Culture and Character of Russia Part II

State and Society


The Russian Heritage

Russia has a history of power centrally concentrated in the economy, culture, education, media, religion, and citizens private lives. Initiative has been stifled in the process.


The Bureaucracy

 In the USSR many officials considered themselves a superior species, appointed to drive the herds of human cattle.  Nepotism, friendships, or former party membership are the reason some Russians hold the higher paid jobs then others. Incompetence, sloth, conservatism are often the result which causes a tendency to avoid responsibility by passing the buck. The key thing is to stay patient when dealing with the bureaucracy, and finding someone who knows the system, or better yet, someone who knows someone high up in the chain of command.

Update: Bureaucracy – the snake that swallowed the cow, it killed the snake and the cow walked away a little wary from the constriction. The cow understands it must avoid the snake at all costs. A snake is a snake, is a snake. Death is certain but walking into its jaws………..well would you?



 The nation’s sense of right and wrong has been erased under assumption that “everyone steals” . Many who are involved in bribery and embezzlement see it as the only way to survive. There is a sense of justification since, “everyone else is doing it.” The police are notorious for corrupt behavior. While Americans generally trust “the law,” Russians have a tremendous distrust of government, police and the military.

Update: Yep, it’s still here. At least it’s out in the open. Nobody agrees with it, they just haven’t figured out how to deal with it. Maybe moral behavior will change as their spiritual lives improve.



Russia has had a secret police since the sixteenth century when Tsar Ivan the Terrible established his Oprichnina to root out opposition. Over three and a half million (3,778,000) Soviet citizens were sentenced for counter-revolution activity or crimes against the state from 1930 to 1953. The KGB openly admits that 786,000 were shot to death in those 23 years. Many, many more actually lost their lives. The newly formed agency that replaced the KGB after Yeltsin took power has seemed to target issues related to business and commerce.

Update: No reason to beat a dead horse here, FSB replaced the KGB and life goes on. I don’t think they spend an inordinate time spying on their own citizens like their counterparts, if anything like stated above they are more leery of business corporate power and it’s influence over government, something their counterparts would well advised to do.


The Law

The law in Russia has served to protect the state and the community and not the individual. The leaders had the tradition of being above the law. Recently, most Russians, though motivated by fear, do not take the law very seriously. With the fall of Communism, there are often conflicting laws on the books, enforceable as police so choose at a given moment.

Update: Individualism is frowned upon here, as maybe it should be. Look what it’s done to the west! The leaders in Russia, just like everywhere else do pretty much the same, yet they respect the community for the most part, it’s a good balance. The citizens have a healthy fear of government, I’d say they have a better understanding of the spirit of the law, the letter of the law is important but they don’t let it usurp the spirit.


Order and Disorder

Americans are often annoyed by the inconveniences caused by the seemingly inefficient and lackadaisical  way things are done in Russia, including shopping, driving, agricultural poor planning, etc.

Update: Yes it’s true, yet things still get done, just not at a pace that westerners expect. But things are changing as they usually do………….slowly. I think they are understanding they don’t have to compete with the west in this arena, catering to the individual isn’t highly looked upon.


School Days

An extensive system of public schools blanketed the country, eliminated illiteracy, and raised the general level of learning among the populace. Russia has one of the lowest illiteracy rates in the world. A noticeable difference in the students is a lower ability to think for themselves. “Higher Level Thinking Skills” is an unknown term in Russian education. Students are told what the answer is, not why the answer is what it is. “How did you come to that answer?” is not a question a Russian teacher would ask. It is simply right or wrong. Two plus two is four. The reason is immaterial.

Update: After spending some time in Russia and doing lots of research I’ve come to the conclusion that a high percentage of Russians do have tremendous “higher level thinking skills” probably more so than their American counterparts. After teaching at the high school level and at the university level the students are very open and highly imaginative, if they lack anywhere I’d say it’s probably in organization skills (based on a discussion with a fellow blogger). One thing is absolutely for sure the students don’t have the same deterrents (or least to the same level) as American students have which give them the ability to concentrate on their studies.


17 thoughts on “Culture and Character of Russia Part II

  1. [ Students are told what the answer is, not why the answer is what it is. “How did you come to that answer?” is not a question a Russian teacher would ask. It is simply right or wrong.] – I’M SORRY, BUT THAT IS COMPLETE BS!

