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How Russians see their history
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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Way to Russia Talk Lounge Forum Index -> Russian Contexts, Myths and Truths
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charles
Lounge Lizard


Joined: 11 Mar 2006
Posts: 180
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2006 7:15 pm    Post subject: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

I'll try to ask this in the most simple way, but it's a complicated topic:
(and I couldn't find a thread which discused this directly)

When Russian people think about their country and its history, what do they identify with the most? In other words, what is "Russia" to Russians, and how does its history influence that identity?

I explain further: it is now approximately 15 years since the end of the USSR. Before that was about 75 years of Communist/Soviet government. Before that is centuries of "Imperial" Russia, and before that years of Mongol invasions, and more than 1000 years ago, the establishment of a dynasty in Kiev, and the beginning of Cyrillic alphabet, etc. From this perspective, the Soviet era was very short, and the current period even shorter. However, the Soviets had such a huge impact on every aspect of life in Russia, that it leaves me wondering what is the country emerging now? A totally new country & society, or a simple product of its past?

Do Russians feel strong ties to the pre-Soviet times? So many beautiful 16th-, 17th-, & 18th-century monuments have survived, which "define" Russia for foreigners (and Russians?) and give Russians reason to be proud of their country & history. Also, names of so many places have returned to the historical, pre-Soviet names that I have the impression that Russians want to forget the 20th century. On the other hand, massive statues of Lenin still stand, so I think that the answer must be more complex.

For me, I think of three separate Russias: the Russia you read about in Tolstoy (peasants, barons, troikas, samovars, etc.), Communist Russia (which is how many Americans still see Russia I think), and the new one which I don't really know yet. Do Russians feel this way, or is their view of history more like a continuous history of the Russian people, who lived though many different conditions, governments, invasions, & philosophies over the centuries?

I hope this generates some thoughtful discussion. Needless to say, those who, like me, are not Russian and never yet visited Russia (but will very soon) don't really need to give their opinions. This thread is about the Russian point of view. Hopefully we can all learn something from it.
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overseas_expat
VIP


Joined: 11 Jan 2005
Posts: 741
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charles--have you read the American Constitution lately? The Declaration of Independence? Do they have contemporary relevance for you? Or do they seem like ancient historical documents from the distant past?

Does Ben Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm ring home for you, or Lincoln's Gettysburg address? Do you feel a direct connection to Washington crossing the Delaware River or to the burning of the White House in 1812? Do Pilgrims and corn and pumpkins and turkeys and Indians matter in 21st century America? Do you remember Nixon and the Vietnam War? The universal Draft?

Russia is not different. There is a legacy of the historic past and there is now. People live in the now. They have a family history and a country history and tradition, and the legacy of what came before them. But like everyone else everywhere else, they go to work, raise children, buy food, pay bills, and cook dinner in everyday reality.

What more can be said?
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charles
Lounge Lizard


Joined: 11 Mar 2006
Posts: 180
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

overseas_expat wrote:
Charles--have you read the American Constitution lately? The Declaration of Independence? Do they have contemporary relevance for you? Or do they seem like ancient historical documents from the distant past?


I'm glad you brought that up. Actually, I think that the U.S. Constitution is extremely relevant to everyday life in the USA. It's a document which is constantly discussed - and it's something which the average American probably has not read recently, but is still quite proud of. I asked the question because I think the history of the U.S. (or how it's perceived by most Americans) has influenced to a large degree who Americans are, what we believe about ourselves, and how we relate to the world. I think most Americans indentify very closely with the War of Independence (even though it was more than 200 years ago). It's one of the main reasons, in my opinion, for differences between us & the Canadians, who had their independence handed to them. The U.S. national anthem speaks about "bombs bursting in air, and rockets' red glare", and the flag surviving through a battle. We sing our anthem at every baseball game, the Superbowl, etc. During my public school career, I estimate that I pledged allegiance to the flag more than 2000 times (do people in other countries do that? I don't know) We're constantly reminded of our fight for independence. Can you hear a political speech (especially by Bush) without hearing phrases like "hard-won liberty" or "fighting for freedom"? I think American history is perceived by Americans as being very simple - we fought for our independence from the British, and we've been the greatest country on earth ever since. (Of course if you're African American or Native American your view of U.S. history is quite different - but they're no less patriotic than everyone else). Have you ever been to a country where the people wave their flag more than in the USA?

