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The book titled The Russians: behavioral stereotypes, traditions, mentality isn?t another study of a mystery of the Russian soul nobody has been able to unravel to date. The book deals with more mundane issues any foreigner can come across whilst in Russia. The topics include Russian lifestyles, mentality and behavior.

Nowadays there?s no iron curtain whatsoever that keeps the Russians from getting to know their neighbors around the globe. And their neighbors have begun to get rid of the image of Russia as a distant cold country threatening the world with its nukes. Cooperation in many areas should rest on a foundation made of a natural and mutual interest. The book by Alla Sergeeva undoubtedly aims at stepping up such cooperation for it proves that we and other nations can share some ideals and values. We just tend to express our commitments in a different way due to traditions, habits, priorities and spiritual values.

Teaching foreign students Russian for many years in the Moscow State University and foreign universities, namely in Sorbonne, transformed in a unique study that seems quite relevant today. The study?s title is ?How we differ from Europeans and what those differences are or how we can see our merits and demerits in the eyes of foreigners?.
This is a pretty sensitive issue to many, especially to those who lately visited foreign countries and got filled with surprise at ways people act out there. Sometimes our compatriots ask around ?why us and them are so different?? as if pointing out something that?s truly one of a kind, a special feature to be proud of. However, these speculations rather produce an inferiority complex in Russians due to various reasons.

There?s been a lot of articles on the subject recently. For instance, Tatyana Tolstaya barely conceals her irony when she says that in most cases a composite image of Russia looks like ?a big loony farm with a huge padlock hanging on the door yet one wall is missing and the ceiling hangs low and there?s an abyss in place of the floor? and so on.
Russian affairs analysts highlight sensitive issues in Russian politics, reforms, corruption, organized crime and other subjects viewed largely from the same angle. They?re looking for the signs of logic in the Russian chaos. Says Tolstaya, ?God forbid us from shedding light on it (Russian chaos) by applying clear-cut logical methods, it?s like eating Jell-O with a knitting-needle.?

Despite the above piece of advice, the author of the book dared shed some light on the Russian chaos using logic, knowledge, and experience she gained while watching life in the foreign land. Her love for Russia was her main motivation. She wanted to paint Russia as a vast area, not a loony farm. The vastness of Russia is hard to comprehend if a stranger is unaware of Russian traditions, history and mentality. Alla Sergeeva found her own way of explaining the realities of the present-day Russia and the mentality of its residents without resorting to banal comparisons. Instead, she lists typical features of the Russian national character that were molded for ages and have been going through a mere transformation in Soviet and post-Soviet times. She uses the opinion polls? data of the last 10 years to back her conclusions. She also cites expert opinions and lots of figures pertinent to the subject.

Plain and easy in language and style, the research is very solid in topics covered. It reflects data relating to history, ethnography, geography and sociology. It draws from the literature and folklore; it uses linguistic examples. The book touches on a Russian archetype, the influence of geographical, climatic and other factors (religion, political system) on shaping and development of the Russian mentality. An attitude traditionally displayed by the Russian people toward the state, property, family, Zeitgeist is analyzed at length in the book. It also deals with stereotypes of morals and manners.

Russians can find the book particularly interesting since it?s a mirror of sorts, a look at themselves, a reflection of the features that make them so different from other nations. The book aims to prove that Russia is a country of old traditions that are worthy of respect. The flaws of the Russians stem from their virtues. And the main conclusion is: Russian people aren?t a nation of alcoholics and hypochondriacs, it?s a soulful, genial and compassionate people that is far too careless and gullible at times. The Russians can work hard, they can work miracles, especially when they have a predilection for a certain kind of activity.


© Рудаков В.Г. - NEKTO 2009г.

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