Yale Richmond, the author of the brilliant book «From Nyet to Da. Understanding the Russians», opens his book with the words of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich: «I have never met anyone who understood Russians». Further on the author quotes Winston Churchill, who in 1939 described Russia as «a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma». The latter quotation is echoed by the well-known Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev, as like follows:
With the mind alone Russia cannot be grasped Her greatness no ordinary yardstick spans Alone and unique she stands In Russia one can only have faith.
Another famous Russian poet, Alexander Blok, wrote in one of his poems:
I am drowsing, behind the drowsiness — a mystery. And in the mystery — you are resting, Russia.
Конспект-урок английского урока для учителя
This mysterious feature of Russia and Russians has been noted in numerous investigations, articles, research papers and books written by historians, scientists, diplomats, Journalists and writers. Thanks to them, the Russians themselves have become aware of the fact of their enigmatic character, as well. It is just like the outstanding Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin, put it: » When face to face, one cannot see the face».
Russia is the land of uneasy destiny. It was tried by fire, it was bound with chains, it was forced to be silent. But through all these ordeals , Russia survived with dignity. The origin of this phenomenon is to be found in the peculiar Russian character which has been influenced by different religions and cultures, by vast territory, by Russian and European philosophers and writers.
The root of this spirit is to be found in Russian people who love their land and have faith in it. This faith helped them to endure and to defend their land from the invasions of Mongols and Swedes, Napoleon and Hitler.
An endless fight, a rest is just a dream.
As a people, the Russians have won a wide reputation for their virtues of endurance, resilience, hardiness, patience and stoicism that enabled them to , persevere all difficulties in their past and face them in their present Today the people of Russia are again going through another difficult and uneasy period. The people continue to have great affection and faith for their land, believe in their Motherland and are fighting for its better future.
Christine and Byzantine culture led to the development of a special
spirituality in the ancient Russian society and brought a sense of integrity to Russia’s scattered people. In regards to this spirituality, it is important to understand that Russians view spirituality more broadly than it is understood in the West.
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Spirituality for Russians is not affiliated only with the faith in God, but it is a combination of beliefs and values, education and knowledge, patience and forgiveness, love for the motherland as well as for all of mankind and quest for beauty, beauty of the mind and soul and human relationship. This kind of spirituality is the core of the Russian character, providing a moral compass and giving a measure of self-worth, it helped Russian people to come through hard times and survive. This spirituality — is what Russia can offer to the rest of the world.
Love for the motherland, as one of the revelation of the Russian spirituality, takes a special place m Russian culture.
I love my motherland
But with a strange affection.
My mind will never overcome it.
Throughout the years Russia’s people have devoted ballads , songs and poems to their land. Poets gently called Russia » a wife». Composers told about her glory in music. Artists portrayed her beauty with love and devotion.
Oh, my suffering country, What do you mean for my heart? Oh, my poor wife What are you crying about?
The greatest Russian poetess, Anna Akhmatova, in her poem » Prayer», that was composed in 1915 when Russia was at war with Germany, offers to suffer — to give up her child and lover, and even her gift of song — if only Russia may be saved.
Give me bitter years of sickness,
Suffocation, insomnia, fever,
Take my child and my lover,
And my mysterious gift of song —
This I pray at your liturgy
After so many tormented days,
So that the stormcloud over darkened Russia
Might become a cloud of glorious rays.
After the Revolution of 1917 many poets , writers , composers and artists fled to the West, but Akhmatova was not with them, she said,»I am not with chose who abandoned their land». In one of her poems she wrote:
A voice came to me. It called out comforting,
It said,» Come here,
Leave your deaf and sinful land,
Leave Russia forever.
I will wash the blood from your hands,
Root out the black shame from your heart,
With a new name I will conceal
The pain of defeats and injuries.»
But calmly and indifferently,
I covered my ears with my hands,
So that my sorrowing spirit
Would not be stained by those shameful words.
