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matryoshki

Understand Russia In 50 Posts!

This is the 51st post in Understand Russia blog. Small or big, but that is certainly a milestone. I thought it will be interesting to make an overview of what we learned about Russians from this blog in the previous 50 posts.

Let’s imagine that this blog is the only source of information about Russia, that planes and trains have not been invented yet and nobody has traveled to this mysterious country from abroad yet. What did people learn from this blog about Russia and Russians?

Bye bye youth boots

Soviet-made boots had a nickname – “Bye bye youth”

The first post was about Russians, taking their shoes off at home. Don’t ask me why I started writing a blog with such topic. No special reason. Russians take off shoes first to keep their apartments clean. But there are several other, not so obvious, reasons behind that habit.

 

Maslenitsa

Blinis are the symbolic food for winter farewell

We talked quite a bit about food. Posts on that topic always get a good audience, so I even did cook food and took pics of my creations. From this blog foreigners have learned that Russians do like fast food, have a sweet tooth and are skilled in baking cakes and blinis (pancakes), which they bake to make farewell to winter. No wonder Russians need to use sports or diets to keep in shape.

Russian salad on a plate

Russian salad as a symbol of holidays

Russians have complicated relationship with fish, the food Russians are most passionate about is kolbasa or sausage. Kolbasa is even a part of Russian salad, which we call Olivier, since it was invented by a French chef. Kolbasa is also part of one of the most weird cold soups on a planet, which we make from something that is very close to Russian salad and a national non-alcoholic beverage kvas (which looks identical to Coca-Cola and is sweet, but is a healthy drink).

Russian "zakuski"

Russian “zakuski”

We talked about a typical festive dinner and the outrageous number of holidays (we do celebrate farewell of winter, International women’s day, student’s day and other unusual holidays), which do disrupt business a lot. Of course, talking about the festivities, we could not avoid one of the main questions that foreigners always ask – “How much vodka do Russians really drink?”. Surprisingly, vodka is not a drink of choice for the majority of young people. The second most popular question “How cold does it really get in Russia” also was answered in a post.

Gagarin Monument, the 70s

Gagarin Monument, the 70s

A lot of posts were either devoted to Soviet time or mentioned USSR. How Lenin brainwashed children, why Russians are still super-proud of leading the space exploration, what was school like in Soviet time and what is school like now. At first I did not plan to write about USSR – that is already a history, but I found out that it is impossible to avoid that topic, otherwise I cannot explain some of the things. For example – why most Russians do not throw away stuff and stuff is moving to a balcony, then to a country house and only then ends up in trash. What is the Russian country house – dacha and why dacha is more than just a house, but is something Russians deeply care about. What do Russians think about USSR times now and what are some life hacks that one might need to use again if the “deficit of goods” return.

traffic jams in Moscow

traffic jams in Moscow

Modern life was of course in focus as well. As I wrote in the About page – I live in Moscow, so when I write about modern life in Russia – it is all about life in Moscow (which differs from the rest of the country significantly). Living in Moscow has its pros and cons (a topic yet to write about), but it is a difficult city, but we adjust to it. We entertain ourselves in traffic jams, read in subway, enjoy the cultural life, such as concerts and exhibitions. Our city is safe and we do take rides from strangers, but doors in our homes are made of thick steel.

Olympic Rings joke at the Sochi Olympics Closing Ceremony

Olympic Rings joke at the Closing Ceremony

This year was Big in terms of events – Winter Olympics was here. I did not travel to Sochi, but was lucky to have my friend Olga report about her experiences there and did a lot of research and compared Winter Sochi Olympics 2014 to Summer Moscow Olympics 1980. I also reviewed two books, written by an American expat writer about life in Russia and history of Russia to get external perspective (and plan to get more opinions from other people on the life in Moscow going forward)

Grumpy cat

Grumpy cat

As a nation – we have good and not so good sides in us. We do not smile to strangers and may look hostile, but we are genuine to our friends and do have a sharp sense of humor. We are not a good public speakers, but are entertaining storytellers. We believe in superstitions, call luck before exams and capture our crazy driving (and occasionally – falling meteors) on dash cams. In the same time, we do not believe in insurance. Each of us has multiple first names. And contrary to the popular stereotype – business meetings with us do not necessarily involve vodka drinking. And our dating rituals do differ from the Western ones.

Vologda lace

Vologda lace

The season, which I recommend for tours into Russia (May-September) is officially over, weather will get more and more nasty each day. But hopefully I manage to write 50 more posts by next May and you will be fully ready for your visit. We would like to see you here and we already work on handcrafting gorgeous souvenirs, which you will take home with you.

Reviewing the topics I wrote about I see a lot of gaps to be filled. One topic that has not been touched yet is fashion. How Russians dress is quite a story! Also – we did review dachas, but there was no post about a typical apartment. Famous Moscow nightlife has not received a long-deserved post. There are plenty of topics to write about, based on the questions, sent by you! What do fishermen catch in Moscow river and how many heads do these fishes typically have (city is heavily polluted). How do Russians cope with cold if I claim we do not drink vodka? Where do Russians travel for vacation? What is the definition of success “Russian way”? Are we lucky to have one of the most difficult languages in the world as our mother tongue or do we have to study it too? Does the famous “Russian soul” really exist and are we really that different?

Dozens of great questions which my friends and my readers keep sending me from different parts of the world! Keep these questions coming – that is the fuel and soul of this blog! Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more!

 

Leave a Reply

  • Lola J. Lee Beno - 4 years ago

    I would like to know how disabled people are viewed and treated in Russia. Do they get the opportunity to make a good living that they’re best qualified for, especially if they’re able to pass college and get advanced degrees? What resources are given to people who are deaf or hard of hearing?

    • Napoleon - 2 years ago

      Hi there! I see that your comment is already a year old, but there hasn’t been an article on the topic yet, so I’ll try to answer your question as well as I can.

      I am currently volunteering at the Psycho-Neurological Internat in Peterhof, a suburb of Saint Petersburg. I’m from Germany and when I came to Russia, I was deeply shocked by the conditions the people live in. I don’t know about other institutions, but you can read about those in the PNI here: http://www.perspectivesuk.org/peterhof.php

      I’ve been here for half a year now and I learned a lot about how people view and treat people with disabilities. At the seminars for new volunteers the instructors repeatedly had to emphasise that the guys we work with are indeed not objects, but people, and that they are to be treated as such. That is because sadly, many Russians do not perceive people with disabilities to have more than biological needs, meaning eating, sleeping and very basic hygiene. It is not commonly believed that they are able to develop further or that they have the need to.
      Moreover, working in this field is often not very much appreciated by friends and family members, as I learned from one of my Russian colleagues.

      Of course all of this first and foremost applies to people with severe physical and mental disabilities, because they are who I work with. I don’t know as much about people with less severe disabilities. I know about the 25th school in Petersburg, which is exclusively for children with milder disabilities (no signs of inclusion), meaning that there are at least some places of education.

      I come to an end here, but feel free to pose further questions! I hope I could be of help, even though I’m a bit late. :)