Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about Russian History => Imperial Russian History => Topic started by: AGRBear on November 08, 2004, 03:20:47 PM

Title: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on November 08, 2004, 03:20:47 PM
I remember my grandfather talking about how fatalism had devoured the soul of the Russian peasant.  

Here is just one of the sayings of the Russian peasant:  

            "God is too high  and the Tsar is too far away."

AGRBear
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
Post by: Elisabeth on November 08, 2004, 03:32:22 PM
What a great topic for a new thread, AGRBear. You know there is an entire book about the Russian peasant... well, no doubt entire bookS, but here is the one from my grad school years - "The Peasant in Nineteenth Century Russia," edited by Wayne S. Vucinich, with essays by numerous scholars including Donald Fanger (he's my  hero! great bio of Gogol),  Nicholas Riasanovsky, and Donald W. Treadgold. In fact, I should reread this book before I add anything more! Although I do remember that what most impressed Tolstoy and also Western observers during the Crimean War was the tremendous courage and also passivity of the Russian peasant soldier. Perhaps the two were synonymous...?
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant,  
Post by: AGRBear on November 12, 2004, 01:25:31 PM
Was it easier for the poor peasant to blame God, who was too high, or the Tsar, who was too far away,  then for the peasant to take responsibility for their enviorment  [flea infested home,  no cut wood for the fireplace,  no food to eat,  rags for clothes.....] in 1912?

Notice the year, 1912.  Please,  keep the debate within this time frame.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
Post by: Elisabeth on November 13, 2004, 04:50:12 PM
I think a lot of Russian peasants did take responsibility for themselves - remember, large numbers of young people left the villages every year after harvest to find industrial work in the cities, migrating back to the countryside in the spring to help with the planting. They were certainly attempting to improve their lot, and the lot of their families.

It's not that the average Russian peasant in 1912 was lazy or irresponsible, in my opinion; it's that he was in a sense a prisoner of his actual physical environment. Russia didn't have enough arable land for its growing peasant population - even if someone could have waved a magic wand and distributed ALL of the arable land among the peasantry, there still wouldn't have been enough to go around. And what arable land there was in central Russia was not exactly great land for farming. The climate was too harsh, as well. As I understand it, this is one of the reasons why Figes thinks Stolypin's land reforms were doomed to failure. The peasants were reluctant to give up the communal system precisely because it was the most adaptive system of land distribution for the sort of subsistence agriculture they were forced to practice by their environment.
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
Post by: Forum Admin on November 15, 2004, 09:37:54 AM
Old Russian Proverb: "God never sends you any more than he knows you can bear"
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
Post by: AGRBear on December 01, 2004, 05:05:35 PM
"What March doesn't want,
April wil take."
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
Post by: AGRBear on December 29, 2004, 12:23:16 PM
Nicholas II was fatalistic and one of the examples was explained in Robert K. Massie's book NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA:

Even before Bloody Sunday it was noticed that Nicholas II was deeping his beliefs about fatalism.  

p. 114 "...Nicholas had always been struck by the fact that he was born on the day in Russian calendar set aside for Job.  Nicholas II voiced, "I have a secret conviction, " he once told one of his ministers, "that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth."

Although wealth and throne created an enormous physical gulf between Nicholas II and the poor peasant,  they were not seperated, however, in their souls because of their beliefs that the events in their lives was "god's will".

AGRBear
Title: Re: Fatalism and the Russian Peasant
Post by: imperial angel on March 15, 2006, 11:17:45 AM
I found this thread just now, and it has really helped me. I started a thread called Nicholas and Fatalism under Nicholas II, and the responses I got there were very helpful. :) Certainly it  it is  an apt observation that though there were great divides between Nicholas II and the peasants of Russia, they did have God's will/ Fatalism in common. In other Romanov books I have come across references to this, as well, it was sort of a Russian idea/orthodox idea, not really what I thought it first was, philosophical Fatalism.
Title: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on March 26, 2006, 10:22:19 AM
Generations of Russian (and other) writers have spent a lot of ink describing the unique characteristics of the "Russian soul." These have been variously defined as fatalism, a talent for endurance and suffering without complaint, as well as an emotional volatility, spontaneity, candor, and openheartedness not unlike a child's (or a saint's). Are such traits really specific to Russians and to Russian culture, or at least once specific to them and to it? For that matter, do you believe there is such a thing as a national character, and if so, what is (or was) the Russian national character? How is or was it different than say, the English or the American national character?

Just to get you thinking, here are two very famous poems by the Russian poet F.I. Tiutchev about the uniqueness of Russia in the landscape of the world. They are engraved in most Russians' hearts:

"Through reason Russia can’t be known,
No common yardstick can avail you:
She has a nature all her own –
Have faith in her, all else will fail you."

Feodor I. Tiutchev, 1866, translation by Alan Myers

"These poor villages, this humble landscape – native land of long suffering, land of the Russian people!
The foreigner’s haughty glance will not understand or notice that which shines dimly and mysteriously through your humble nakedness.
Weighed down by the burden of the cross, the King of Heaven, in the likeness of a servant, has walked up and down all of you, my native land, blessing you."

Feodor I. Tiutchev, 18??, translation by Dmitry Obolensky

And this is what Virginia Woolf had to say about the distinguishing characteristics of Russian literature from English literature:

"Indeed, it is the soul that is the chief character in Russian fiction. Delicate and subtle in Chekhov, subject to an infinite number of humours and distempers, it is of greater depth and volume in Dostoevsky; it is liable to violent diseases and raging fevers, but still the predominant concern [….] It is the soul that matters, its passion, its tumult, its astonishing medley of beauty and vileness […as] the elements of the soul are seen, not separately in scenes of passion or scenes of humour as our slower English minds conceive them, but streaked, involved, inextricably confused, a new panorama of the human mind is revealed. The old divisions melt into each other. Men are at the same time villains and saints; their acts are at once beautiful and despicable. We love and hate at the same time. There is none of that precise division between good and bad to which we are used. Often those we feel most affection for are the greatest criminals, and the most abject sinners move us to the strongest admiration as well as love… [no] restraints were laid on Dostoevsky. It is all the same to him whether you are a noble or simple, a tramp or a great lady. Whoever you are, you are the vessel of this perplexed liquid, this cloudy, yeasty, precious stuff, the soul.  The soul is not restrained by barriers. It overflows, it floods, it mingles with the souls of others…"

Virginia Woolf, "The Russian Point of View," 1925

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: palimpsest on March 27, 2006, 09:38:55 AM
Wonderful topic!
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on March 27, 2006, 06:37:28 PM
Thank you Elizabeth, for bringing up the thread on The Russian Soul. There are many writers (Russian of course) who wrote much about the Russian Soul. I believe one of Russia's most famous writers, Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyovesky wrote at length on this in many of his books. Perhaps one of his famous quotes might be shared here. I think it would add much to the thread. Thank you again for bringing this to the forum thread.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: imperial angel on March 29, 2006, 11:17:08 AM
Certainly, most nations have a national character. I don't see that Russia would be any different. Sometimes it is hard to pin down national character, but about the Russian one, I am sure that Russian writers have got it right. Elisabeth's list of things that the Russia national character is is very often the ones attributed to it, at least by most. Sometimes national character is used to explain the strengths and weaknesses of a country, which is perhaps a mistake. Sometimes even the things in the national character are called weakness or strength, which could be true. I have no Russian blood, etc, so I don't feel qualified to comment more, but I have enjoyed this topic. :)
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 01, 2006, 06:05:03 PM
I wonder if the Russian soul was developed because of the length of the reign of Russian autocracy.  No other country had an autocracy for as long.  I mean going back before the 300 years of Romanovs.

Even Great Britain, although its manarchy has been around for over 1000 years, did not have an autocracy.

The Russian people also believed that the Tsar was God's annointed representative on Earth. That must have been a big leap of faith.

So, living under such a system which was tangled up in their religious beliefs might have created the "fatalistic" Russian soul.  What answer is there to your worldly prpblems if the autocracy fails you, but the head of the autocracy is also the head of your faith?

I know that they believed that "if only they could get to the Tsar"  then everything would be solved.  But it must have seemed nigh on impossible to even imagine getting to the Tsar.

It would be like getting to OZ.

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on April 01, 2006, 07:41:26 PM
Dear Alixz,

It is true, the Russian people believed that the Tsar was God's annointed representative on Earth. But as you have stated, that was developed over the centuries and long reign of Russian Tsars. The Tsar's of Russia, lead Russia. They also were baptized, married, and buried in the Russian church.

But you have one thing wrong I believe. Though the Tsar was an annointed representative, the Tsar was by no means head of the Russian Church. God is irreplaceable, for those whom believe in God.
The Russian Church headed the Russian Church, not the Tsar. The Tsar and his family were valued supporters, and believers, nothing less.

Oz, I believe came with the soviet regeime ! But even then, Stalin knew that the Russian Church, and Russian religion would never leave, or be forgot in Russia. Stalin was head of Oz for sure. But for reality's sake, and understanding, The Russian Church has never died, nor has the feverent belief of the Russian peoples. It is as alive now, as it was the first time it was introduced to Russia. Thank God.

Tatiana+


Quote
I wonder if the Russian soul was developed because of the length of the reign of Russian autocracy.  No other country had an autocracy for as long.  I mean going back before the 300 years of Romanovs.

Even Great Britain, although its manarchy has been around for over 1000 years, did not have an autocracy.

The Russian people also believed that the Tsar was God's annointed representative on Earth. That must have been a big leap of faith.

So, living under such a system which was tangled up in their religious beliefs might have created the "fatalistic" Russian soul.  What answer is there to your worldly prpblems if the autocracy fails you, but the head of the autocracy is also the head of your faith?

I know that they believed that "if only they could get to the Tsar"  then everything would be solved.  But it must have seemed nigh on impossible to even imagine getting to the Tsar.

It would be like getting to OZ.

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 03, 2006, 02:35:13 PM
Dear Tania, I hate to correct you, but in practical terms the tsar was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church from the time of Peter the Great; the Church was completely subservient to the autocracy. Even before this, however, Ivan the Terrible had greatly weakened the autonomy of the Russian Orthodox Church with his reign of terror. The history of the Russian Orthodox Church stands in marked contrast to the history of the Catholic Church in the West, which managed to maintain its autonomy as an alternate source of authority in many European countries, even after the Reformation. As such it acted as a counterbalance to the growing power of individual nation-states and helped to encourage the establishment of institutions to check the sovereign's powers. You do not see such a pattern of checks and balances developing in Russia after Ivan the Terrible.

I wonder why people are so hesitant to talk about the Russian national character, however. It seems to me most of us can be summarized by reference to our nationality - Americans, for example, are generally optimistic, open, confiding and honest to a fault - we will tell you our entire life story if you happen to have the misfortune to be seated next to one of us on a plane trip. Russians (in my experience, and we can only speak from personal experience) tend to hold their cards much closer to their chests in public; in private however, if they like you, they will take you to their bosoms and confess the deepest and darkest secrets of their innermost souls... and seriously discuss with you all the mysteries of life and death... until about 4 o'clock in the morning, when the vodka and cigarettes are running low. Russians (at least traditionally) are very good at the kind of profound conversations most Westerners only get to experience in college and/or graduate school. Maybe all this is changing now, due to the new Russian realities of dog-eat-dog capitalism... I honestly don't know, but I think it would be a shame if it had changed completely!

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tsarfan on April 03, 2006, 03:25:04 PM
Quote
Dear Tania, I hate to correct you, but in practical terms the tsar was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church from the time of Peter the Great; the Church was completely subservient to the autocracy.

I agree, except that I think it was in more than practical terms that the autocracy took over the church.  I think it took over the Church legally . . . and for clearly political purposes, as the Church had been a prime center of resistance to Peter's westernization campaign.

As Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote in his history of the Orthodox Church:

"Peter was determined that there should be no more Nicons.  In 1700, when Patriarch Adrian died, Peter took no steps towards the appointment of a successor; and in 1721 he proceeded to issue the celebrated Spiritual Regulation, which declared the Patriarchate to be abolished, and set up in its place a commission, the Spiritual College or Holy Synod . . . .

Its members were not chosen by the Church but nominated by the Emperor; and the Emperor who nominated could also dismiss them at will.  Whereas a Patriarch, holding office for life, could perhaps defy the Tsar, a member of the Holy Synod was allowed no scope for heroism: he was simply retired.  The Emperor was not called 'Head of the Church,' but he was given the title 'Supreme Judge of the Spiritual College.'  Meetings of the Synod were not attended by the Emperor himself, but by a government official, the Chief Procurator.  The Procurator, although he sat at a separate table and took no part in the discussions, in practice wielded considerable power over Church affairs and was in effect if not in name a 'Minister for Religion.'

The Spiritual Regulation sees the Church not as a divine institution but as a department of State . . . .  A priest who learns, while hearing confessions, of any scheme which the government might consider seditious, is ordered to violate the secrecy of the sacrament and to supply the police with names and full details.

There was a deliberate purpose behind the restrictions on the monasteries, the chief centers of social work in Russia up to this time.  The abolition of the Patriarchate was part of a wider process:  Peter sought not only to deprive the Church of leadership, but to eliminate it from all participation in social work.  Peter’s successors circumscribed the work of the monasteries still more drastically."

Is the fatalism and passivity of the Russian soul so hard to understand when even its dialogue with its spiritual leaders was a matter for state inquiry and interference?  Alixz is right.  Autocracy -- particularly after Peter's reign -- had much to do with the unique and slightly schizophrenic traits of the Russian soul.  The sense of no personal separation from a government that very few can nevertheless reach or influence is a very "conflicting" experience, as we would say in modern pop psychology parlance.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on April 03, 2006, 03:58:50 PM
Dear Elizabeth,

I always get confused between Ivan's time frame of history with the RC, and Peter the Great's  involvement in church affairs. Thanks for the correction Elizabeth. Our church has gone through so many changes, it's almost as difficult as trying to describe the revolution isn't it ? Again I thank you.  :-*

Your also right about capitalism making changes in lives, etc. You certainly described how we Russians are. grin. How late have you stayed up till ?  :D I've spent my time late into the mornings, but minus the cigarettes and the vodka.

Thanks Elizabeth, I always enjoy your postings, and re-learn much from you now in my old age. Ahhh, to be young again. Just kidding, I would not do it over if you payed me! Once is enough.

Tatiana+

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Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 04, 2006, 12:57:59 PM
Thank you, Tatiana, as usual you flatter me! I’m glad you found my "reading" of the Russian soul accurate in some respects. I'm not so young either,  might I add... But in answer to your question, yes, I have stayed up very late indeed, listening to Russians discuss everything from their country’s literature to its history and ultimate destiny, usually in marathon talking sessions lasting until dawn. These were probably the most stimulating, even brain-jolting, discussions, that I’ve ever been privileged to experience. Normally on such occasions I would not even dare to participate in the conversation myself, but would simply shut up and listen to the others, which is very unusual for me, as I’m sure Tsarfan can attest! But Russian intellectuals really are a breed apart – in their serious-mindedness, historical awareness and overall idealism. For example, they treat a subject like literature, regarded in the West as mainly or even solely "aesthetic" and "artistic," not generally relevant to politics – with the utmost respect, even reverence, as the highest manifestation of their overall cultural heritage. But then the artist and especially the poet traditionally hold a much loftier place in Russian culture than in Western culture. This is one of the many things I most like and admire about the "Russian soul"…

On the other hand, I’ve heard Russians nowadays comment that they no longer talk about literature the way they used to – that the concerns of real life have become more pressing, and intellectuals no longer take literature as their pattern for living life to the extent they did before the fall of the Soviet regime. BTW, this confusion of literature with life is I think one of those elements contributing to the traditional "theatricality" of the Russian people – they have a real gift for drama, and not just on the stage, but also in everyday situations. When combined with the traditional Russian pity for the "insulted and injured" (i.e., the underdog) this can make for some very emotionally affecting scenes. I remember on my first trip to Russia being in a bookstore when a man, clearly insane and delusional, came wandering in. He started raving about how the KGB and the CIA were following him. Now, in the US if such a thing happened everyone would look away in embarrassment and pretend that nothing at all was happening. But in Moscow the opposite occurred: everyone in the bookshop paid the closest attention to the madman’s words, as if he were a great actor performing on a stage for their benefit. Finally, at the end of his monologue, when he had said his piece, an old woman came up to him and, gently patting him on the arm, said, "Ne bespokoites’, ne bespokoites’" – or in English, "Don’t worry, don’t worry" – the same tender words you would utter to a child. And the poor man immediately calmed down and left the store peacefully, without another word.

But then older Russian women in general were very solicitous to strangers, to the point of being total busybodies, at least when I was in Russia fifteen years ago. For example, I was minding my own business in St. Petersburg one warm summer afternoon when an old babushka accosted me, scolding me for sitting on a "cold" stone bench and warning me that I would get sick from it. I knew better than to argue, so I dutifully stood up and walked away from the bench until she left, whereupon I went back to the bench and sat down again (well, I was tired and waiting for my boyfriend!). Not two minutes went by before the babushka was back, wagging her finger at me and telling me I was asking for pneumonia. It was a warm summer afternoon, need I repeat. I finally gave up and left the stone bench for good – anything to mollify the Russian babushka who had appointed herself as the guardian angel of my good health!