Рассказ о России и русских на английском (Essay about Russia and Russians in English)
The term «Russian land», feminine both in gender and in allegorical significance is related to the cult of mother, who was always the binding element of the family, the one who encouraged and still encourages endurance, healing love and forgiveness. And like every mother who cannot be chosen, Russia was and is loved by her children both in days of glory and in days of defeat. ( Musical suggestion — The rock group «DDT», song «Rodina Motherland)
Normally, Russians keep their emotions under lock and key and take them out to be shown only to relatives and close friends, or on special occasions. Hedrick Smith in his book, The Russians, writes, «But I found that some little twist of fate — a genuine calamity, a joke, a gesture, the presence of a child, a personal liking — can open Russians up and then that sense of intimacy and involvement can envelop one even on first meeting if the Russian feels he has found a soul- brother. . .It is this directness in the Russian character, this tendency to startling openness that makes Americans feel Russians are like them in temperament, more so than the complicated French or the restrained British and Germans. Russians call this openness their broad spirit, shirokaya dusha, and they pride themselves on talking^ dusfwn, heart to heart, or literally » soul to soul».
The rational and pragmatic approach is not for Russians. More often, it is personal relations, feelings, and traditional values that determine a course of action. As Tatyana Tolstaya, one of Russia’s writers says/Logical categories are inapplicable to the soul. But Russian sensitivity doesn’t want to use logic because logic is seen as dry and evil, logic comes from the devil- the most important thing is sensation, smell, emotion, tears, mist, dreams, and enigma…The more a person expresses his emotions, the better, more sincere, and more ‘ open* he is».
Does the Russian soul still exist in the final decade of the twentieth century?
When asked this question, a Moscow psychiatrist answered,» The real Russia is being diluted by Westernization and Sovietization. Soviet is not Russian. To see the real Russia, visit a village, a church. The Russian soul still exists. It is the essence of the Russian person.
Belief in village virtues is still strong — self-sacrifice, sense of duty, compassion, the importance of family, respect for parents, old age, learning. Students hang on the words of their professors. Grateful audiences present flowers to musical and theatrical performers.
Before vacating a home where they lived for some time, Russians will sit quietly for a minute or two, thinking about the events they have experienced there. Even in the post-industrial age, Russians demonstrate that emotions and personal feelings still matter.
There is a slightly patronizing French expression, V≠ slave (the Slavic soul), which is usually followed by the supplement,» they love to suffer». This is incorrect. Russians do not «love» to suffer, but through their history they have often had to suffer and endure. Their experience has bred in them a serene knowledge that there is a limit to what human beings can understand or change, and an acceptance of everything that life has to offer of both joy and tragedy. This fatalistic view is perhaps best summed up in those two quintessential and comforting Russian expressions which can be at the same time both merry and sad: Vsy’o proidyot — «Everything will pass» and Nichevo — «Never mind».
Hedrick Smith writes about the «maudlin sentimentality» of Russians. «For the great suffering which they have endured not only toughened them into a nation of stoics but also softened them into a nation of incurable romantics. The outside world knows the stoicism, the phlegmatic fatalism of the common man so aptly captured in the national catch-word nichew , which literally means «nothing» but comes across as never mind, don’t let it bother you, there’s nothing you can do about it, so don’t bother me.»
Being kind to others is valued in Russia. If a person is too scrupulous, too cold, people will dislike him. This person will be called sukhar, which means dry like a bread crust — no human touch at all.
Publically, sentimentalism of Russians shows itself in their love of the lush melancholy of Tchaikovsky and the fairytale world of romantic ballets like Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty (play appropriate musical selection). Russians fell in love with Van Clibum as the handsome young American who played their Tchaikovsky with heart. When La Scala Opera and Chorus toured Moscow, the Russians were literally overcome by the power and emotion of their Verdi» Requiem» and showered the chorus with applause, bravos and flowers.
For Russians , flowers are a special sign of admiration and affection. One of their nicest customs is to arrive at someone’s apartment for dinner bearing flowers. Hedrick Smith saw the people at Novodeviche cemetery in Moscow, burial ground of the famous, strolling among the gravestones, laying a bloom here and there where they feel special respect.
