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English national character vs. Russian national character: STEREOTYPES.

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Olga Garas

on 31 March 2016

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Transcript of English national character vs. Russian national character: STEREOTYPES.

Why not doing some research?
Firstly, let's talk about stereotypes of the British national character ...
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2. Stereotypes are OK, aren't they?
You must often hear about negative stereotypes, but some of them are positive. For example, there's a stereotype that Asian people do better at school. However, there is one particular of many other problems with any stereotype is that even if a stereotype reflects reality in some cases, it's certainly not true in all cases
Now let's look at the Russian national character
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As you might have noticed, stereotypes seem to provoke mostly negative attitudes. However, sometimes some stereotypes may be neutral or even positive. To illustrate the point, let's try to have a quick look at the most popular stereotypes about the British and the Russian national characters to see which of the two is viewed in the most negative way by the opinionated public.
through the prism of most popular stereotypes.
3. But what are other problems (except of untrue facts) with stereotypes? How do stereotypes influence our life?
1. What is a stereotype?
Have you ever heard someone say blond women are all stupid, all women are bad drivers, Irish people are all drunkards, Americans are all fat or African-American people are always late? Those are some preconceived ideas commonly held by people about specific groups of other people. Such ideas are commonly known as stereotypes
To sum up, you might have already noticed that stereotypes are often unfair or untrue.
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English national character vs. Russian national character:

Blond women
are all stupid, aren't they?
Irish people
are all drunkards,
aren't they?
American political cartoon titled
The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things, depicting a drunken Irishman lighting a powder keg and swinging a bottle. Published in Harper's Weekly, 1871. [1]
Australians don`t actually
ride Kangaroos!
Nor are they all crocodile hunters!
It might sound a bit shocking, but apparently, they are just like you and me and don`t go about eating crocs or catching wallabies.
Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination are understood as related but different concepts [1].

Thus, a stereotype is knowledge based on lack of objective judgment, while prejudice is an emotional reaction to stereotypical knowledge and finally, discrimination is behavior arising out of both stereotypical thinking and prejudice.
4. How do people learn to make stereotypes? How can they unlearn them?
Modern research
that full understanding of stereotypes
considering them
from two complementary perspectives:

as shared
within a particular culture/subculture

as formed
in the mind of an individual person.[1]
As for individual negative experience, it might arise out of unsuccessful international communication.

Firstly, one can encounter a dishonorable person in any country. In such a case it's crucial to remember that the whole nation can never be judged objectively by a negative example of a single representative or even a group of such representatives. For instance, how can all German people be said to approve fascism only because of the fact that Hitler did play his infamous role in the history of the nation or because some people of modern Germany may seem to have some of the infamous beliefs?

Historical figures, national heroes of the past as well as the present who are respected by the majority of people seem to give a far more objective reflection of what the national character really is.

That is why one of the methods of fighting in a political war against a state has always been harming the reputation of national leaders, heroes or culture symbols by spreading negative myths and forming negative associations. The history knows many examples of such myth-making. One of such myths is connected with the name of the Russian Empress Catherine the Great (which is to be discussed a bit later).

Secondly, unawareness of cultural peculiarities allows misunderstanding to creep into the minds of those who participate in intercultural communication giving rise for misconceptions.

Thus, learning objective facts about history, customs and traditions of your foreign friend's homeland becomes vital to establish really stable and trustful relationship excluding or minimizing possible misunderstanding.

And finally, stereotypes can be learnt by groups of people or even by nations under the influence of mass media gradually imposing untrue facts in the form of the truth on people.

For example, probably one of the most stupid and vulgar myths which unfortunately may still exist in minds of some tourists visiting St. Petersburg in Russia, is that an intelligent ruler, a great historical figure, the pride of the nation, the head of the Russian Empire Catherine the Great slept with a horse.

