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Random Rasboinik
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Author:  Rasboinik [ 20 Dec 2010 01:00 ]
Post subject:  Random Rasboinik

A mental ramble with random pictures inserted.

Most of us on this forum are either in a relationship with someone that was born and raised in Russia, or are attempting to start such a relationship.
Why are we in such a relationship?
We are in such a relationship through our own choice.

While I do accept that some of us may have had negative experiences with certain individuals in the past I just hope that none of us are still in a negative relationship.

I will ask if anybody thinks that it fair to carry the negativity from a previous relationship into what is hopefully a good relationship.

I will further ask.
Does anybody think that making constant derogatory comments about a partners past helps to build or maintain a healthy relationship?
When I say past I include both personal and cultural past.

No one can argue the existence of cultural differences. And these cultural differences are not restricted to national borders and so it is important to note that cultural differences can expand over nations/countries. These differences can lead to cultural clashes whereby certain norms of behaviour which are encouraged by one culture can be frowned upon or misunderstood in another.

Does that mean that we can trash somebody just because of cultural differences?
My answer is a resounding NO!

Russians are often accused of being unfriendly and blunt however, they are not. This accusation is a result of a cultural difference. In the West we are encouraged to smile at each other as a mark of politeness, in Russia a person who smiles all the time without reason is considered stupid.

As an example I will disclose a conversation that I had with one of my Russian helpers.
Me: “Why don’t you smile?”
Him: “What do you want me to do, put a bag of stones on my head so that I really look stupid?”
After that exchange I did get a smile, the reason (as I understand it) that I got the smile was he wanted to smile so he could show me that his comments were not made in anger.

There are cultural differences between any two cultures.
If someone does not want to have to deal with cultural differences then I would suggest to that person to climb into an opaque glass bubble and never venture out of it.

Something that I have noticed is that people can often be offensive unintentionally, by insulting a country you are also insulting the people who live in that country. People must also understand that humour incurs boundaries of culture
Therefore what one may find humorous others may find offensive.

I have also come across individuals that seem to think that they are being clever when they make purposely make derogative and insulting comments regarding a country and or the people that live in a country, it is my opinion that such individuals are beyond the pale.

To insult without fair cause is unacceptable.
To insult an individual would warrant hostility.
To insult a group of individuals by insulting their culture / country is also unacceptable, and would also warrant hostility.

The hostility which can be created is the damaging consequence of a lack of understanding and empathy towards a culture which is different to ones own.
The consequences are that such insults can sour the cooperation which future travellers to that country will receive, and it is my opinion that this is an unforgivable offence.

The hostile relationships which I am discussing are not to be confused with the reactions of radicals, fanatics or ultra nationalists; they will be offended by the presence of a foreigner in their country.
I am talking about the reactions of everyday people.

I have come across comments criticising Russia quite often. Criticism can be expressed diplomatically or insultingly and it is my experience that while even diplomatically worded criticism can be damaging but it is the purposeful insulting that has the very negative affect by adding fuel to the fire.

I do know what I am talking about when I say that insulting someone’s country can have drastic affects on the cooperation that one can receive from the people that live in that country.

For the past about 30 years I have not travelled anywhere as a “tourist” but I have travelled extensively. It used to be that when I travelled it was because I was required to travel because of my job.
I now also travel because I move between two homes in two different countries.

When I travel I have to interact extensively with the locals and I therefore have to be quite aware of how the locals think and feel.

I am not saying that foreigners should always walk as if walking on eggs; I am just saying that it makes sense to be aware of the potential and to attempt to make amends if amends need to be made.

More times than I care to remember I have seen the results of an ill placed comment.

Question: “Why is everybody so uncooperative today?”
Answer: “Because ******** was overheard saying ********”
It must be taken into account that at times the individuals that become surly because of an ill placed comment by an expat are people whose jobs depend on their ability to cooperate with expats, but, derogatory comments about their country manage to upset them to the point that they risk putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.

