sure that it is still terrible. Mmm, yes, still terrible. Cheaper and better options exist at local cafes. Baskin-Robbins is cool though … did you know they have 32 flavors?
  • You don’t consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food; however you might eat some suspicious looking mushrooms that you’ve picked up in the woods. Sometimes you get poisoned by them but that doesn’t stop you from mushroom-picking next time.
  • A bathroom has a bathtub in it and it might have a toilet, although it might be in a separate room as well.
  • If you live in a big city (and of course, you absolutely want to ... who wants to live in a dirty village of only half a million people?) you rely upon the metro, buses, or marshrutka (mini-buses). They are cheap, fast, and reliable. Even cheaper if you get one of those counterfeit pass-cards that people sell on the streets. Just don’t get caught using one. Sometimes you take a taxi, or just wave down a car going by and negotiate the cost of a ride. Trains are quite reliable for traveling long distances in Russia … not that you do that very often. Airplanes are expensive and a bit scary and thrilling … you flew on one once when going to Anatalya, Turkey for vacation.
  • You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will not work sometimes. Sometimes the power goes out for a short while also. Getting a new phone line is a real pain, but mobile phones! My god, mobile phones! I just bought a new one a month ago, but I want to exchange it for the latest, coolest one like Masha got last week! Mobile phones are all pre-paid plans, and phone cards are all in dollars (the price might vary too much if it were in rubles).
  • You probably own a telephone (mobile phone too!) and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine, although you very well may hang it to dry. Ironing is therefore essential, unless you are a slob. You don't kill your own food, but your family may have a garden and/or dacha. Picking wild mushrooms and berries is a real tradition. Canning or preserving foods from your garden or from picking wild is also common. You don’t make your own bread, but the bread you buy is probably not pre-sliced. You probably live at home until you are married sometime in your twenties. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs. Shoes are removed as soon as you enter the house, put on some house slippers, and for god’s sake, wash your hands after you’ve been out! The city is filthy!
  • If you live in a city (and of course you do) you know you will be without hot water for one month in the summer. And of course, the heat isn’t turned on until October 1st (well, September 20th in hospitals and kindergartens). Heat and hot water are all provided by central plants in each city, after all. The idea of each house or apartment having control of their own heat and hot water … seems so decadent!
  • You need to be 18 to get a drivers license. You have to take paid lessons and cannot practice on your own. This makes getting a license difficult. But of course, you can always just bribe an official and get a license … really, everybody does it. Women mostly don’t drive (which is only proper) although more of them are getting on the roads these days. Before you can get permission to drive, you are required to have a full physical, including a gynecological exam for women (eto pravda!).
  • You need to be 18 to drink or smoke, although nobody really checks. Smoking is very popular and you can do it anywhere. Beer (pivo) is a nice mild beverage; you can even drink it while walking in the street. Sometimes you see people drinking a beer in the morning on their way to work … although recent changes in public drinking laws have made that illegal. Even teenagers drink it, although that can be a bit of a problem. Vodka is mostly drunk by men, and of course, real Russian Vodka is the best in the world. It is inexpensive here also, as it should be. It is obviously the world’s most potent drink; whiskey is tame in comparison. Baileys Irish Crème is just great, women especially like it, although it is a rather expensive.
  • Court system? Suing someone for damaging you is just a dream ...actually, it isn’t even a dream because you don’t consider it a possibility. You wouldn’t want a crazy court system like in the US, where people can sue for a spilled cup of hot coffee anyway. Police and the courts are just another form of criminals and if you have money you can buy your way out of almost anything (except making Putin angry at you .. right Khordokovsky?)
  • You probably don’t speak any language other than Russian. Mostly you don’t need any other language … Russia is very big and it is difficult for you to visit Western Europe or the US anyway. If you travel abroad, it is likely to be Turkey or Egypt and the people at the hotel or resort will speak Russian. You are slightly impressed if another Russian speaks English, German, French, or Chinese. Mostly if you want to be understood by a foreigner you just talk more loudly and slowly. TI PO-NI-MA-ESH?! You are almost shocked if an English speaking foreigner speaks Russian. Where did they learn it? Many English words make their way into Russian, and even certain products for sale might have an English sounding name.
  • There are many races and you can identify them all. You’ve only seen blacks a few times, mostly on TV or movies. But … Jews, Ukrainians, Tatars, Chechens, Georgians, Armenians, Turks, Komi’s, Chukchi … it is all very apparent. They may live here, but they certainly aren’t RUSSIAN. And if a Russian has a child with some of these other races, it is often quite apparent. Even slightly almond-shaped eyes lend themselves to be described as “asian”. Any German, French, Italian, or American are also obvious … they are as plain as the nose on your face. Now that you mention it, your eyes are a bit heavy-lidded. Are you sure you aren’t part Jewish? Maybe there was a stranger in your clan! However, despite this, we would be insulted if you said we are “racist”.
  • You think any tax rate is scandalously high ... you avoid paying taxes at all, if you possibly can. The tax rate on personal income is 13% (flat tax) and about 24% on businesses. However, employers must pay payroll taxes to the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, the State Employment Fund and the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund, plus a transportation tax and an education tax that are also based on wages. In effect this all comes out of your wallet also. That doesn’t include local and regional taxes. Most evade taxes in some form, it is almost a national sport to break the rules at least a little. The Russian government trying to collect money from taxes is like someone bailing water with a sieve.
  • Education is free through high school. University isn’t, unless you get a scholarship. Getting into the best Universities is very competitive. A bribe to the right official certainly wouldn’t hurt your chances.
  • University is (normally, and excluding graduate study) five years long. College is usually just a two-year technical degree, not a real higher education.

Everybody knows that ….