I wonder if anyone can ever have enough mental abilities to imagine how the technical side of the matter should be handled. Professor Simon Dixon at the University of Leeds knows the story is untrue, moreover, the dirty gossip might have appeared among soldiers, not Russian ones, but Polish soldiers. For 34 years of glorious reign the Russian Empress made enough enemies who could have hoped for a scandalous end of her life. The simple truth is that Catherine the Great suffered a stroke and died quietly in her bed the following day.
The vulgar myth having disgraced her memory would have been forgotten long time ago unless it had been propagated, for example, by a short video named "I was Catherine the Great's stable boy" which plot was dedicated exclusively to the technical side of the matter. The company's name which financed the video of dubious artistic merit is not a secret, but understanding the reason for spreading lies in such a way to support the stereotype has become an open issue.[6]
Thus, living in the modern world of globalization, IT revolution and instant international communication has made it vitally important for an individual to acquire and develop skills of critical thinking striving to be well-informed rather than just opinionated.
No 1. To begin with, all British people adore eating porridge and eat it for breakfast which might be true about the Irish and the Scotts, but Londoners as well as many of the English have a cup of coffee on the go in the morning as many of them do not have time for breakfast or just do not have breakfast at all.

No 2. Then, all the British have 5 o'clock tea. That's a wonderful tradition, and being a tourist one can have a really magnificent tea party with various cakes and sandwiches at a hotel, but everyone doesn't have a 5 o'clock cup of tea in the UK, though many people do love drinking tea.

No 3. Another myth is that all British people are just one part of the Royal family or another - it's not true just because not everyone shakes hands with Prince William. [7]

No 4. All people in the UK are believed to speak posh English. It's false as not everyone sounds like the Queen's son, moreover, people speak different accents and even different languages. For instance, Welsh is spoken in Wales and Scottish or Gaelic in Scotland, but some posh words still exist in the language. [8]

No 5. Next, British people are rude unfriendly and arrogant which is not true. To be honest, that's not all necessarily false, but people in Britain are very conscious of their personal behavior or people they interact with. Just because someone doesn't talk to you it doesn't mean they are unfriendly. If you ask for a direction people are ready to help. But they tend to be shy when it comes to the public eye.

No 6. The next myth is quite opposite to the previous one stating that all the British are extremely polite, which might be true about members of the Royal Family or participants of some society parties. Nevertheless, if you jogged someone in the crowd without saying "I'm sorry" you would be definitely thrown a disapproving glance at. The British do always apologize for everything as the people have British social mannerism which means if one insulted someone else, it is like they took someone's life out of the man, thus British people feel they have to cure the insulted of negative emotions.

No 7. Also, Britons dress either really well or really fancy. However, one's personal style depends by and large on one's personal experience, otherwise, an American designer and a fashion icon Iris Apfel would be a typical British.
No 8. Next, the British have bad teeth. This idea depends on hygiene which is really a personal matter. [12]
No. 9 Then, all people (actually only about 16%) of the population live in the glorious London!

No. 10 British people are always complaining about the weather and about everything - it's true, people of the UK like complaining , but this phenomenon might be rooted into the frequently changing British weather which in its turn has become the best topic for a social conversation with a stranger.

No 11. The British are very sarcastic, which must be true as they do like saying things they don't really mean (or mean the opposite) which has become a trademark of the national humor.

No 12. Also, British people are fond of cuing. How can anyone love cuing? It's viewed as a socially correct necessity rather than a favorite pastime.

No 13. Finally, they say the British are reserved, which might be true and can be partly explained by the structure of their education.

1. The first and probably the most negative and vastly spread myth about all Russian people is that the Russians drink alcohol excessively.
Actually, roughly 18 liters of alcohol are drunk per capita in Moldavia against only 15 liters in today's Russia.

By the way, there is an interesting historical fact that ancient Russian legislation stipulated neither any rules no any restrictions or punishments connected with alcohol consumption, although history knows many examples of countries where drunkenness did become a problem and, as a consequence of that, really strict legislation appeared there.

For example, alcohol consumption was prohibited for men under the age of 35 while women couldn't drink alcohol at all and could be even buried alive in some cases in accordance with the laws of Romulus in ancient Rome!

Prior to the invasion of the Norman in 1066, people of Britain mostly the Saxon, earned a reputation for being heavy drinkers just because people started drinking beer instead of water contaminated by agents of diseases.

Another historical fact which is really worth knowing is that actually there were no wine in ancient Russia at all before the country was converted into Orthodox Christianity. As for strong spirits, their consumption by the Russians was documented only in the 15'th century. Prior to that time Russian people used to drink mostly honey, beer and in part imported wine. There was no problem of heavy drinkers in Russia, thus there was no punishment for drunkenness. However, Europe (as historically proved) was suffering with drunkenness during the Middle Ages. In fact, Russia entered and lived through the Middle Ages being sober. [19] This fact might partly explain the existence of another stereotype which is...

The Russians can drink Vodka instead of water remaining sober.