Author:  Rasboinik [ 20 Dec 2010 01:30 ]
Post subject:  Random Rasboinik (part 2)

Have I managed inadvertently to insult a Russian in Russia ?The only answer that I can give is a yes.
Most definitely not that way. Image

One of the real comical situations was as follows.
Totally off topic, an expression that I use to denote a vast multitude is “The Chinese Army” for example if someone prepares a vast amount of food I will ask “Who are you cooking for, the Chinese Army?”
Returning to the issue under discussion.
We (that is my fiancée and I) were watching a film, a Chuck Norris kill-fest (I cannot remember which one but it is immaterial since they are all much of a much), I made a comment (in jest) “why doesn’t the USA just team up Mr Norris with Rambo and they can conquer the world, just send them to deal with the Chinese Army for 15 minutes and then they can deal with the Russian Army in 10 minutes”.
A second of silence and then an angry retort “and Scotland in 5 seconds”.
A puzzled look (on my behalf) and a question “Why did you say that, what made you upset”, the answer “Because you said that the Chinese army is better than the Russian army”, my reply “No, I only meant to say that there are more people in the Chinese Army, just like when you cook I ask you if you are cooking for the Chinese Army”, a look of comprehension and a “OK I understand”. I will add that while the hot tongue did disappear for the next few hours the cold shoulder was still very much on the menu.
My fiancée understood that my comment had not been meant as an offensive comment but the “hurt” still lingered.
The reason that I have related this story is to show how easy it is to unintentionally offend without even meaning to do so.

I personally am not shy of putting somebody in their place if required, I will give an example (from Russia) one of my assistants due to his stupid actions insisted in putting himself and others in danger, I had, had enough and I carved him out a new rectal orifice.
He tried to play the nationalism card with the other Russians on the crew “Why do you allow a foreigner to speak like that to a Russian”, they replied “this is not disrespect for Russia and Russians, what he is saying is right, you are an idiot”.
To put a final touch to the story at the end of job we had an end of job party during the party quite a few of my crew commented to my then girlfriend and now fiancée “He is the best boss that we have ever had”.

The Soviets (for Soviets read the Soviet Communist Party) were in an arms race with the West (mainly with the USA) and because it was a race that they could not afford things had to be sacrificed in order to keep in the race because the arms race was deemed as national prestige.

It was all that was deemed as non essential infrastructure, roads, housing and conditions under which the general populace lived that was sacrificed in order to stay in the arms race. To quote quite a few people from Sakhalin “During the communist time the conditions on Sakhalin were better that in the rest of Russia because of the army”

I will not beat about the bush, in my opinion the housing stock that the majority of Russians have to live with is very poor (I would go as far as to say substandard) compared to the norms of what we are used to in the likes of what we like to call the Western World (a misnomer if I ever heard one but this is not the place to get onto that specific horse).

The majority of the housing stock that was built during the Soviet Era was built on the lines of “we only have to provide the absolute minimum” you got the basics and that is what you got. The Soviets were not really known for caring about providing luxuries for the general populace.
Therefore there is an abundance of housing infrastructure that in countries that did not suffer the mismanagement of the Soviet era would long ago have been condemned.

Apart from the state of the housing I am not going to pretend that the rest of the infrastructure in the FSU (at least the parts of the FSU that I have knowledge of) does not leave a lot to be desired.

In Russia it is quite common to find non essential roads that are more pothole than tarmac that is if there is any tarmac on the roads.

Let’s though look at this situation in a different way.
That is the situation as it is and the choices are:
Make do with what you have (while trying to improve), slow and time consuming.
Rip everything down and start from new, a quick fix.

Does anybody see any problems with option two regarding the housing situation (the quick fix) especially in a country where people are paying in excess of 80,000 USD for a flat that consists of what is called in Russia a “one room flat” i.e. the living room and the bedroom are the same room and 1000 USD is considered an above average monthly wage.