On the subject of Russian fatalism, however, I do think that both AlixZ and Tsarfan are correct to point the finger at the autocracy. It’s been my experience that the more out of control people feel about their own lives, the more superstitious and fatalistic they become. This is especially true when someone has suffered too much in his or her lifetime. It is easier to believe that such suffering was simply one’s "fate," rather than to try to come to terms with the terrible idea that everything might have been different for you, if only… if only. A miserable "fate" decreed from on high for some higher, supernatural albeit unknown purpose must be psychologically easier to bear than the knowledge that one suffers for no reason, but merely because one is a victim of lawless, arbitrary, outside but nevertheless all-too-human forces.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on April 05, 2006, 02:13:20 PM
Dear Elizabeth, Its warming to post to you, as well, I think you need to know how much you are appreciated. As many on the forum, your ability to respond, take patience to hear the poster is very telling. Because your extensive background, knowledge in depth of Russian History, you are able to offer a response that does not distance others. For this Russian soul, you understand very well. I'm very appreciative, and extend my thanks again. In my younger days, it was very exciting to listen to fellow Russians discuss all manner of issues. Their passion, their follow thru, the time they took to make sure of their connects to the most up to date issues for me, unparalleled. Yes, they were marathon sessions till dawn. Like you, i also sat almost transfigured listening and taking all they had to share. If you were not understanding, they took great pains to give you full explanation(s). But Elizabeth, with your degree, and background I don’t see why you would keep silent. You have so much to offer, as a true intellectual!.
You are more than correct, Russian intellectuals are a breed apart, especially in their awareness, their idealism to Russian history. I think this brings out the Russian Soul all the more, don’t you think? Most Russians are most respectful, and in full reverence of their cultural heritage. Again and again, I found this not only in Russia, among Russians, but Russians anywhere on the globe. I can’t explain it, it’s just something innate. Yes,yes, Russians love their poets, poetry. Look how much Pushkin was admired, taken in. One of my favorite poets is Pasternak. My trip to Russia was some years before yours, but I think in this regard, Russian intellectuals stay ‘timeless’ in regards to subjects as history, poetry, art, etc. Perhaps in some way, the Soviet era brought out more discussion, because so much else was closed off, but overall, I think Russians continue to think as they do nationally.
Oh boy, I’ve seen ‘drama’ within my birth family, as well as outside the family. Talk about a gift for drama from the Russian soul, I can certainly attest to it being real! Yes, isn’t it something to see, in how fellow Russians respond to those whose lives have been subjected to infinite stress.Your right, in my having worked in mental health, with people with mental health issues, here in the U.S., I’ve seen how most people have reacted, even shunned the person in public, adding to embarrassment to the person’s issue. I think you’re the first person who has approached this subject, to show the greater differences of how people are received, responded to. Russians have been through much. I think they just know how to be extremely sincere in offering just the right words to soothe the hurting person’s soul. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen this kind of response here in the U.S. I’ve just seen the quick response of someone turning to a phone to call for police assist. There are assured ways to offer words gently. without being judgmental, rude, or injurious to another. This offers dignity in motion, and shows utter compassion.

You brought back a rush of childhood memories. How well I remember both father, family friends admonishing me for sitting on marble or cement seats, walls, sidewalks. How they could go on about ruining one’s health, catching arthritis before one’s time, etc. LOL. I can still their voices, and waving of hands. ;D [Now I know why Peter brought in Italians...boy did they intermarry...I’m not fully sure if overall, most Russians are fatalistic in their beliefs. I still think this varies from individual to individual. One might say this is a universal type of understanding, not germane to Russians alone. Suffering is suffering, and many have great difficulty to come to terms with their life’s difficulties. But your right, many Russians think it is their fate. Thank you again for your trip down memory lane.

Spaceba !

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: palimpsest on April 07, 2006, 09:22:43 AM
I’m not Russian either but maybe what we call Russian “fatalism” is just another way of relating to suffering. We modern folk try desperately to avoid suffering by all means and in all circumstances. What if for Russians suffering is sometimes a way of liberation, something that you must “face” and not avoid. They may complain about it but they know that without suffering even happiness is impossible, they go together. Great achievements are always linked with sacrifice, isn’t it? A child is born by the mothers pains, but what joy follows!
This outlook on sacrifice together with the love for history and art comes –in my view- from Orthodoxy.
This attitude can has its pathological part, as everything human. It does not always work, and can by transformed in inactivity, lack of courage, submission to power, etc.  But it also has its greatness in sainthood, courage, sense of unlimited sacrifice, etc.

Autocracy can also be seen as a pathology of this outlook. But I wouldn’t be so unwise as to dismiss it altogether. It may depend too much on the personal qualities [or defects] of the tsar but it can have its advantages. In my view the best political systems have a balance of the three possible ways of government: the rule of one, the rule of the few and the rule of the many, so autocracy [the rule of one] is not good enough for me. But also democracy alone [the rule of the many] is not a good enough system for me. If you take out one of them the balance is lost. You have to have all three of them working together, otherwise society will tend to go towards the one that it lacks. Constitutional Monarchy is for that reason the best, most well balanced [and the newest] political system we have today. It is a pity that the pathology of autocracy in Russia was not balanced by a good constitution in place of the pathology of the Revolution.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 07, 2006, 01:04:44 PM
I agree with you, Palimpsest, that the theme of suffering is much more central to Russian culture than it is to Western (American and European) cultures, and that much of this probably has to do with Orthodoxy. There is indeed a very early, very ancient emphasis in the Russian Orthodox Church on the Christlike redemptive power of suffering for its own sake  (the kenotic tradition of saints like Boris and Gleb) which really has no direct counterpart in the western, Catholic and Protestant Churches (for example, in the Catholic Church, as far as I know, martyrs must die for their faith, whereas in the Russian church exceptions are made for those who suffer violent death and forgive their murderers, i.e., the "mucheniki" category of saints, Boris and Gleb, but also Nicholas II and his family). Certainly in Russian literature and particularly in the works of Dostoevsky one finds an extended meditation on the meaning and purpose of suffering for all humankind. I think this is why Virginia Woolf said that the  main character in Russian fiction is, literally, the Soul.

And it’s true that too often we in the West pathologize suffering, as if it were not a natural part of life, as natural, perhaps even more natural, than happiness. Many of my Russian acquaintances have commented that Americans believe in "the pursuit of happiness," that this is considered one of our inalienable rights as Americans, whereas to Russian ears the whole idea sounds  very strange, even bizarre. What is happiness but something utterly fleeting, even intangible? One no sooner has it than one loses it. And what does the pursuit of happiness have to do with civic rights? Russians (at least until recently) have never even dared to dream of such things.

I must add that in this context I invariably remember an episode of "The Sopranos" when the Russian nurse attending his uncle tells Tony that Americans always expect the best to happen, and are disappointed, even crushed, when the worst happens instead. Whereas the rest of the world expects only the worst, and so they are never disappointed! This woman's attitude was one of calm acceptance of life’s many unfairnesses and thus a serene attitude to everything that life brought her way (including an amputated leg!). Of course this is just a TV show, but I thought it very plainly demonstrated the attitude towards life I have so often observed myself in Russia, especially among older Russian women.

As for a constitutional monarchy, this might be one solution for Russia's troubled political state, but I fear the current Romanov "heirs" have so far been only to the discredit of their dynasty and are taken seriously only by a very few. It might be better if, as in the case of Greece or Bulgaria in the nineteenth century, Russia could simply "import" a constitutional tsar from amongst all those petty Germanic and Scandinavian princelings looking for a suitable job... For I fear that as it is, many of the leading Romanovs, past and present, have earned only the distrust and disrespect of the Russian people, and perhaps (in some cases) rightly so.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tsarfan on April 07, 2006, 02:38:03 PM
Quote
As for a constitutional monarchy, this might be one solution for Russia's troubled political state, but I fear the current Romanov "heirs" have so far been only to the discredit of their dynasty and are taken seriously only by a very few. It might be better if, as in the case of Greece or Bulgaria in the nineteenth century, Russia could simply "import" a constitutional tsar from amongst all those petty Germanic and Scandinavian princelings looking for a suitable job... For I fear that as it is, many of the leading Romanovs, past and present, have earned only the distrust and disrespect of the Russian people, and perhaps (in some cases) rightly so.

I have often wondered if, 500 years from now, historians might not be characterizing the 20th century as Russia's second "Time of Troubles" . . . and whether this one, too, might not end with the election of a new tsar.

Personally, I hope not.  Michael Romanov was chosen because of his putative weakness and the expectation that he and the monarchy could be made the puppets of boyar interests.  We all know what that strategy eventually produced.  I think the Russian willingness to accept suffering -- even to attach honor to it and, in some sense, to revel in it -- makes any form of monarchical restoration a proposition doomed to end in autocracy.  Both autocracy and the soviet era have left Russians with a seemingly perpetual sense that they need an authority beyond their reach to impose order on their affairs.

I think the window of opportunity closed on constitutional monarchy sometime between 1905 and 1912.  Paradoxically, only orders from an autocrat and a sustained policy to stay that course would have created the conditions under which democracy could slowly take real root in Russia.  Any courting with monarchy in any form at this point will ultimately precipitate a backslide into full autocracy.  The combination of the Russian craving to have the government sort out all their affairs combined with the serious issues that a constitutional monarchy would have to address quickly are a recipe for autocracy to emerge from the brew.  The presence of an elected tsar would be a catalyst for exactly the chemical reaction that Russia needs at all costs to avoid.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: palimpsest on April 07, 2006, 06:45:27 PM
Yes, I agree that it doesn't look like a good idea at the moment for Russia. I come from the Balkans, and there Constitutional Monarchy is like an icon of the pre-communist era and it is even equivalent with prosperity, national independence and democracy [in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, not in Greece].

Western press is full of warnings of the autocractic tendencies in Russian politics. One might even say that Russia always was de facto an autocracy, and democracy today is just "on paper".
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 09, 2006, 10:18:56 AM
It's interesting what you say about the view of monarchy in the Balkans, Palimpsest, because I have spent two summers in Bulgaria and I was always surprised by the degree of respect accorded to Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha by ordinary Bulgarians - especially taxi drivers, haha! Virtually everyone in that country refers to Simeon as "the tsar," even though he is not the tsar at all, only the former tsar. Some of this affection, though, seems in large part due to the tremendous fondness Bulgarians retain for Simeon's father, Boris III. Whereas in Russia there simply isn't the equivalent of a Boris III in recent history. IMO Russians associate tsars with corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, the reverse of the situation in a place like Bulgaria, where "Tsar" Simeon represents European culture, sophistication, and political and managerial savvy.  

As for Russia's autocratic tendencies, I would agree with both your statements. I have been rereading Orlando Figes' history of the Russian Revolution and as a result I find myself appreciating much more the many historical continuities between the autocracy of the Romanovs and the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks (previously pointed out to me by Tsarfan and RichC). I didn't know this before, but during the Russian Revolution, when anarchic hell was breaking loose all across Russia, some provinces even pleaded with Moscow to establish some sort of new autocracy to keep order in the country! One has to wonder how much Russia has really changed since 1917, and how much of the fault lies with the government, how much with the people themselves.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Sarushka on April 09, 2006, 01:17:26 PM
This discussion makes me wonder how the last Imperial Family fit into the notion of the Russian Soul?

Despite his rather Germanic pedigree, I know Nicholas was certainly culturally Russian. Alix considered herself more Russian then German after her many years in Russia, but I doubt whether many Russians would agree with that assessment! Even so, it does seem to me (an outsider/westerner, I'll grant you) that Alix's notions of suffering and fatalism were very similar to the Russian outlook. And what about the children? Between their parents, OTMAA were essentially raised in two cultures -- Russian & German/British. There are plenty of examples of the children's loyalty to their country: Aleksei showed a definite preference for all things Russian, particularly language and dress; Olga Nikolaevna refused to marry outside Russia, and intended to "remain Russian." But what was the nature of their internal character, the character of their souls, if you will? Isolated as they were, and with a bifurcated heritage, did they really have a chance to identify with and develop a truly Russian national character?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on April 09, 2006, 01:33:36 PM
Dear Elizabeth,

It's always nice to hear from a poster's commentary, who have actually been to the region(s) addressed, on a given thread. I think you and Palimpsest can really offer those of us who have not been either to the region or been able to speak to the people themselves, can offer us a better understanding. Although I have not been to the Balkans, or Bulgaria, I have had friends, and family who were born there, who speak as how the the Bulgarians remember their Boris III of Bulgaria.
Most really do think more inclined towards European culture, etc.

The last of your post is most thought provoking I must say. Again as always thanks for your sharing.

Quote : "One has to wonder how much Russia has really changed since 1917, and how much of the fault lies with the government, how much with the people themselves. End Quote/

Tatiana+





Quote
It's interesting what you say about the view of monarchy in the Balkans, Palimpsest, because I have spent two summers in Bulgaria and I was always surprised by the degree of respect accorded to Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha by ordinary Bulgarians - especially taxi drivers, haha! Virtually everyone in that country refers to Simeon as "the tsar," even though he is not the tsar at all, only the former tsar. Some of this affection, though, seems in large part due to the tremendous fondness Bulgarians retain for Simeon's father, Boris III. Whereas in Russia there simply isn't the equivalent of a Boris III in recent history. IMO Russians associate tsars with corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, the reverse of the situation in a place like Bulgaria, where "Tsar" Simeon represents European culture, sophistication, and political and managerial savvy.  

As for Russia's autocratic tendencies, I would agree with both your statements. I have been rereading Orlando Figes' history of the Russian Revolution and as a result I find myself appreciating much more the many historical continuities between the autocracy of the Romanovs and the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks (previously pointed out to me by Tsarfan and RichC). I didn't know this before, but during the Russian Revolution, when anarchic hell was breaking loose all across Russia, some provinces even pleaded with Moscow to establish some sort of new autocracy to keep order in the country! One has to wonder how much Russia has really changed since 1917, and how much of the fault lies with the government, how much with the people themselves.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 09, 2006, 01:58:27 PM
Sarushka, I agree that Nicholas was very Russian in his fatalism - perhaps he passed this quality on to Alexandra and their children. In terms of the "Russianness" of the last imperial family it's interesting to note that Gilliard described Olga as a typical young Russian lady of the noble class: idealistic, bookish and romantic. She does indeed remind me of Pushkin's fictional, ultra-Russian heroine Tatiana in these respects. Her desire to marry a Russian and remain in Russia also strikes me as highly romantic, in an age of politically-motivated, dynastic marriages amongst royalty.

However, I do think the imperial family was profoundly lacking in any real sense of the darkness at the heart of the "Russian soul," at least in terms of the soul of the peasantry (which made up approximately 85 percent of the total population). Orlando Figes believes that for the Russian peasant, freedom or "volia" was understood as freedom from all restraint, kicking over the traces, doing whatever one wanted and to hell with the consequences, in short, anarchy. The only restraint the Russian peasant respected was that which could stop him in his tracks, by brute force if necessary (and it was usually necessary). If we accept this observation as true (and I am still debating it with myself), then Lenin's perception of the peasantry as primarily a class enemy to be curbed and controlled by any means necessary was far more realistic and pragmatic than Nicholas' benign view of the peasantry as a childlike mass of people brimming over with love and affection for their Batiushka-Tsar. In the end, as Figes summarizes, the Russian peasantry refused to obey the laws of the land (having for centuries been outside the law, one wonders how could they have done otherwise?) and descended into anarchy, from which only another "autocrat" - in this case a totalitarian one - could "save" them. Admittedly, this is a very dark view of Russia and the Russian national character, and one, as I said, that I am still debating with myself. As much as I hate to say it, though, it rings true on some level.  
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: imperial angel on April 10, 2006, 08:59:33 AM
I have enjoyed reading this thread, and I have to say, from all my experience, very little with things like this, all the contribtions to this thread have been very thought provoking, true and accurate. Fatalism does seem like something common, and central to the Russian Soul. I have always found it fascinating, because it can produce a rather weak minded if you want to that acceptance of things, but I think this can also produce a better acceptance of some things that can't be changed in life than anything else I have ever heard of.The last part of Elisabeth's April 4 post seem to me the best defintion I have ever read of this.

Nicholas II was very Russian in his Fatalism, and that is another very accurate observation. Whether you want to think it was good or bad, he was very like many more in his country when he acted according to this. I do think Alexandra did show a remarkable embrace of her adopted country, becoming very Russian in many ways that other consorts of Czars never did, nor had to. Perhaps these things were really closer to her underlying opinions than her British/ German heiritage than we have ever realized. I think the Last Romanovs, and Alexander III, as well were always trying to be very Russian, and were in fact so in thought, actions, motivations, and behaviour. Whether this was as deep as it could have been is questionable. But how deep could it have been? I tend to believe they really did have some conception of the Russian Soul that was real, and not just half baked or something. About otmaa it is harder to say, and perhaps only time would have told.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on April 10, 2006, 11:42:15 AM
Quote
Nicholas II was fatalistic and one of the examples was explained in Robert K. Massie's book NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA:

Even before Bloody Sunday it was noticed that Nicholas II was deeping his beliefs about fatalism.  

p. 114 "...Nicholas had always been struck by the fact that he was born on the day in Russian calendar set aside for Job.  Nicholas II voiced, "I have a secret conviction, " he once told one of his ministers, "that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth."

Although wealth and throne created an enormous physical gulf between Nicholas II and the poor peasant,  they were not seperated, however, in their souls because of their beliefs that the events in their lives was "god's will".

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 10, 2006, 11:55:05 AM
As I believe I've said before, fatalism is a psychological means of coping with extreme and prolonged suffering... it provides some higher, even supernatural justification for that suffering. But at the same time I can't help but think that it this entirely the wrong attitude for a politician to have. We want politicians, statesmen, to be realistic, pragmatic... we want them to make the best of any given situation and build on it. As Witte did, as Stolypin did. But if, like Nicholas, one always expects only the worst to happen, in the end won't the worst happen? It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I continue to say that Nicholas and Alexandra were incredibly naive in their understanding (or lack thereof) of the Russian peasantry - in whom they saw basically good, if sometimes ill-behaved children, who nevertheless deeply loved and would always ultimately obey their Batiushka-Tsar. Whereas contemporary writers like Maxim Gorky and Anton Chekhov quite clearly perceived the exact opposite - a horde of illiterate, superstitious and deeply resentful barbarians living in the Dark Ages who wanted one thing and one thing only - the land, at whatever cost to the welfare of the landowners, the tsar, and the nation in general.  If Nicholas or his successors in the Provisional Government had been truly brilliant minds, they would have ended WWI at whatever cost to the Russian empire and made an immediate land settlement with the peasantry. That was the only way to stave off complete anarchy. Lenin knew this, and that's why the Bolsheviks ultimately won the struggle for Russia's future.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 14, 2006, 02:54:50 PM
I'm no great admirer of Patriarch Alexei II, but I have to respect the words he spoke to Boris Yeltsin at his inauguration as Russia's president in 1991:

"You have assumed responsibility for a country that is gravely ill. Three generations grew up under conditions deadly to any inclination or enthusiasm for work. At first, people were dissuaded from spiritual labor, from prayer; then they were dissuaded from thought, from the desire to discern the truth independently. And finally, deliberately or accidentally, people were dissuaded from work, diligence, and initiative." (Quoted in Serge Schmemann, Echoes of a Native Land , p. 20.)