  • Mustard? Don’t use that too often, I guess it comes in jars or tubes. My father makes his own mustard from ground seeds and vinegar … very potent! Shaving cream comes in a can, many of the same brands that are sold in the US. Same with disposable razors … my Gillette Mach 3 Turbo is great! Milk comes in tetrapaks or plastic jugs. Sour cream (smetana) comes in little plastic tubs and improves almost everything you put it on. Вкусно!
  • The date comes first and the month second, as in 9/5/1945 (and you know what happened on that date, don’t you?) We may criticize our country 364 days a year, but all Russians feel proud of their Motherland on May 9.
  • World War II was the Great Patriotic War. Nothing else has affected life in Russia so much as this war. Every city has tributes and monuments to the war in which over 20 million people from the Soviet Union died. Russia fought and won this war against Germany almost alone, and suffered for it. It is hard to know why others might call it a “World War” considering that we were the only ones really fighting the Germans. France didn’t fight them, Poland didn’t fight them, and the US and UK jumped in at the end, when the outcome was certain. They seemed to give themselves an awful lot of credit for doing so. The US dropped that atom bomb as a show of strength, to intimidate their enemies, when the war was already over and Japan was defeated. But we are very strong and preserved against great odds, even when our former so-called allies turned against us after the war, as we knew they would. Russia must be strong because everybody else is against us and it has always been so.
  • You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Most marriages happen in ZAGC (ЗАГС .... Запись Актов Гражданского Состояния) ... a civil courthouse for marriage ... sometimes called "Palace of Marriage" (Дворец Бракосочетания). Although now it is more common that couple also goes to church after it, usually at same day. You have a best man and a maid a friend or a sibling. Before the wedding ceremony at ZAGC, groom usually has to “redeem” the bride from her relatives and friends by paying money. It is usually a good chance for them to make good money and they sometimes can really “peel off” the poor guy. After the wedding ceremony it is common to visit the local monuments of World War 2. A man gets only one wife at a time, but it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to have a younger mistress, especially if he has a bit of money.
  • If a man has sex with a man, he is a homosexual.
  • Once you're introduced to someone your age (well, besides the President and other lofty figures), you can call them by their first name but still use the polite form (vi) unless given permission to call them with “ti”. You almost always call elderly people by their name and patronymic.
  • If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless, but you might take off your top while sunning. Men wear briefs at the beach, and not those big heavy shorts that American men seem to wear.
  • A hotel room might have a private bath, or might not. It depends on how much money you are willing to pay. Usually it is foreigners or the very wealthy who stay in the nicest hotels.
  • You'd rather a film be dubbed than subtitled.
  • You don’t seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes. Who is so naïve?
  • If a politician has been cheating on his wife, you wouldn’t be surprised.
  • Many restaurants and hotels in big cities would take your credit card, if you have one. But most people just use cash. Banks aren’t entirely trusted and its not entirely clear how checking accounts or credit cards work or why you would need one. The stock market seems like a license to steal money… how does anyone profit at it?
  • A company can fire just about anybody it wants without any explanation.
  • You don’t like your bacon crispy or burnt.
  • Labor Day is May 1st and it is international.

We see everyone as they really are, and aren’t afraid to say it

  • Americans – They are all fat, of course. It comes from their unhealthy and unnatural foods that they eat there. All their food is engineered and full of preservatives ... no wonder they are unhealthy.
  • Chinese – Everything made in China is of bad quality and very inexpensive. The cheapest clothing items are made in China, but they are commonly purchased at markets.
  • Japanese – Workaholics and manage to live in a such small area with such a high population.
  • Georgians, Armenians, etc. - Sell fruits on markets, occupy a lot of business here. Dark-haired, usually wear leather jackets and dark jeans/sport pants. Often associated with criminals and considered dangerous.
  • Ukrainians - They are very ungrateful towards Russians. Even though you may be partially Ukrainian yourself, you consider them to be foolish and a bit offensive these days. Maybe they should suffer a little bit down there to be put into their place. Their food is considered a bit old-fashioned and they eat too much salo (fatty bacon or pork lard).
  • Belarussians - "White Russians"
  • Baltic States -Too slow, almost all of them are blond, a nice objects for anecdotes and jokes. Suuuucchh aaasss ... hooowwww slloowwllyy Eeessstonniaaanns ... taaalk.
  • Germans - Although they are like little robots following all those rules they have a good life and a nice clean country. Who wouldn’t want to live like them?
  • French - Good lovers, eat frogs. Their comedies used to be very popular. Who doesn’t know Louis de Funes?
  • Italians - Open and happy people who live in a sunny and beautiful country. Very loud too.

Contributions to World Civilization

  • Of course, everyone knows that the very best artists are Russian. Only true suffering can lead to real art, and Russians are experts at suffering. The best writers, classical composers, painters, dancers, cinematographers, and actors are all Russian. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, Pushkin, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Hvorostovsky. And, yes, it was Popov who invented radio first and Polzunov who made first steam engine, don’t matter what others may say! Their only problem was that they didn’t patent their inventions.
  • You spent a great deal of time studying Russian history in school. You studied some world history also. The US really doesn’t have any history; it’s only about 200 years old.
  • If you're male, you have to spend two years in the military, unless you can buy your way out of it.
  • Many have tried to conquer Russia, but none have succeeded, unless you count the Mongols long ago. But eventually Ivan Grozny defeated them also at the battle of Kazan. No country is as strong as Russia and we remain a great military power, despite any evidence to the contrary.
  • You are used to buying fruits and vegetables when they are in season … it is only natural. To buy fresh potatoes in March or strawberries in December wouldn’t be natural anyway. It is right to be suspicious of many things sold in stores, as many items are counterfeit. Even the money in your pocket could be fake, so it is normal that banks and stores double check it before accepting.
  • You use the metric system. It is amazing that some countries would use anything else.
  • You are not a farmer, but your family probably have a dacha (country house) and a garden with flowers or vegetables.
  • You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a medium sized car. Actually, you consider anything bigger than a pumpkin to be a good-sized car. And you are proud of your OKA even though some people might call it an “abortion of the truck”.
  • The police are armed with submachine guns, but the mafia is even better armed. Chechen terrorists are well armed as well.
  • If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
  • The biggest meal of the day is in the early afternoon (obed).
  • The nationality people most often make jokes about are the Chukchi (northern peoples).
  • There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
  • The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Authors and scientists are less popular but still there is a special channel Culture on TV sponsored by government where you can find all the “clever” stuff and where there are no commercial breaks (reklama).
  • You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights if you must, but if you see the yellow light indicates it is about to change green, you might not even slow down. Yes, that’s right … we get a yellow before the green light! If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you definitely double check before you cross the street. Don’t make any presumptions that a car will stop for you, that is for sure.

Outside of Moscow ...

  • If you live outside of Moscow you want to live inside of Moscow. This is despite the fact that Muscovich's are not REAL Russians.
  • You don’t care very much what family someone comes from.
  • The normal thing when a couple dies, is for them to write the will beforehand otherwise it might lead to some misunderstandings.
  • You think of opera and ballet as rather “high” entertainment. Its likely you’ve never visited one. Although you used to visit theatre plays with class at school and you do it now occasionally also if you live in a large city.
  • After these new European cinema halls appeared you find yourself visiting them rather often despite of the scandalous prices.
  • Christmas is in the winter .. January 7th. But the main holiday is New Year. Everybody celebrates it no matter what religion they are. Last year it was 10 days off for the country too. It was a hard burden ... both on wallets and on livers of Russians. 5 days of vodka is good, 10 days- too much.
  • You’d be hard pressed to name the leaders of all nations of Europe, although capitals are not a big problem.
  • What is a beep anyway?
  • Taxis are usually operated by thieves who try to get from you as much as possible and would be more than happy to drive you in circles before they get to the place of destination to charge some extra.
  • Unemployment payments and pensions exist but unless you are a mouse you wouldn’t be able to survive on them. So you better go and work even if you are too old for that, comrade.
  • If you are in trouble you think twice before bothering milicia (police). Ok, maybe think three times.

Space and Time..

  • If you have an appointment, 5 minutes late is excusable, 15 minutes and you have to apologize a lot, hour late and nobody waits for you. If you have an appointment at a public hospital, no matter when you come there will be no time for you on this week anyway, and the next week is also filled out, come in a month or get yourself some herbs.
  • If you are talking to someone, it is Ok if they approach close to you, you might as well do the same.
  • You don’t have any problem with simply showing at someone’s place as long as you have a couple of beers and a smoked fish with you.
  • If you have a business appointment with someone at restaurant, you expect to do it after 7 pm and get drunk ... in fact, you can find yourself still meeting tomorrow to further “discussing business”.

