Как у вас дела?) Я надеюсь, что у вас всё хорошо в Америке! Скучаю!
So I created another video for this week, but I would also like to add some writing to it. It’s been a slow week overall, but I am really enjoying the US-Russian Relations class, and a lot of the things my professor talks about are very interesting to me, so I’d like to share some of them with you. (I’ve just gone through and looked at my notes for the class). Unfortunately if I do a video talking about them, it will take up a lot of time, so I hope you all like to read!
Cool video? Ok, neat. Like I said, I’m just going to put some points in here from my notes that I found interesting. They aren’t all connected; I just flipped through and found the things I remember my professor talking about. For the sake of me writing out professor every time, I’m just going to call him Sasha (His name’s Alex). Hope you enjoy reading some of these things!
- Doing business in Russia is different. You need to study how to do this.
What does this mean? According to my professor, Western businessmen who come over to Russia in order to work or expand their companies don’t always understand how the system works here. The word “work” in general has a different meaning, and things are not run/managed in the same way as in the U.S. You need to learn how to adapt to these differences, and in some way learn how to cheat the system.
- Who were the leaders of Russia?
One thing Sasha mentioned in class was how people viewed the USSR and the fall of the USSR as being the fault of Russian people. He said that everyone blames the Russians for everything, and although he’s not a strong supporter of the government himself, he wanted to point out some different facts about some “Russian” leaders: Stalin is Georgian; Kruschev is Ukrainian; Brezhnev is Ukrainian; Gorbachev is Russian but comes from the south. And his point in bringing these couple of people up is that not all “Russian” leaders were Russian.
- Earlier, about 50% of Russians wanted to have a closer relationship with the United States. Nowadays, it’s maybe about 20%.
In my own opinion, this is bad. And it says something about our relationship with Russia: it needs improvement.
- “In Russia, people don’t want to work hard like in the West. In Russia, ‘you have to be in the right place at the right time'”.
This is something I’ve noticed myself. There seems to be a much more fatalistic approach to things. If something happens, it’s because it was meant to be this way, and there’s not much you can do to change it. Along with that, if people don’t work hard, it’s only natural that things turn out the way they do on their own. If you’re not working for something, or working to keep something, or improve it, then yes, you are leaving it up to fate. I’m going to steal this quote off one of my friend’s Facebook pages: “If you don’t have a plan, you’re leaving your success up to luck.”
- Russian’s blame someone else for their problems. There is lack of responsibility in the culture because someone else has always made the decisions for them. Democracy means being responsible. If you’re not responsible, you won’t have democracy.
This kind of goes back to the previous point. The whole idea of fatalism. That if you do something, it’s because it was meant to be that way, not because you can actually control it. I’m sure this is definitely not the case for every single person in the country, but the fact that it is big enough to be a problem signals that it may be something a lot of people can associate with. As for the last sentence, this reminds me of the Korean War Memorial in DC. On the wall near the little pond, there is a very simple phrase: Freedom is not free. Americans consider democracy to be a product of hard work, and in order to be successful, of course you need to be responsible. Until this realization reaches the other side of the ocean, it may be difficult to achieve “democracy” in Russia.
- “In this country, it is impossible to get capital justly. In ‘old’ Russia, if you have money it means you’re doing some sketchy business.”
Есть слова “коррупция”. Понимаете все, что это значит? There is the word: corruption. From the stories Sasha has told us, it does seem as though if you want to earn a living, you have to do at least some dealing with sketchy people or bribes. Maybe it’s not as dangerous now as it was back a couple years ago, but it still exists. It’s a huge problem if you have to earn your salary by doing unjust things.
- People are not ready to change. People are not even ready to be responsible in their own lives. “My vote doesn’t mean anything.”
If this is the case, when WILL people be ready to change? And to learn that in order to have a progressive society you need to work hard and make sacrifices. I’m not an expert on Russia, however, it’s worrisome when so many people are unhappy with their lives here. This is a normal human condition, even for the typical smiling American. But when you have so many people without certainty or hope, it’s not good for anyone. Personally, I don’t think democracy will work for every single country, and I don’t think democracy in other countries needs to be the same as it is in the United States. From what Sasha tells us, people in Russia generally don’t want to follow the example set by the US. Despite this fact, it may be better for Russia to have a slightly different society, where people can at least be more optimistic about their lives. Even if this is not the typical “democracy” us Americans think of, there needs to be some sort of transformation in this aspect of life.
The part that I included about voting is something I felt necessary to throw in, especially now, with US elections coming up! This whole notion of your vote not meaning anything exists in a lot of places: in America as well. Personally, I also used to be one of these people who thought this way. Why would one person’s vote make a difference? However, Sasha also brought up a different point. When someone in America needs help, they can call the authorities (police, officials, etc.) and something will be done. Why? Of course it’s their job, and people want to help as much as they can, but they also want to get reelected. In Russia, the police can catch you in a crime, and you can simply pay them so that they won’t mention this to the court. When you think about this, why would anyone in the US assume that their vote doesn’t matter, when officials do what they do in order to get reelected by us? If this were not the case, our society would be much more like Russia’s. Authorities don’t help. They don’t need to help. Because essentially, it is not the people’s ultimate decision as to whether they are reelected or not. That being said, I want to encourage everyone, EVERYONE who is able to vote, to do so. Because although you may be thinking your vote doesn’t count and it doesn’t matter- it most certainly does. And you are so, so unbelievably lucky to have that sort of power put into your hands. Not everyone has this opportunity, and you would have to be insane to just throw it away.