What is interesting to me about this statement is its equation of the desire to work with the ability to think independently. I think this is rather progressive thinking in the context of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Remember that throughout the early decades of the Soviet Union, the Communist state urged the Russian (and other ethnic peoples of the Soviet empire) to work in emulation of such model (miracle) workers as Stakhanov. But worker productivity in Russia has always been appallingly low compared to that of other European countries. Isn't it reasonable to assume that this did indeed have something to do with the totalitarian setting? At any rate, there are many many times (for example when reading Patriarch Alexei's words to Boris Yeltsin) when I have thought that modern-day Russia is suffering from a nationwide case of severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Lack of motivation, fatalism, belief in early death or an otherwise foreshortened future, pessimism, depression, etc., are all signs of PTSD. Can Russia heal itself? Or were too many generations of the best and brightest killed off by Lenin and Stalin, and the rest condemned to emigration? At what psychological price to the masses came the Soviet Union's place as a premier power in the world? And what lasting psychological price do citizens of Russia and its satellite nations still pay for the crimes of the past?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on April 14, 2006, 11:43:06 PM
Dear Elizabeth,

How well your words ring in terms of receptiveness of the price Russia has paid. When one thinks of how many lives, and families, children to elderly were affected from mass suffering from WWI, the russian revolution, Lenin, Stalin, Beria, and up till the fall of the soviet union, PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, then indeed, this is I think an important not to take into consideration. As a side note, I think all the more, this is why many russians have held on to their spiritual ties, and beliefs. Who can blame them?

Russia has a long way to go, but for those in belief, our prayers continue, and our thoughts for their freedom to eventually break through, will be without further suffering and pain or loss of life.

Thank you always for your insightful points on Russia, history, etc. You enrich our lives so well.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on April 14, 2006, 11:48:46 PM
Sorry Elizabeth,

Correction : This sentence should not be :

'this is I think an important not to take into consideration'

but should read :

'this is I think an important note to take into consideration'

Having trouble with my arthritic fingers again. Sorry.  :-/

Thanks again.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: imperial angel on April 19, 2006, 10:46:24 AM
Fatalism is indeed an means of coping, and I suppose you could say that through this Nicholas was expecting the worst, because if it happened, then even if it was bad, it was meant to be. You don't change things this way, in positive ways, nor try to change things at all. I don't think Nicholas expected the bad to happen, he just passively accepted it, when it, did, acting on Fatalism. Self fulfilling prophecy is certainly applicable though, if not as much as Fatalism to this mindset, and what role it played in the governing of Russia, from Nicholas II, to the peasantry. Fatalism could be called wholly negative, but perhaps if you look, it isn't totally that way.

I agree they were out of touch with peasantry, but then you can't expect that they woudn't be in a autocracy that hadn't changed overly much since the days of Catherine the Great. And no one around them knew much better, nor would  they have said had they known anything more. They subscribed to every notion of the autocracy, and tradition, doing everything as it had been done before. The peasantry as it was traditionally thought of seemed to be part of this, espevially to Alexandra. But they were never taught it was not so, and perhaps to think of it as so, was a challenge to the very existence of their world in the eyes of Nicholas and Alexandra. But they believed they were doing their best, and never entertained the notion of a less than traditional peasantry, although pleasing these peasants, and reforming conditions of daily life for some of these people was needed. But there was no easy solution to these issues of reforms, and perhaps only time, and gradual change could have made reforms effective anyway. It's easy to say reform was needed, but it's hard to say exactly what reforms. Even if Nicholas and Alexandra had been more politically aware, this might not have helped, as there was so much to be done. Sorry to drag so much politics into this..Russia has suffered much, and I agree with what the last poster said.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: historywriter on May 14, 2006, 03:43:26 AM
Hello everyone,

I am finding this discussion about the Russian soul extremely interesting too.  I don't have any Russian blood but I have read a fair number of Russian classics and I think that Virginia Woolf's description is a pretty good one.  The words which sometimes strike me when I think of the Russian temperament generally are 'passionate' or even 'volatile'. I don't mean that derogatively, but as a general description. Australians are the opposite - noted for being apathetic.

I am an Australian and I think that we probably share a lot of the characteristics that Elisabeth mentioned that the Americans have.  It was interesting to hear that they tend to keep things close to their chests, unlike many of us.  Do you think that that is a natural trait or related to their historical lack of freedom?

Best Regards,

Lisa

www.webwritereditor.com
www.bookaddiction.blogspot.com
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: russimperial on May 14, 2006, 09:02:43 AM
Dear All,

Start reading the Russian Imperial Union Order web site, you will find a number of Imperial web sites attachted, it may be wise if you wish to make in depth comments on the Russian Soul, to contact the actual descendents and get some real heart felt comments not purely subjective ones, l am in contact with persons and families that could give you tangable comments.

HIH Grand Duchess Maria personal web site  is attachted to the Order's web site.

http://www.riuo.org/

It is usual and custom to sign off  politely,

Imperial Regards [to all]

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: LisaDavidson on May 22, 2006, 03:30:41 PM
Quote
Quote
As for a constitutional monarchy, this might be one solution for Russia's troubled political state, but I fear the current Romanov "heirs" have so far been only to the discredit of their dynasty and are taken seriously only by a very few. It might be better if, as in the case of Greece or Bulgaria in the nineteenth century, Russia could simply "import" a constitutional tsar from amongst all those petty Germanic and Scandinavian princelings looking for a suitable job... For I fear that as it is, many of the leading Romanovs, past and present, have earned only the distrust and disrespect of the Russian people, and perhaps (in some cases) rightly so.

I have often wondered if, 500 years from now, historians might not be characterizing the 20th century as Russia's second "Time of Troubles" . . . and whether this one, too, might not end with the election of a new tsar.

Personally, I hope not.  Michael Romanov was chosen because of his putative weakness and the expectation that he and the monarchy could be made the puppets of boyar interests.  We all know what that strategy eventually produced.  I think the Russian willingness to accept suffering -- even to attach honor to it and, in some sense, to revel in it -- makes any form of monarchical restoration a proposition doomed to end in autocracy.  Both autocracy and the soviet era have left Russians with a seemingly perpetual sense that they need an authority beyond their reach to impose order on their affairs.

I think the window of opportunity closed on constitutional monarchy sometime between 1905 and 1912.  Paradoxically, only orders from an autocrat and a sustained policy to stay that course would have created the conditions under which democracy could slowly take real root in Russia.  Any courting with monarchy in any form at this point will ultimately precipitate a backslide into full autocracy.  The combination of the Russian craving to have the government sort out all their affairs combined with the serious issues that a constitutional monarchy would have to address quickly are a recipe for autocracy to emerge from the brew.  The presence of an elected tsar would be a catalyst for exactly the chemical reaction that Russia needs at all costs to avoid.


And, I must disagree with you on several points:

1. The idea that Russia was well suited to a constitutional monarchy is nearly a 100% Western idea which enjoyed little support in Russia herself. Massie was quited enamoured of the idea at one time, too. The thing is, when Revolution happened, nothing turned out quite the way it was expected. The failure of "liberalism" which was advocated as a solution to the problems of autocracy was immediate and staggering.

2. The person who "chose" Michael was his brother, Nicholas, who may not have always had a good opinion of Misha, but nonetheless was not motivated by his brother's alleged weakness. It was expected by everyone that if Nicholas abdicated that he would do so in favor of Alexei, who was, after all, the Heir. It came as a surprise - even to those who knew the Emperor well - that he bypassed his own son to avoid Civil War which emphatically WAS his motivation in abdicating.

3. It was clearly Nicholas' expectation that Michael would make sure he could quitely retire to either the Crimea with his family. He thought so because his brother and his wife were thick as thieves with the Duma crowd - yet they could not govern when they were in power! There were no boyars by 1917 - only a country that was imploding, and no one realized this except perhaps the Bolsheviks.

4. I believe that Russia's problems can't be solved quickly or easily. It's not a matter of tsar or no tsar. It's not a matter of Bolshevism or oligarchy. The problems which lead to the first Revolution, the Kronstadt uprising and other popular revolts have never been solved. It's time to stop looking for simple solutions and for ordinary Russians to take responsibility for their own country. What they do with it will be up to them.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: David_Pritchard on August 19, 2006, 11:46:28 PM
For an entirely different slant on "the Russian soul", may I suggest "Ivan's War" by  Catherine Merridale?
An excellent book about the Red Army in the Second World War.  Ms. Merridale posits that what has become known as the Russian soul is a  quasi-concoction often propagated by Western writers.  It is a wonderful read on many levels.

I have often thought about this also. Could the so-called Russian soul simply be a coverall term to disguise the laziness of Western writers who are not willing to invest the time and energy to try to understand the average Russian mindest (if there is one)? The intricacies of Russian social interaction and personal traits being a bit difficult for many western Europeans to understand quickly, have these traits and qualities simply been consigned to the mysterious Russian Soul for lack of a more educated term?

If there ever was something quantifiable as the Russian Soul, I think that it has been slipping away since the freeing of the serfs in 1863.

David
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 20, 2006, 09:35:51 AM
I have to disagree with the two previous writers here... The popularization of the idea of the "Russian Soul" was certainly helped along by certain Western writers, such as the above-cited Virginia Woolf, but the specific traits of that so-called Soul, embodied in so many memorable fictional characters, is found all over nineteenth-century Russian literature and most especially in the works of Turgenev, Tiutchev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Doesn't anyone here remember the character of Platon Karataev in War and Peace? Or Maria in Dostoevsky's The Devils ? Dostoevsky himself stated that Russia had a lesson to teach the world, placing most of his faith in Russia's future in the figure of the exemplary Russian peasant, long-suffering and more spiritually profound than the educated Russian elite and certainly more so than philistine, secular Westerners. This noble idea was  fully debunked by Russian writers of the younger generation, most notably Anton Chekhov and Andrei Bely. Nevertheless, the essential idea of the Russian Soul had its origins amongst Russians themselves, and specifically in the Slavophile movement, and this conclusion has never before been contested to my knowledge... Pray note, even Catherine Merridale doesn't go so far as to argue this. She just says that the Russian Soul is a "concoction"  (Russian in origin?) "propogated" by some Western writers!
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on August 20, 2006, 01:58:09 PM
Dear Elizabeth,

I can see you are truly a lover of reading Russian Literature. Your education was certainly not wasted ! Bravissimo, well done.
You have captured the essentials in offering where best to find the examples in literature about the 'Russian Soul' This statement of yours, says it all :  "the essential idea of the Russian Soul had its origins amongst Russians themselves, and specifically in the Slavophile movement, and this conclusion has never before been contested to my knowledge". Above all, Thank You !

Tatiana+

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: David_Pritchard on August 20, 2006, 02:22:07 PM
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the Russian Soul question is that the Russians bother to discuss it at all. That the Russians themselves discuss such a profound concept says much about their group psyche. Has anyone ever heard a discussion about the Swedish Soul, the French Soul or the American Soul?

David
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Silja on August 22, 2006, 04:57:42 AM
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the Russian Soul question is that the Russians bother to discuss it at all. That the Russians themselves discuss such a profound concept says much about their group psyche. Has anyone ever heard a discussion about the Swedish Soul, the French Soul or the American Soul?

David

Yes, definitely about the German and also the American "soul".  But in no other culture has the idea become such a key topic as in the Russian one.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: imperial angel on August 22, 2006, 05:26:47 PM
That is true. There is rather a difference between a national character and a soul. I suppose that there is a national character in every country, it is hard to avoid. And in some countries, it is more profound than others, and it can be reocognized more than in other countries. Certainly, writers are responsible for some conceptions of national characters or souls, and in identifying what constitutes their culture. Writers from another culture might tend to make mistakes writing about other national souls, or national characters, in other cultures. Perhaps this is occasionally done because it is too hard to think things out, and it is easier to slap a label on things that seems correct, even if it is not. This will always happen though, to the end of time.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Lyss on August 23, 2006, 07:07:25 AM
I'm not a Russian, but I think we must look different at the search for the Russian soul in the 19th century and that what 's called the Russian soul now by (western) scholars. The search for the Russian soul in the 19th century was also a search for the Russian history, the Russian roots by young Russian noblemen (a search within yourself), so in a case a search for the common factor that makes Russia "Russian".
The search for the Russian soul now by (western) scholars is more a search for the differeces with the west, to explain to themselves why things happened and why in Russia during the past 100 years. What makes "Russia" different from "us".
That search now is just not what was ment by the search for the Russian soul. It's what our human race loves to do now a days: putting people in squares, labelling what they can not understand (because admitting that you can not understand something is tabou) so the unknown becomes known and by this less frightening.
That 19th century search was a real search, it was philosophy, it was a search because you're pushed by a want for knowledge.
What's happening now is, how can I say this to make it understandable, raping that philosophy, it's a search because you're pushed by fear.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on August 23, 2006, 12:26:24 PM
What a great perspective, and very well thought through. Thank you so much for expressing and sharing your thoughts.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Silja on August 24, 2006, 03:20:31 AM

The search for the Russian soul now by (western) scholars is more a search for the differeces with the west, to explain to themselves why things happened and why in Russia during the past 100 years. What makes "Russia" different from "us".

But at the end of the day it is only natural they're doing this. Russian culture/history of ideas DOES differ from Western culture in many ways. To explain current and earlier developments it is rather essential to analyse the differences between the two cultures. And these go back not only a hundred years but about a thousand.

The Slavophile writers/philosophers of the 19th century, Dostoyevsky being one of them, also argued that the Russian mentality was distinctively different from that of the West, so they, too, already perceived their culture in contrast to another culture. It wasn't only a philosophical search within but one which also had political implications. Or rather, you cannot separate the one from the other.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: gugussey on August 25, 2006, 07:57:15 PM
Since souls are immortal and transcend all time, I suggest a look at "Arrested Voices" by Shentalinsky, 1996.  If there is a Russian soul, Shentalinsky tells us how it survives as told through the lives of 20th century writes including Babel, Bulgakov, Florensky and Demidov.  No happy Tolstoy peasants or torturned drawing room countesses here.  Just raw stuff.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Lyss on August 27, 2006, 06:42:46 AM
The Slavophile writers/philosophers of the 19th century, Dostoyevsky being one of them, also argued that the Russian mentality was distinctively different from that of the West, so they, too, already perceived their culture in contrast to another culture. It wasn't only a philosophical search within but one which also had political implications. Or rather, you cannot separate the one from the other.
That they saw that their culture was different from the western, that's true. But they weren't looking for the differences, but what it meant to be Russian. People like Volkonski and Poeshkin went looking for the true Russian soul: in the Russian peasant. They weren'tr trying to explain their culture in contract to the western culture or the Asian or even to explain their governments decisions. The were trying to find their roots, explain their traditions. It was one of many nationalist searches in the 19th century. Russia wasn't the only country struggeling with an identity crisis. Hell, a couple of years ago Dutch and Flemish researches found out after a long study that the only thing in common they have is the language, their cultures are totally different.
But you're right, every nationalist movement has political implications. Actually, a lot of things have political implications that we don't know about.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 27, 2006, 02:02:28 PM
The Slavophile writers/philosophers of the 19th century, Dostoyevsky being one of them, also argued that the Russian mentality was distinctively different from that of the West, so they, too, already perceived their culture in contrast to another culture. It wasn't only a philosophical search within but one which also had political implications. Or rather, you cannot separate the one from the other.
That they saw that their culture was different from the western, that's true. But they weren't looking for the differences, but what it meant to be Russian. People like Volkonski and Poeshkin went looking for the true Russian soul: in the Russian peasant. They weren'tr trying to explain their culture in contract to the western culture or the Asian or even to explain their governments decisions. The were trying to find their roots, explain their traditions. It was one of many nationalist searches in the 19th century.

Lyss, Silja has made some excellent points. I think your own argument is highly misleading. In fact, beginning with Petr Chaadaev (1794-1856), Russian philosophers constantly compared and contrasted their culture with that of western Europe. Chaadaev's famous Philosophical Letters (1836) are a case in point: an extended meditation on Russia's place and role in the world, especially vis a vis the West. His view of Russian culture was extremely bleak: "isolated in the world, we have given nothing to the world; we have added not a single idea to the human mass of ideas; we have contributed nothing to the progress of the human spirit. And we have disfigured everything we touched of that progress... we have something in our blood which drives off all true progress. In a word, we have lived and we live to be a great lesson to such distant posterity as will be capable of it; today, whatever anyone says, we mark a void in the intellectual sphere." Etc., etc.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chaadaev's Philosophical Letters were so shocking at the time that they can be credited with acting as a catalyst for the two major philosophical currents in Russia in the nineteenth century, the so-called Westernizer and Slavophile movements. Essentially the Westernizers agreed with Chaadaev's proposition, that Russia, having been cut off from Europe during the Renaissance and Reformation, remained lamentably backward and primitive; they argued that their country needed to rejoin Europe by becoming as Westernized as possible as soon as possible (thus fulfilling the legacy of Peter the Great). The Slavophiles on the other hand for the most part reacted strongly against Chaadaev's main points and posited that Russia had its own unique and important role in world history; that, in short, the "lesson" Chaadaev spoke of, which he said Russia would teach the world, would be a positive one. (Of course, given the constraints of time and space, I am simplifying the Westernizer and Slavophile philosophical stances, which were in reality quite nuanced.)

My point is, of course, that both Westernizers and Slavophiles were indeed searching for their own identity as Russians; but this search for a national identity necessarily played out against the backdrop of Russia's larger role as a European or (depending on one's philosophical approach) semi-European country.

And by the way, I only just discovered that the term "Russian Soul" was actually first used by Dostoevsky's French translator, De Vogüé (I think I spelled that right). So as a matter of fact the "Russian Soul" is a term of Western coinage, albeit arguably inspired by Russian ideas!
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: David_Pritchard on August 27, 2006, 03:06:26 PM
Since souls are immortal and transcend all time, I suggest a look at "Arrested Voices" by Shentalinsky, 1996.  If there is a Russian soul, Shentalinsky tells us how it survives as told through the lives of 20th century writes including Babel, Bulgakov, Florensky and Demidov.  No happy Tolstoy peasants or torturned drawing room countesses here.  Just raw stuff.


Very good book! I am glad to see that someone else on this forum bought this excellent book.