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116 comments:

Megan Case said...

Good work, very accurate from my American Russophile point of view...

W. Shedd said...

Thanks, I changed it ... we should have caught it :)

I'm open to any input on this, particularly if it makes it quite accurate or authentic.

Anonymous said...

Over 20 million people from the Soviet Union died in WWII not 6!

W. Shedd said...

Depends on whose figures you wish to believe, or what they are citing.

Per this article, 27 million Russians died. http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/7232-1.cfm

From this source: "The closer I study the figures, the more I am convinced that it was not an honest war between the two armies but extermination of the Soviet population by Germany. Otherwise, the Soviet Union would not have suffered such great losses," the scientists concluded.

From http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/ww2stats.htm

# Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

* Military:
o Info. Please: 6,115,000 (all causes)
o Compton's: 6,750,000
o Keegan: 7,000,000
o Small & Singer: 7,500,000
o Eckhardt: 7,500,000
o Davies: 8,000,000 to 9,000,000
o Barbarossa, the Axis and the Allies, by John Erickson & David Dilks
+ KIA, Died of wounds, Accidents, Suicides: 6,885,1000 [sic]
+ Dead and Missing: 8,668,400
+ Mentions and dismisses other estimates of 23M and 26.4M.
o Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997); also :
+ KIA, DoW, etc.: 6,885,100
+ Total Dead: 8,668,400
o Mazower: 3M POWs through starvation + 6.5M in battle = 9.5M
o Urlanis: 10,000,000
o Volkogonov: 10,000,000
o Ellis: 11,000,000
o Britannica: 11,000,000
o Encarta: 13,000,000
o Kinder: 13,600,000
o Wallechinsky: 13,600,000
o HarperCollins: 14,500,000
o 30 Apr. 1994 Guardian: 22M
o Steven Shabad
+ Sokolov's new calculations: 26.4M
+ Gorbachev's official est.: 8,668,000 Red Army dead
o MEDIAN: 10M

* Civilian:
o Compton's: 6M
o Ellis: 6,700,000
o Britannica: 7,000,000
o HarperCollins: 7,000,000
o Encarta: 7,000,000
o Kinder: 7,000,000
o Keegan: 7,000,000
o Eckhardt: 7,500,000
o Mazower: 10M
o Urlanis: 10,000,000
o Steven Shabad (citing Sokolov): 16.9M
o Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): "best estimate" 17M, citing
+ Sokolov: 16,900,000
+ Korol: 24,000,000
o Davies: 16,000,000 to 19,000,000
o 30 Apr. 1994 Guardian: 18M
o MEDIAN: 7M

* Total:
o Compton's: 12.75M
o Keegan: 14M
o Eckhardt: 15M
o Ellis: 17.7M
o Britannica: 18M
o Mazower: 19.5M
o Encarta: 20M
o Messenger: 20M
o Urlanis: 20M
o Kinder: 20.6M
o HarperCollins: 21.5M
o Wallechinsky: 20-26M
o Richard Overy, Russia's War (1997): 25M
o Davies: 24M to 28M
o Volkogonov, Dmitri, Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy (1991): 26-27M
o Guiness World Records: 26.6M [http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/index.asp?id=46251]
o Hochschild: 27M
o 30 Apr. 1994 Guardian: 40M
o Steven Shabad
+ Sokolov's new calculations: 43.3M
+ Stalin's official public est.: 7M dead
+ Khrushchev's official est.: 20M
+ Gorbachev's official est.: 27M
o Barbarossa, the Axis and the Allies, by John Erickson and David Dilks: 49M (acc2 book review: Agence France Presse, 16 June 1994)
o MEDIAN: 20M

These are all relatively recent revisions of the death toll for the former USSR. Most Russian/former USSR sources cite lower figures for Russian dead. I've upset some native Russians when I cite the higher figures. I suspect that for many years under the USSR, citizens were told that fewer died than actually did in the Great Patriotic War.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting and entertaing to read!!!
Good Job!

Browler said...

Our heat certainly doesn't come on on the 1st of October. It was much later than that.

They told us here that the temperature had to be below zero (celcius) for four consecutive days -- or something like that -- before it came on.

Anyway, nice work.

Anonymous said...

"С лёгким паром" in the film title is translated as "Enjoy Your Bath" (see, e.g., http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000714AW). It's not a perfect translation, but better than "With Light Steam."

W. Shedd said...

I'm aware of what that DVD calls the film (after all, I own it) but I know of no Russian who calls the film anything other than "With Light Steam" and always considered "enjoy your bath" as the less accurate translation.

Anonymous said...

You are Russian if:
- your grandma is your third parent who used to feed and feed and feed and feed you all the time and made all kinds of bakery
- School year starts on the 1st of September, not middle of August. And every single child does bring flowers to the teacher as a tradition, not as a bribery.
- you completed an 8 years program musical school parallel to your general education school.
- You know how to cook Okroshka and how to "marry tea" (pozhenit' chai) and that real tea is totally different thing from that hay in the tea bag.
- That thing you drink in the morning is actually brewed in Turka, not filtered, is called "coffe", and not "caffeine".
- you prefer sugar to "splenda" or that powder in pink little packets.

Daniel Lovick said...

When is (was) it necessary for women to undergo a Gyn exam to get a driver's liscence? Where? Everything else, to my knowledge, is boringly true.

W. Shedd said...

In order to legally acquire a drivers license, you must undergo a complete physical. For women, this includes a gynecological examination. That is the current legal standard for a drivers license in Russia.

However, my understanding is that most people don't bother to legally obtain a drivers license, and they just bribe some police official to get one.

G. Strain said...

My wife got her driver's license in Belarus (Gomel') in 2001 and was required to have a complete physical, including a gynecological exam.

W. Shedd said...

Yes, Katja had to do the same in Yaroslavskii Oblast in Russia in 2005.

Ronin of RWPrimer said...

Excellent review of the Russian Mindset. I have visited Russia for 4 months and have experienced many of these attributes of the Russian Soul. That was 4 years ago and I still get a daily review of them from my Russian wife. Again, a great read in the difference in culture.

Ronin of RWPrimer.com

Anonymous said...

Are you really Russian, dear Author of the above article? What on earth made you feel free to write and post it as if on behalf of the Russian nation as a whole? What out-crying self-mockery! It's yourself you described isn't it? What is your true nationality and in what country do you really want to live? I don't think you will still be living in Russia pretty soon. And no harm to it either.

W. Shedd said...

I'm guessing that English isn't your first language and you didn't understand this article or what was written and why.

Anonymous said...