So yes, I think a country's history is relevant to how people perceive themselves. Do Russians not care for history? Where does Russian pride come from?
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kenga
Frequent Guest


Joined: 26 Apr 2006
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

charles wrote:
Where does Russian pride come from?


Charles, you have asked the hardest question of all. The whole big country of Russia is struggling to find that bloody pride, the president &Co spend sleepless night inventing ways to define "Russian National Idea" , Russian communities break keyboards all over the world in universal brain-storm attempt, all in vain... Crying or Very sad

If you want a simple answer, there isn't one. Russia and Russians are so divided now that everybody tries to find something of their own to identify with Russia, Russian way of life, purely for themselves, for thier internal use. For some it is the orthodox faith, for others - pre-revolution history, for somebody else - exclusively post-revolution, some people just think where their next meal is coming from.

For me Russia is my big extended family, which I miss a lot; my friends from school and uni, my first love. Russia is the great palaces of St.Petersburg, fairy-tale like chirches and monasteries in Suzdal, forests where I used to pick berries and mushrooms. We were not taught a great lot of pre-XX century history at schools, so the most significant historical event for me, personally, I think, will be the Great Patriotic War in which my grandfather was killed. Later I read pre-war papers and documents and learned that the war that brought so much grief to Russia was effectively started with the help of then Soviet govenment. This taught me to never trust any historian completely, even if his name is Dan Brown Wink .

And here, I think, is one of the biggest reasons for that loss of national identity, national history, in nowadays Russia. At least two generations in Russia grew up thinking that what was before 1917 was poor, uneducated, dirty country which was brought to light and life by you know who. All that was good then, was never mentioned, for example,that the economy in Russia was growing quite fast before the WW1. After the country had been hidden behind the iron curtain, information about the progress in the outside world could hardly get in, odinary people were content with the existing conditions (sure pay, free education and medical system, sure pension later in life, stability!!!), not knowing how the rest of the world lived.

When the curtain was lifted, computers bought, and the info started pouring in, the first thing that happened was disillusion with the history as we knew it, with the way of life we used to live. Next - either total or partial revision of the whole system of values we had. Some stayed true to the communists ideas as the great Lenin taught us.

I think you understand that such division within the society can't generate any universally accepted ideas. Yes, people are aware of the great Russian heritage in Tolstoy, Bolshoj and Mendeleev. However they vary so much in their understanding and acceptance of the events of XX century and have completely different ideas of where and how Russia is going or should go now.

Maybe, it's temporarily. Maybe we will learn to accept Russia for what it is, a big country with (sometimes) valian past, with (at some places) great architecture and/or nature, with (for some) great literature and arts, even though they are getting outdated in our fast www times. The future is uncertain, the present will be understood only after some time passes.
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charles
Lounge Lizard


Joined: 11 Mar 2006
Posts: 180
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kenga,

Thanks for the thoughtful answer. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one asking the question!
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kenga
Frequent Guest


Joined: 26 Apr 2006
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 3:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

charles wrote:
Thanks for the thoughtful answer. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one asking the question!


You are welcome.
It looks like I'm the only one making an attempt to answer. It must be even harder than I thought it was... Sad
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Pechorin
Just Starting


Joined: 25 Feb 2007
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 3:49 am    Post subject: pessimism Reply with quote

Ethnic Russians are nostalgic for their past and pessimistic about their future. Ethnic non-Russians are less nostalgic but still pessimistic. A common viewpoint is that in a generation the Chinese would invade Siberia for the natural resources.

