Insurance companies have tough time in Russia. Russians do not believe in insurance and equal it to Ponzi scheme. Sometimes that comparison is a correct one – industry is working far from perfect, so buying insurance does not always guarantee a payoff should the case happen. However, the roots of such attitude are deeper…
“Do what you can, but rely on fate”, “what happens, is meant to happen”, “One cannot escape his fate”, these are just some of the 184 proverbs and sayings on that subject. My 100-year-old grandma always believed in fate, I could argue to the point of turning blue, but she just smiled and offered me more food (another topic for the post – Russian grandmas always try to feed you).
“Can-Do” attitude is not welcome here. “The Man plans, but the God decides”. That kind of attitude is very foreign to me, I am Russian, but have absorbed a lot of Western, living abroad for most of my childhood. Also – my parents never told me – “Tanya, do what you can, the rest is in God’s hands”. They always told me that I should study hard, get excellent grades, use my brain and then I will see the pay off.
Once I talked to very famous local astrologer, which I referred to as Lika the Great after she welcomed me at her house, where the first thing to see was her portrait, painted in oil by the most expensive Kremlin house artist. Lika the Great exhibited nobility, stature and confidence. She was wearing a long grey dress, made of wool, and a high hairdo. The reason I got entitled with her audience – I was writing the New Year (how to celebrate/what to wear/how to charm the year’s mascot etc.) article for one of the glossy magazines with million circulation.
Lika the Great breezed through the topic at such pace that made me thankful for not relying on my stenography skills and bringing the audio recorder with me. When we were done with “Taurus should wear blue and eat fish on the New Year’s Eve”, she graciously offered me to look into my fate. I was hesitant at first, but gave in. She had looked at stars and planets and told me that things look good – I will have plenty of marriages and all of them will be happy (Go figure!). I will also always be very rich and will continue to write.
I asked her – “Lika, do you believe in fate? How come you are so confident in what you say? What if I do nothing for the next year? Will planets still help me to achieve all that?”. She immediately fired back: “No, planets are like muscles, if you do not work out, they atrophy”.
Although Russians are fatalists, they are “fake fatalists”. They believe that universe/god/fate plans the life of others, but they personally are the exception. They are the lucky ones, who will not get caught when violating the traffic rules and will not crush in the incoming traffic, when driving wrong lane.
That kind of behavior is so strong; there are even some words that do not have adequate translation into English. One of the words is “Avos’ – “Avos’, I will get lucky”. I looked up Avos in Multitran dictionary – here is the closest translation and the definition:” blind trust in divine providence; blind faith in sheer luck; counting on a miracle (“Counting on a miracle, I decided to slip into the oncoming lane to get around the traffic jam”); usually unjustified dependence on success by chance or luck; faith in serendipity.
There is another word – “nebos’”, which in the context could mean, “Most probably as in – most probably they will not catch me!” This word originated from two words “ne boisya” (do not be afraid). This short word has a deep meaning: “don’t chicken, most probably everything will be fine”. Avos and nebos are huge drivers of our behavior.
Having these insights – do you wonder any more, why Russians do not believe in insurance? Our fate is in god’s hands, but most probably nothing bad is going to happen to me personally! And, just in case, I will look into the daily horoscope for Taurus…
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.