Yep your right it's not my native tongue but I sure did understand the true meaning or purpose of the article, my dear W.Shedd. I've read most other posts on the Zompist on this topic (If you're a..) written (with good and non-offending humor) by the respective nationals themselves, but only the one that you (a Non-Russian) had written clearly stands alone. What made you so willing to accept that responsibility upon yourself to speak on behalf of Russia? And who is that girl you attached as co-author, a school or U student whose parents see her as a sure candidate for emigration? Take it easy boy, only a few real Russians will ever read your pamphlet, so maybe I'll be the only one offended, but don't translate it into Russian literally and in full that might be a mistake

W. Shedd said...

Actually, I didn't write it alone, but with the help of several Russians. I guess your limited English language skills precluded you from discerning that fact. The fact that I did most of the typing was simply due to language ... Zompist is in English, as is this blog.

Many Russians have read and linked to this article. It has been posted on multiple Russian language livejournals. I would dare say that thousands of Russians have already read it. You are the only one who seemed offended. In fact, many of the comments before yours were positive and written by native Russians. That makes me think your English is rather lacking and you didn't understand what was written.

Perhaps instead of ranting, you should cite what you felt was inaccurate or insulting. I seem to recall that I wrote that I considered it to be a work in progress.

You jump to some huge and silly assumptions in your comments. Writing about a topic does not make me "responsible to speak on behalf of Russia".

Anonymous said...

I’m not in a position to discuss my language skills here with you, that’s not up to me or you to decide. Neither do I want to point out what exactly was so ‘inaccurate or insulting’ in your article. It’s your overall attitude towards the so-called ‘russian mindset’ expressed in that article that I find most inappropriate and offending. You know what all this boils down to? Let me simply put it on the line for you. It’s like being exceptionally well received and welcome to someone’s home, having stayed there a while thoroughly enjoying every bit of it, but then all of a sudden saying to other people (in public, right?) how filthy the place was. Disreputable, ain’t it? Is this what you call ‘american mindset’?

W. Shedd said...

I don't think it is anything like what you describe, and not a single person our of thousands (other than yourself) has taken that attitude regarding the posting. As most of the points in the article come from native Russians, I would suggest that you take your angst out on your fellow countrymen. I think you just read something into it that wasn't there.

I think it is some personal problem that you have.

As you have nothing to add to the article, but some vague criticizm and general anger, I see no point in continuing this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Превед, аффтар!
It`s nice to have some russofiles in the USA. As a Russian and a proud Moscowite (currently living in Canada, though) I attest that most of your observations about Russia are more or less true.
Thank you, nice job!
Just a few little remarks, if you allow.
"You believe that all politicians and wealthy individuals had to cheat, lie, or steal to rise to their position of power..."
I would say: we believe, that those, who are already in power, are stealing. And those, who want to come to powewr - are hungry for money and that`s why it`s no good for the country to vote them in power because the incumbents are more or less satisfied, but these new opposition guys - they are hungry!
"Everybody does it. Where’s the harm in that? The wealthy make enough already." Lots of us share this position: "I won`t pay anything to this damned government wherever I can because it robs us!" I don`t say whether I agree or disagree with that, it`s just what lot of Russians keep saying these days. "With Light Steam (S Legkim Parom)," it has a double name: "Irony of fate, or Have a nice bath!" This movie is shown every New Year and every New Year we watch it!
"You know how football (not that American stuff) and hockey are played, especially if you are a man. And you likely follow figure skating also. Everyone knows Russians are the best at it." Exactly!:-) Footbal (which you, guys, call soccer) is a real sport! I happen to be a nephew of a famous Soviet figure skater, 6-times world champion, but now hardly she`s remembered.
"You don’t consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food; however you might eat some suspicious looking mushrooms that you’ve picked up in the woods. Sometimes you get poisoned by them but that doesn’t stop you from mushroom-picking next time..."
There`s nothing wrong with collecting mushrooms and berries, you just should be able to tell harmless ones from the poisonous, that`s it. And don`t collect them close to industrial plants and busy roads!
"A bathroom has a bathtub in it and it might have a toilet, although it might be in a separate room as well..." Isn`t that convenient? One family member can have a bath and another at the same time use a toilet.
"If you live in a big city (and of course, you absolutely want to ... who wants to live in a dirty village of only half a million people?) you rely upon the metro, buses, or marshrutka (mini-buses). They are cheap, fast, and reliable. Even cheaper if you get one of those counterfeit pass-cards that people sell on the streets. Just don’t get caught using one. Sometimes you take a taxi, or just wave down a car going by and negotiate the cost of a ride." Don`t mix them all together. Nothing of them is reliable enough. Municipal public transit is relatively cheap. But jitney is faster, but it is less safe. It can be more expensive, but not necessarily so. "Trains are quite reliable for traveling long distances in Russia … not that you do that very often." But our long-distance passenger railway network is still quite developed! Some trains offer luxurious service (for an extra cost). They cover all the country and also connect us with some foreign cities from Frankfurt-am-Mein (Germany) to Pyongyang (Northern Korea) and from Helsinki (Finland) to Sofia (Bulgaria). If you, Americans, have a love affair with the (auto)road, as Rand McNally says, then we have a love affair with the Railroad! "Airplanes are expensive and a bit scary and thrilling … you flew on one once when going to Anatalya, Turkey for vacation." Well, yes, they are also a part of our life, especially considering the fact that some areas of Russia don`t have any roads at all. For vacation we go to Antalya. Anatolya is a European part of Turkey next to Bulgaria.