You must have seen many videos on You Tube showing Russian people acting in a strange way under the influence of alcohol. But the picture of a drunk man is pretty similar in any country, thus, people in Russia are not mysteriously different from the rest of the world. Nevertheless, the national ability to stay sober could be explained by the fact that Russian people used to drink honey which contained small proportion of alcohol, thus the nation could have probably developed some genetic immunity from quick alcohol intoxication.

As for the large number of videos uploaded on You Tube, as we understood some media may be used for political reasons, creating negative information image of the nation, while some videos are true, but the history of Russia can explain behavior of some people:
3. Another negative stereotype about the Russians is that the people are unfriendly, rude, scandalous, the angry nation, unsmiling ones, the gloomy. After watching some modern movies (not to speak of those films made during the Cold War period), it seems that all Russian people are real Darth Vaders of different ages.
We have partly dissolved this myth already, but something might not necessarily be untrue. Thus, the Russians don't smile really often which is true because people have sincere smiles. Russian people find it very strange that Americans will interact and even smile at each other when they are actually having poor thoughts about the other person.
As for Russians, if two people do not like each other, they should simply stay away from one another and would never start exchanging smiles.
Thus, reading undisguised Russian emotions and thus establishing trustful relationship with the people becomes not that difficult or scary.

Next time when you are in Russia just know that an unsmiling Russian face looking at you is not a sign of any aggression but a sign of being a stranger to you.

Give it a go to smile sincerely to that unsmiling face if you are really interested to talk to that person and you might get surprised to receive a friendly smile in return for starting a friendly conversation.

Speaking about scandals, they are constantly being made not only by the Russians, but by the Italians as well as American people, actually, by anyone.
4. As for the image of the angry nation (being constantly created in movies) where everyone hates one another, possesses an AK-47, gun shooting is heard everywhere and oligarchs, mafia, gangsters drugs and weapon is the everyday routine, it's not true.

The point is that something similar to that exaggerated myth did exist in the 1990's but things have already changed drastically in today's Russia since that time.

It is prohibited in Russia to have any gun unless you are a serving officer. Even possessing a rifle for hunting should be licensed and the procedure is rather complicated.

Some critical minds might say that the Russians lose their temper and become aggressive quickly which is shown in numerous videos on You Tube when drivers get out of their cars with a gun or a bat to have a rather medieval discussion over a car accident.

The videos may not be fake ones, though not every Internet source can be called a reliable one today and what's more, not every Russian driver behaves like that. There is another myth which is partly connected to the above mentioned one which is...
5. Russian driving style is antisocial, truly aggressive, the roads in Russia are horrible and the police are angry bribe takers.

The quality of roads in Russia has become better but still leaves much to be desired, thus people do get frustrated at times as everyone has to pay taxes. The poor condition of the roads can partly be explained by the northern climate as well as huge distances within the country covering of which with high quality asphalt demands huge expenses. Unless Russia had to live through several economic recessions the situation with roads might be different today. Poor conditions of roads can be also explained by existence of corruption which thrived in the 1990's and can never be put a blind eye to.

However, corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, and it is being more and more actively rooted out in modern Russia. Policemen as well as many other layers of the society must have had financial problems in the 1990's which might have led people to bribery, but Russian policemen of today are financially stable enough not to give a sincere Russian smile in return to an ambiguous offer. Moreover, today's laws in Russia demand the police to be polite and stipulate serious punishment for any cases of corruption.
6. Another myth is that the Russian language sounds aggressive. It might be a purely subjective opinion which has become another vastly propagated stereotype. Russian language contains 10 vowel sounds and 21 consonants, moreover, prolongation of vowel sounds is not viewed as anything wrong in Russian while it would become an undesirable accent in English.
7. The next negative myth is that all Russian people use a lot of swearing in their speech, moreover, it's believed that Bad Russian is the real Russian language. It's just nonsense but Russian does have a number of vulgar words which is not a unique thing for any language. The frequency and appropriateness of using swearing in speech depends totally on personal level of culture. This brings me to another stereotype connected with the level of culture which is...
8. Russian girls are famous for their beauty they look like models and like being well-dressed in any occasion. They can wear high-heels even for going to a local shop but they are easy in one's morals and dream about getting married a foreigner to leave the country because all Russian men are horrible people.
As for real Russian women, they do like the idea of looking great which is natural for a woman, they love shopping, but many do it online today without leaving homes. Russian women do wear elegant flats if they have to spend a lot of time on foot either at work or on holiday.
To begin with, the image described above might be true only about characters shown in Hollywood films which, as you might have guessed, do not necessarily correspond to the objective reality.
Personally, I have always wanted to marry a Russian guy because sharing the same native language does add to better understanding, so I've been happily married for several years.