    The main diff-ce of ex-soviet ed-l system is excl-ly thinking stimulation during study process. That’s is why you can find a lot of russians among Top-thinking science areas like theoretical physics, nuclear physics, materials design, high-end egineering, high-end math, TOP programmers etc.. Also that is why awerage russian has much broader and higher and ,in certain feelds, deeper knowledge level than usual westerner of the same social level.
    Also this is an explanation of well known russian resourcefulness and sharpness\keenness of wit.

    So you r comletely wrong about students and education.
    I probably even know the root of your mistake.
    This root is ,infact, in your misundestanding or not complete understanding of russian mentality and culture\language..
    Russians are very straight in their words, very exact\precise, direct and very concrete\particular and sincere in their thoughts expressions. They don’t give a f…k to pilitcorectness, muted or dodgy talks – they find such talks useless as well as any signs of hypocrisity they find very digusting even during ordinary talk about clouds in the sky or telling someone that he\she is an ass on their opinion. (Btw one of the reason is exactly language structure)

    Best wishes in you investigation or russian culture. 😉
    Best way to do this is to learn and start to feel creating\connecting part of russian language.

    1. Guess what, I totally agree with you on every point. This was an earlier post of mine I’ve done a lot more research and have come to the same conclusion. Anybody can be wrong, including myself. Currently I teach at the High School level and the university level as well. I have made one observation that does concerns me.
      One that I don’t have an answer to yet. How is it that it’s so easy to buy an education in Russia today. I know for a fact that many students are cheating and paying teachers to write dissertations without getting a real education. It’s troubling for the country on all levels. The other thing that amazes me is how quickly they pick up a second language. I’ve begun to read some of the literature which is also truly incredible. Most of my students are much smarter than their American counterparts.
      The I don’t give a f__k attitude is so relieving as well, Americans have their panties all bunched up on this one they take things way to personally. Thanks for your interesting comments. Thanks I will continue my endeavors to understand my Russian brothers. :))))))

      1. About “market relations” in education:
        well, that fenomena is not that big really, however there r a lot of talks about that b\c even ordinary russians, employers and many students consider such fenomena as “not good” and r pretty aware about it. The same time they as straight, direct and sincere ppl are not shame of this and as result talking about it all the time with variable frequency. =)
        Russians also like to punish themselfs – it is kind of national thing also (rather good than bad imho).
        Also y have to consider that “free market” relations used sually by not very good level postgraduate studets\aspirants usually just from career point of view or prestige. Those ones postgraduate who really seeking skills and knoweledge don’t use “free market” options – and they are majority for today (Thx God).

        Other side of the coin consist from add. two points:
        1)The same thing exist in US and Europe too at the same level , however pll there are not used to talk about that openly for many specifically western reasons – individual, social, cultural etc (y probably can name all of them if analyse a little) and also far less ppl in west have insights what is going deep in their educational systems just b\c far less pll have quality higher education (even not talking about postgraduate study).
        2)B\c of many various reasons (incl. the point #1 above) on international labour-market during last 30 years appeared a lot of profesionall from the west who have candidate or doctor or ass. prof degree in so-called(here) humanitarian or even life or solical(OMG! xP) “sciences”. So russain figuring this situation out sometimes consider grabbing some science status for themself just to be more competitive on int. labour-market.

        About Americans panties, cultural, mental and moral differencies:
        Many foreign folks trying to find an explanation of all these russian qualities, values and world view by history, hard climate, orthodox religios worldview and so on. They are not very right on this.
        Sure all named played and plays big roles, but 99,9% forgot the most important reason which above all named before.

        It is very simple infact – this is russian language. =)
        Pll think on their language – i.e. mother(s)\native tongue creates the way a person will think and form his thoughts.

        As russian language is extreemely exact\precise and very concrete\particular (even on figurative subjects) the pll who think in russian will express conformable behaviour.

        [For example you wrote in some your posts(TOP 10 smng about Ru) before that russain language don’t have “a” and “the”. Why? B\c it just don’t need them as objects and subject in each case are very well defined as “each” russain word in sentence have its gender, namber\value\count, case, time etc. That is why you don’t need exact order of words in sentences as oppostite to english for example -the factual information will be extreemely precisely provided indending on word oder(but not emotional one – it will depend on it)]

        That is why russians are extreemely sensible to hypocricity, injustice generated by duble standarts, insincerity etc even at ordinary\usuall life issues – their analyzing apparatus just immediately and comletely indetifies such things and even pretext tendencies and switching on “alert button” on good\bad indicator.