"You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs. Shoes are removed as soon as you enter the house, put on some house slippers, and for god’s sake, wash your hands after you’ve been out! The city is filthy!" Who ever thought of as the opposite?
"You need to be 18 to get a drivers license." Yes and that`s reasonable. Some guys even in their 20`s are not responsible enough to drive. "You have to take paid lessons and cannot practice on your own." Why, you can, but only in specially designated areas. "Women mostly don’t drive (which is only proper) although more of them are getting on the roads these days." As we say, woman at a steering wheel is as a monkey with a hand grenade! - so unpredictable! But that` not about ALL female drivers, of course. "Before you can get permission to drive, you are required to have a full physical, including a gynecological exam for women (eto pravda!)." Not a full, but you should get a note from a local drug addiction treatment service that you are not registered with them as an alcoholic or a drug addict and also you have to pass a psychiatrist`s examination. About gynekologists - frankly, I don`t know, I`m not a woman. :)
"Beer (pivo) is a nice mild beverage; you can even drink it while walking in the street." Of course, why not? Just behave yourself and don`t litter! If you are a thug, you will be a thug even while staying sober. "although recent changes in public drinking laws have made that illegal." Ah, never mind! They seem to pass every year or two a law, prohibiting drinking beer outdoors. But last time I checked, people still drank and didn`t care!
"Even teenagers drink it, although that can be a bit of a problem." What problem? My friend amd me used to dring some beer after our high school classes on our way home, when we were 15-16 years of age. At school parties we also drank... vodka, champaigne, you name it. But we didn`t turn into alcoholics! Just know your limit...
"Vodka is mostly drunk by men, and of course, real Russian Vodka is the best in the world..." I don`t know, for me its taste is disgusting. (I found Ukrainian Horylka a bit nicer). And Russians drink this poison too much. I don`t mind some beer or some good wine. But vodka degrades people, breaks families, etc...
When it comes to "racist" problem... Russian Jews are often assimilated and are no different from Russians. Also we cannot distinguish a Georgian from Armenian (may be, only by his name) or a Komi from a Chukcha. See, they are Russian citizens or more-less assimilated permanent residents. But they are not ethnic Russians. But if our coworkers or classmates have a non-typical skin`s, hair`s or eyes` colour - we are fine with that, he is the same buddy as us. On the other hand, Moscowites are feeling more and more uneasy with influx of visible minorities into Moscow. And they are right, enough is enough, Moscow is for Russians!..
"However, employers must pay payroll taxes to the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, the State Employment Fund and the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund" - this is an outdated info, now they are brought together into a United Social Tax. "Most evade taxes in some form, it is almost a national sport to break the rules at least a little" - and after that the same people complain that our state fails seniors so badly by paying them too little pensions! It`s your, guys, own fault! It`s not because the Pension Authority is greedy - it`s because you are greedy by not paying your taxes!
"University isn’t, unless you get a scholarship." Well, it is supposed to be free, but there are more and more options to study for a feeif you didn`t manage to get through on a free spot.
" But we are very strong and preserved against great odds, even when our former so-called allies turned against us after the war, as we knew they would. Russia must be strong because everybody else is against us and it has always been so." Well.this is approximately true. But we make a difference between the II WW and the Great Patriotic War because the II WW started in 1939 and we were hoping to sit it out but in 1941 the Germans invaded and that was the GPW.
"It is usually a good chance for them to make good money and they sometimes can really “peel off” the poor guy", no, in eastern countries grooms have to pay a fortune, but in Russia it`s only a symbolic sum.
"If a man has sex with a man, he is a homosexual." and who else is he? Perhaps, a lesbian?:-)
"Men wear briefs at the beach, and not those big heavy shorts that American men seem to wear." - and this is right, Americans (as well as Canadians) are stupid by wearing long shorts on a beach while it is not really a swimvear. Briefs is really a swimvear!
"A company can fire just about anybody it wants without any explanation." Well, even if it happens, it`s against the law.
Americans – "They are all fat, of course. It comes from their unhealthy and unnatural foods that they eat there. All their food is engineered and full of preservatives ... no wonder they are unhealthy" - and also Russians consider Americans dumb and too aggressive on the world stage. When USA launched an aggression against Jugoslavia in 1999 - you should have seen a fiery meeting in front of the U.S.` embassy in Moscow! I still hate NATO for what it has done to our brothers Serbs.
"Belarussians - "White Russians"" the most friendly country to Russia, nice guys, the only country, which has virtually no enforced border with Russia.
"Many have tried to conquer Russia, but none have succeeded, unless you count the Mongols long ago. But eventually Ivan Grozny defeated them also at the battle of Kazan" - no, Ivan Groznyj conquered Kazan in about 70 years after we had completely gotten rid of Tatar-Mongol occupation.
"You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a medium sized car. Actually, you consider anything bigger than a pumpkin to be a good-sized car. And you are proud of your OKA even though some people might call it an “abortion of the truck”." Well. "Oka" is like our "Mini". But we have a real good-sized car - which is called "Volga", produced at a plant, which was built by Ford in 1932. It`s a beautiful car, the only downsides is a high fuel mileage and bad quality of assembly.

"The police are armed with submachine guns, but the mafia is even better armed. Chechen terrorists are well armed as well." No, the police, FSB (KGB) and etc. has become so strong that we are afraid of them maybe even more than mafia and chechen terrorists.


"Taxis are usually operated by thieves who try to get from you as much as possible and would be more than happy to drive you in circles before they get to the place of destination to charge some extra." It`s not always the case. I had only good experience in Moscow both with official yellow taxi cabs and with jipsy cabbies as well, they charged reasonable prices and didn`t drive around. But I am a Moscowite and I knew for sure where to go. ;-)
Well, that`s pretty much it for now. :-))
Спасибо! :-)

Russian Rocket.

Anonymous said...

A proud Russian and Muscovite, eh?
Now living in Canada, though, right? Forever or just for a while, son?

There's a joke: Question: what's the difference between a HOHOL and a Ukrainian? Answer: a Ukrainian lives in the Ukraine, and a HOHOL lives where it suites him best.

When you're older, you'll understand, boy, but you won't be a proud Russian anymore by then, maybe

Anonymous said...

If you really want to know, the reason I found myself in Canada is because I was forced to come here by my family. I never seriously wanted to emigrate from my Motherland and I would have not done it at my will. But it was forced upon me against my wish. Yes, I am here for a while, not forever.
And I don`t know, what your problem is, therefore I am afraid I can not solve it, sorry. Yes, I am a proud Russian and a proud Moscowite and there is nothing wrong in it. If you feel that the dignity of our country is threatened by some comments - you should turn your anger at some emigrants from Russia (I don`t even consider myself one) who really throw filth at "this country", while I love our country. I just see nothing wrong in drinking beer outdoors, that`s it. :-)

Russian Rocket

Anonymous said...

Well said. Please accept my apologies. Looks like you've read all the above posts and the posts on the Zompist carefully.

These apologies, however, do not extend to the author of the above article.

Oleg said...

Good work!

Thank you for your time and effort. It made me rethink some things.
I think that most of those beliefs are shared around the former Soviet Union, though. A lot of points reflect the Soviet heritage.

Some comments on the text:

You need to be 18 to get a drivers license. You have to take paid lessons and cannot practice on your own. This makes getting a license difficult. But of course, you can always just bribe an official and get a license … really, everybody does it.

---well, of course, NOT everybody does it and it doesn't always work!


If you are talking to someone, it is Ok if they approach close to you, you might as well do the same.

---I would disagree with that one; close is relative,I don't think as close as in Japan or China


You also celebrate and follow many pagan holidays and traditions too. The Church is not against it.

---sorry, wouldn't be so sure about the attitude of the Church.


Overall, a bit limited in perception at times, but still a very good effort.

Some points are maybe too ironic which makes it clear that it wasn't written by a Russian person and what's more it makes it clear that the American author is somewhat hurt by the Russian attitude to fast food and American way of life. Here's the example:

McDonalds and Pizza Hut are not cheap food, and are just terrible for you. Americans eat this unhealthy food all the time; it is why they are all fat. You’ve tried these places and their food quality is bad. You might even try it weekly, just to be sure that it is still terrible. Mmm, yes, still terrible. Cheaper and better options exist at local cafes. Baskin-Robbins is cool though … did you know they have 32 flavors?


Another example:

I just bought a new one a month ago, but I want to exchange it for the latest, coolest one like Masha got last week! Mobile phones are all pre-paid plans, and phone cards are all in dollars (the price might vary too much if it were in rubles).

I wish the author would strip the text of all the American nemesis thing so that it wouldn't look like an American view on the life of Russians (and possibly their view of themselves and the world)

But then it wouldn't be such a funny read any more:)

Thanks once again and good luck in exploring the Russian culture and identity.

P.S. Yes, and what is a beep anyway?:)

Anonymous said...

I just got back from Russia teaching English to college students and I found this humorously accurate.