When Bella Akhmadulina, the poet, married for the third time, she and her husband were broke, and their friends bought them an entire apartment full of furniture. Let a dissident intellectual get in trouble and real friends will loyally take the terrible political risk of going to his rescue. Ann and I, too, have felt the warmth and impulsive generosity of Russians. A leading ballerina in Leningrad, hearing of our difficulties in finding ballet shoes for one of our daughters, asked her foot size and instantly got up from the table to fetch one of her own pair, especially made for one of her roles. In another home, my wife admired a rather expensive set of large teacups the hostess had just bought and she immediately made them a present to us.»
It is true that Russians, especially Muscovites, often come across as gruff, cold, mulish, and impersonal in public. But in private, within a trusted circle, usually the family and close friends but often embracing new acquaintances very quickly if some personal chord of empathy is touched, they are among the «warmest, most cheerful, generous, emotional and overwhelming hospitable people on earth.» Hedrick Smith recalls his conversation with Joseph Brodsky, a freckled, Irish-looking Nobel Prize poet while they were strolling one cold afternoon in Moscow and the latter said,» Russians are like Irish — in their poverty, their spiritual intensity, their strong personal relationships, their sentimentality.»
This dichotomy of coldness and warmth springs in part from some deep duality of the Russian soul and temperament forged by climate and history. It makes the Russians, as people, both stoics and romantics, both long-suffering martyrs and self-indulgent hedonists, both obedient and unruly, both stuffy and unassuming, publicly pompous and privately unpretentious, both uncaring and kind, cruel and compassionate.
It was Dostoyevsky who had written that Russians were half-saint, half-savage. Wright Miller, an English writer with great insight into Russian character, recalled in 1973 in his book. Who Are the Russians? , that Ivan the Terrible murdered his own son in a rage and knelt in paroxysms of remorse, or plundered monasteries and then gave them funds.
Russians rely on a close network of family, friends, and co-workers as protection against the risks and unpredictability of daily life. In the village commune, Russians felt safe and secure in the company of family and neighbors. e.g. if a Russian woman finds out she has failed to replenish bread and she needs it for supper urgently ( or a guest has come unexpectedly), she does not hesitate to ask her neighbor for it or for salt, an egg , a couple of potatoes, carrots or onion etc.
From their earliest history, the Slavs always have had a strong clan mentality. Among all the European peoples only they, Icelanders, and a few Balkan clans have preserved personal patronymics. Every Russian, besides his Christian name, bears as a second name- a derivative of his father’s (these patronymics, a distinctive feature of Russian life and a sometimes confusing problem for readers of Russian novels, are formed by adding the suffix vich for a man and ovna for a woman, to the father’s first name). Thus Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin means Boris, son of Nikolay and Yeltsin is his family name.
Today in the city, Russians continue to value familiar faces and mistrust those they do not know. It is here in their homes that Russians find refuge from the sterility and hypocrisy of public life and the aggravating hassle of the market¬place. Among family and friends, they become the » wonderful, flowing, emotional people of Tolstoy’s novels, sharing humor and sorrows and confidences, entering into a simple but profound intimacy that seems less self-centered and less self-conscious than what one generally finds in the West».
Russians see themselves as members of community rather than individuals
Another most essential thing is that Russians think of themselves as members of community rather than as individuals. The communal spirit helps to explain many of their characteristics — behavior in crowds, for example. Physical contact with complete strangers, aruuhema to Americans, as Yale Richmond calls it, does not bother Russians. In crowds, they touch, push, shove, and even use elbows without hard feelings. Physical contact by Russians — touching another person — is a sign that things are going well, remarks Yale Richmond, and a degree of rapport has been reached. The degree of physical contact will indicate how well things are going. Placing a hand on another person’s arm, for example, or embracing someone are good signs. Facial expression are also clues to behavior. Americans as well as other foreigners, are taught to open conversations with smiles and to keep smiling. Russians tend to start out with grim faces, but when they do smile, it reflects relaxation and progress in developing a good relationship. Winks and nods are also good signs. If a stony look continues though, you are not getting through, warns Yale Richmond, and you are in trouble.