        About: “Most of my students are much smarter than their American counterparts.”
        I will not go into details and esposing all the fetures of this subject as i suppose you already know most of them.

        I will talk about only two ones wich ppl ussualy don’t recognize\know well:

        1)Different educational approaches:
        In the west mainly uses factorial and ,sometimes, fenomenal approach
        and soviet and ex-soviet education systems mainly use so-called essential approach.
        That’s why we here within the scope of essential approach consider the quality of school degree far more important than university one in matter of overall intellectual development and general future persons perspectives.

        2)Again language.
        Simlyfing all already the said above (if you are familiar with IT to some degree) :
        *** the brain is hardware and the language is software\firmware ***
        The better is software – the better and more efficiently the hardware can be used.

        For example according to my subjective opinion based on some ecxact observations, research in lingustics and science, historical and science stat-cs and personal expirince i could say next about mind “software” for intel. development:
        German is better soft than English, Russian is better than German and Saskrit is probably better than Russian.
        With Saskrit exist some difficult in estimation b\c you can research only language structure and harmony without any connect to relativly modern reality stat-cs or use.
        However even based on this i conclude that Indian pll should resurect the wide use of Sanskrit instead of Hindi or English and if they do so then Sanskrit almost for sure will boost their national intell. level and will boost the level of other future learners of this beatiful language.

        Japanese and Korean also can be compared to Deutsch (but even so they are pretty different on mentality formation and intell. skills shaping). Chinese imho less good than Japanese and Korean. Nevertheless i’m huge dilettante on Asian language groups. So my opinion on these there Asian firmwares can’t be considered any seriously. xD

        Kind regards,
        BarbarianThinker =P

      2. Omg… so many mistypes… I should stop practicing writing long posts too late in the dark and semi-asleep condition ))

        One most importan’t mistype i should correct: about one of the best firmaware i talked: SaNskrit language.

      3. RE:[Most of my students are much smarter than their American counterparts.]
        I want add one interesting thing.
        Yup, they are smart and quite wide minded and usually b\c of huge knoweledge baggage with time they realize their abilities and that they are “smart wit asses”. xD

        And then b\c of this, sharpness mind and experince of easy \fast pick uping any knowledge they can suffer from deficiency of assiduity\diligence and planning.

        That sometimes in certain circumstances plays with them pretty bad jokes. he-he

        Funny, but fact! )))

      4. As I read this I was laughing, understood it well, either way it doesn’t matter. I think the term is “ladna” probably a terrible transliteration but I’m sure you understand. Due diligence, planning are so western……………let’s live in the now, да. I’ve really got to work on my Russian. :)))))

  2. Even more:
    Russian sutdens never had so called “TEST” before.
    Even during any kind of exams (incl. school and university graduation ones) students usually had find\create solution\aswer by theirselfs, but NOT TO CHOSE one option from the proposed variants.

    So-called “test” system in some areas of russian educational system (EGE for example) is rahter adoption from the west.
    And this partial western adoption rather have negative than positive effect!
    About that many russian educational experts are now complaining.

    1. This part I didn’t know, but it make perfect sense. Russia doesn’t need to follow the west in so many different ways. It even bugs me that I teach English, wish that I could earn a living in a different way, but until then I teach my students a balanced approach to western thought. Embrace what is good and reject everything else. Alas the west pressures the world for the purpose of control and subjugation. The other thing I’m struggling with is why we allow disgusting hard rock bands to come to Russia and promote the crap they bring. As I continue to grow and understand I’m finding my heart is truly Russian, but my head is still stuck in America, hopefully one day I figure it out as well. Anyway Cheers :)))

  3. RE:[wish that I could earn a living in a different way]:
    Well, all could happen y know. 😉 Russia have a lot of possibilities and huge development potential. So one for sure can find far many ways to earn in Russia (imho even far many ways than in US or EU) if he\she has smthg on his\her shoulders and could intergrates well into society(what depends a lot of knowing the language).