As for low morale standards, probably people tend to get closer with the similar ones, thus, I would suggest that one should analyze their inner world better in order to change it if they keep meeting those who do not correspond to their expectations.

9. Among other stereotypes about the Russians are the following:

As Russia is covered with snow all the year round, everyone wears an ear-flapped hat and fur coats.

Frankly speaking, Russia is a huge country, thus some parts of it are really sunny and the weather is mostly warm or hot there. As for ear-flapped hats, it's an element of the national costume, and Russia has long been a secular state where people do not wear national clothes really often.

11. As for Siberia, this region might be viewed by foreigners as another Antarctic because the weather is believed to be horribly cold even in summer.

By the way, I live in Novosibirsk which is in Siberia and right now the sun is shining here because it's spring time, though we do have long winters here (the frost can be below minus 30 degrees Celsius) and comparatively short (actually of normal 3 months) but hot summers (the temperature can go to up to plus 30 degrees Celsius).

It is also believed that all Russian people, and especially the Siberians, can never get cold in frosty weather which is a horrible misconception.
There is even a proverb in Siberia which says: Siberians are not those people who never get cold, but those who put on warm clothes. Siberian frosts are not that scary because the air is dry here in comparison with such coastline cities as New York, for example, where I got terribly cold at minus 5 degrees Celsius wearing my typical outfit for Siberian autumn, the wind being really piercing.
12. Many foreigners also believe that the Russian doll "Matryoshka" is an absolutely necessary element of any home or flat in Russia, but I have never seen such dolls at my friends' homes. However, every tourist must have bought at least one.

The true fact about any Russian family is that if you visit a Russian friend, you will be asked to put off your shoes to walk inside a flat or a house and most probably you will be offered to have something to eat or to have a cup of tea with some sweets or both things.

13. One of the frequent misconceptions held by people is that all Russians are lazy, unwilling to work and are not curious.
This myth could have appeared long time ago because thanks to long Russian winters Russian peasants could be out of work for a comparatively longer period of time than any other peasants. Nevertheless, this peculiarity of the climate might have affected the nation's character having made the Russians capable of working extremely hard during a short period of time to achieve their goals. This national character trait might have allowed Russian people to find enough will and strength for turning a dream of flying in space into a reality in just 16 years after the most devastating world war having destroyed roughly 30 million of the Soviet Union population.

How can the nation which has left such a scientific legacy - the table of chemical elements (by Dmitry Mendeleev), aerodynamics (by Nikolay Zhukovsky), Antarctic (by Mikhail Lazarev), biosphere (by Vladimer Vernadsky), bodybuilding (by Eugeny Sandov), helicopter (by Mikhailo Lomonosov) and other various scientific discoveries - be viewed as the lazy or the incurious? It is just ridiculous!
14. And finally, the word "tovarishch" or comrade which is being used in popular films like "Mission Impossible" (where a Russian policemen is addressed as "tovarishch") is just nonsense because nobody in Russia speaks in that way any longer.
Decades after the end of the Cold War, Russians are still portrayed as "Hollywood's go-to villains". It seems the Cold War stereotypes are being intentionally supported in the minds of the world public for a mysterious reason though
the Soviet Union did dissolve and stopped its existence long time ago.

10. Many foreigners believe that most Russians live in Moscow all the rest live in Siberia. As it has already been mentioned, Russia is a really large country, so there are many wonderful cities here: St. Petersburg, Sochi, Volgograd, Ekaterinburg, Tomsk, Novosibirsk and many others, which are not necessarily in Siberia.