David
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Lyss on August 27, 2006, 03:14:13 PM
You're totaly right Elisabeth. I was so consumed by one branch that I forgot the whole picture. I read about Chaadaev, it think it's time to read some more or start to reread a couple of my books :)
By the way, I didn't know that 'Russian soul' originaly came from Dostojevski's French translator

And thanx foor the book-info, I'll put Shentalinsky on my must-read-list (am now reading Dostojevski's Devils).
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: imperial angel on October 03, 2006, 01:07:21 PM
I agree with the third line/paragraph of Elisabeth's post of August 27. She was right to state that both the Slavophiles and the Westernizers were searching for their identity as Russians.I think that so often, people see the Westernizers and the Slavophiles as being in contrast to one another, in their ideas for the ways Russia should develop. But you pointed out that they both were searching for the same, really, although they were doing that in different ways. The Slavophiles wanted Russia to turn more to its past in Muscovy, and its traditions before Peter the Great, although some survived later. The Westernizers wanted to let the influence of the west come in, in culture, as well as more practical ways, and not to seek the past, but to seek the future they could have by embracing things western. This whole debate goes back to Peter the Great, and his westernizing Russia in largely practical ways, but in many ways culterally as well. It largely raged in the 19th century, I believe as a debate.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on December 09, 2006, 04:38:44 PM
I just read a very interesting article about the so-called Russian soul, which suggests that this “soul” is transmitted not genetically or environmentally but by discourse and socialization. You can understand the main gist of this article from its very title: “The Power of Negative Thinking: Russian Talk and the Reproduction of Mindset, Worldview, and Society.” It’s by the anthropologist Nancy Ries and was published in The Anthropology of East Europe Review for Autumn 1991. Personally I am rather astonished that Ries found so much “negative thinking” in the Soviet Union of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I  myself was there in 1991 and thought that most people, at least in the intelligentsia, seemed very upbeat about the future, although there were constant dire warnings and rumors about an upcoming coup (which turned out to be correct).

At any rate, Ries’s article is extremely interesting for the light it sheds on typical Russian discourse. She identified 12 different types of semi-ritualized expression, which she calls “litanies,” that Russians of her acquaintance were fond of venting as the occasion arose: absurdism, apocalypse, blame, danger, dead end, difficulty, hopelessness, horror, loss, ruined Russian people/and/or the deprecation of Russianness, sacrifice, and suffering. Of these twelve the “litany” of suffering was by far the most common. Russians of her acquaintance were fond of relating stories of horrific trials and tribulations (i.e., suffering) that might not necessarily have happened to themselves, but had befallen those they knew, either firsthand or secondhand.

Ries compares this Russian discourse of negativity with the American discourse that denies suffering and insists on cheerfulness. “In America, the dominant cultural mainstream has little patience for litanies of suffering which don’t challenge the causes of suffering, and one who merely litanizes may be admonished to ‘practice a positive mental attitude’ – ‘look on the bright side of things’ –  ‘pull yourself together.’ Even in conditions of admissible suffering (such as terminal illness) what the dominant culture in the US valorizes is the maintenance of a brave and cheerful demeanor. Further, Americans define themselves by their cheerful exuberance” (Ries, p. 45). Whereas Russians seem to valorize suffering, or at least, they did so in 1991 (and I myself would add, perhaps they did so as well in 1891, 1791, 1691, and so on...)

Ries is not making value judgments, since she clearly recognizes that Russians have far more to complain (and suffer) about than Americans, but she wonders if the introduction of Western corporate ideals and a market economy will make any difference to the Russian psyche. I myself am wondering the same thing. It’s now 2006, what has changed since 1991?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lexi4 on December 09, 2006, 05:59:59 PM
Hi everyone,
Very interesting discussion has gone on here while I've been away. I just got back from a week vacation in Maui. Elisabeth, you asked or mentioned earlier that some might be hesitant to discuss the Russian soul. I know I am. That is because I can only view it from the western perspecctive. I am not Russian and only know what I have read and studied so there is much about the Russian soul that I do know understand. The two cultures are so different. I would love to have those kinds of 4 a.m. discussions you mentioned as I am sure I would learn a lot. One thing that is difficult for me to grasp, is that there doesn't seem to be much importance (for lack of a better word) attached to individual freedoms such as the ones we have in the United States. I've always been curious about that. Because I do believe that should the Russian people ever unite to make changes in the government, they have the soul and the strength to accomplish such a task. What it seems they lack, is motivation. I do know know if my thinking on this is accurate. But if it is a lack of motivation, it seems that could either come from generations of oppression or a spiritual understanding of a greater freedom that the West seems to lack.
Lexi
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on December 09, 2006, 06:13:35 PM
Hi Lexi  :D, Welcome back from Maui !
I also have been reading Elizabeth's latest posting, and it made me really think about it. In some ways I have to agree that Americans always seem to have the optimistic face on most things. But as Elizabeth has already stated, when comparing it with the historical events of Russia, Russians certainly do have more to address, long term. Now, I have heard both Americans, as well as Russians say to not put too much thought to issues that might be overwhelming, move on, don't dwell. I also have heard Russians more times when asked about how difficult things were for them on issues that would have been overwhelming for most in the west, to minimize, and say lesser of what they had faced. This was with both men and women. Teens however seemed to be more open, and easier to draw conversation from on these issues.

I don't think that Russians have lack of motivation necessarily. When it comes to certain things, they have excelled and rebuilt their energies, and in some light the very soul of Russia. But, again in reading what you have shared Lexi, I think it may well come from generations of oppression, but never lack of spiritual understanding, for in that and during WWII, the Russian people flocked to their churches, and was reason for the backbone of Russians fighting to the bitter end. Just my small kopeck  :)

Tatian
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lexi4 on December 09, 2006, 06:22:41 PM
Hi Tania! Good to see you.
For me, it is difficult to understand the soul of Russia without understanding the spirituality of the Russian people. I may be wrong about this, but it seems the Russian people are more in touch with their spirituality than many in the West. It also seems the Russian people are not as materailistic, which is probably because of the spirituality of the Russian people. For those focused on spititualism, sometimes the trappings of daily life have very little meaning. But hey, what to do I know?
And Maui was wonderul.

Lexi
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tania+ on December 09, 2006, 06:32:28 PM
Thanks Lexi !
The soul of Russia is vast. Their spirituality is awesome. I think that indeed their spirituality is very strong. As i said earlier, even under the worst of oppression, the people had very little, but for them, their religion was everything, and still remains that today.
And for what you know, you know much :) ! I've never been to Maui, but from what I have heard, it is grand. Glad you had a great time, and no earth tremors greeted you  ;)

Elizabeth, I wish I were reading the book you have been reading of late. Sounds great. Thanks for sharing with us, its always lovely to share such insight.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Helen_Azar on December 09, 2006, 06:55:23 PM
Russian people are more in touch with their spirituality than many in the West. It also seems the Russian people are not as materailistic, which is probably because of the spirituality of the Russian people.

Russian people may be more in touch with their spirituality (whatever that means), but they are definitely at least as materialistic - if not more - than the westerners (at least this is the impression you get when you are in Russia). I don't know how to explain it without being misunderstood, maybe someone else can take a stab at it, but "materialistic" is one of the first things that comes to mind when you are visiting Russia, at least the big cities like Moscow or St Pete...

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lexi4 on December 09, 2006, 07:10:24 PM
Spirituality: of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things (Webster)
Thank you Helen, I appreciate your perspective.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: gugussey on December 10, 2006, 10:16:16 PM
Recommend "Moscow 1941" by Braitwaite.  A relatively new book and a realistic view into the "Russian soul".
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on December 12, 2006, 12:25:15 PM
Quote
  Of all things which a man has,  nex to the gods, his soul is the most divine and most truly his own. 

Plato
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tsarfan on December 13, 2006, 05:09:47 PM
When talking about the "Russian soul", I find it interesting that the only other group to whom the term "soul" is commonly applied is to African-Americans.

Their "soul" music -- with its introspective, plaintive strains -- is generally accepted as having its origins in the sufferings of slavery.  Their "soul" food is a cuisine born of perpetual poverty -- vegetables boiled in fatback, cracklin' bread and chitlins improvised from the scrap cuts of animals and the cheapest of flours.

Why is it that we speak of the "national character" of nations whose people have tasted freedom and widespread prosperity and the "soul" of nations or groups that have known mostly servitude and economic hardship?

As wrong as Karl Marx was about so many things, he had a point in saying that religion is the opium of the masses.  A recent study reported that 30% of Russian drivers are frequently drunk behind the wheel, and other studies point to alcohol-related diseases as a prevalent cause of premature death.  The Russian soul apparently has quite a bit of need for opium in all its forms.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on December 13, 2006, 07:07:01 PM
When talking about the "Russian soul", I find it interesting that the only other group to whom the term "soul" is commonly applied is to African-Americans.

Their "soul" music -- with its introspective, plaintive strains -- is generally accepted as having its origins in the sufferings of slavery. 


You gave me your mud, and I turned it into gold.

- Charles Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil


Most wretched men
Are cradled into poetry by wrong,
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.

- P.B. Shelley, "Julian and Maddalo"


Suffering is generally recognized to be good for art, if not for too much else (except possibly deepening one's character? and one's understanding and appreciation of life? etc., etc., all dull spiritual things I know). After all, aside from priests (and nowadays, psychologists), it is artists who most concern themselves with the emotional pain and torment inherent to being alive. So I think that when people discuss the "soul" of certain cultures they are referring to a spiritual quality characteristic of that culture which is not necessarily religious or even mystical in nature but "merely" unusually sensitive and attuned to the heaven and hell contained within every human breast (to paraphrase another poet, Emily Brontë) - indeed, the same quality shared by most great artists.

P.S. Sorry for all the poetry quotations, I'm just showing off.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Tsarfan on December 13, 2006, 08:04:22 PM
Suffering is generally recognized to be good for art, if not for too much else (except possibly deepening one's character? and one's understanding and appreciation of life? etc., etc., all dull spiritual things I know).

I'm not so sure the crack cocaine epidemics in the ghetto, the drive-by shootings in gang-infested minority neighborhoods, the teenage birth rates among the impoverished reflect much deepening of character or appreciation of life.

I grant that suffering can spawn great art . . . when it is an artist who is suffering.  But it makes pretty much everyone else just really, really messed up.  For every Russian that turns out a well-formed verse, there seem to be vastly more who are driving drunk.

But keep showing off, Elisabeth.  Besides always enjoying your posts, I find your command of literature to be both impressive and enlightening.  And, though it is often the case, my tongue is nowhere near my cheek when I write this.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on December 14, 2006, 11:37:59 AM
I grant that suffering can spawn great art . . . when it is an artist who is suffering.  But it makes pretty much everyone else just really, really messed up.  For every Russian that turns out a well-formed verse, there seem to be vastly more who are driving drunk.

Well, I wouldn't exactly disagree with you here. And by the way, I should have mentioned it before, it was very astute of you to draw parallels between Russian and African American culture. There are definite similarities. But perhaps that's because we are talking about cultures of extremes that are born out extreme suffering. Thus we see not only extreme degradation (terrible social conditions) but also extreme exaltation (great art). I wouldn't go so far as to say that you can't have one without the other, but I do very much admire both Russian culture and African American culture for managing to make so much gold out of so much "mud" (Baudelaire's euphemism for s**t). It's an achievement not to be sneered at, and needless to say, Western civilization would be much the poorer without the artistic contributions of both cultures. (Not that I'm accusing you of sneering - my tongue is nowhere near my cheek, I swear.)

In Russia, as far as I can see, the main problem is that the country was for so long permeated by a state ideology - whether it was Uvarov's "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" (i.e., Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Empire) under the tsars or Marxism-Leninism under the Bolsheviks. But now all the old ideologies have been swept away and there is no symbolic order left but that of the past - hence the current Russian nostalgia for anything in their nation's history prior to 1991. (This nostalgia seems to be shared by every class, which is significant.) And as much as the New Russians might want to elevate capitalism or a market economy into a new ideology, it just isn't happening - for them, all the new economy has led to is excessive consumption and a typical nouveau riche display of wealth, whereas for a significant number of other Russians, it has only led to further impoverishment. Furthermore, there's no sense of national identity in the concept (or for that matter the reality) of capitalism. What is Russia? Who are Russians? If not an empire and an imperial people, do they even exist? I think these are the questions that are boiling just under the surface of the Russian political and domestic scene right now. And it is this national identity crisis that will continue to create problems, not only for Russia but for the rest of the world, well into the foreseeable future.

IMHO, Russians should just focus on their stupendous artistic achievements as the source of their national identity and pride, and then all would be fine. But hey, I'm the first to admit that I'm a tad naive.
Title: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on March 27, 2009, 10:14:34 AM
I have a question. How could a well-respected American scholar like Daniel Rancour-Laferriere publish a book entitled The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering? This is a psychoanalytic treatment of Russian cultural history that concentrates, as the title says, on the Russians’ so-called slavish humility and obedience to authority figures, up to and including tyrants and mass murderers like Stalin. Rancour-Laferriere, as a good Freudian, insists that Russians have brought all this suffering upon themselves, since they have only ever got the government they deserved and wanted, and that this pattern has held from time immemorial (perhaps ever since ancient times when the Rus’ tribe supposedly asked the Scandinavian Varangians “to come and rule over us” because they could not keep order amongst themselves). Rancour-Laferriere also discerns numerous examples of what he terms “moral masochism” in the works of great Russian writers such as Tolstoy and especially Dostoevsky.

I myself have tremendous moral and spiritual difficulty in blaming victims for what was inflicted on them. Rancour-Laferriere seems to have very little knowledge of the symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or indeed, any real knowledge of the syndrome itself (and I would say this is typical of Freudians, who tend to blame victims of abusers rather than the abusers themselves). One of the symptoms PTSD sufferers evince is identifying with the abuser and making excuses for him because this was in fact the only way to survive, psychologically, in a potentially life-threatening situation. In other words, you convince yourself that the abuser is basically a good, kind, humane person, as opposed to an evil and inhumane one, because to accept the truth would be the equivalent of accepting one’s own imminent murder. And this most people find this very hard to do. Because most of us don’t have the inner stuff required to be heroes. And I hardly think that such a natural fear (indeed terror) can or should be taken as an overall reflection on an entire culture!

I would like to ask members here, are Rancour-Laferriere and other modern (usually Western) commentators right to describe Russians as basically “slaves” in their mentality? Moreover, are they right to blame Russians for both their past and present historical predicaments? The October Revolution, Stalinism, and in our own day, stillborn democratization, increasing authoritarianism under Putin, etcetera etcetera, etcetera?
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: RichC on March 27, 2009, 03:33:53 PM
Hello Elisabeth,

Here are my thoughts:

It seems to me that a lot of this behavior is cultural rather than the result of PTSD.  Russian's aren't happy unless they are miserable.  Otherwise they wouldn't be Russians, they'd be French (who are only happy when everything is done for them).  Look at Boris and Gleb who meekly allowed themselves to be murdered -- the ultimate submission if you ask me.  Isn't it a basic tenet of the Russian Orthodox Church that one can only reach salvation through suffering -- just as Christ suffered on the Cross?  And how about the way Russian's literally beat themselves with sticks in bathhouses?  It's as if they all want to be martyrs.   
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Mike on March 27, 2009, 03:52:02 PM
Oh no, not with sticks! Bunches of birch twigs are commonly used in Russian bathhouses.

Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: nena on March 27, 2009, 04:09:58 PM
I love this thread, firstly.

Now, my opinions --- there is term 'Russian Slave Soul' used in world for people who are good, spiritually, have charm and way speaking very different from others. That way s=of communication is special -- they understand each other without words, they are in love with a river, with any field, every grass in the nature around them. They love summer, winter, they love to work, they are emotional, use diminutives in speaking, have sweetish word, etc. one man studied this subject, and decided it is almost impossible to define 'Russian soul/Slave'.

But someone would ask, after all unhappy happens after 1917, things went down, and all changed. How to explain this, after a big contradiction mentioned above? Well, Revolution changed Russia and rest of world in all possible ways. Now Church comes, after end of 80s, things became inverted -- IMO, things are a bit in some way, like were before the Great War, but I am sure, somewhere, deeply in Russian human person, still stands A Russian soul. Many priests would agree Revolution brought some curse n Russian people, and happens what will be later.

Especially when threads are like these, I write my opinions in a poet way, and which best describes. One said - 'Who would in one word say all about Russian mysterious Soul' 

Russian poets and writers are ones among best in the worlds -- long sentences and deep meanings says all. All Slave people are similar, so their Souls, languages, are similar in many point of view.

My minds.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: RichC on March 27, 2009, 04:51:42 PM
Oh no, not with sticks! Bunches of birch twigs are commonly used in Russian bathhouses.



If you ask me, twigs are even more painful because they're more flexible and sting more.  OUCH!
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: nena on March 27, 2009, 05:13:43 PM
And, no, Orthodox Church don't believe you can get salvation only if you through suffering, besides it, it is enough if you go to Churches, proffes customarily, and man must do whole life on yourself, etc. Not only through suffering, at least, life is full of probations. All of us suffer sometimes. But to back on original topic.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on March 27, 2009, 07:52:15 PM
Hello Elisabeth,

Here are my thoughts:

It seems to me that a lot of this behavior is cultural rather than the result of PTSD.  Russian's aren't happy unless they are miserable.  Otherwise they wouldn't be Russians, they'd be French (who are only happy when everything is done for them).  Look at Boris and Gleb who meekly allowed themselves to be murdered -- the ultimate submission if you ask me.  Isn't it a basic tenet of the Russian Orthodox Church that one can only reach salvation through suffering -- just as Christ suffered on the Cross?  And how about the way Russian's literally beat themselves with sticks in bathhouses?  It's as if they all want to be martyrs. 

The Finns beat themselves with sticks in bathhouses, I believe the practice actually originated with them, and no one accuses the Finns of masochism. I think the basic problem is, that Rancour-Laferriere identifies Christianity itself with moral masochism. So Russia, as an exemplar of human suffering in the 20th century (let's face it, their only rivals in this category, at least in the Western world, are the Ukrainians and the Holodomor or the the Jews and the Holocaust, but the latter weren't Christians) gets beat over the head with 20/20 hindsight, in other words, the attitude that I told you so, and you were only asking for it all along.

It's Rancour-Laferriere's underlying notion that Russians take a masochistic pleasure in their suffering that leaves me with a particularly bad taste in my mouth.

Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Tsarfan on March 29, 2009, 09:33:28 AM
I would like to ask members here, are Rancour-Laferriere and other modern (usually Western) commentators right to describe Russians as basically “slaves” in their mentality?