Russia is run on the basis of personal connections. In the workplace and in the private life, Russians depend on persons they know, friends who owe them favors, former classmates, and others whom they trust. The bureaucracy is not expected to respond equitably to a citizen’s request. Instead, Russians will call friends and ask for their help. Precisely because their public lives are still supervised and because sometimes they cannot afford to be very open and candid with most people, Russians invest their friendships with enormous importance. Many of them , in cities at least, are only- children whose closest friends come to take the place of missing brothers and sisters. They will visit with each other almost daily, like members of the family. Their social circles are usually narrower than those of Westerns, especially Americans who put such great stock ‘in popularity, but relations between Russians are usually more intense, more demanding, more enduring and often more rewarding.
There is an impulsive, reckless, almost sophomoric abandon in the way Russians hurl themselves into the passions of friendship. Suzanne Massie, a talented, emotional writer who is Swiss by birth but Russian by nature understood instinctively that quality of the Russian character,»With my friends in Russia, I talked whole nights away and the talk was of the soul and of destiny. It is impossible to describe the joy and sense of relief that I felt.»
Suzanne and her husband, Robert, were drawn to Russia in part because of their struggle to cope with hemophilia, the blood disease that afflicted their son, Bobby, and which had also afflicted Aleksei, the son of Nicholas II, the last Romanov tsar. In Russia, the Massies felt that it was the suffering that so many Russians had experienced in their own lives, their face to-face acquaintance with grief and hardship, that made them such «powerful and compassionate» friends. It is also true, as Suzanne observed, that Russians also feel free to pour out their woes to one another- unburdened by the very American compulsion to appear forever young, healthy, beautiful and strong, and to disguise the reality of sorrow, disappointment or pain. To Russians, suffering is a natural part of life, and therefore find it natural in their friendships to intrude on each other with their problems and to exult in that sharing.
«Russians skillfully read the signs of grief,» Suzanne Massie wrote in Journey, the story of her family’s anguish and triumph. » They know the yearning to release, some way, any way, the daily crushing weight. Do you want to feel the melancholy of loneliness, savor the sadness of life? They will drink with you thoughtfully, sorrowfully, respecting the need for weeping when there no answer, and no way to change the reality of existence. Do you, on the other hand, suddenly feel an unexplained surge of hope, a communion with the stars, with nature, until the meaning of life and suffering are blindingly joyous? They will walk with you through the night along the river, forgetting that there is a tomorrow with appointed work and duties, joining in the triumphant discovery, singing, laughing, forgetting time. Is the loneliness so great that you feel yourself floating away ever farther from reality?…They know that there are sorrows that never will be healed and sometimes no grounds for thinking that there will be a happy ending. And they also know how vital is simple, warm, human contact to give the strength to go on.
When friends fall sick, Russians will go to enormous trouble to help, regardless of inconvenience. Friendships are not only compensation for the cold impersonality of public life but a vital source of personal identity. Russians limit their relationships to a few, cherished people. Within the trusted circle, there is an intensity in Russian relationships that Westerners find both exhilarating and exhausting. When they finally open up, Russians are looking for a soul-brother not a mere conversational partner. They want someone to whom they can pour out their hearts, share their miseries, tell about family problems and to ease the pain of life.
For most Americans, anyone who is not an enemy seems to be a friend, claims Yale Richmond. An American can become acquainted with a complete stranger and in the next breath will describe that person as a friend. American friendships, however, are compartmentalized, often centering around colleagues in an office, neighbors in a residential community, or participants in recreational activities. This reflects the American reluctance to get too deeply involved with the personal problems of others. A friend in need may be a friend indeed, but an American is more likely to refer a needy friend to a professional for help rather than become involved in the friend’s personal troubles.
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