Before someone suggests (regarding the price for a flat as stated above). “They saw you coming with mug stamped on your forehead”. The price that I quoted is the price that local Russians are paying (on Sakhalin) and has nothing to do with a “rich and exploitable”, “stupid and gullible” foreigner.

Further before someone suggests “but look at the expensive cars on the roads” I will like to add that the re is a different perception between as to what is considered to be a status symbol and as far as I am aware in the FSU the type of house that one lives in is not considered to be a status issue (you were “given” your house by the government.

I will also point out the phrase “average monthly wage, yes there are people with money and yes it is more likely to be spent on a status symbol (such as a car).

Further a nice car is expensive and you can show it off to your neighbours, but trying to build a house from scratch you must first buy the land on which to build your new house and to do so you must relocate far from the centre of town; a move that is counter productive.
Also it must be noted that private ownership of housing is a relatively new concept in Russia and therefore while people are very particular about the inside of the house the general thought is that the exterior is not my concern.

Author:  Rasboinik [ 20 Dec 2010 01:50 ]
Post subject:  Random Rasboinik (part 3)

Let’s go back to the potential of insulting people by of insulting or making insulting and about a country and therefore about the people that live in that country. Just because someone happened to be born into a certain situation we do not have the right to insult someone that was born into different and less fortunate circumstances. When we criticise a countries infrastructure we are also criticising the people who live in that country.

To take it in a slightly different direction people from the FSU inclined to take offence when foreigners criticise their country, and in most cases all criticism is perceived to be derogatory, unless the person that you are talking to understands that you are not criticising just for the sake of trashing.

I personally believe that the taking of offence has still to do with the propaganda, conditioning and national paranoia instilled during the Soviet era.

It has also been my observation that people from countries that suffer from deprivation are more likely to take strong offence at derogatory comments made about their country.

If this is taken a step further just because someone was fortunate enough to be born into a family, country or a situation that did not suffer real deprivation does not mean that it is acceptable to ridicule someone that was not as fortunate.

Before anybody gets on a high horse and thinks that I am just maligning the FSU then I will state that my comments about infrastructure apply to the majority of the world compared to the countries that make up the two Northern countries of the North American continent and the majority of countries in the northern part of Western Europe.

If anybody wants to go on a tour of countries with what can be considered to have a substandard infrastructure (according to our standards then I will recommend a tour of parts of Eastern and Southern Europe, most of the countries of North America (south of the Rio Grande), almost all of South America, Africa and, Asia (excluding Japan and Singapore).

Let’s take a little look at the history of Russia.
Throughout history Russia has always been an autocratic country, well at least from about the 14th century onwards.

The “Great” Russian Revolution of 1917 did not really change much with regards to the general attitude towards the populace.
The haves and have-nots did go through a drastic and dramatic change but the simple fact is that it really only became a different set of autocratic rulers that became “the haves”; the change went from the aristocrat / landowner to the party apparatchik / party member.
Whether there was a change in any of the values between the different sets of rulers is a discussion for another time but the fact that the general population of the Soviet Union suffered drastically for the first period after the Revolution.
That was the of course the revolution that was supposed to free the general populace from oppression.
The populace then continued to suffer to a slightly lessening degree until the end of the soviet era.
Then they were hit by restructuring (Perestroika) and what a fun time that was.

Now let’s remember that throughout history the emphasis in the way that Russia has dealt with Russians has always been on the basis of “haves and have-nots”.

During the Tsarist time there were land owners and serfs.
The land owner class could effectively trade in the serfs (buy and sell) and the serf that had been bought would then be forced to move to the estate of the purchaser.
During the period that followed the Tsarist era the party just ordered people to up-sticks and to relocate to wherever the party deemed that they required people to relocate to.

I do accept that many or very probably most Russians still have a siege mentality as a hangover from the Soviet era.

Taking the above into account I am sure that it is not too difficult to understand that a foreigner that makes derogatory comments can be seen as someone who is “lording” it.