Otherwise, any British person would be an ever-complaining member of the Royal Family giving a bad-teeth smile to unwillingly start a conversation about the weather in posh English.
A wide variety of mass culture clichés about Russia and Russians was created by the media and film industry portraying the citizens of the Russian Federation as enemies, spies or aggressive fighters. Through the prism of stereotypes a Russian one is an angry, heavily drunk Siberian gangster wearing "ushanka" all the year round having a nuclear reactor at their home probably not to get frozen and sitting by it with an AK-47 and a bottle of vodka in one hand, stroking idly their pet-bear by another hand.
For example, Bo Martin Erik Eriksson known as
"E-Type" sang a song known as "Russian Lullaby".
Nevertheless, lullaby by E-Type starts neither with the name of Darth Vader nor with the name of the singer, but with a Russian name, "Igor". By the way, the name "Igor" is associated in Russia with a thoughtful romantic story called "Tale of Igor’s Campaign", a famous ancient piece of literature written by the Russians in the 12'th century.
Sure, the song was just a fantasy of the author, and Russian mothers would never sing anything like that to their children. Nevertheless, the the melody and the lyrics are memorable and are associated with Russia or its people. In my opinion, such a lullaby could suit to be a goodnight song for a Klingon child otherwise a well-known Sith-Master Darth Vader could probably sing it to a baby-sith.
As for the video made for the Russian Lullaby by E-type band, if you watch it more carefully, you might notice many references to a lot of anti-Russian sentiment or russophobia which have already been mentioned in this presentation.
Unfortunately, it seems the Russians are still being seen by the world society as the heavily drinking nation. This stereotype has already been disassembled to some extent. In addition, sport results shown by the Russian national athlete team at the Olimpic Games of 2014 and other sport events might help to dispel the unfair myth.
Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexander Legkov, Ilia Chernousov are the winners of the cross country racing at the Olimpics of 2014.
(On the last day of the Games, Legkov led a Russian medal sweep in the men's 50-kilometer race to give the host nation its first cross-country gold at the Sochi Games. It also clinched the top spot in the overall medals table for Russia with 13 golds and 33 medals overall.On a perfect final day for the hosts, Vylegzhanin was second after beating Chernousov in a photo finish, 0.7 seconds behind Legkov.)
Looking at the world through the prism of prejudices and mass culture clichés must be easier, and more convenient only for those who prefer to limit their own personal right of making judgments.
But if you chose to be curious and
open-minded, you might be eager to stay well-informed rather than just opinionated.
If you want to understand the real Russian national character better, you could listen to a Russian-made lullaby which has been sung by Russian mothers since the USSR times up until our days and must be sung even further. The little bear's name is Umka meaning "the bright one" which reflects some genuine ideas behind the Russian national symbol - the bear.

Thank you for your attention, I hope you enjoy it!
Firstly, the nation had to live through horribly difficult times of two world wars and several revolutions happening one after another.

Russia (the USSR at that time) lost about 30 000 000 people in the Second World War.

Almost every family in Russia knows what war really is by either having lost some relatives during it or having relatives who had worked at the soviet plants or relatives who had been killed in nazi labor camps or relatives who had been suffering from hunger during the times of the Second World War.
Some critical minds might say that there are many Russian tourists abroad who might have little financial problems and behave in a horrible way drinking heavily, but the point is that some Russian people managed to get financially stable during the raucous 1990s and most of them did it not in a very decent way.

Thus, the whole nation can not be judged by them. The citizens of Russia are people who have found practical stability and socio-economic efficiency in their current state and deserve the respect of fellow nations. Moreover, the legislation connected with the consumption of alcohol has become much stricter in modern Russia.
After that dark war times the nation had to rebuild the economy again from scratch.

Then the USSR fell down and those were the people again who had to live through economic collapse of the 1990's and had to rebuilt the economy once again.

No wonder that some of the Russians might be willing to sink into oblivion, but the majority understand that life goes on and there is no time for being weak.
Thanks to this phenomenon Russian language, though having no that vivid intonation pattern as English, can often sound angelically melodic. A bright example of that could be a song from the Russian opera "Prince Igor" which fragment was used by the band "Rapsody".
It seems the number of really negative misconceptions about the Russians is considerably larger than the number of less negative stereotypes existing about the British people.
Many of mass culture cliches were developed during the Cold War, and were spread by mass media as an element of political war against the Soviet Union.
It's surprising, but the Russian-drunkards-myth can also be disassembled by the Russian history...
Would everyone find enough will to stay strong in such circumstances?
All women are bad drivers, aren't they?
Negative attitudes arising out of stereotypes affect our behavior in a bad way. That's how cases of bullying can find their ways into schools. Moreover, discrimination will always be condemned by the humanity.

It leads me to conclude that people who let stereotypes dominate their thinking allow ignorance to thrive and their personal abilities of making judgements, controlling their emotions and actions to be limited and controlled by something else. This brings me to another point of this talk.
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