Anonymous said...

As an American of Ukrainian ancestry, I have always wondered what Russians thought about Ukrainians.

Why would the Ukrainian people need to be grateful to Russia, who in 1932-1933 created an artificial famine to wipe out the Ukrainian population in Ukraine? Please elaborate on this? This would be like saying that Israel needs to be grateful of Germany!

Anonymous said...

"Why would the Ukrainian people need to be grateful to Russia, who in 1932-1933 created an artificial famine to wipe out the Ukrainian population in Ukraine? Please elaborate on this? This would be like saying that Israel needs to be grateful of Germany!"

Excuse me? It's as if saying every person in Russia went to Ukraine and robbed its poor people of their bread! There were famines all over the Soviet Union in those years, and it was the Stalinist government that ordered to take away bread from rich agricultural areas to support industrializing cities. Nobody knew what was going on at the time.

John Cowan said...

One of the anonymous people writes:

"If a man has sex with a man, he is a homosexual." and who else is he? Perhaps, a lesbian?:-)

Obviously not. However, in some cultures a man who is on top is not necessarily considered a homosexual. If you look at some of the other Zompist pages you can find this.

Anonymous said...

Quite interesting point a view. Sometimes funny :)

Anonymous said...

"Excuse me? It's as if saying every person in Russia went to Ukraine and robbed its poor people of their bread! There were famines all over the Soviet Union in those years, and it was the Stalinist government that ordered to take away bread from rich agricultural areas to support industrializing cities. Nobody knew what was going on at the time."

THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON IN UKRAINE. PEOPLE IN RUSSIA KEPT THE WESTERN COUNTRIES FROM KNOWING THE TRUTH.

I HAVE SPOKEN WITH 90 YEAR OLD PEOPLE IN RUSSIA WHO TOLD ME THAT EVERY ONE KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON, BUT WERE NOT ABLE TO SAY ANYTHING. VERY FEW PEOPLE TRIED TO GET THE MESSAGE OUT OF THE SOVIET UNION AND THESE WERE ALL UKRAINIANS.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed looking through your comments, thank you for your interest in Russia. The one thing I'd like to correct is the statement that Russians don't speak foreign languages. Even the older-generation folks at least remember a phrase or two from their school years, not to mention the 30- people. I'd say most people know some English. In addition, many Russian have had some exposure to te American culture and don't support the "fat Americans" stereotypes. Thanks for posting this, these ideas are witty, though some of them do look condescending. You did expect Russian to read this, didn't you?

W. Shedd said...

Sure I expected and even hoped Russians would read this. I know of 4 or 5 Russian LJs that picked up on it, mostly with positive feedback. I'm not sure how it appears condescending, however. I think that must appear in your own mind, because it is being seen on the blog of some American? It was almost all written by Russian friends of mine, merely translated by Katja and myself. The jokes and self-depricating remarks are from Russians themselves. I certainly didn't invent anything here. To me, it reflects a common theme in Russian humor.

I think the fat (and stupid and aggressive) American stereotype stands VERY strongly in the Russian mind these days. Zadornov certainly exploits that image to great affect. I think many others do as well.

I've uncommonly met a native Russian over the age of about 30 or 35 who speaks more than a handful of words in English. Outside of Moscow this skill diminishes exponentially. Those under 30 certainly have much broader language skills (in my experience). And again, the information on that skill and experience wasn't written by me, but by Russian friends and associates. Before I ever posted this, I gave the list to Russian friends to review and edit.

I think the commentary is helpful in having Russian people express their opinions on this "If you are Russian" posting. The other cultural pages from Zompist don't have this feature, or I might suggest 5 or 6 changes or additions to the American page as well.

Anonymous said...

Well, like I said I liked most of the things in your post. They were really keenly observed.
Yet, let me disagree with you on the languages part. I originally come from Chelyabinsk in the Urals and I am the winner of the all-Russian English language contest-2005. I'm not trying to show off, but my point is that language teaching is decent in areas other than Moscow. In addition, most school teach a language starting from the 5th if not the 1st grade, so a student will have had some 5 to 10 years of study by the time they graduate.
As for the "condescending" part, I didn't mean you personally, but say, the thing about WWII. It's a real misunderstanding that goes both ways with both the RF and the US blaming each other of ignoring the other's contribution to the victory. Still, I'd have to question the notion that Russians are unaware of the Allies' contribution. If not praised and appreciated, this is at least taught to youngsters.
Of course, most people here remember the participation of the Soviet Army because it fought on the USSR's territory and because it defended the homes of their families. I don't mean to sound all patriotic here, but this is a serious thing and joking about it is somehow similar to making jokes about 9/11.
Now, to the positive side. I really liked your (or whoever compiled this post) observations of people thinking that folks of another ethnic origin are not Russian and of how Russians rarely sue anyone.
As for the Army, sure enough, many guys buy their way out of it, but a greater number simply goes to university and enlists with the Военная кафедра (you know what that is, right?) and doesn't serve legally.
Keep on writing! I am looking forward to reading more.
--Maria--

Anonymous said...

P.S. Jeez, can't believe I made so many typos in the first comment. Sorry about that.
P.P.S. You wrote this:
" I think that must appear in your own mind, because it is being seen on the blog of some American?"
before you saw I had been in the US, didn't you? :)

Anonymous said...

very funny,really!!and almost everything is true,and maybe that s why i prefer to live in the uk,not in russia,being 75%russian-and25% ukranian/granddad was a russian ukranian/

James said...

i think you'll find britain and her commonwealth were at war with germany long before you ever decided to sign your pact with hitler - thankyou very much.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this blog is that those who have never been to Russia may (and will) misinterprete some statements. The purpose of this blog in not to inform, rather to make people feel bad about Russian people.

Let's see:

1.
>>You know how football (not that American stuff)

So any American would feel bad about it. The statement tells a reader that Russians do not respect the American way of calling things. Why the hell you, #### Russians call it 'that American Stuff?'

The truth is that ... people who live in Russia cannot have that attitude because there are two terms FOOTBALL and AMERICAN FOOTBALL in Russian language and those two are considered as just two different sports. I would dare to say that majority of people in Russia have no idea what American football is about and have NO attitude toward that sport at all. The attitude 'that American stuff' exists among immigrants from Russia. But immigrants and Russians are not the same.

2.
>>Mobile phones are all pre-paid plans, and phone cards are all in dollars (the price might vary too much if it were in rubles).

Too outdated info. The prices are not in dollars anymore, and ruble is quite stable.

3.
>>Before you can get permission to drive, you are required to have a full physical, including a gynecological exam for women (eto pravda!).

In Russia (unlike US) the healthcare system is funded from taxes. Preventive care is a major way to save money. Why in the US you cannot get to school or a college before you get all your immunization done? To prevent disorders to aggravate or to get distributed.

