Several years ago I attempted at creating a somewhat obscure, lengthy, and perhaps completely erroneous description of Russian national character. That trash of writing hasn't had any success with the intelligent reader and actually has been rejected by the astute public. I had been contemplating elimination of that garbage when in some unthinkable moment it suddenly occurred to me that I could do better work providing a concise contrastive description of American and Russian national traits.
Americans and Russians have been antagonists since the outset of the Cold War in the 1950s. The democratic values so appreciated in the USA had been strongly opposed to the totalitarian nature of communist system in the former Soviet Union. The gap between the two cultures had become even wider with the fall of the USSR in 1991 because all efforts to introduce democracy in Russia that had been made since that time had failed resulting in the establishment of the totalitarian-oligarchian Putin's regime, which turned out much more ineffective, corrupt, irresponsible and threatening than all communist governments in the Soviet Union taken together.
All attempts to bridge the gap between the two countries have either failed or just produced a humorous effect. A public opinion poll conducted in Russia in 2008 showed that 40% of respondents held a negative attitude to the USA and only 1% expressed a positive one. In 2009 Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, a mock "reset" button with the Russian inscription "ПЕРЕГРУЗКА" which means in Russian "overload" rather than "reset", the Russian for "reset" being "ПЕРЕЗАГРУЗКА". When Lavrov explained the mistake to Clinton the latter had nothing to do but burst out in a hysterical laughter. Thus US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow had crashed.
I am far from thinking that highly qualified translators at the US State Department made a deliberate mistake to cross the State Secretary up and make her a laughing stock in Russia. It was just an omen demonstrating futility of the efforts aimed at resetting anything in the relations between the two countries. Before trying any resets we must conceive the essential differences between us.
I hope that this sketch that outlines differences in attitudes of Russians and Americans to their political leaders, police, social phenomena, etc. will contribute to such a conception.
1. Situation: A political leader has been exposed as an adulterer.
American reaction: Indignation. Loss of any public support for such a politician.
Russian reaction: Respect for such a robust fellow. Growth of public support for the politician.
2. Situation:A high ranking official has been caught in a $100 000 bribe-taking.
American reaction: Indignation. Demands to put the official to jail.
Russian reaction: Compassion on the unhappy fellow who has contrived to get caught in such a trifle sum while the others take $100 000 000 bribes.
3. Situation: The government introduces heavy taxes that badly affect living standards.
American reaction: Indignation. Protest marches. Demands for government resignation.
Russian reaction: Indifference. Concealment of wages and profits.
4. Situation: A celebrity has turned out to be homosexual.
American reaction: Indifference. Respect for sex minorities.
Russian reaction: Disgust for the dirty freak.
5. Situation: A person can't open his business because of red tape.
American reaction: Indignation. Complaints to higher authorities.
Russian reaction: Resignation to the ordinary routine. Greasing appropriate palm with a bribe.
6. Situation: A person has been stopped by traffic police for a serious breach of traffic rules.
American reaction: Flutter. Fear of being heavily fined.
Russian reaction: Serenity. Bargaining with the police inspector about the bribe size.
7. Situation: A driver sees a traffic police car with speed detector on the opposite side of the road.
American reaction: Indifference, no action.
Russian reaction: The driver signals with flashing light to the oncoming vehicles to warn the other drivers.
8. Situation: At the office the boss pays compliments to the girl secretary about her nice breast and shapely legs.
American reaction: The secretary reports to the police about sexual harassment.
Russian reaction: The secretary is pleased by the boss's attention.
9. Situation: The husband comes home after work and finds out that the wife hasn't cooked dinner.
American reaction: The husband consults the marriage contract to make sure if it specifies such a situation.
Russian reaction: The husband beats the wife up. The latter sees it as an ordinary routine.
10. Situation: Your next door neighbor celebrates a holiday and makes up a wild party with loud music crashing the whole night.
American reaction: You report to the police.
Russian reaction: You join the party.
It is obvious that life in Russia is much more complex and interesting as compared with the primitive and dull American way of life. Am I right?