People are realistic about the evils of communism but lack a european's sense of good vs. evil. The mire time I spent there the more it seemed central asian. They will go to absurdities over religion or Russia's past imperial glory but the man in the street isn't willing to fight over it besides a few skinheads looking for a cause.
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Ender
WayToRussified


Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 498
Location: Urals

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2007 9:13 am    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

charles wrote:
When Russian people think about their country and its history, what do they identify with the most? In other words, what is "Russia" to Russians, and how does its history influence that identity?


There is no such identification. Perhaps with rising new country - rich and powerful. Yes there are many problems, but we overcome them. Those who lived entirely in soviet era most likely never will change, but those who born at 80..90 live without soviet shadows and think completely differently.
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RusskiCanadian23
Lounge Wizard


Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1104
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada/Ванкувер, Британская Колумбия, Канада

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 12:23 am    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

Ender wrote:
charles wrote:
When Russian people think about their country and its history, what do they identify with the most? In other words, what is "Russia" to Russians, and how does its history influence that identity?


There is no such identification. Perhaps with rising new country - rich and powerful. Yes there are many problems, but we overcome them. Those who lived entirely in soviet era most likely never will change, but those who born at 80..90 live without soviet shadows and think completely differently.


Yes. They think: "Steal, sell, and waste everything that people before us worked for many ears and ages to build and acquire, destroy Russia TODAY! make the once great, world-famous Russian Armed Forces into horde of drunken, drug-addicted, demoralised debils TODAY! make the police/militsya into a bunch of corrupt criminals TODAY! Because TOMORROW we'll buy a mansion in England somewhere, like Berezovsky or Abramovich! So who the fuck cares what happens TOMORROW, it's not going to be OUR country anymore!". Yes, as I am ashamed to admit, in the 80s and 90s, we breed a new generation of "Russians". Generation of drunks, thievs, drug-addicts and morons! A generation of criminals. A generation of lazy dumbasses who will degrade and lower Russia even further! This is what Yeltsin, (I hope he is in hell right now) is responcible for! There is no more of the high morale left in Russia. No more wisdom. No more culture! Just a bunch of drunks!
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Ender
WayToRussified


Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 498
Location: Urals

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 7:31 am    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

RusskiCanadian23 wrote:
Yes. They think: "Steal, sell, and waste everything that people before us worked for many ears and ages to build and acquire, destroy Russia TODAY! make the once great, world-famous Russian Armed Forces into horde of drunken, drug-addicted, demoralised debils TODAY! make the police/militsya into a bunch of corrupt criminals TODAY! Because TOMORROW we'll buy a mansion in England somewhere, like Berezovsky or Abramovich! So who the fuck cares what happens TOMORROW, it's not going to be OUR country anymore!". Yes, as I am ashamed to admit, in the 80s and 90s, we breed a new generation of "Russians". Generation of drunks, thievs, drug-addicts and morons! A generation of criminals. A generation of lazy dumbasses who will degrade and lower Russia even further! This is what Yeltsin, (I hope he is in hell right now) is responcible for! There is no more of the high morale left in Russia. No more wisdom. No more culture! Just a bunch of drunks!

I'm worked for Russian MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and believe to me - there are many good militsya professionals, however one idiot usually make bad picture of 10 good men.
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Ender
WayToRussified


Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 498
Location: Urals

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 7:38 am    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

RusskiCanadian23 wrote:
Yes. They think: "Steal, sell, and waste everything that people before us worked for many ears and ages to build and acquire, destroy Russia TODAY!