Russia is a huge conundrum to me regarding this question.  There are certainly aspects of Russian political society that indicate a strong tendency to subservience and a heightened appreciation of the "strong man", as manifested even today by Russians' tendency to view Putin's KGB background as a plus rather than a minus.

I do not find the presence of these traits at any one point in time as uniquely Russian, though.  For instance, a strong tendency to subservience and a heightened appreciation of the strong man is an apt descriptor of Spartan society in the classic age, of French society momentarily in the late 18th century, of German society in the 1930's, and of Chinese society in the 1970's.  What I do find uniquely Russian is the re-assertion of these traits over and over as the political landscape convulses around them.  So it does indicate to me the presence of some very strong gravital force that pulls Russian society back to an autocratic center every time it seems poised to break free.

But rather than seek a psychological explanation, as Rancour-Laferriere apparently does, I tend to seek a historical explanation.  If one looks at the city-states of medieval Russia, one finds in places such as Nizhny-Novgorod and Kiev social and political systems in many ways more advanced than those of western Europe at the time, with many of the same underpinnings that in Europe were to form the foundations for later liberalization.

We could discuss this question by examining the trajectory of Russian history from the era of the city-states, through the Mongol invasion, on to the emergence of Muscovy and the spread of its autocratic system, right on up to Lenin, Stalin, glasnost, and now Putin.  In fact, it might be fun to do so if others are game.

But to me the real turning point came with Peter the Great, the intense assertion of autocratic force to turn Russia superficially westward, and -- most importantly of all -- his subjugation of the Orthodox Church to the yoke of the state, thereby removing the one potentially effective counterforce to a completely autocratic society.

Well, that's my starting punch in this discussion . . . .

Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on March 30, 2009, 08:09:37 AM
I would like to ask members here, are Rancour-Laferriere and other modern (usually Western) commentators right to describe Russians as basically “slaves” in their mentality?

Russia is a huge conundrum to me regarding this question.  There are certainly aspects of Russian political society that indicate a strong tendency to subservience and a heightened appreciation of the "strong man", as manifested even today by Russians' tendency to view Putin's KGB background as a plus rather than a minus.

I do not find the presence of these traits at any one point in time as uniquely Russian, though.  For instance, a strong tendency to subservience and a heightened appreciation of the strong man is an apt descriptor of Spartan society in the classic age, of French society momentarily in the late 18th century, of German society in the 1930's, and of Chinese society in the 1970's.  What I do find uniquely Russian is the re-assertion of these traits over and over as the political landscape convulses around them.  So it does indicate to me the presence of some very strong gravital force that pulls Russian society back to an autocratic center every time it seems poised to break free.

But rather than seek a psychological explanation, as Rancour-Laferriere apparently does, I tend to seek a historical explanation.  If one looks at the city-states of medieval Russia, one finds in places such as Nizhny-Novgorod and Kiev social and political systems in many ways more advanced than those of western Europe at the time, with many of the same underpinnings that in Europe were to form the foundations for later liberalization.

We could discuss this question by examining the trajectory of Russian history from the era of the city-states, through the Mongol invasion, on to the emergence of Muscovy and the spread of its autocratic system, right on up to Lenin, Stalin, glasnost, and now Putin.  In fact, it might be fun to do so if others are game.

But to me the real turning point came with Peter the Great, the intense assertion of autocratic force to turn Russia superficially westward, and -- most importantly of all -- his subjugation of the Orthodox Church to the yoke of the state, thereby removing the one potentially effective counterforce to a completely autocratic society.

Well, that's my starting punch in this discussion . . . .

And an excellent starting punch it is, practically a knockout blow. Except that I find myself in a form of agreement with you, for lack of a better phrase, so maybe I'm not quite on the mat yet?

I think that since the reign of Ivan IV, the Terrible, in the 16th century, the national identity of Russia has always been closely bound up with the idea of empire. It seems that in the 21st century, some Russians without empire, even some former Soviet citizens who are not ethnically Russian, feel somewhat cast adrift in this modern, post-Soviet world of non-empire... It's as if, without empire, Russia and Russian national identity ceases to exist all together. I think this attitude explains in part Russia's agression towards its former colony, Georgia, last summer.

You're absolutely right about Peter the Great subjugating the Orthodox Church, and how this threw out of whack the entire balance of power. I fondly remember my High Middle Ages professor drumming into me and the rest of my class the fact that the Catholic Church played a huge role in limiting the power of individual states and kings during the Middle Ages and even afterwards.

My only quibble with your argument would be that I believe this power imbalance came about even earlier, more than an entire century earlier, with Ivan the Terrible's reign of terror against the Church. I know this is a somewhat controversial and not exactly a popular idea right now, but I do think Ivan the Terrible's term in power was pivotal to Russian history. Put bluntly: prior to him, Russia had a lot going for it. After him, the city states like Novgorod were completely subjugated, the Russian Orthodox Church was subjugated, serfdom was becoming entrenched as an institution, in other words, everybody had been more or less (usually more rather than less) subjugated to the tsar, the God-given representative of the Russian state (empire).
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Louis_Charles on March 30, 2009, 09:11:01 AM
The psychologist's position, as you describe it, sounds like Alexandra: "Russia loves to feel the knout!"  And that isn't a compliment.

I'm not sure I agree with national identity diagnoses. After all, wasn't basically every western power but England an autocracy, more or less, prior to 1789? And even if the monarch wasn't particularly powerful, weren't the bulk of the populations under the heel of the upper classes until a middle class emerged (largely due to colonialism, never a Russian long suite) to counter their power with financial clout?

Russia was a largely rural nation in 1914, although there were nascent signs that a middle class was (1) emerging and (2) going to cause trouble when it did --- pace the Duma. World War I put a stop to that and plunged the country into a repressive regime --- far more so than the rule of the Tsars. Their repressive regime lasted a lot longer than, say, Germany's and Italy's, because the Allies beat the tar out of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in World War II. We did not beat the tar out of Franco's Spain or the Soviet Union (indeed, we saved Stalin's borscht by forcing Hitler to fight a two-front war). Meanwhile, repressive, bloody regimes continued to exist on mainland China, Uganda, Argentina, the list is (sadly) pretty long. Are all of those nationalities gifted with the knack for suffering?

This strikes me as pop psych silliness. Although RichC's crack about the French made me snicker!

Simon

Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Janet Ashton on March 30, 2009, 01:10:39 PM
Hello Elisabeth,

Here are my thoughts:

It seems to me that a lot of this behavior is cultural rather than the result of PTSD.  Russian's aren't happy unless they are miserable.  Otherwise they wouldn't be Russians, they'd be French (who are only happy when everything is done for them).  Look at Boris and Gleb who meekly allowed themselves to be murdered -- the ultimate submission if you ask me. 

Though of course it's moot as to whether that actually happened - but the fact that a legend developed to that effect says something to me. I am inclined to think that it isn't just (or mainly) "western" historians who like to characterise Russians as lovers of suffering. Alexandra's infamous whip quote used by Simon elsewhere in this thread actually starts with , "How long, years, people have said the same to me: "Russia loves to feel the whip"." The question would be whether this supposed love caused their suffering or whether it developed as an attempt to make sense of it and live with it.
I think it would be a pity if people were discouraged from reading Rancour-Laferriere's book just because of its dramatic title and professed conclusion, since he states in the introduction (or afterword - I forget which!) that his intention is "to describe a characteristic of Russians. Not a characteristic of all Russians, and not the only characteristic of Russians....." Even without agreeing with his assertion that this characteristic might have caused the nation's suffering one can still read it as a thought-provoking examination of a cultural phenomenon and a national image that IS a self-image as well. I did anyway. And, yes, I think it is more about Christianity than Russia per se, whatever the author's own view.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Louis_Charles on March 30, 2009, 02:49:41 PM
Well, you may be right, janet. The advent of the French Revolution on the heels of the Enlightenment pretty much finished off the process of detaching Christianity from the heart of Europe's world view, didn't it? That may be what would have happened in Russia had there been no revolution (Poland and Ireland, once the glories of the RC Church in Europe, have both made massive shifts to secularism since independence from England and the Soviet Union). Perhaps after sufficient prosperity, the same will be true for Russia. Although given the grim stats about social conditions in Russia, perhqaps the days of the ROC are also numbered.

Perhaps suffering will fall out of fashion.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Silja on March 30, 2009, 04:25:32 PM

I'm not sure I agree with national identity diagnoses. After all, wasn't basically every western power but England an autocracy, more or less, prior to 1789? And even if the monarch wasn't particularly powerful, weren't the bulk of the populations under the heel of the upper classes until a middle class emerged (largely due to colonialism, never a Russian long suite) to counter their power with financial clout?



In Europe the middle classes have actually been emerging and exerting political and especially financial influence since the middle ages whereas  in Russia there was no middle class. It was people from the middle classes (such as the Fuggers) who would finance the rulers and thus have a influence on policies. In the German free cities it was not the emperor but the citizens who ruled. Italian city states weren't ruled by monarchs at all. But the major difference to Russia was that in Europe there has always been a shifting plurality of powers whereas Russia followed the Byzantine idea of empire and autocracy.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Louis_Charles on March 30, 2009, 09:19:00 PM
I'd agree with that, Silja, with the proviso that there were, in fact, autocracies at various points in western Europe --- even in Germany, or more specifically, Prussia. And while there were certainly non-monarchical families within the Italian city states, etc., it remains true that most kings were relatively unfettered by their middle classes until fairly late in the day. But of course, Russia's day didn't come at all.

I am going to read the book, but I remain sceptical about the whole "national characteristic" thing.

Simon
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: imperial angel on March 31, 2009, 12:54:43 AM
How far back in history does the view that Russia might have a slave soul extend, that is when did people first start saying that Russians might have a slave soul?
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on March 31, 2009, 03:29:43 PM
How far back in history does the view that Russia might have a slave soul extend, that is when did people first start saying that Russians might have a slave soul?

Imperial Angel, I believe that this depiction of the Russian soul as uniquely long-suffering, put-upon and patient actually dates to the early 19th century, when French aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution traveled to Russia in some numbers and began writing about their experiences there (see the Marquis de Custine's famous book). It was also noted by Western Europeans during the Crimean War that Russian peasant soldiers (i.e., the vast majority of ordinary soldiers) were oddly stoical and submissive in confronting their inevitable fate (usually death by heavy artillery).

Frankly I don't know if Russians have a cult of suffering or not. It seems to me that if they did, they would not elevate Stalin, mass murderer of millions, to the position of third greatest Russian ever born (according to a recent, obviously rigged poll - it seems that originally Stalin was coming out on top in the popular vote and the government intervened and cast a lot of votes in favor of Alexander Nevsky and, I believe, Peter Stolypin. Please note, too, that Stalin was not even Russian by birth, he was Georgian - but this goes back to the idea that true Russianness or Russianhood is primarily if not only related to empire. Stalin was born in Georgia in the late nineteenth century, at that time Georgia was a part of the Russian empire, ergo, Stalin was Russian).

This really does sound like a list of plaints, but Simon, I don't understand your beef with the concept of national identity. It seems to me that virtually every successful modern nation on this planet has some however vague notion of a distinctive national identity, even if it only relates to their cuisine or music - but it's far more likely that it relates directly to their history. What defines American national identity? Obviously, the rule of law - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights - also certain symbols, like the American flag, which represents all 50 states in the union - and obviously certain presidents and other popular heroes, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, etc., etc. I would argue - and it is hardly an original argument, it's constantly made by every historian I've read - that Russia's national identity is primarily bound up with the idea of empire. Ivan IV, the Terrible - considered an "awesome" ruler (in Russian "Ivan Groznyi" can be translated either as "Ivan the Terrible" or more accurately as "Ivan the Awesome" or "Awe-Inspiring") expanded the Russian empire into Central Asia. Peter the Great, another much admired ruler, expanded it into northwestern Europe. Catherine the Great carved up Poland. And so on and so forth. All the great Russian national symbols - like the Romanov double-headed eagle, adopted by the modern Russian Federation (and referred to by skeptical intellectuals as the "Chernobyl chicken") are symbols of imperial might. Because that's all that's held Russia together from time immemorial.

As you yourself point out, Simon, pre-revolutionary ethnic Russia itself was a largely peasant society. There was no sense of the rule of law whatsoever. The only sense of "nationhood" per se was the boyar's or the tsar's foot on one's neck. Then there were all the ethnic minorities and nationalities absorbed by imperial expansion - Tartars, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Poles, etc., etc. What was supposed to bind all these disaparate nations together? Well, not the rule of law, since that was up to the whim of the tsar. It was the idea of the tsar/emperor, the empire, that was meant to be the magic glue that held the Russian empire together. And the same idea, with only minor variations, kept the Soviet Union together many decades after the British empire and its Western counterparts had passed into the dustbin of history.

 
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: RichC on April 01, 2009, 08:41:06 AM
In Europe the middle classes have actually been emerging and exerting political and especially financial influence since the middle ages whereas  in Russia there was no middle class. It was people from the middle classes (such as the Fuggers) who would finance the rulers and thus have a influence on policies. In the German free cities it was not the emperor but the citizens who ruled. Italian city states weren't ruled by monarchs at all. But the major difference to Russia was that in Europe there has always been a shifting plurality of powers whereas Russia followed the Byzantine idea of empire and autocracy.

Well put, Silja.  In western Europe there were several different loci of power; there was the government (Kings), there was the church (Pope) and there were the bankers.  But in Russia, power was not nearly as diffused and has always been much more linear.  It seems that this is still very much the case in 2009, where there exhibition of any kind of independent thought is a very good way to end up dead.

Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Janet Ashton on April 01, 2009, 02:32:25 PM
Well, you may be right, janet. The advent of the French Revolution on the heels of the Enlightenment pretty much finished off the process of detaching Christianity from the heart of Europe's world view, didn't it? That may be what would have happened in Russia had there been no revolution (Poland and Ireland, once the glories of the RC Church in Europe, have both made massive shifts to secularism since independence from England and the Soviet Union). Perhaps after sufficient prosperity, the same will be true for Russia.

And, ironically, this was exactly what HAD STARTED to happen during Nicholas's reign, and caused the church a lot of concern. Bring on a simple Man of God to help reconnect Tsar, Church and people....:-)
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Joanna on April 01, 2009, 09:01:02 PM
I had always interpreted the Russian Soul as nena has so aptly wrote of the love and beauty of the land. For slave I would think of the American South rather than Russia which term I associate with serf. Today the norm is Russian Bear which has aggravated PM Putin as derogatory but again I see it as one who survives the depths of the seasons. Was not the Industrial Revolution the turning point to autocracy? Prior throughout Europe it was fiefdoms connected together to combat expansions from other states and the slaves/serfs for better term were the peasants attached through generations to the manors. The amalgamated states were ruled by kings/princes who maintained their precarious leadership with the cooperation of the landowners. The Industrial Revolution overturned the power of these landed aristocrats and the separation of the Church.

Having grown up with attending both Orthodox and Catholic, I have felt a freedom of joy and hope within the rituals of Orthodoxy rather than the doom of sin I am apt to in with the rules of Catholicism. Of course when I am in Notre Dame in Paris my thoughts are of Louis XIV, Napoleon.

I think America's national identity in today's climate is of free market capitalism. Regulation is the French national identity at the moment amongst others. I wonder what Sarkozy will do tomorrow.

Joanna
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Louis_Charles on April 03, 2009, 10:41:01 AM
Elisabeth,

Fascinating post, as always. I have nothing against a concept of nation state, and even agree with your assessment of Russia's as being bound up with imperial themes. That being said, I have a problem with identifying psychological characteristics for large groups of people --- the Russian identity is bound up with suffering, the English are bluff, good-natured and fair, the Irish are irresponsible, the Italians are frivolous and undependable, the Germans are efficient (which Germans? The Bavarians? The Prussians?) and so on and so forth. All of these stereotypes abound, of course, but I can never escape the suspicion that they say more about whatever point the author is trying to make than the actual truth of the situation. For example, I do think that Tsarist Russia was all about expansion. That being said, I do not think that just because Catherine the Great was jonesing for a warm-water port, every Ivan back home in the village gave a kopek about one. I think it is questionable to assume that an autocratic regime, maintained through coercion and force, adequately represents the character or wishes of its' citizens.

I mean, Dick Cheney certainly didn't speak for my soul!

Simon
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on April 03, 2009, 11:25:45 AM
Of course, you make a good point, Simon, as always. Nevertheless, I do think there's something that rings true about national stereotypes. But that's because I see national characteristics as existing on a spectrum, just as, say, gender characteristics do. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Some of us are at the extreme. Admittedly, national stereotypes tend to focus on the extreme end of the spectrum. But this is not the same as asserting that because they represent the extreme they can reveal nothing whatsoever about those of us in the middle. On the contrary, I think that in general they can reveal quite a lot.

Have you heard this famous joke about national characteristics? Surely you and everyone else here has, but I'll repeat it just because I think it's so funny and, on some very profound level, only too true:

Q: What is the difference between heaven and hell?
A: In heaven, the English are the policemen, the French are the chefs, the Germans the mechanics, the Italians are the lovers, and the Swiss organize everything. In hell, the Germans are the policemen, the English are the chefs, the French the mechanics, the Swiss are the lovers, and the Italians organize everything.

I would only add this: in heaven, the United States or the EU is the government, in hell, Russia is. (Leaving out numerous African and Arab countries, just for the sake of argument - and to keep it all Eurocentric - but heck, the very fact that Putin/Medvedev's government lends itself to such comparisons tells you a lot about the current Russian system.)

Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Louis_Charles on April 03, 2009, 01:12:21 PM
Well, I have never heard that joke, and I am laughing. A LOT. 
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: RichC on April 03, 2009, 04:07:02 PM
I think the real question here is what would Russia be in heaven?  They can't be the government, they can't be the policemen, they certainly can't be the chefs, the mechanics or the organizers.  What's left?  The lovers?  Anybody know?
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Janet Ashton on April 03, 2009, 05:06:29 PM
I think the real question here is what would Russia be in heaven?  They can't be the government, they can't be the policemen, they certainly can't be the chefs, the mechanics or the organizers.  What's left?  The lovers?  Anybody know?


The musicians!