- Russians are always contradicting themselves.
- The Russian Constitution. Super-Presidency.
I want to write a paragraph here from one of the articles Sasha gave us to read. It’s a bit lengthy, but for the people who take the time to read this, I’d like to ask you a favor. When you read this paragraph, think to yourself if anything sounds oddly familiar, and write in my comment box (without googling it) where the Russian Constitution came from:
The principle of the division of powers was ratified and executive and judicial branches of the state were to be formed. The new president, elected for no more than two consecutive five-year terms, could not be a deputy or a member of a political party. He or she would head the executive branch and would be the highest official in the land, but was obliged to report to the Congress at least once a year. The president had the right to issue binding decrees and to suspend decisions of the executive bodies if they contradicted the constitution or Russian laws. Both the Supreme Soviet and the Congress, however, could revoke presidential decrees, although the actual voting procedure to do this was not specified. The Congress could impeach the president by a two-thirds vote on a report by the Constitutional Court issued at the initiative of the Congress itself, the Supreme Soviet, or one of its chambers. Thus the extensive powers of the executive presidency were enshrined in law.”
As for the second point up there: super-presidency. The President of Russia has “super-presidential powers.” I don’t know how many people are aware of this. What does that mean? The President can do whatever he wants. If he wants to fire the entire government, he is able to do so. Democracy?
- What is the main attitude toward the law?
There is none.
- “We are always opposing the state/government.” “We don’t trust institutions and moreover we don’t trust the state.” There have been lots of times the state has cheated on the people, lied, and stole money. In 1998, someone stole 2$ from the IMF, and no one knows where it went.
First of all, how is it even possible to steal 2$ dollars and not have any idea where it went or who has it? What does that say about the structure and organization of the country? Of course people don’t trust this sort of state.
- “If you want Russians to do something, just create a rule and tell them not to do it.”
Going back to Russians contradicting themselves. If you push, nothing gets done. If you tell them not to do something, they will do it.
- The wrong way to fight corruption: bigger fines, longer time in prison: People aren’t afraid of this. To them punishment is inevitable. “If I know I can pay a bribe, I am not afraid of being punished.”
In order to resolve this sort of problem, what needs to be done? In my opinion, something needs to be created so that paying bribes is, in itself, it’s a crime. If people know they will be punished for paying a bribe or for asking for a bribe, this sort of problem may start to dissolve, but it would have to be enforced.
- “Sometimes when you read Russian laws, it’s funny.”
Sasha said this. I’m guessing it means some Russian laws are pretty much a joke.
- When Putin/Medvedev visit a town/village, everything is prepared for them, so that when they come, all they see is how good and clean everything is. It’s a way for lower level bureaucrats to show their boss that everything is ok.
This type of strategy is not useful at all. And in fact, not only is it not helping the development of these areas, but it is making things work. For the short period of time Putin or Medvedev visit these different places, the people who live in those places know the roads they will take and the places they will visit, so they clean up only those parts of the town/village. So when PutMed arrives they don’t see the every day conditions of these places, and when they leave, life can go back to the way it was before, without anything being fixed. Having this fear that your job is more important than actually fixing problems is playing a big role in Russia.
- If Russians know it’s a European tradition, it’s ok. But if they know it’s an American tradition: no, no, no. Russian students think George Orwell (author: Animal Farm and 1984) is American because he criticizes them and tries to tell them what to do.
Part of this deals with the fact that it doesn’t work when foreigners try to criticize another country. I think this happens everywhere. Even if the people insult things themselves, it is never ok for someone else to come and say those things. Sasha has told us that a majority of Russians don’t want anything to do with Americans, and don’t want their traditions to come to Russia. The US is too involved in other people’s business, and it’s not their place to tell other countries how to live.
- If you push someone in Russia, nothing will get done. “Sometimes you can control me, but other times I’ll do what I want, and it will still be your fault.”
This sounds a little funny, but in reality…eh. Not so much. I’ve actually noticed this in some personal relations with a couple Russians. If you really push them and try to force them to do something, forget about getting that particular thing done. The same with asking questions and trying to get answers. If you ask too much and too forcefully, don’t expect a response.
- Young people who study in the university don’t go to teach. Professors realize this and tell students go teach in schools when they graduate.
Why? Why does this matter? Because young people don’t want to teach. So instead, Russian schools have older teachers who remember what they had during the Soviet Union, and teach those kids about how that time period was much better. So now, you have young children who already have these certain beliefs in their head from a very young age, which aren’t compatible with transitioning from the USSR to a new Russia. This slows down the amount of time it’s going to take for people’s mentalities to change, because young children are being taught about only victories of the USSR.
- People live right here, right now.
This means that there is a sense of impatience to get results right away. Instead of waiting, and doing what is right, or what may produce a greater profit, people like to hurry and get it done, so that they can have what they want right at that moment.
- “If there is no corruption in Russia, no one would work.”
This is something Sasha told us another professor said in the PoliScience school. A professor, in 2012, in a university, is admitting that without corruption, working would be pointless. I hope you all understand that this level of corruption is terrible.
- “You’re a good specialist. You can go to any country.” “Nooo…but then I’d have to work.”
This is another conversation Sasha had with one of his friends, who is a specialist in something…Apparently this person’s day consists of working for maybe 2 hours, and then playing with a remote control helicopter. It’s amazing that for someone to be a specialist in something, this would be the type of life they would have. And to not even want to work, even if it meant receiving a better salary. It’s amazing to me.