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 Post subject: Are we superior?
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: 31 Oct 2010 15:36 
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It is time to wake up.

The cold war is over, it has been over for a long time, it is time to stop believing the propaganda.

The people of Russia are no longer evil horrible baby eaters.

Yes there are cultural differences.
Yes there are differences in the infrastructure.
Yes there are differences in living conditions.

Yes we can feel smug and superior because we think that our living conditions are much better, in my opinion and in the opinion of many people in Russia they are.

So are we superior because by an accident of birth we happened to be born to parents that lived in a country that did not suffer the deprivations of the Tsarist Era and of the Soviet Era that superseded the Tsarist Era.

What a wonderful reason to feel superior. [bad.gif]

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 Post subject: Re: Are we superior?
Post Number:#2  PostPosted: 31 Oct 2010 18:34 
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Beyond Charm and Bargaining
Overcoming Obstacles to Communication Between Russians and Speakers of English


by Ivan Nechepurenko, Student, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
and John A. Taylor, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA .


Introduction.

During the time of the Soviet Union, clear obstacles hindered communication between Russians and English-speaking people. These obstacles included the closed borders of the Soviet Union and its official ideology. These obstacles were visible and objective. They presented great difficulties, deterring many academics. Kremlinologists as they were sometimes called specialized in Russian language and politics, and they tried to analyze and predict the various turns of Soviet policy, although these scholars often did so wrongly, and few of them predicted the fall of the Soviet system. The scholars studied Russia intently, but they found it hard to obtain visas to visit the country itself, and they were limited and controlled when they did visit Russia. American visitors were often followed or otherwise kept under surveillance, for instance. On the other hand, scholars of Soviet nationality had even less access to America and Western Europe. Only a small handful of Soviet citizens could obtain, and then with difficulty, the papers and hard currency necessary for travel abroad. In practice, few Soviet professors and even fewer students did travel. Most Soviet academics never met any American counterparts. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these obstacles disappeared; nevertheless, other obstacles, most of them cultural, have since become evident. The emergence of these obstacles was a surprise. People on both sides ended the Cold War period with the assumption that the disappearance of official barriers to communication between Russians and the English-speaking world would mean that there were no longer any barriers at all. Most people hoped that communication would become easy and fully successful. Unfortunately, this goal proved to be too difficult to achieve in practice. In fact, some major cultural differences always existed but were concealed from the mainstream point of view during Soviet times.

This essay will try to set out clearly some of the obstacles that now hinder communication between Russians and speakers of English. The essay will claim that characteristic and often-recurring difficulties hinder communication between Russians and English-speaking people. Since both the authors of this essay are involved in higher education, the essay emphasizes communication in education. Nevertheless, the authors hope that the essay may be of value to people in other fields as well, and in the conclusion of the essay they will very briefly apply its principles to broader issues. Please allow a few words of further background commentary before we proceed to the main point. Be very patient. Please understand that this essay is positive and not negative. In pointing out obstacles to communication, we urge both sides to overcome the obstacles. English-speaking people should regard Russia as a fundamentally familiar and friendly country. In fact Russia is an essential part of the same western civilization to which most English-speaking people belong. Russia is the heir of Byzantium. Russia originated in Europe, and all its Asian territories are in fact former colonies of the Russian Empire. Therefore, Russia is a mostly Christian country and a mostly western country; Russia is part of the west and shares the basic values of western society, although of course it has its own separate cultural flavors too. English-speaking people should look for Russia’s familiar face. English-speaking should put aside the popular perception of Russia as a menace for the West.

The danger in this popular perception is that the two sides could easily become alienated again. It is true that Russia and English-speaking people are different but it is also true that they are similar. English-speaking people should understand how sensitive such things as public image or popular attitudes are for Russia. For their part, Russians should think the same things. They should also see that Russia and the English-speaking world are parts of the same civilization. Russia is very close. In fact the west and Russia have no other countries with which their interests overlap so greatly. Russia, in its turn, should neither idolize the west nor regard it as an enemy. Russians should cease to suspect western offers about trade and economic development. Both sides should start to adapt some fundamental values of the western world to Russian development, and then both sides will be better off. Confrontation, on the contrary, would not benefit anyone. The difficulty is not all on one side or the other side. So much for an introduction. Here is the main point.

The Thesis or main Argument of this Essay.

A standard and always repeating cultural difficulty arises in communications between Russians and English-speaking people especially Americans: Russians are either charming or else they spit threats and insults while by contrast English-speaking people, and especially Americans, bargain. Americans often lack the charm of Europeans. Further, Americans do not usually threaten or insult people because American society tends to repress that behavior very sharply. You can get sued for threats and insults. So Americans bargain, and they expect that usually both parties will win. Russians, on the other hand, think both charm and anger are sincere, and they think bargaining is sly and dishonest, not sincere. They value sincerity. Please read this paragraph again very closely. It contains our main point. Here are some follow-up points. Of course, many people have said that America is a win win society and Russian is a lose lose society, or at best a zero sum society. English-speakers also should understand that Russians are embarrassed that their country is politically and economically weak; nevertheless, English speakers should also understand, Russians tend to believe that their culture is rich and strong, fully equal if not superior to the culture of all other countries. When Russians claim to be culturally superior, at least to the US, their argument stands on very firm ground. Both Russians and English-speaking people should be very clear that Russia is also the cultural equal of Britain or any other great European nation: Russia has a cultural tradition that centers and enobles its people. Both Russians and English-speakers should always be aware of the cultural difficulties and should always keep in mind that only tolerance and patience can make any communication successful.