Whose music, though, would furnish the sound effects in hell...? :-)

Since Russia also provides the writers in heaven, it seems they got an extra big bite of that cherry after all.....
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on April 03, 2009, 09:15:52 PM
I think the real question here is what would Russia be in heaven?  They can't be the government, they can't be the policemen, they certainly can't be the chefs, the mechanics or the organizers.  What's left?  The lovers?  Anybody know?

Rich C, Janet is right... but I just have to add this - what can I say, the devil is in me!

In heaven, Russian intellectuals are in charge of the arts. In hell, they are in charge of the government.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Louis_Charles on April 03, 2009, 10:01:51 PM
The music of heaven is surely the Russian Orthodox chant.

The music of hell? Um . . . Clay Aiken? :ducks:
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: imperial angel on April 04, 2009, 12:12:13 AM
Yes, the music in hell is that Clay Aiken song '' Invisible''. ;) Especially the line '' I want to be a fly on your wall''.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on April 05, 2009, 09:15:57 AM
Back on the subject of Russian national identity - here is a quote from the famous minister to two tsars (Alexander III and Nicholas II), that is, Sergei Witte, speaking in 1910:

"There is no such thing as Russia; there is only the Russian empire."

This ties in with my current belief that Russians do not have "slave" souls. On the contrary, they are imperialists and have a cult of conquest and dominion over smaller, lesser nations and peoples. If they do have a cult of suffering, it's in the nature of the abuser's cult of suffering - elevating the strong over the weak, and finding excuses for abuses comitted by the strong, despite all evidence of guilt. (Poor Stalin, all his enemies were out to get him, etc., etc., etc.) Please note, I am NOT saying that Russians are abusers by nature - all I am saying is, the national identity has hints of this particular personality type, and it's not exactly endearing to the rest of us mortals on this earth.

Personally I think this is why Putin, at least up until the current economic crisis, was so incredibly popular with Russians, to the extent that he even had pop songs written about him and was regarded as a sex symbol. Because, IMHO, he embodied the national (un)consciousness - will to power, will to empire, will to dominate and even destroy if need be. Look at Russia's recent wars in Chechnia and Georgia... but no, don't even get me started.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: RichC on April 05, 2009, 10:45:49 AM
Back on the subject of Russian national identity - here is a quote from the famous minister to two tsars (Alexander III and Nicholas II), that is, Sergei Witte, speaking in 1910:

"There is no such thing as Russia; there is only the Russian empire."

This ties in with my current belief that Russians do not have "slave" souls. On the contrary, they are imperialists and have a cult of conquest and dominion over smaller, lesser nations and peoples. If they do have a cult of suffering, it's in the nature of the abuser's cult of suffering - elevating the strong over the weak, and finding excuses for abuses comitted by the strong, despite all evidence of guilt. (Poor Stalin, all his enemies were out to get him, etc., etc., etc.) Please note, I am NOT saying that Russians are abusers by nature - all I am saying is, the national identity has hints of this particular personality type, and it's not exactly endearing to the rest of us mortals on this earth.

Personally I think this is why Putin, at least up until the current economic crisis, was so incredibly popular with Russians, to the extent that he even had pop songs written about him and was regarded as a sex symbol. Because, IMHO, he embodied the national (un)consciousness - will to power, will to empire, will to dominate and even destroy if need be. Look at Russia's recent wars in Chechnia and Georgia... but no, don't even get me started.

Didn't Gogol have some interesting things to say about the nature of the Russian pysche?  Maybe I shouldn't think this way but I recall Gogol's The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich.  Is that the personality type you were thinking of?  They certainly aren't very endearing (but very entertaining!)
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on April 07, 2009, 08:03:39 PM
Back on the subject of Russian national identity - here is a quote from the famous minister to two tsars (Alexander III and Nicholas II), that is, Sergei Witte, speaking in 1910:

"There is no such thing as Russia; there is only the Russian empire."

This ties in with my current belief that Russians do not have "slave" souls. On the contrary, they are imperialists and have a cult of conquest and dominion over smaller, lesser nations and peoples. If they do have a cult of suffering, it's in the nature of the abuser's cult of suffering - elevating the strong over the weak, and finding excuses for abuses comitted by the strong, despite all evidence of guilt. (Poor Stalin, all his enemies were out to get him, etc., etc., etc.) Please note, I am NOT saying that Russians are abusers by nature - all I am saying is, the national identity has hints of this particular personality type, and it's not exactly endearing to the rest of us mortals on this earth.

Personally I think this is why Putin, at least up until the current economic crisis, was so incredibly popular with Russians, to the extent that he even had pop songs written about him and was regarded as a sex symbol. Because, IMHO, he embodied the national (un)consciousness - will to power, will to empire, will to dominate and even destroy if need be. Look at Russia's recent wars in Chechnia and Georgia... but no, don't even get me started.

Didn't Gogol have some interesting things to say about the nature of the Russian pysche?  Maybe I shouldn't think this way but I recall Gogol's The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich.  Is that the personality type you were thinking of?  They certainly aren't very endearing (but very entertaining!)

Hi, Rich. I was actually thinking more about Rodion Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, who wants to be another Napoleon, beyond the law, indeed, beyond good and evil (and it's interesting that Napoleon even said words to this effect about himself during his own lifetime, that according to him, he knew even in his youth that he was above any laws ever fashioned by humankind). I can't for the life of me remember the content of the story you cite, although I remember the title of course. It would be interesting to hear a synopsis. I don't know about Gogol and the Russian soul. Gogol always seems to me to have been someone born completely out of his time - he should have been born in the 21st or even the 22nd century, he's still light years ahead of the rest of us ordinary mortals. Chichikov, the anti-hero of Gogol's novel Dead Souls seems to me very Russian on some level but he's completely mercenary, isn't he? Utterly superficial, self-promoting, and ingratiating, all out of desire for the filthy lucre? A very 21st-century Russian soul, in other words, or for that matter perhaps an American, British, German, etc. soul?
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Silja on April 12, 2009, 02:27:21 PM

Have you heard this famous joke about national characteristics? Surely you and everyone else here has, but I'll repeat it just because I think it's so funny and, on some very profound level, only too true:

Q: What is the difference between heaven and hell?
A: In heaven, the English are the policemen, the French are the chefs, the Germans the mechanics, the Italians are the lovers, and the Swiss organize everything. In hell, the Germans are the policemen, the English are the chefs, the French the mechanics, the Swiss are the lovers, and the Italians organize everything.


I know this in a slightly different form:

Heaven: The Italians are the chefs, the Germans are in charge of organisation, and the English make the jokes
Hell: The Italians are the organisers, the English are the chefs, and the Germans make the jokes.
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Naslednik Norvezhskiy on February 08, 2010, 04:34:39 AM
What an interesting thread! It seems like it's going a bit round and round Ivan the Terrible and Alexandra with the knout now, so I'll try to bring in some new moments:

The Finns beat themselves with sticks in bathhouses, I believe the practice actually originated with them, and no one accuses the Finns of masochism.
This is the Northern or Protestant machochism, if you want. The denial of pleasure, the gloomyness just for the sake of gloom, the obsession with purging and cleaning, the fervent Calvinistic-Pietistic desire to shed all unnecessary ornaments, eating drinking and loving just in order to live (and die), not living in order to love - all for what? Originally to survive the winter and then it became a masochistic habit? All the Nordic peoples have been prone to it, the Finns just do a darker version (very high rate of suicides and slow tango dancers) bordering on the depths of the Russian stuff.

Having said that, a good round with the birch twigs is just divine! The leaves must be left on, in order to soften the blows and let the sauna be filled with the aroma of a Karelian spring evening. :-)

Having once become very fascinated by the Freudian theories about the inherent homophilia and misogynism of fascism, I'm instantly drawn to a title like the afore-mentioned Daniel Rancour-Laferriere's "The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering". Because if there was one thing that surprised me when I started to read classical Russian literature, was the absence of (hints to, it being the 19th century) sadomasochism in the way we think of the concept in the West. Naïvely I imagined that if a nation had a "slave soul" it must really be into S/M! (Or more pshychoanalytically said: Its subconsciousness must be filled with S/M fantasies.) The opressed serfs dreaming of "spanking" their masters and the landowners dreaming of being "spanked" by their serfs à la the notorious spanking Brits, especially their upper-classes.

I guess my ideas are far too Roman insofar as I equate any domination and exploitation with sexual domination. Just the word "nomenklatura" makes me nauseous in a S/M way, thinking about how party bosses could exploit their positions. The masochism in Russia was/is evidently of a more moral kind. But exactly how does that work? Where does all the shame of oppressing and being oppressed go? Or is shame itself a much too Western concept in this matter? Does the double-sided concept of the Russian "holy sinner" unite the oppressor with the oppressed in a way we Westerners don't grasp? Is any shame, like so many Freudian concepts, only appllicable in a bourgeois society?

I know I risk sounding ridiculous, but being a hardcore Freudian, I'll just ask: What are the esteemed members' opinion about S/M in Russia? Is it as widespread as in Anglo-American culture, more, less?

(I know kids read this forum and I hope I haven't used any inappropriate terms, but just clinical ones.)
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Sergei Witte on August 22, 2010, 09:28:27 AM
Recently I found this review of Richard Pipes' book "Russian Conservatism and Its Critics". It concerns Eastern Orthodoxy as a factor in Russian history. Sorry if it is too long but here it is.

How Can You Understand Russia if you Don't Understand Orthodoxy
Like so many other Western scholars, Pipes sees monarchy and autocracy as retrograde, a "system" that impeded Russia's transition to an enlightened, modern state. This has resulted in an ongoing dynamic between those forces that sought to integrate Russia into a broader European culture and those that saw Western Europe as anti-Christian. Unfortunately, to understand this dynamic properly, one has to first understand Orthodoxy and how it differs metaphysically and ontologically from what would eventually become Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Many of the ideas credited to the Enlightenment and initiated by the Renaissance by men like Ficino, Pico, and Bruno were esoteric in nature, having their roots in Gnostic and Christian Kabbalism. The degree to which Orthodoxy took root in Russia meant that it was immune from these ideas and their apotheosis in the Englightenment. While Peter and Catherine were sympathetic to the Philosophes, the peasants and Church resisted them because they introduced distortions into what can only be called a Christian, Trinitian anthropology of Man. This is reflected in the reviewer below who quotes the Declaration of Independence -- that all Men are created equal. For the Orthodox, the first most basic truth is that all Men are created in the image and likeness of God. A specific Trinitian anthropology follows this, one involving ancestral sin, the nous, the soul, and what is possible in a fallen world - not a specifically ordered political reality geared towards what the "pure practical rules of Reason" determine to be just. Orthdoxy is not interested in creating Rawlsville but in creating a Christian society. The ideal for Orthodoxy is theosis -- not a "this worldly" ideal of social justice and the like. I would argue that one can't properly understand the Slavophiles' critique of the West or the writings of Dostoyevsky and Pobedonostsev without undestanding why they prefer monarchy to democracy. Since monarchy ideally represents the Law of God and the Law of God provides for the salvation of Man, social inequalities are simply not as relevant. Of course it is worth pointing out that while the Founding Fathers penned the Declaration of Independence, it didn't necessarily translate into a more just system that what was in place in Russia at the time. The federal government slaughtered the Indians, gave them the Trail of Tears, enslaved blacks, and embraced a doctrine of Manifest Destiny that was as jingoistic as anything that ever came out of Russia. In fact, Russia introduced more meaningful reforms for its peasants and disenfranchised than the US or Britain in the 19th century. Had the world revolutionary forces not assassinated Stolypin, who knows how the 20th century would have turned out. But one thing is clear: after the kings of Europe, Asia, and Russia had been sacrificed on the altar of freedom, equality and liberty, the world would become drenched in blood thereafter. Stick that in your "Pipes" and smoke it --

So what are your thoughts on this subject?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Sergei Witte on August 22, 2010, 12:12:08 PM
I just discovered there are older threads here on The Orthodoxy. I will read them now.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 22, 2010, 04:00:50 PM
Dear Sergei, this review is quite interesting but I don't know who the reviewer is or where the review appeared. Could you perhaps provide more context?

My gut reaction is that I don't agree with much of what s/he says, but I'll have to think about it. Still, off the cuff impressions? I'm convinced that Russia has always been a part of Europe - and whatever Russians' personal national mythology about being a cultural hybrid might be (a synthesis of Europe and Asia, the Chosen People, the Answer to the West's problems), it's terribly, terrifically exaggerated. Not that there aren't major differences between Russia and Western Europe. But there are more similarities than differences. Compare Russia to China or Japan and you'll see what I mean.

I think that where the Orthodox Church went wrong in Russia was way back in the 16th century, under Ivan IV, the Terrible, and it was hardly the Church's fault. Ivan terrorized it and subordinated it to the state, a process which Peter the Great merely developed and completed. Whereas by comparison the Catholic Church in Western Europe kept its autonomy from the state and as a result religion in the West has generally acted as a significant check on the power of secular rulers and a recourse from the injustices committed by them. I mean, look at the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, or look even further back, at the abolitionist movement. Both movements were led by deeply religious, Christian people. Martin Luther King, Jr., like so many of his colleagues, was a minister of the church, after all.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Sergei Witte on August 22, 2010, 05:47:44 PM
Elisabeth,

Here is where I found it  http://www.amazon.com/review/RZV3UAQNLE04Q

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 23, 2010, 12:02:08 PM
Dear Sergei, I hate to say this, but this review reads like the rantings of a crackpot. This person argues that "Many of the ideas credited to the Enlightenment and initiated by the Renaissance by men like Ficino, Pico, and Bruno were esoteric in nature, having their roots in Gnostic and Christian Kabbalism. The degree to which Orthodoxy took root in Russia meant that it was immune from these ideas and their apotheosis in the Englightenment." Er, WHAT? I've never heard of Gnosticism or Kabbalism influencing the Enlightenment. This sounds like the purest form of nonsense to me. The Enlightenment came not from "esoteric" religious mysteries but from very consciously anti-mystical, rational, 18th-century philosophers and statesmen like Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.

Contrary to what this reviewer says, the whole idea of the abolition of slavery and serfdom flowed directly from the Enlightenment. Of course there were religious underpinnings to the abolition movement, as well, as summed up by the very Christian idea that we are all created "in the image of God." But this was not and is not a concept reserved for Orthodox Christians. Frankly it is a concept that has always been pretty popular with Western Christians (both Catholics and Protestants) as well.

Furthermore, since the time of Peter the Great the most successful Russian autocrats (Catherine II, Alexander II) have always been more heavily influenced by Enlightenment, rather than Orthodox, ideas, and this was reflected in the sweeping reforms they enacted. These reforms might have been speeded along by the fact that they were passed by an autocrat, and didn't have to go through any congress or parliament first, but that hardly means they were "Orthodox" or purely "Russian" in nature. On the contrary. Lincoln emancipated the slaves in the United States in 1861, only a year after Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia (meanwhile Great Britain had abolished slavery back in the previous century!). True, Lincoln might have accomplished the deed much more quickly if he'd been an autocrat like Alexander. But I'd hate to think of the US as an autocracy, even or especially as an Orthodox autocracy... that would be a fate almost worse than death, don't you think?

At least the United States and for that matter Western constitutional monarchies like Britain have always carried within them the seeds, the potential for major social and political change. I am in complete agreement with Pipes that autocracy often acted as a hindrance to Russian development, that especially after the Great Reforms of the 1860s and 1870s it rapidly became an anachronism. It couldn't change, or perhaps more properly put, it no longer wanted to change, in fact it saw any change as an evil. This was a recipe for disaster, in fact, an absolute death wish. The proof's in the pudding. Autocracy under Alexander III and Nicholas II proved to be an utter failure.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Naslednik Norvezhskiy on August 23, 2010, 12:26:33 PM
Nobody who dares to touch my ramblings regarding possible connections between "slave soul" and sadomasochism? (http://forum.alexanderpalace.org/index.php?topic=1003.msg422833#msg422833) :-P
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 23, 2010, 05:46:21 PM

Having once become very fascinated by the Freudian theories about the inherent homophilia and misogynism of fascism, I'm instantly drawn to a title like the afore-mentioned Daniel Rancour-Laferriere's "The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering". Because if there was one thing that surprised me when I started to read classical Russian literature, was the absence of (hints to, it being the 19th century) sadomasochism in the way we think of the concept in the West. Naïvely I imagined that if a nation had a "slave soul" it must really be into S/M! (Or more pshychoanalytically said: Its subconsciousness must be filled with S/M fantasies.) The opressed serfs dreaming of "spanking" their masters and the landowners dreaming of being "spanked" by their serfs à la the notorious spanking Brits, especially their upper-classes.

I guess my ideas are far too Roman insofar as I equate any domination and exploitation with sexual domination. Just the word "nomenklatura" makes me nauseous in a S/M way, thinking about how party bosses could exploit their positions. The masochism in Russia was/is evidently of a more moral kind. But exactly how does that work? Where does all the shame of oppressing and being oppressed go? Or is shame itself a much too Western concept in this matter? Does the double-sided concept of the Russian "holy sinner" unite the oppressor with the oppressed in a way we Westerners don't grasp? Is any shame, like so many Freudian concepts, only appllicable in a bourgeois society?

I know I risk sounding ridiculous, but being a hardcore Freudian, I'll just ask: What are the esteemed members' opinion about S/M in Russia? Is it as widespread as in Anglo-American culture, more, less?

(I know kids read this forum and I hope I haven't used any inappropriate terms, but just clinical ones.

You know, Fyodor, I am game, I will take you on. I was only holding back because I find this kind of discussion about S&M completely distasteful and inappropriate when it comes to Russian history. I realize you are a Freudian, as you yourself have acknowledged, but while I recognize and appreciate the many contributions that Freud made to our knowledge of the human psyche, I must say that there is an overall tendency in traditional Freudian psychoanalytic theory to blame the victim for the trauma that has been perpetrated on him/her. Thus all this S/M garbage (i.e., the victim really wants to be punished, really wants to suffer, and gets some kind of sexual satisfaction from that punishment and suffering), which is fun for spoiled middle and upperclass people looking for an easy high (although, excuse me, why not just take a drug or drink yourself silly) but has no place in serious discussions about horrible tragedies in human history.