I wanted to say they free from communistic propaganda. Yes there are drunkards and there are brilliant people. Last weekdays i'm was on the lake with young doctors who born at beginning of 80. They are intelligent and they are love their work. They do not have any bit of nostalgia.
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jo-jo-7
Just Starting


Joined: 16 Mar 2010
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 3:23 pm    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

Ender wrote:
RusskiCanadian23 wrote:
Yes. They think: "Steal, sell, and waste everything that people before us worked for many ears and ages to build and acquire, destroy Russia TODAY! make the once great, world-famous Russian Armed Forces into horde of drunken, drug-addicted, demoralised debils TODAY! make the police/militsya into a bunch of corrupt criminals TODAY! Because TOMORROW we'll buy a mansion in England somewhere, like Berezovsky or Abramovich! So who the fuck cares what happens TOMORROW, it's not going to be OUR country anymore!". Yes, as I am ashamed to admit, in the 80s and 90s, we breed a new generation of "Russians". Generation of drunks, thievs, drug-addicts and morons! A generation of criminals. A generation of lazy dumbasses who will degrade and lower Russia even further! This is what Yeltsin, (I hope he is in hell right now) is responcible for! There is no more of the high morale left in Russia. No more wisdom. No more culture! Just a bunch of drunks!

I'm worked for Russian MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and believe to me - there are many good militsya professionals, however one idiot usually make bad picture of 10 good men.


In other words, "one bad apple doesn't spoil the basket". This is what we say in America when someone goes bad.
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Ender
WayToRussified


Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 498
Location: Urals

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:27 pm    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

jo jo 7 wrote:
In other words, "one bad apple doesn't spoil the basket". This is what we say in America when someone goes bad.

Yeah. The picture drawn by russkicanadian is very pessimistic. I heard such words from people who leave Russia at the 90 and live now somewhere else - USA, Australia. The generation of 80s and 90s not drunkards, narcomans or debils.

I was born in 1975 and remember socialism. Remember the word "deficit". Remember absence of the goods in the markets. Remember communistic ideology and everyday brainwashing at the shool. Life is different now, i think our life was changed significantly for last 20 years, far much than life of average American. Some people live better, some people live worse.
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jo-jo-7
Just Starting


Joined: 16 Mar 2010
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 10:51 pm    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

Ender wrote:
jo jo 7 wrote:
In other words, "one bad apple doesn't spoil the basket". This is what we say in America when someone goes bad.

Yeah. The picture drawn by russkicanadian is very pessimistic. I heard such words from people who leave Russia at the 90 and live now somewhere else - USA, Australia. The generation of 80s and 90s not drunkards, narcomans or debils.

I was born in 1975 and remember socialism. Remember the word "deficit". Remember absence of the goods in the markets. Remember communistic ideology and everyday brainwashing at the shool. Life is different now, i think our life was changed significantly for last 20 years, far much than life of average American. Some people live better, some people live worse.


Deficit is a evil word, but you're right, it is different here now than when I was itty bitty 20, 30 years ago in the USA. It wasn't always like this. The average American delt little changes and didn't have to bust their ass as they do now. Families stuck together more and at least one parent stayed home. Now, is a different story. More so hard than worse, as you say.

Even though I was young, I can remember one of my relatives talking about Russia alot and all that was going on there when I was growing up. He visited Russia alot. I cannot say too much.. Anxious
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surfguy
Lounge Wizard


Joined: 13 Apr 2006
Posts: 6979

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:09 am    Post subject: Re: How Russians see their history Reply with quote

Ender wrote:
jo jo 7 wrote:
In other words, "one bad apple doesn't spoil the basket". This is what we say in America when someone goes bad.

Yeah. The picture drawn by russkicanadian is very pessimistic. I heard such words from people who leave Russia at the 90 and live now somewhere else - USA, Australia. The generation of 80s and 90s not drunkards, narcomans or debils.

I was born in 1975 and remember socialism. Remember the word "deficit". Remember absence of the goods in the markets. Remember communistic ideology and everyday brainwashing at the shool. Life is different now, i think our life was changed significantly for last 20 years, far much than life of average American. Some people live better, some people live worse.


yes I think very true and I saw this...some people leave and others stay to make things better...at least try to
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