    RE:[until then I teach my students a balanced approach to western thought]:
    That is also not bad afterall, esp considering, that you can tell your students “the true world picture” from you rich cross-cult perspective and experience. Even more, you can point them that they sholdn’t pick up anything from the west(i.e. y know “the grass is always more green on other side”…esp from the distance looking) and rather preserve and appreciate more their own culture, roots and heritage. (Scratching head during writing this

    RE:[The other thing I’m struggling with is why we allow disgusting hard rock bands to come to Russia and promote the crap they bring]:
    Even more, i consider that bad influence of the west is not limited to hard rock disgusting bands. I generally don’t like export of west pop culture in Russia and former soviet states nowadays in wide sence- including digusting sence-and-taste-less low-level modern music(of all styles:rock, pop, hip-hop and rap damn it…etc..), storyless and moral-less Hollywood movies, LGBT propaganda, consumerism (“Potreblyadctvo” in folk russian term=), damn liberalism (which in the end is erasing any diff. between anything good and bad or right and wrong, crap and masterpiece) and many more.

    Thst is pretty big and complex question in general .(still scratching))) )

    And for sure that doesn’t mean that abs. all west cinema or music is crap. Sure exist good movies and nice bands, but general modern trend\mainstream is nevertheless pretty “sad” and can be considered rather harmful for the healthy society.
    (Ha! Rembered pretty cool example of western metal rock band from Finland which is pretty nice esp early their works till time they changed the vocalist. Band – Nightwish. You can find some of their works even at YT if r currious).
    About reason of described by you phenomena – i think that partly its heritage of the 90s, when after USSR collapse pll were worshiping all western(again that “green grass”). Society itself is very inertial object and b\c very slowly changing their valuses, habits and orietiers.
    But today i think that in Russia most pll already have tasted “enought” of west to estimate what is inside of the box and they starting returning to their culture. What is nice for sure.
    Additional point is that ppl in Russia till the last few years were very affected by western ..em.. overall marketing and PR abs. in all life spaces. I would even call them a west marketing\PR victims.
    But again, last few years showing that situation is changing in a right direction and changing rapidly ..even with an acceleration. Pll became more and more immune to western pop\prop\cultural marketin\pr virus.

    Sure teens during the growing up time and time when their values, tastes and orientirs are not firm\stable can stick to some cultural crap… but today this is usually a transient issue and usuall escape that in as few years pass on.

    Cheers! =)

    p.s. Regarding music i noticed weird trend of huge interest in the west to soviet born rock bands and many modern rock bands from Russia and other fromer soviet coutries. Stange things are going on. o_0

    1. After reading the last several comments of yours I suspect you are either Russian or from one of the former CIS countries, am I right? What I haven’t been able to find is your blog, do you have one? As I’ve been writing I have tried to present a balanced view but one thing is for sure, I’m not Russian………..yet! I will probably always have some American tendencies but really would like to be more of a world citizen. I could comment on each point but overall we are both in agreement. Did you see the post I did with the musician from the far east? One thing I’m bound and determined to do is see more of Russia, would love to visit Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia , and other CIS countries as well. I believe it would help me get a better world perspective and enrich my life.One thing is for sure we put much more emphasis on the spiritual and the soul than the west does, and that to me is more important than anything else. I’d love to continue our conversation, so let me give you my e-mail address. If you go to my “about me” tab you will find it there, thanks for your comment and support.

      1. Yup, y r right. I’m from Ukraine.
        And you see, i’m typical russian – always ready to discuss of various subjects, to deep thinking, to acquire or share the some knoweledge… but the same time i’m lazyass to well orginize this process. ))) So i don’t have a blog … at least now.

        RE:[Did you see the post I did with the musician from the far east?]
        Nope i idin’t see it yet.
        Btw here is some links to tracks of such rare thing as good western hard rock band – early works of Nightwish when they didn’t lost their dimond Tarja Turunen as singer:

      2. RE:[I’d love to continue our conversation, so let me give you my e-mail address. If you go to my “about me” tab you will find it there, thanks for your comment and support]:
        Sure, i’d love too.
        However i don’t use email much for conversations. Prefer IM- skype, viber, telegram, jabber, icq etc.

        Can you give me any of these ID?
        Or i can send you a notify email throught the about me form with mine one fo futher contacts sharing.

  4. Sorry for the scale of the media post. I didn’t expect that wp interface will insert the videos instead of just links list. (

      1. Steve i sent you the contact mail as you asked at AboutMe form.
        Pls inform me if you received it.

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