Needless to say, I completely disagree with Daniel Rancour-Laferriere's The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering. It's reductionist in the worst kind of way, completely simplistic and designed for readers who have never themselves suffered any kind of major trauma whatsoever. I read it cover to cover because I was intrigued that such an unapologetically retrograde Freudian could still get published in this day and age. But my God, what an utter waste of time, and what an absolute Pseud this Rancour-Laferriere is.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Sergei Witte on August 23, 2010, 06:17:12 PM
(mistake)
Title: Re: The Slave Soul of Russia?
Post by: Naslednik Norvezhskiy on August 23, 2010, 06:20:41 PM
LOL, Elisabeth!

I must say that there is an overall tendency in traditional Freudian psychoanalytic theory to blame the victim for the trauma that has been perpetrated on him/her. Thus all this S/M garbage (i.e., the victim really wants to be punished, really wants to suffer, and gets some kind of sexual satisfaction from that punishment and suffering),

I think those who interpret Freudian psychology like this have not fully grasped it. Observing that a victim gets some sort of satisfaction from punishment, humilation and suffering and passively or actively seeks out such satisfaction is not the same as blaming the victim. Because if our ideal or norm is an autonomous, self-contained, balanced human being, then we must conclude that this poor victim is sick or disturbed and we must ask: Who made them sick, who disturbed them? What went wrong? Those to blame are then parents, educators, bullies, rapists, tsars, nobles - those who sadistically oppressed people untill their brains became so disturbed that they started to derive satisfaction from masochism - as a survival mechanism. These poor people have been so oppressed and starved of satisfaction that they would have gone mad or died from acute depression if their brains had not started to derive some poor substitute for true satisfaction from punishment, humiliation and suffering. It's a pure survival mechanism and not their fault.  
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 23, 2010, 06:31:15 PM
Elisabeth,

Now this may sound offending to you but I can't escape from the thought that Russians don't want anything else than autocracy as a form of government. Or does it just happen to them all the time including nowadays?
Did the Russian people really want change? Have they ever really wanted to participate in the government? Or were they more than happy to hand over their freedom and even their posessions to a leader provided he watches over them and tell them what to do and see that is been taken care for them on an appropiate way? And that their leaders are only accounted for that specific quality?

Of course they wanted a constitution in 1905: because they didn't trust Nicholas anymore. Not that they expected anything from constitutional democracy but Nicholas didn't give them a fair treatment.

Now are these completely wrong thoughts?

Of course not, Sergei, for example my husband (who is much more qualified than I am to discuss Russian history!) would completely agree with you. He's not a Freudian by any stretch of the imagination, and regards all this S/M stuff as pure bunk, but he would agree with you that Russians have a propensity to, as you put it, "hand over their freedom... to a leader." My question is: WHY?

I myself think Russia and Russians have to be understood in the overall historical, human, and psychological context. Victims of abuse tend to identify with their abuser. We know this now, from countless studies done on victims of real trauma. They also tend to regard themselves as helpless and powerless and at the mercy of fate. And yes, as a result they generally become very fatalistic in their overall worldview. All of this "fits" the traditional, stereotypical, so-called Russian soul, as far as I can make out. I could be wrong though, I'm not a psychologist.

I have to say all this because I myself have never suffered any trauma to the degree that Russians who were born in, say, the 1890s suffered - the Revolution of 1905, the Revolutions of 1917 (both February and October), the Civil War, Lenin, Stalin, collectivization, the Great Terror (and all the "little" terrors), two world wars. And that's leaving out serfdom - even though it was abolished in 1860, its horrific legacy still affected over 80 percent of the population at the turn of the twentieth century.

I just think it's irresponsible, kind of clueless and worst of all, cruel to tell Russians that they have "slave souls" just because they've gone through much more horrible experiences than we have. I mean, really, who are we, pampered Westerners, to judge?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Naslednik Norvezhskiy on August 23, 2010, 07:23:38 PM
He's not a Freudian by any stretch of the imagination, and regards all this S/M stuff as pure bunk,

NB Do note that I said that my excursions into classical Russian literature have shown me that S/M is NOT a central Russian issue. And as a Western Freudian with a rather Roman understanding of subjection (i.e. to be dominated equals being fucked in the a**), that puzzled me, considering how subjection and "moral masochism" are such central Russian issues.

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but he would agree with you that Russians have a propensity to, as you put it, "hand over their freedom... to a leader." My question is: WHY?

BTW I think it can be productive to compare autocratic Russia to other absolutist states with autocratic tendencies that strongly subjected its subjects. What made autocratic Russia different from absolutist Prussia? There was serfdom in Prussia too untill ca. 1800. The (lack of) of rule of law? Orthodoxy as opposed to Lutheranism with a good dose of Calvisnism thrown in?

Heck, in 1660 even the people of Denmark-Norway, from time to time praised as the most free and happy people in Europe, decided to subjugate themselves to an omnipotent, absolutist monarch who, according to the absolutist constitution, the Lex Regia, was to be obeyed and revered as "the most supreme head on Earth, next to God alone", with the power to do whatever he wanted, except change the country's religion and the Lex Regia itself. And no parliament or other institutions existed or were allowed to diminish the absolute power of the King. Foreign visitors to Denmark were struck by the people's total political apathy. (In Norway, where unlike Denmark, no manorialism and serfdom existed, people really had enough trouble just surviving, although the yeoman peasants who owned their own farms were rather politically active on the local level, equivalent to village self-government in the rest of Europe and in a Russian mir.)

If I were to offer an explanation from the top of my head, it would be that Russia, for all practical purposes, is a landlocked country and the average Russian an inland type. The cultures that created democracies, civil liberties, individual freedom and initiative were often seafaring cultures: Think of the Ancient Greeks, the Vikings, the English, the Dutch, the Americans of New England etc. I would venture to say that seafaring stimulates individual freedom, whereas more landlocked cultures (Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, the Aztec and Inca Empires, Russia etc.) has seen extremely hierarchical cultures develop.

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I myself think Russia and Russians have to be understood in the overall historical, human, and psychological context. Victims of abuse tend to identify with their abuser.

The interesting issue is: Who did the Russian serfs identify with? My impression is that they wholly accepted the autocracy of the Tsar, but in what measure did they really accept the noble landlords? Most accounts emphasize that the peasants never forgot that the land really belonged to them. If that is true, it shows that they never gave up their "inner freedom" and that their ideal was something similar to Denmark-Norway, where Little Father Tsar / Father King in Copenhagen ruled firmly yet patriarchal.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 23, 2010, 07:57:15 PM
Okay, you've utterly lost me. Why are you agreeing with Rancour-Laferriere that Russians had/have a "slave soul" when you've just posted the following:

"The interesting issue is: Who did the Russian serfs identify with? My impression is that they wholly accepted the autocracy of the Tsar, but in what measure did they really accept the noble landlords? Most accounts emphasize that the peasants never forgot that the land really belonged to them. If that is true, it shows that they never gave up their "'inner freedom' and that their ideal was something similar to Denmark-Norway, where Little Father Tsar / Father King in Copenhagen ruled firmly yet patriarchal."

If the peasants never gave up their "inner freedom" then they were never "slave souls" to begin with, you've utterly contradicted yourself and your source both.

As for your perusal of Russian literature, I think your priorities were a little strange. Most people read the classics of Russian literature to appreciate the beauty of the culture, the genius of its authors, and so on, not to ferret out unusual sexual preferences and practices...

I don't understand the "Roman" reference except as regards current popular culture about the Romans, i.e., something as silly as the Showtime series about Spartacus. Not exactly subtle, kind of lacking in the nuances, as I believe traditional Freudian psychoanalytic theory generally is. Why we should go along with some turn-of-the-century Viennese doctor's projection of all his own psychological and sexual preoccupations on to the rest of the world, I don't quite get.

N.B. The reference to "moral masochism" is how Rancour-Laferriere describes any spiritual impulse toward the divine. By necessity it is "masochism" because it is not self-serving (which automatically means it's self-punishing, in Freudian lingo, i.e., pleasurable to slave souls). To be honest I can't stand this kind of retrospective way of inscribing our own 20th-21st-century garbage about religion on to believers who lived in earlier centuries. We are so incredibly superior, aren't we, with all our modern "scientific" theories? Joan of Arc was a schizophrenic, St. So-and-So was an anorexic, they were all moral masochists because they believed in God, and so on and so forth, blah blah blah.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Naslednik Norvezhskiy on August 23, 2010, 08:39:33 PM
Oh, a synthesis of my theories just dawned on me: When the Russian peasants were abused by the landlords they sighed and said: If only the Tsar knew.... The Norwegian peasants said the same about the King's sheriffs. But the difference is that the Norwegian peasants had their own ships and sent a delegation down to Copenhagen to complain to His Absolutist Majesty. Whereas for the Russian peasant the road to Moscow or St. Petersburg was very, very long and most probably he wasn't even allowed to go by his landlord in the first place.

Okay, you've utterly lost me. Why are you agreeing with Rancour-Laferriere that Russians had/have a "slave soul" when you've just posted the following:

"The interesting issue is: Who did the Russian serfs identify with? My impression is that they wholly accepted the autocracy of the Tsar, but in what measure did they really accept the noble landlords? Most accounts emphasize that the peasants never forgot that the land really belonged to them. If that is true, it shows that they never gave up their "'inner freedom' and that their ideal was something similar to Denmark-Norway, where Little Father Tsar / Father King in Copenhagen ruled firmly yet patriarchal."

If the peasants never gave up their "inner freedom" then they were never "slave souls" to begin with, you've utterly contradicted yourself and your source both.

I'm intrigued by Rancour-Laferriere's term, but honestly, as a pampered Westerner I can't really imagine what a "slave soul" is or feels like. I think no slaves are 100 % accepting of their slavedom if they are conscious of freedom, even if it is from the Bible's idea of everybody being created equal. I think it's difficult to speak of a generic "slave soul". A lot of the problems African Americans struggle with are for example legacies of slavery, but how can one explain that they are so rebellious while the Russians are so lethargic?

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As for your perusal of Russian literature, I think your priorities were a little strange. Most people read the classics of Russian literature to appreciate the beauty of the culture, the genius of its authors, and so on, not to ferret out unusual sexual preferences and practices...

Lol, that's not my primary concern when reading Russian literature. But since I only really started reading Russian literature after having found the Alexander Palace Time Machine Forum, my expectations are somewhat coloured by what I've read here! Of course I loved "War and Peace" as the great epic it is, I must say I was not surprised when I afterwards read that Tolstoy was biphile...... His soldiers have a very physical presence, but I did not find any S/M! :-)

I haven't read "Crime and Punishment" yet, but I will be very surprised if it's only about moral suffering and no sexual frustration in there. Lol, my perspective is very Western, you see, sex being the prime cultural issue in the modern West, of course!

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I don't understand the "Roman" reference except as regards current popular culture about the Romans, i.e., something as silly as the Showtime series about Spartacus.
The Romans had an obsession with dominance, conquest, virility, masculinity etc. They looked very clinically at it with no Christian inhibitions. And unlike the Greeks they did not believe that a man who was the passive partner in a sexual relation could retain any manhood or dignity. There are a lot of other aspects to the Romans of course, but it's one of their characteristics. I can't direct you to a specific source, it's just an impression you get when you've read a lot about them.

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Not exactly subtle, kind of lacking in the nuances, as I believe traditional Freudian psychoanalytic theory generally is. Why we should go along with some turn-of-the-century Viennese doctor's projection of all his own psychological and sexual preoccupations on to the rest of the world, I don't quite get.

I always say that Freud's theories may only be applicable to Western middle-class people, but I see myself reflected in many of them like a hand in a glove, to use a Freudian expression! But they may be quite useless in analyzing Tsarist Russia.

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N.B. The reference to "moral masochism" is how Rancour-Laferriere describes any spiritual impulse toward the divine. By necessity it is "masochism" because it is not self-serving (which automatically means it's self-punishing, in Freudian lingo, i.e., pleasurable to slave souls). To be honest I can't stand this kind of retrospective way of inscribing our own 20th-21st-century garbage about religion on to believers who lived in earlier centuries. We are so incredibly superior, aren't we, with all our modern "scientific" theories? Joan of Arc was a schizophrenic, St. So-and-So was an anorexic, they were all moral masochists because they believed in God, and so on and so forth, blah blah blah.

I agree, that is far too simplistic. In a pre-industrial world, where your life depends on the forces of Nature, you have quite different "realities" than we have in the modern world.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2010, 08:23:05 AM
You are such a gracious debater, Fyodor Petrovich. I must confess I was feeling rather, no, extremely unhappy with myself this morning, remembering how acidulous I was in my last post to you in this thread... So many sincere thanks for taking it all in such good part.

You're absolutely right, my impression like yours is that Freud provides very good insights into the mind of the modern white bourgeois male (Western European or American). Because that's what Freud was, essentially, and he was a great artist, and so like many great artists he had tremendous insights into what makes people tick. You know, if you'd just take the line that Freud was an artist of genius, as opposed to a scientist of any worth, I would take everything you say much more to heart. I mean it. Because Freud was a great writer and he did have these flashes of genius about human nature, but these were intuitive and imaginative insights far more than they were "scientific" ones.

I actually agree with you on the parallel between African Americans and Russians. Both ethnic groups have terrible legacies of suffering, which have left their marks on generations even up to the present day. But I disagree with you that Russian peasants were traditionally passive or "lethargic." On the contrary, it was the increasing number of peasant rebellions in early nineteenth-century Russia that largely prompted Alexander II to emancipate the serfs - even before him, for this very same reason, his father Nicholas I, who is normally and probably quite rightly viewed as a reactionary, had set up a committee to study the problem of serfdom.

Also, as we now know from recently opened Soviet archives, peasant resistance to Bolshevism and "War Communism" was far greater and more active than previously thought, there were even times when Lenin thought the peasants would topple his new regime. And then a generation later there was Stalin's collectivization campaign... which, again, met with very strong resistance on the part of the peasantry (you know, I have to wonder, how did they have any strength left in them at this point?), even armed resistance. In many cases there were actual pitched battles between peasants and the Soviet officials who'd been sent to "collectivize" them. But in the end it was all for naught, since Stalin either had them shot or deported them and their families to the Siberian wastes to starve to death.

And as we've always known in the West, at the advent of the collectivization campaign the peasants also slaughtered all their livestock in protest - not actually a masochistic move, but a pragmatic and revolutionary one - the reasoning obviously being, why should the government get our meat if they're forcing us to give up all our property? in which case, why shouldn't we just eat the meat ourselves right now - we're probably going to starve soon enough with all these grain requisitions... The horrible thing is, they were right. The Great Famine followed directly and irrevocably on the heels of collectivization.

I think even 20th-century African Americans would have become somewhat cowed and passive under such massive depredations and tragedies. Imagine Martin Luther King, Jr's passive nonresistance to evil campaign in Russia in the Stalinist period... it would have got nowhere and ended in thousands of civilian deaths, not to mention more shipments of hapless prisoners to the Gulag.  

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Silja on August 24, 2010, 05:03:18 PM

 Orthdoxy is not interested in creating Rawlsville but in creating a Christian society. The ideal for Orthodoxy is theosis -- not a "this worldly" ideal of social justice and the like. I would argue that one can't properly understand the Slavophiles' critique of the West or the writings of Dostoyevsky and Pobedonostsev without undestanding why they prefer monarchy to democracy. Since monarchy ideally represents the Law of God and the Law of God provides for the salvation of Man, social inequalities are simply not as relevant.

So what are your thoughts on this subject?

I do think that the passive nature of the Russian "soul" has a lot to do with hundreds of years of Russian Orthodox culture. As Orthodoxy doesn't strive to abolish social injustice but to “teach” people that the essence of life is to strive to become a better Christian,  and to create the "Christian Society", the entire culture is marked by this orientation towards self-improvement.

As Dostoyevsky writes in his Writer's Diary: "If there were brothers, there would be brotherhood. But if there are no brothers, you cannot obtain brotherhood by whatever 'institution'. "

This is diametrically opposed to Western thinking.

So according to Dostoyevsky the Russian social ideal has ist basis in Christ and the idea of personal perfection.

But if your aim is personal perfection (in the religious/ethical sense) this will hardly make you stand up against outward social injustices or general shortcomings or even make you perceive those shortcomings as the central problem. This doesn’t mean those injustices are not perceived or not regretted, but as long as the person is conscious of the fact that as a Christian he retains his dignity he will never inwardly feel as a slave even if he may be or appear as one outwardly. Men are equal as Christians before God, so the social circumstances are not so important. Besides, if “brotherhood” cannot be achieved by changing social conditions but only by personal change, what use is there in striving for the abolition of social injustices?

THIS is the ideal, not the reality, but IMO the ideal or the propagation of this ideal, has left its mark on Russian culture in general.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Naslednik Norvezhskiy on August 26, 2010, 04:04:44 PM
So according to Dostoyevsky the Russian social ideal has ist basis in Christ and the idea of personal perfection.

But if your aim is personal perfection (in the religious/ethical sense) this will hardly make you stand up against outward social injustices or general shortcomings or even make you perceive those shortcomings as the central problem. This doesn’t mean those injustices are not perceived or not regretted, but as long as the person is conscious of the fact that as a Christian he retains his dignity he will never inwardly feel as a slave even if he may be or appear as one outwardly.
A good argument against my S/M hypothesis. You can't be ashamed of your subjugation if you feel it is a virtue!

BTW from my reading, including Olga Semyonova Tian-Shanskaia's fantastic "Village Life In Late Tsarist Russia", I get the impression that, psychologically, the male-versus-male domination/subjection issue played second fiddle to the Battle of the Sexes in Imperial Russia. The peasants were terrified of being (perceived as) dominated by their wives and thus beat them brutally. Perhaps that was their real issue or perhaps they took out their humiliation / anger against their noble landlords on their wives?

You are such a gracious debater, Fyodor Petrovich. I must confess I was feeling rather, no, extremely unhappy with myself this morning, remembering how acidulous I was in my last post to you in this thread... So many sincere thanks for taking it all in such good part.
Oh, no offence taken. I am just a learning newbie in Russian history, so my questions may sound very odd to those better informed, but they are just a fellow Hyperborean's attempts at understanding the present (not even speaking about the present!) of a country which shares so many natural similarities with my native own, yet is so vastly different in many other matters!

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You're absolutely right, my impression like yours is that Freud provides very good insights into the mind of the modern white bourgeois male (Western European or American). Because that's what Freud was, essentially, and he was a great artist, and so like many great artists he had tremendous insights into what makes people tick. You know, if you'd just take the line that Freud was an artist of genius, as opposed to a scientist of any worth, I would take everything you say much more to heart. I mean it. Because Freud was a great writer and he did have these flashes of genius about human nature, but these were intuitive and imaginative insights far more than they were "scientific" ones.
You've given me an epiphany! Now I better understand why my fascination with Thomas Mann's art and Freud's art are but two sides of the same coin!