The same holds true for fluorography and gynecological exams in Russia. Department of health issued an order that once a year a female must visit a gynecologist (anything wrong with that?). At the same time to get a driver license you need a take a medical check-up with you local medical center. Reasonable? Yes, because they have info if you are alcohol or drug addictive. All medical care providers subordinate to the department of health. There is no real power for the department of health to enforce their policy of having women health checked regularly. They cannot go to a court and police to force women to go to check-up. So they instructed medical care providers to not issue ANY medical certificates to women unless a yearly check up is conducted. As such if you need you medical for your driver licence, your yearly checks must be current.

Well, the info taken out of the context looks really funny, while it is not if you know the whole picture.

W. Shedd said...

"The purpose of this blog in not to inform, rather to make people feel bad about Russian people."

You're an idiot. Nothing in this blog is devoted to making people feel bad about the Russian people.

Your comments about football vs. American football are just non sequitur. Citing "not that American stuff" is just to clarify to American readers that football is what Americans would call "soccer". No insult is implied to Russians in the comment. You must be an extremely thin-skinned individual.

Your comment about prices in dollars is just wrong. Yes, the ruble is more stable, that certainly was not in dispute. Still, many if not most mobile phone prices (and salaries) are in dollars in Russia.

As to health care - do you really want to enter a discussion of the state of public health care in Russia? Private health care that you pay for in Russia can be excellent - but public health care is a terrible in most of Russia. Your comment about how the the government uses the licensing requirement to enforce gynecological exam falls apart when one realizes that such a small fraction of women in Russia bother to obtain a drivers license. Of that fraction, very few bother with legal licensing procedures and examinations. They simply pay and get a license.

If you somehow find the facts insulting, I think it is your problem. You must have what Americans would describe as "rabbit ears". Certainly neither myself nor any of the people who helped compile the "If You are Russian .." list for Zompist attempted to make it insulting.

Ivan said...

Regarding McDonalds, you should also mention that a lot of people consider it a free WC chain.

Andrey Tarantsov said...

Hi! I think this is brilliant, thanks. Just a few thoughts:

1) Mobile phone payments are now really in rubles, at least in Novosibirsk

2) I think you overestimate the things you can buy with a bribe. While I did not double check the following statements, this are the "well-known" or commonly experienced facts. This might be affected by the city I live in, of course — maybe it's a different story in Moscow.

— I would not say it's an option to buy a driver's license — I'd say many people heard the stories about buying them, but think it would take too much money. Also I never heard anyone say it's too hard to obtain a license.

— On the other hand, the price of not going to army is reasonable and is well-known to be around $2000.

3) I don't know how to play football and hockey, but I do feel that I'm unusual about it.

4) Smart people here have often a variation of believing in god (or explore something like Daocism — sorry, might be a wrong translation) , and definitely don't go into or relate themselves to an organized church on any kind.

5) McDonalds and Pizza Hut don't exist in our city (the biggest one to the east of Ural). But yes, everybody knows fast food is bad, together with “Mmm, yes, still bad” part.

6) Many younger people argue to not grow any food on dacha. But only if they can afford it. For many elder people (who happen to not be mice) and also people of low-paid professions like teachers and doctors, growing their own vegetables is the only way of living.

7) The mentioned teachers and doctors are commonly called "budget professions", because they are paid by the state from the budget. They get very little money.

8) ”Education is free through high school. University isn’t, unless you get a scholarship.” — incorrect about universities. Most of them has both free and paid sits. People who pass exams better occupy the free sits, and the remaining ones can compete for the paid sits. There are universities without free sits at all, but the best and most known of them do have ones.

Also the 4+2 years university (bachelor + master) is also common.

9) “You don’t seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes.” Not so good. You seriously expect doing a successful business is dangerous for your life.

10) “If you live outside of Moscow you want to live inside of Moscow.” Not really.

11) Taxis that wait for you in airports and train stations might be opereated by thieves, but you wouldn't consider using them anyway because they are too expensive. Taxis called in by phone usually have fair drivers.

Though, yes, most drivers (not only in taxis but also in buses and mini-buses) look like they came out of prison, and often it is true. They like listening to a radio station that often broadcasts songs about prisons. This makes you wild. But a person next to you in a minibus might however like them.

12) “f you are in trouble you think twice before bothering milicia (police). Ok, maybe think three times.” — absolutely untrue. You would call them immediately. However you would not expect them to be very helpful. You'd better *also* call some friend who knows someone from milicia, this might help your deal very much.

Again, your text is great. Maybe it's time for an update, to incorporate all the comments? (And maybe you would delete the comments with stupid complaints that are not worth reading anyway?)

Anonymous said...

The policemen are not armed with SMGs. They are armed with either pistols or assault rifles (the difference, I believe, is that in the Western countries assault rifles are normally army weapons, so it could be worth mentioning).

Jenni said...

Seems pretty accurate to me - although my mobile phone was in rubles. Landladies of foreign students have also started taking rent in rubles, where a couple of years ago they only accepted dollars.

W. Shedd said...

Yes - time to update this entry and incorporate all the great suggestions.

Chrisius Maximus said...

Mobile phones are in rubles. Hell most everything is in rubles.

You might want to put something about how the euro is trouncing the dollar in all the obmen valyuty outlets.

Maria said...

Please don't listen to naysayers! I was born and raised in Russia, and your article is very accurate. It's also typical of Russians to refuse criticism of any sort (which is why the naysayers are having a field day). Yes indeed, Russia is the best, most wonderful, strongest, etc. etc. country in the world (NOT). It's the most arrogant nation in the world that dares to believe themselves the best yet has nothing to show for it. It's a nation of people who would rather condemn their neighbors for the good life they have (due to hard work and honesty) but would rather sit in poverty and lies than work hard or be honest themselves. Why work when you can steal! Sorry for the rant... But I feel it's important for a Russian person to second what you said, because it's the absolute truth.

You might also want to add these. You're Russian if...
- you are incredibly, absurdly superstitious - you have a fit if someone opens an umbrella in the house or puts down their toast champaigne glass without finishing it;
- you can't care less what modern science and medicine have to say - you believe that the flu is caused by having cold drinks, and gynecological problems are caused by sitting on cold stone, and nothing will ever change your mind;
- you think child abuse is perfectly fine; you physically punish your child routinely, and see nothing wrong with spanking a 1 year old for peeing in his/her pants... after all, if he's going to go to daycare, he better be toilet-trained by age 18 months;
- if you're poured a drink, you better drink it all up, or you'll offend people;
- if you're given a plate of food, you better eat it all or you'll offend people;
- if you're a man, you consider yourself a God-given gift to women, and expect them to spread their legs for you right away; there's nothing wrong with talking dirty to a woman you have just met;
- there's nothing wrong with calling people who are not Russians offensive names; racism is socially accepted;
- the bribe part isn't true just to government; it's true for every sphere of life.

Keep writing, this is a great blog!

Maria

Chrisius Maximus said...

Or, if you're a Russian who emigrated a long time ago, you gain lots of thrills by running down your country of birth in order to justify the fact of your emigration. This is especially true if the population of the new country hold negative opinions about Russians, as you feel that outdoing them will help you assimilate. Alas, it never works, so one is forced into making ever-kookier statements about the source country and posting them on blogs.

Maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria said...