Maxims About Communication Between Russians and English-speaking People.

  • Russians usually do not like to say "no”. They avoid the word, and therefore anything short of a complete and enthusiastic “yes” (which is a rare occurance too) is a possible “no.”
  • Russians often think Americans (and especially those who come to Russia) in general are crazy and stupid.
  • Americans often think Russians in general are crooks.
  • Russia is mostly a Christian country, and Russians yearn for a fair and upright situation even while at the same time they do things that are very bad.
  • Read Bulgakov, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Lermontov, Solzhenitsyn, and Tolstoy . Their works are absolutely essential for understanding the Russian mentality.
  • Russians do a deal and then ask for $100 extra. This tendency makes English-speaking people distrust them. Both sides to a bargain should understand precisely and completely what elements are to be exchanged.
  • Russians sometimes detest persistence and value brilliance instead. They want to accomplish everything at a single shot. Brilliance, however, is determined by prior experience and advantage.
  • Russians daydream. They wait and hope, and at some point in time they recognize that nothing will happen for them. They are then crushed.
  • This is not the time of Byron in Russia now. You must persist and work hard even if you are a genius. This is an example of the rapidly changing circumstances in the country since the USSR.
  • The image of rich children is very attractive in Russia today. Ordinary Russians usually envy rich and successful ones who, they think, have achieved success by crime or by mere good fortune. A huge disparity separates the advantages that rich parents provide and those that poor parents provide. This disparity will grow less as time passes.
  • Do not expect friendship from someone to whom you pay money. Gifts are usually in a different situation.
  • Be alert for true friendship when it appears. Long-term friendship is usually very powerful. Be patient.
  • When a person is truly charming, he or she is in a weak position, obliged to agree with what others suggest.
  • Beware of false charm that conceals an intention to muddle the situation, leaving details unclear in order to take selfish advantage later.
  • Russians are fascinated by Europe and North America, and this fascination is a good basis for real and lasting friendship.
  • There are some dangerous people on Russian streets and on public transportation. Be alert when you are in public places.
  • The artistic experiences in Russia are so good because many Russians are not able to fulfill their material needs, so they pour their lives into art.
  • The constant American emphasis on personal happiness seems childish and insincere to many Russians. The Russian perception is that happiness is momentary and is given its savor by the suffering that surrounds it.
  • Many Russian adults have given up on their own lives, and they live through their children whom they pet and pamper.
  • The literacy rate in Russia is higher than in North America or Britain.
  • Many Russian merchants cheat foreigners, and this is especially true at fancy and upscale places.
  • Many ordinary Russian people are honest and kind.
  • Americans often think that they are like Christ, in other words that they are saviors, and they intervene to redeem and save. Russians find this quality very irritating. This quality is absent in Russian culture.
  • Russia is on the whole a very nice place, and Americans can be successful in dealing with it.
  • America is on the whole a very nice place, and Russians can be successful in dealing with it.
  • The same goes for the other English-speaking countries.

Education.

Russian education and its counterparts in the English-speaking world have respective advantages. One of the advantages of Russian education is that students are often highly literate. Many have retained respect for classical culture including Christianity. Most Russian students have read the great Russian authors. Russian universities have their own faults, of course. Some of them are very badly funded, and they lack basic equipment, even books. Sometimes the students are inert, like sheep to be slaughtered. They wait and wait for something that never comes. Other younger Russians try to do everything by fits of brilliance, and they do not persist to success because they are afraid of recognizing their own deficiencies and innate weaknesses. Nevertheless, Russians often find reasons to think the Russian system of higher education is at least equal and sometimes superior to its counterparts in the English-speaking world. The new generation of Russian people is beginning to change, moreover. Young people are more hard working. They are more persistent and patient, and they hope for success.

Free Speech.

Looking only at academic life, we find more freedom of speech in Russia than in North America. That seems a paradox because western governments now say that democracy and freedom are at risk in Russia. However, we express only our own personal opinions, and of course we do not claim that our experiences are normative. We find that we can speak our minds freely in Russian universities, but we have to be careful what we say in North America. For instance, we sent this essay out for comments by colleagues. Russian colleagues urged us to be a bit more harsh in some of the things we said about Russia. By contrast, our comments about the state of the humanities in North American universities caused strong complaint, and we toned down or cut out some of the things we had intended to say.

