Its amazing that Russia exists as a country at all. It is so large that its borders span two continents and one sixth of the worlds surface.
Within its borders it of course has hundreds of small micro-cultures, but at the same time it contains a surprisingly cohesive and similar Russian culture.
There are however some very broad distinctions about Russians that I think are very useful for a foreigner to know before visiting or getting to know or dating any Russians.They can be very useful in getting a rough idea of a persons background and beliefs.
These distinctions have been told to me numerous times by Russians, and my own experience certainly backs their existence.
1. The Moscow and St Petersburg Russia
“Moscow isn’t Russia”. People have told me this many times, and it is certainly true. Broadly speaking, Moscow and St Petersburg are cities that are comparable to those in Europe – they are fundamentally similar. A lot of the time Moscow feels to me like being in Berlin.
2. The rest of Russia. The real Russia.
90% of Russians live in other cities, towns and villages and in these you couldn’t really mistake yourself for being in Europe.
3. Soviet Russians
Those born in Russia before or around 1970 have a fundamentally different view of life and of Russia. Growing up in the Soviet era, how could they not?
4. Post-soviet Russians
Those Russians 35 and under are a curious bunch. Comfortably modern and confident, they have an intriguing mix of optimism for the future and old-fashioned Soviet pessimism. With infinitely more opportunity, they expect so much more from life than their parents did yet are reluctant to plan to far ahead, Russias traditional instability ever at the back of their minds.
Nonetheless I expect this generation of young Russians making a big mark on the world this century.
My soon to be mother in law explained to me once ‘Perostroika was a very bad thing. Before it I was an engineer, now I work as a cleaner.’ Fair point, you have to say. My fiance added though ‘Our parents all think like that, us young people see things differently and for us it was a good thing’.