How typical... The above response by "Chrisius Maximus" reminded me of one more you can add to your list:

- you're Russian if you cannot understand how one can possibly NOT love Russia, and/or immigrate out of love for another country; neithre do you believe it's possible for a Russian person to be happy abroad.

I've hated my country of birth since I was 6, Mr. Maximus, before I knew there was even a measly 1% probability of me ever leaving it. I do not seek to "justify" my immigration - one can only seek justification for a crime, or a shameful/evil act. My having immigrated is neither. But then again, seeing as you're Russian (I assume?) I don't expect you to EVER understand.

Cheers.

Chrisius Maximus said...

Nope. Wrong. I am an American. I sued to do the bashin-my-homeland bit too, but grew out of it.

I am very familiar with the painful phenomenon of the self-hating Eastern European expat (who has hated their country from the preposterous age of six :) ). The particularly embarrassing variety is the older ones who emigrated during the USSR. They expected to be respected in the US, England, etc., but weren't, so they concocted all sorts of tales of woe about their homelands and extolled the virtues of Reagan and Pinochet. In my opinion this is the result of attempting to assimilate into Western countries that view Eastern Europeans as funny-looking Negroes with white skin, and thus one tries to overcompensate, with embarrassing and hilarious results. It is a truely replusive phenomenon.

Tushin said...

Chris, this is Kolya from Vermont.

Just a quick comment: my experience seems to be quite different from yours. I have met plenty of self-hating American expats, but very few (right now I don't remember any) self-hating Eastern Europeans immigrants. I do know plenty of anti-communist Eastern Europeans, but that's a totally different thing. I have to clarify that when I write "Eastern European" I primarily mean Russians, since most Eastern Europeans I know are Russians.

W. Shedd said...

Hello Kolya in Vermont. Most of my family is from northern Vermont - my wife has found Vermont to be the state that reminds her most of Russia.

Not sure if "self-hating" is the correct term or not. I've met and communicated with many people born in Russia who live in the US or West who are very critical, skeptical, what have you, of Russia. Many of them are Jewish, which may have brought upon them particular treatment by Russian people, and has made the West appear to be some sort of haven in comparison.

Mike Averko likely will jump upon this and elaborate.

I try to show Russia as I have learned of it, with both the negative and the positive. I've yet to meet a perfect people or nation. As an American, I can find plenty to criticize regarding our nations policies and politics, but I also recognize our great accomplishments. I think Russia deserves similar treatment, although it certainly is easier to find negative news about Russia in the English language news media.

To Maria - I'm not sure if I could categorize Russians as the most arrogant nation in the world. Surely, the culture has a sort of macho arrogance comparable to Spanish and French cultures. I had a French girlfriend some years ago who certainly gave me a taste of French over-inflated image of self-importance (no offense meant to Bert at Wine Terroirs).

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LOL. This is actually getting pretty amusing, "Chrisius". Do you always judge people solely based on what part of the world they came from? You call me repulsive (or suggest it) - but what's truly repulsive here is you taking it upon yourself to judge someone based on their ethnic background alone. You take it upon yourself to label me as a "funny-looking Negro with white skin" when you know absolutely NOTHING about me. In fact, I guarantee that if you met me on the street and knew nothing about where I come from, you'd have a VERY hard time guessing (everyone does, and in the end they're always wrong... not exaggerating, ALWAYS). I have next to no accent, I'm a successful businesswoman, my husband and all my friends and colleagues are American, and I simply feel more comfortable with Western culture than I've ever felt with Russian one. Is that so hard for you to believe? I may not be a millionaire or a famous person, but if there's one thing I've found here, it's respect. Pay me... heck, put a gun to my head, and I still wouldn't go back to mother Russia. Yes, I realize there are plenty of immigrants who are indeed not respected and regret the fact of their immigration, but let me assure you, not all of us are that way, same as not all of us love vodka or berry-picking. Your assumptions are hardly on-target... in fact, they're downright laughable. I feel with you it;s more the case of the grass being greener - you're drawn to Russia because it's exotic, but then you tend to idealize it in the process (and I understand... I have a similar love of my own, Japan). And last but not least, have you ever been to Russia? Have you ever lived like a Russian? If you haven't I don't think you've got any business talking about it at all.

To Kolya: yes, I agree with you that there are other nations who are arrogant. France definitely, with Japan being a close second (and I love the Japanese!) Thing is, Russians are the only arrogant people in the world who have next to nothing to show for it. In other words, when a successful person is being arrogant, it's not exactly admirable, but at least you can understand what makes them arrogant. But when a drunk bum sitting in dirt is being arrogant... It's both amusing and infuriating. Yes, Russia has a rich culture and beautiful architecture and art et al... Problem is, more than 90% of it was produced before 1917. Today's Russia is NOTHING like pre-Revolution Russia. THAT was the true Russia, and now it's gone forever. I say when you've got nothing to eat it's time to curb your arrogance and work your ass off to restore your conntry to its greatness, but no... They'd rather run their mouths, steal, drink themselves into oblivion, all the while badmouthing those who are better off. Respectable? Hardly.

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W. Shedd, yes, I like Vermont. I like birches, I like snow, and the summers here are great, too.

I loved your list. Humorous and spot on more often than not. Despite some thin-skinned complainers I'm sure that most Russians who read it had a good laugh.

Perhaps "self-hating" is too strong of a word, but what I mean to say is that some expats (whether American or Russian) have a knee-jerk negative reaction to happenings in their country of origin. In my own personal experience I have seen this more often among American rather than Russian expats. Maybe it has to do with the people I tend to hang out with.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong about being critical of what's going on in your country or culture or origin, whether you live there or not. There is a difference between being critical about things and being what I called a "self-hating" American or Russian.

Kolya

Maria said...

A correction: the last paragraph of my last post is a reply to W. Shedd, not Kolya. Sorry for the confusion. :)

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Dear Maria,

I just wanted to make a quick comment about your opponent Chrisius M. Even if you believe him and assume that he is really an American, he must be one of those dopey Liberals who dream of "Social Justice", scream about "Global Warming", think George Bush caused Kathrina and the tsunami, hate Pinochet and want to try Mr. Henry Kissinger for all crimes against humanity ever committed in their imagination. Characters like our Chris here have always been regarded as useful idiots by the Kommies. They don't even have to be paid salaries by the Kremlin to spew the KGB-FSB propaganda. Their new deity is that pathetic clown Obama.

How nauseating. Will I ever see a single Kommie (besides Ceausescu) tried and strung up, Nuremberg-style, in my lifetime? I will even volunteer to do the stringing-upping!

Regards, Piggy.

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Thank you, Piggy. I appreciate the support.

If Obama was just pathetic, I would probably just roll my eyes and go on about my merry ways. Unfortunately, I believe he's dangerous. It's true what the bumper stickers say these days: "Election 2008: We're screwed either way." ;)

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What really interests me is why would you put russian equivalents in brackets sometimes? If you are russian and you can read in English you would be able to understand anyway, right? Not a bigie anyway.

At the start the funny parts are really nice, but as you read on they pile up and start to feel like a bit over the top to me... But again, the content is great!

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