Conclusion

During the Yeltsin times there was an illusion that Russian communication patterns were essentially the same as the ones of the West. Both Russians and westerners really tried very hard to make successful communication. They both wanted to benefit from contact with the other side. Nevertheless, as the time went on Russia still was in a condition of an exceptional economic and demographic despair. After the financial crisis of 1998, which arguably was the turning point in communication between Russian and English-speaking countries, both Russia and its partners became more and more hostile to each other. The reason for that hostility was exactly the cultural obstacles to communication that this essay has described. The Russians started out to be charming. Their partners tried to bargain. The Russians despised the bargaining as greedy and insincere. Nowadays the Russians have turned to threats and insults, and everyone talks about the return of “Cold War rhetoric.” People treat this situation in political terms. Undoubtedly, the problem is not only political; the problem is partly a cultural one. It does not really matter that Putin has succeeded Yeltsin. Communication failed, nor personalities. Russians tried to charm, and the west tried to bargain, and the Russians despised that bargaining as greedy and insincere, and that was where the contradiction arose. We beg both Russians and English-speaking people to be patient and to tolerate the cultural peculiarities of the other side.

Bibliography.

This eclectic and highly personal list merely supplements the bibliographies that you will find in the good, general histories of Russia. One such good, general book is Orlando Figes, Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2002).

Furthermore, you should first consult the great works by Bulgakov, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Lermontov, Solzhenitsyn, and Tolstoy before you look for other books. That said, here is a brief list of recommended books.

Andrey Biely, St Petersburg, tr. John Cournos (New York: Grove Press, 1987).
Marquis de Custine, Empire of the Czar: Russia in 1839, (New York: Anchor Books, 1989).
Boris Kagarlitsky, Russia under Yeltsin and Putin (London: Pluto Press, 2002).
Sebag Montefiore, Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin (New York: St Martin's Press, 2000).
Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime (New York: Penguin, 1995).
Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church (New York: Penguin, 1997).
Richard S. Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).
Kasimir Waliszewki, Peter the Great, tr. Lady Mary Loyd, 2 vols. (New York: Haskell House, 1969).

http://www.google.co.uk/search?rlz=1C1G ... ian+people


I hope you find it interesting and sorry I have not the date that was published.......... :(


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 Post subject: Re: Are we superior?
Post Number:#3  PostPosted: 31 Oct 2010 20:25 
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Interesting, but fundamentally flawed.
Some of the writing is very much like a school essay.
I think he should do more research before making claims such as: "Most Soviet academics never met any American counterparts."
This is untrue and I know this because my late Uncle was a Professor of mathematics and electrical engineering at several American Universities and he met hundreds of Soviet academics, scientists and students. He was invited to Russia several times to give lectures and presentations.
This essay sees everything from a Russian - American viewpoint which is very different from the European viewpoint.
He makes some valid points but they tend to get lost amongst the excess vebiage. Maybe he's trying too hard.
And one other point, he uses the phrase "English speaking people" when he means exclusively Americans.


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 Post subject: Re: Are we superior?
Post Number:#  PostPosted: 01 Nov 2010 01:23 
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Does this apply to Ukraine as well?


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 Post subject: Re: Are we superior?
Post Number:#5  PostPosted: 02 Nov 2010 12:39 
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The Western living standards are superior, but also come at a cost in many ways.

If you would take away the 80% of credit that the FSU can not get, most of the economy would collapse leaving us not much better as the FSU. However that is not the only thing.

When MrsShadow first arrived here, she could not find the meat in the supermarket. The laughable small pieces cut to size were in no way what she knew as meat.
While comparing things we have found many other products that are touched by the Western consumption society.

Bread ? If we buy a bread here we are lucky if it still can be eaten after 3 days. MrsShadow brought a bread from her last trip to Moscow that we started to eat after 5, without any problem.

Minced Meat ? This is mainly a Belgium problem, but the minced meat contains... 90% or less meat. :shock: It tastes like there is no meat at all by the way... We now buy from Germany where it is also 50% cheaper...

Fruits and vegetables. Not sure what happened, but somehow it is impossible to keep something like tomatoes for more than one week.

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 Post subject: Re: Are we superior?
Post Number:#6  PostPosted: 24 Feb 2011 23:15 
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Shadow wrote:
The Western living standards are superior, but also come at a cost in many ways.

If you would take away the 80% of credit that the FSU can not get, most of the economy would collapse leaving us not much better as the FSU. However that is not the only thing.

When MrsShadow first arrived here, she could not find the meat in the supermarket. The laughable small pieces cut to size were in no way what she knew as meat.
While comparing things we have found many other products that are touched by the Western consumption society.

Bread ? If we buy a bread here we are lucky if it still can be eaten after 3 days. MrsShadow brought a bread from her last trip to Moscow that we started to eat after 5, without any problem.

Minced Meat ? This is mainly a Belgium problem, but the minced meat contains... 90% or less meat. :shock: It tastes like there is no meat at all by the way... We now buy from Germany where it is also 50% cheaper...

Fruits and vegetables. Not sure what happened, but somehow it is impossible to keep something like tomatoes for more than one week.

If bread is still ok to eat after 5 days then you must think why, here in the UK I've bought bread which was still ok to eat after 8 days, the reason, chemicals. In Ukraine bread will be eaten even if it is stale, over there nothing is wasted, my wife was shocked to see me throw uneaten food away when she first came over here.


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