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10 Russian Peculiarities And What They Mean

The following is a guest post from our friends over at Russia Beyond – your cultural portal to all things Russia.

Russia Beyond tackles some questions that have no doubt kept some of you up at night: women, food, culture – all have made it to our list of stories dealing with frequently asked questions. Just follow the links in the text.

1. Why is Western-style feminism so opposed by many Russian women?

Russia used to be a very pro-active country in terms of an equal female participation in all spheres of life. Has this changed? And can Russia and America ever be on the same page about what it means to be feminist?

Before you make assumptions about Eastern European female servitude, you might do well to get a nuanced, historically-minded outlook on the subject from a Russian journalist and entrepreneur living in the US. Do Russian women really not want “equality,” or is something else at play here? Vicky Lova expands on the issue.

2. Why so many Russians don’t look…well – “Russian”?

Many are surely aware of the size of Russia, which straddles not one – but two continents. But just how ethnically diverse is our vast country? Follow this link and find out what Russia’s anthropologists have to say about the unlikely union of over 190 ethnic groups living on Russian territory, and how it all came about. And if you’re not the reading type, here’s our little video explainer.

3. Why do Russians greet every guest of honor with bread and salt?

Behind every ritual there is a story. The Russians are a bit like Hawaii when it comes to welcoming important guests as they disembark at the airport. Except we do it with bread and salt. This is an important part of the official decorum in our country. Read all about it here.

4. Why do all foreign astronauts have to speak Russian?

 Many of you will already know about Russia’s Soyuz capsule – the only way to get a cosmonaut/astronaut to the International Space Station. But with all the technology and human expertise around, shouldn’t the trip be a walk in the park?

Yelena Kirilenko, the head of the Russian-language group at Russia’s Cosmonaut Training Center, describes the situations faced by astronauts, and talks about the crucial stage at which knowledge of a specialized “astronaut Russian” dialect is indispensable.

5. What’s up with Russian divorce rates?

It’s no secret that divorce rates are up all over the world, but what accounts for the increase in Russia? Isn’t the country all about tradition? Pollsters have discovered that we marry younger than most of our Western counterparts, yet our 2016 divorce ratio stood at 1 to 1.6.

Many will cite youthful inexperience that leads to inevitable disappointment, but there are a number of experts who disagree. Read all about it here.

But Russians also like independence – both men and women – even if it comes at a price: Forsaking family life. Read the following story to hear what Russians have to say about increasingly opting for a life of solitude.

6. Do Russian women really go for foreign guys?

Do they? Russian women to this day find it difficult to live down the stereotype that they are only interested in foreigners. And – look – we realize there is an economic incentive, but to only boil it down to money alienates a whole chunk of the population with no interest in wealth.

We talked to real Russian women – both married and dating a foreigner. Head over here to find out what they had to say on the matter.

7. Why do they call Moscow ‘The Third Rome’?

The answer might not be so obvious to some. Check out our history refreshed, and find out something new about the Russian capital today. This particular story dates back to the 15th century.

8. What’s the white fluff that descends on Moscow, and how should you deal with it?

Each year around June, Muscovites are terrorized by white poplar fluff. In extreme cases, people require medical attention because of acute allergic reactions to all the components the fluff carries with the wind.

Discover the history behind how our country became afflicted with the annoying fluff, and what you can do to minimize the effects it has on your health.

9. What’s up with all the fur coats?

As Russia Beyond’s Eva Hofman has discovered: A lot. Many might hold on to the mistaken notion that Russian women want nothing more than to look fabulous. After all, those that can afford it seem incapable of wearing everyday clothes even when grocery-shopping – unlike, say, our American counterparts, who seem to prefer comfort over looks.

But the truth is far simpler: While there’s little doubt each winter coat makes its owner look very unique, life for a native Russian is a mix of both practicality and tradition. We are known for not wanting to fix what isn’t broken. Follow this link to find out what Russian women really have to say about wearing fur.

10. Why do Russians applaud on planes?

That old chestnut. It seems that, whenever a plane full of Russians lands somewhere – and is piloted by a Russian, the Russians feel obliged to congratulate the captain on a job well done. This often puzzles some of the Russians themselves, but don’t be too quick to pin the ritual on them. Head over here to learn about the different theories associated with its origin.

Don’t forget to Like Russia Beyond’s Facebook page and subscribe to their YouTube channel for fun cultural explainers and stories from foreigners and expats living in Russia.

What do you think?

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