Culture and Character of Russia

Culture and Character



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 . Respect for authority was high. The concept of reward tied to performance was also alien, as was individual initiative. Many still view entrepreneurial active 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.



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 keep up 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.



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 show 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 keep Russia’s unique cultural values and traditions. The West has been seen as spiritually impoverished and decadent, Russia as morally rich and virtuous.


3 thoughts on “Culture and Character of Russia

  1. Great post! I have been to Russia many times and have been studying Russian for several years. I agree with a lot of what you wrote here. I think you did a good job of describing the Russian character in a nutshell.

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