As an example I will repeat a discussion that I had with a Russian friend (and no he is not a rabid nationalist).
We were discussing Google automatic translations, his comment was Google cannot be relied upon because it is anti Russian my reaction was to say “You are out of your mind” he stated that he can prove it and that he can do that by typing into Google translate “America is wrong” and the translation will be “America is never wrong” and then typing in “Russia is wrong” and the translation will be “Russia is always wrong”, well we marched off to my computer to try it out. The look on his face when he came up blank was worth its weight in gold.

Author:  Rasboinik [ 20 Dec 2010 02:05 ]
Post subject:  Random Rasboinik (Summary)

In an attempt to summarise this ramble.

It is the choice of the individual whether they wish to venture into the realm of a cross cultural relationship, should the individual make that choice it is up to that self same individual to respect the choice that they made.

A large part of respecting their choice in my opinion includes respecting the culture of the other party in the relationship.

I fully accept that in light of some of my other posts if someone wants to, they can accuse me of being two faced or put differently accuse me of having a double standard.

In order to counter that accusation I will say that in my opinion voicing dissatisfaction with a government is not an insult to the country or it's culture.

I do though accept that people may see it that way, but that is their choice.

Author:  wiz [ 20 Dec 2010 05:43 ]
Post subject:  Re: Random Rasboinik

So now you have earned your phD

"In Russian International relationships and affairs"

Dr Rasboinik


Very good thesis I must say!


Author:  Shadow [ 20 Dec 2010 15:37 ]
Post subject:  Re: Random Rasboinik

Very good writing, and it shows a good background. Some small remarks:

During Soviet times the government has been responsible for upholding the structure of the buildings. This explains why you currently seel building that have not had maintenance for 20 years or more. The transfer of responsibility from state to private owners has not been smooth, especially when you talk about the apartment buildings. Either money for renovation was not collected, or when they tried someone ran off with it.

When you meet your friend regarding Google, you might inform him that one of the founders is Russian. [wink.gif]

Author:  Rasboinik [ 22 Dec 2010 02:56 ]
Post subject:  Re: Random Rasboinik

wiz wrote:
So now you have earned your phD "In Russian International relationships and affairs" Very good thesis I must say!

You obviously agree with what has been written, will we then see a reflection of your re-education Image ?

Author:  wiz [ 22 Dec 2010 08:05 ]
Post subject:  Re: Random Rasboinik

Rasboinik wrote:
wiz wrote:
So now you have earned your phD "In Russian International relationships and affairs" Very good thesis I must say!

You obviously agree with what has been written, will we then see a reflection of your re-education Image ?

I said that it was a well written thesis........ but I did not say that I agree with everything you have written.!

What comes across is that having lived there for so time you have acquired the same siege mentality as them! [tonque.gif]

I have no time now to go through and point out our differences of opinion.........on the other hand you did not really expected an old cantagerous....B to change his view so easily!

Do you?


Author:  Rasboinik [ 22 Dec 2010 09:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: Random Rasboinik

wiz wrote:
I said that it was a well written thesis........ but I did not say that I agree with everything you have written.!

What comes across is that having lived there for so time you have acquired the same siege mentality as them! [tonque.gif]

I have no time now to go through and point out our differences of opinion.........on the other hand you did not really expected an old cantagerous....B to change his view so easily!

Do you?


If you think that I have acquired the siege mentality then you most definitely need "to think again" . Image

As for my expecting (an old cantagerous....B) to change his views so easily.
I may as well expect a leopard to change it's spots, but that does not mean that Dr Rasboinik will not try to continue with your re-education Image.

Author:  wiz [ 30 Apr 2011 23:28 ]
Post subject:  Re: Random Rasboinik

It appears your project.... Educating an old cantagerous B...... has not achieved much!

You said your self that a leopard can't change its spots... [tonque.gif]

Your problem is that your Pupil, Dr Rasboinik, the more he lives with reality the more learns about the subject of your thesis, so it is very difficult if not impossible to change his so well ingrained personal believes acquired after so many years of personal experience!


Try harder.......... [drink-coffee.gif]

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