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Salient Features of the Russian National Character
December 18, 2013 14:23


The Russian national character can hardly be fathomed or defined disconcertingly.

 
Among the acknowledged merits of Russian mentality one can name kindness and as it is manifested in relation to people, i.e. in particular goodwill, hospitality, warm-heartedness, responsiveness, geniality, mercy, generosity, compassion and empathy. These are accompanied with guilelessness, openness, honesty, and tolerance. However, this list lacks such qualities as self-pride and self-confidence, which normally reflect a person’s self-concern. Thus, the fact points to the community spirit, the tendency of a Russian person to regard others first.
 
The Russian people’s attitude to work is quite peculiar. The Russian person can be extremely hardworking, efficient and hardy, but more often happens to be lazy, negligent, careless and irresponsible. Diligence of Russians can be well seen in honest and responsible performance of our work duties, but it does not imply initiative, independence, and striving to differentiate oneself from others. Carelessness is accounted for or backed up with the enormous vastness of the Russian land and seeming inexhaustibility of its riches, which will suffice for us and our descendants very well. Since we have plenty of everything, we do not stint anything.
 
“Belief in the kind tsar” was a long-term trait of the collective unconscious of the Russian people. Since olden times the Russian man was not willing to deal with officials or landowners, but preferred to write petitions to the tsar (or the secretary general, or the president) instead, with a belief that evil officials were deceiving the kind tsar. The widespread concern around the presidential elections that took place in the last 20 years points to the still existing belief that if we elect the right one, Russia will turn into a prospering state.
 

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Fancy for political myths is another salient feature of the Russian mentality. It is inseparably linked with the Russian idea, the idea of a special mission of Russia and its people in the world history. The belief that the Russian nation is foreordained to lead the way (be it true Orthodox Christianity, communism or the Euroasian idea) was combined with an urge to sacrifice for the sake of attainting the goals. In this quest the Russians easily ran to extremes: went to the common people (Populism), made a revolution, built communism and then socialism “with a human face”, and afterwards restored the churches earlier destroyed. Myths can change, but ungrounded fancy for them remains. This is one of the reasons why trustfulness is said to be one of the typical Russian national traits.
 
Venturing at random is a very Russian way. “At a venture” permeates our mentality and runs through the life of a Russian person; it even manifests itself in politics and economy. It brings passivity and lack of will (also listed among characteristics of the Russian mentality) to turn into reckless action. But the situations come to it at the eleventh hour: “One does believe in wonder when hears a sound of thunder”, as the saying goes.
 
The reverse side of Russian “random” is the width of the Russian soul. As F.M. Dostoyevsky pinpointed, “Russian soul is widthstruck”, but the width generated by immense spaces of this country is harbouring daring, courage, and wide scope along with lack of grounded rational calculation in everyday life or political situations.
 

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Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Culture Russian Traditions Russian National Character   

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