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I actually agree with you on the parallel between African Americans and Russians. Both ethnic groups have terrible legacies of suffering, which have left their marks on generations even up to the present day. But I disagree with you that Russian peasants were traditionally passive or "lethargic." On the contrary, it was the increasing number of peasant rebellions in early nineteenth-century Russia that largely prompted Alexander II to emancipate the serfs
Oh, interesting, I never knew there were peasant rebellions in the 19th century too!

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Also, as we now know from recently opened Soviet archives, peasant resistance to Bolshevism and "War Communism" was far greater and more active than previously thought, there were even times when Lenin thought the peasants would topple his new regime. And then a generation later there was Stalin's collectivization campaign... which, again, met with very strong resistance on the part of the peasantry (you know, I have to wonder, how did they have any strength left in them at this point?)
Peasants are indeed amazing creatures. Although with much less horrible suffering, you have the same pattern of peasant resistance in Norwegian history too. The stubbornness of peasants is indeed heroïc in such cases.

Speaking of peasants, to what extent is it true that peasants in the sparsely inhabited Northern Russia were more independent and less feudally subjected than peasants in the richer Black Soil regions? Did this also show in their "Russian soul" being somewhat different?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 28, 2010, 04:55:58 PM

I do think that the passive nature of the Russian "soul" has a lot to do with hundreds of years of Russian Orthodox culture. As Orthodoxy doesn't strive to abolish social injustice but to “teach” people that the essence of life is to strive to become a better Christian,  and to create the "Christian Society", the entire culture is marked by this orientation towards self-improvement.

As Dostoyevsky writes in his Writer's Diary: "If there were brothers, there would be brotherhood. But if there are no brothers, you cannot obtain brotherhood by whatever 'institution'. "

This is diametrically opposed to Western thinking.

So according to Dostoyevsky the Russian social ideal has ist basis in Christ and the idea of personal perfection.

But if your aim is personal perfection (in the religious/ethical sense) this will hardly make you stand up against outward social injustices or general shortcomings or even make you perceive those shortcomings as the central problem. This doesn’t mean those injustices are not perceived or not regretted, but as long as the person is conscious of the fact that as a Christian he retains his dignity he will never inwardly feel as a slave even if he may be or appear as one outwardly. Men are equal as Christians before God, so the social circumstances are not so important. Besides, if “brotherhood” cannot be achieved by changing social conditions but only by personal change, what use is there in striving for the abolition of social injustices?

THIS is the ideal, not the reality, but IMO the ideal or the propagation of this ideal, has left its mark on Russian culture in general.

I guess I disagree that Russians were passive before Stalin. I think there is a lengthy and quite impressive record of peasant rebellions right up to collectivization that refute that national stereotype. In general while I hold with humorous and basically harmless national stereotypes (e.g., the French are good cooks, the Italians are good lovers, the Germans are good engineers, Americans are good entrepreneurs, etc.) I dislike the ones that ascribe very negative attributes to entire nations or peoples.

Frankly I don't think the West, which within living memory produced such despicable creatures as Mussolini and Hitler - both dictators who led millions of "blind" and "passive" followers into the European Götterdämmerung of World War II - frankly I don't think that after all this the West has any right whatsoever to pronounce judgment on the Russian people.

Moreover, Christianity is a multi-layered, complex phenomenon that functions in the social sphere at multiple levels. In any given Christian culture, one can always find religious manifestations that are socially engaged, and others that are seemingly hostile to the outside world and advocate "self-improvement" or - I think this is a better term - self-perfection (e.g., hair shirts, self-starvation and self-flagellation). There are so many different factors in operation here that in my opinion it is dangerous to reduce any given national religious tradition to one or two opposing elements in a binary structure that, in this example, identifies Christianity as either socially engaged and active OR socially disengaged and passive. In fact both Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity have amply demonstrated both strands of religious faith during their long histories.

There are many examples in Russian history of a socially engaged and active church - to cite the most obvious example, the numerous Orthodox clergy who did social work among the Russian working classes and poor at the turn of the twentieth century. (Some of them, like Father Gapon, also emerged as political activists as a result.)

An entire book also springs to mind, a recent book by the historian Laurie Manchester about the sons of Russian Orthodox clergymen who, beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century, became an important component of the emerging Russian intelligentsia, which as we all know, was quite demonstrably both politically and socially engaged. And yet at least during the 19th century these men retained a very strong group identity as the sons of Orthodox clerics. It's an interesting phenomenon.

I just looked it up, this book is called Holy Fathers, Secular Sons.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on August 29, 2010, 01:16:41 PM
Let me quote Shakespeare:
>>Fate, show thy force: ourselves we do not owe;
What is decree must be, and be this so.<<

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 29, 2010, 01:39:35 PM
Let me quote Shakespeare:
>>Fate, show thy force: ourselves we do not owe;
What is decree must be, and be this so.<<

AGRBear

You know, AGRBear, I think it would be extremely helpful if you would occasionally or even (is it really too much to expect?) always cite your sources. Which sonnet or play of Shakespeare's are you citing here? It's of some import, you know, because Shakespeare is all about context.

And in this context, the twilight of the Russian empire, I think most talk about fate is utter nonsense. People make their own fates, their own destinies, unless they are child laborers in India or something equally horrible. I don't believe that a Russian ruler at the turn of the 20th century couldn't have made better choices, given the hand that was dealt to him. I mean, true, you might be right, the IF's dreadful fate in Ekaterinburg might very well have been in the cards the moment NII declared war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914, but I'd like to think that there were other options open even as late as 1917, to a more clever and perspicacious ruler.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on August 30, 2010, 07:42:19 PM
Let me quote Shakespeare:
>>Fate, show thy force: ourselves we do not owe;
What is decree must be, and be this so.<<

AGRBear

You know, AGRBear, I think it would be extremely helpful if you would occasionally or even (is it really too much to expect?) always cite your sources. Which sonnet or play of Shakespeare's are you citing here? It's of some import, you know, because Shakespeare is all about context.

And in this context, the twilight of the Russian empire, I think most talk about fate is utter nonsense. People make their own fates, their own destinies, unless they are child laborers in India or something equally horrible. I don't believe that a Russian ruler at the turn of the 20th century couldn't have made better choices, given the hand that was dealt to him. I mean, true, you might be right, the IF's dreadful fate in Ekaterinburg might very well have been in the cards the moment NII declared war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914, but I'd like to think that there were other options open even as late as 1917, to a more clever and perspicacious ruler.

It little matters what you and I think  about Sabia /Fate in Aug. of 2010.  Nicholas II and the majority of his subjects believed in Sabia, therefore,  they played with the cards Sabia dealt them as best as they knew how and lost to men like Lenin, who probably believed every man creates his or her own fate.

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 30, 2010, 09:16:15 PM
Let me quote Shakespeare:
>>Fate, show thy force: ourselves we do not owe;
What is decree must be, and be this so.<<

AGRBear

You know, AGRBear, I think it would be extremely helpful if you would occasionally or even (is it really too much to expect?) always cite your sources. Which sonnet or play of Shakespeare's are you citing here? It's of some import, you know, because Shakespeare is all about context.

And in this context, the twilight of the Russian empire, I think most talk about fate is utter nonsense. People make their own fates, their own destinies, unless they are child laborers in India or something equally horrible. I don't believe that a Russian ruler at the turn of the 20th century couldn't have made better choices, given the hand that was dealt to him. I mean, true, you might be right, the IF's dreadful fate in Ekaterinburg might very well have been in the cards the moment NII declared war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914, but I'd like to think that there were other options open even as late as 1917, to a more clever and perspicacious ruler.

It little matters what you and I think  about Sabia /Fate in Aug. of 2010.  Nicholas II and the majority of his subjects believed in Sabia, therefore,  they played with the cards Sabia dealt them as best as they knew how and lost to men like Lenin, who probably believed every man creates his or her own fate.

AGRBear

I don't know what the word "Sabia" means. The Russian word for fate or destiny is "sud'ba." There's another word in Russian with a similar meaning, "dolia," meaning one's lot in life (but usually in the negative sense, a bad lot, a bad fate).

If we were all Russians and fatalists we'd all have committed suicide by 1928, AGRBear. There was absolutely no reason to live after that date. The odds were definitely stacked against you, even if you were a Bolshevik (most of the old-timers went up against the wall in '37).

And yet most Russians, surprisingly enough, did not kill themselves after October 1917 or after 1928 or even during or after the Great Terror of 1937-38. I would suggest that this is because the natural tendency of human beings is to try to see the positive side of life, to hope against hope, no matter how many difficulties one actually has to deal with. Or, in the case of Russians and other citizens of the Soviet empire, not merely difficulties but real horrors.

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on August 31, 2010, 12:36:11 PM
...[in part]...
I don't know what the word "Sabia" means. The Russian word for fate or destiny is "sud'ba." There's another word in Russian with a similar meaning, "dolia," meaning one's lot in life (but usually in the negative sense, a bad lot, a bad fate).
...[in part]...

Sabia is probably a word spelled by German-Russians who heard the word "sudba",  meaning fate or destiny,  and may have gotten it a trifle wrong when writing it down.  There are a lot of words the German-Russians transferred into their language which might not be correctly translated.  Getting into various German-Russian dialects can put quite a spin on some words during translations.

AGRBear

 

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on August 31, 2010, 04:32:43 PM
I googled the word "Sabia" and came up with some interesting stuff.  None of which had anything to do with "fate".

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lilianna on April 06, 2011, 01:44:03 PM

Russia. The beginning of the 19 th century.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEE4TYMhLvw
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 07, 2011, 09:04:09 AM
Is that video from a movie?  It is very beautiful.  Finely done.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lilianna on April 07, 2011, 09:33:19 AM
This is not film.This his clip. This song is in Russian favorite. And in Israel, people take when listening to this song.

Lyrics in English.

 How delightful evening in Russia,
 Love, champagne, sunsets, alleys,
 Ah, summer, red, and fun rides,
 How delightful evening in Russia.

 Balls, beautiful, lackeys, cadets,
 And Waltzes by Schubert, and crunch French bread,
 Love, champagne, sunsets, alleys,
 How delightful evening in Russia,

 How delightful evening in Russia,
 In the sunset glare of flames over the summer,
 And only the sky blue eyes of the poet
 How delightful evening in Russia,

 Let them all sleep, let her love of the game
 Well you my impulses and embrace
 On and this world will remember me
 How delightful evening in Russia,
 Let them all sleep, let her love of the game
 Well you my impulses and embrace
 On and this world will remember me
 How delightful evening in Russia ...
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lilianna on April 07, 2011, 09:57:23 AM
To understand the Russian soul, you have to listen to Russian songs. Look at this clip. translation will not be. Everything will be clear without words.
http://rutube.ru/tracks/1717523.html?v=658c894f88f2725e8bc249c37dafd038
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 11, 2011, 05:08:59 PM
It's very interesting for me, since in the past I have usually been a proponent of the notion of a "Russian soul," that there has recently been an article published in The Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology which contends that there is in reality no such thing. I have to admit that having read this article, I find it pretty convincing. Here is the abstract of this piece, which is entitled "Personality Profiles and the 'Russian Soul': Literary and Scholarly Views Evaluated," by Juri Aliik et al.:

"Many domestic and foreign observers have claimed that Russians have a unique constellation of personality traits that mirrors their distinctive historical and cultural experience. To examine the hypothesized uniqueness of Russian personality, members of the Russian Character and Personality Survey collected data from 39 samples in 33 administrative areas of the Russian Federation. Respondents (N = 7,065) identified an ethnically Russian adult or college-aged man or woman whom they knew well and rated the target using the Russian observer-rating version of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. The mean personality profile of Russians was very similar to the international average based on 50 different countries, debunking the myth of a unique Russian soul.The small variations from world norms did not converge with depictions of Russian national character in fiction and the scholarly literature. New items intended to capture distinctive, emic aspects of Russian personality provided no new information beyond the familiar Big Five dimensions. Religion, ethnicity, and beliefs about the uniqueness of the Russian character and the malleability of personality traits had little effect on personality ratings. Perceptions of the Russian soul do not seem to be based on the personality traits of Russians."

Juri Aliik et al., Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, March 2011, v. 42, no. 3, pp. 372-389.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: lilianna on April 11, 2011, 09:15:00 PM
No one understood what the "Russian soul". Even we ourselves, are Russian. We are so born. We will always defend their homeland. Russian never give up and become accustomed to hardship.
As we wrote the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin "Here the Russian spirit, here Russ smells." Russian - is not a nationality. Russian - is the soul. Jack Nicholson in the past year, arrived in Moscow and then said: "I came for 3 days, stayed for a week and want to live here all my life." Perhaps he understood the Russian soul.

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 17, 2011, 02:04:43 PM
No one understood what the "Russian soul". Even we ourselves, are Russian. We are so born. We will always defend their homeland. Russian never give up and become accustomed to hardship.
As we wrote the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin "Here the Russian spirit, here Russ smells." Russian - is not a nationality. Russian - is the soul. Jack Nicholson in the past year, arrived in Moscow and then said: "I came for 3 days, stayed for a week and want to live here all my life." Perhaps he understood the Russian soul.

I appreciate your viewpoint, lilianna, although I disagree with it somewhat. It seems to me that when we discuss the "Russian soul" we are not so much discussing actual individual characteristics of Russians but something quite different, Russian national identity -- i.e., how a people perceives itself and bonds together in cultural, social, political, geographical and of course ethnic terms. Perhaps contrary to scholarly opinion (at least as I have interpreted it), ethnic Russians do have a strong sense of national identity, and conceive of themselves, not individually, but as a group and a country, as especially distinctive in terms of national characteristics. And, in turn, this is how we as outsiders, foreigners, perceive Russians, as your literature and music and other arts tell us we should perceive you.

Whether or not this perception is true in reality, on the individual level, is kind of beside the point, I guess. I mean, I don't honestly think that most Americans as a rule fit the stereotype of Americans: brash, friendly, candid, individualistic, skeptical of any and every kind of authority, impatient with any kind of official rigmarole. Although I suspect that most Americans would easily identify these traits as "typical" of our so-called national character and/or identity. In other words, this is how we like to look at ourselves as individual Americans, even if that self-image is completely false, objectively speaking.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Petr on April 18, 2011, 11:47:52 AM
...identified an ethnically Russian adult or college-aged man or woman whom they knew well and rated the target using the Russian observer-rating version of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory.

Dear Elizabeth:
I am curious what "the Russian observer-rating version of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory" means and whether using survey subjects whom the surveyor "knew well" yields an objective result or tends to confirm built in bias.  I mean was this a double blind survey? What was the methodology used? As we all know poll results can be heavily influenced by the questions asked (just contrast a Democratic pollster's results with a Republican pollster's results on the same topics).

I don't doubt that Russians as members of the species Homo Sapiens share commmon characteristics with other citizens of the world but the implication of the excerpt is that one should discount national identity, shared cultural experience and history, ethnicity and other like factors which I think is too simplistic an analysis.  the results might fit a statistical model but often statistical models mirror their creators' inherent biases. 
   
Regards
Petr
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Nathalie on April 22, 2011, 03:57:53 PM
Quote
Russia. The beginning of the 19 th century.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEE4TYMhLvw

Hi Lilianna,

Thanks for the music.
May I ask where is the videoclip from? Is it a movie?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 23, 2011, 10:58:18 AM
I don't think that Americans (citizens or illegals living in the US) ever see themselves as a "type".  Americans have become far too concerned with belonging to a "community" and not to the nation as a whole.

Everyone (as this may be the fault of the media) is now pigeon holed into a community.  Latino Community, African American Community, Gay and Lesbian Community, Asian American Community, etc. 

After every international disaster or insurrection we hear about the Muslim Community or the Jewish Community or the Haitian Community or the Japanese Community.

There is no single cohesiveness of the people of America any longer.  We have been divided (whether by choice or by media action) into groups who have no common ground and who now fear and despise each other.

The melting pot has tipped over and the contents were spilled a long time ago.  IMHO there is no American soul or American type (except maybe the "ugly American tourist" who desecrates the lands that they visit) that is recognized by the world.

When I have visited other countries, I have noticed that Americans are not respected as are the citizens of other countries who are also visitors.  Just open your mouth and speak American English and the facial expression and tone of the person changes.  When in Bermuda many years ago, my husband and I were treated indifferently by the staff of the Hamilton Princess until one night I asked about the bread pudding on the menu and mentioned that my mother was Canadian and wondered if the bread pudding might be like what she had always made at home.  The waiter perked up and said, "Your mother is Canadian?"  I said yes, and for the rest of the trip he was most helpful and went out of his way to be sure that we were well taken care of every night.

We are not working together to make America a pleasant place to live and work, but are arrogantly claiming our right to bring our cultures and our ancestor's customs into a "community" that expels everyone else.

Just walk down a street in any fair sized city and try to look into the faces of those you pass on the street.  Either they look nervously away or contemptuously at you as if waiting for a chance to attack.  There are no friendly smiles or relaxed body language.  All is held tightly and suspiciously away.

Americans are scared of each other and of everyone else in the world.  Children are no longer allowed to play outside at night.  People don't walk after dinner or visit next door neighbors to sit on the porch or deck and share a glass of lemonade or a beer.

Everyone is encased in their own little air conditioned house or car and each flies by the other at speeds in excess of 50 mph.  That doesn't make for a unified "soul" of the country.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Petr on April 23, 2011, 12:55:42 PM
Perhaps the following oft repeated joke might help illustrate that despite denials there are generally popularly recognized national archtypes (for better or for worse) much like the ugly American.  It involves the European idea of Heaven and Hell (with apologies to all those who may be offended by this decidedly non-politically correct anecdote):

In Heaven:
The English are the policemen;
The French are the cooks;
The Italians are the lovers;
The Germans are the mechanics; and
The Swiss are the managers.
 
In Hell:
The English are the cooks;
The French are the mechanics;
The Italians are the managers;
The Germans are the policemen; and
The Swiss are the lovers.
 
Petr
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 23, 2011, 01:52:27 PM
Petr - LOL.  You are right that in today's society that would not be considered "politically correct" but it feels true.

On rereading what I wrote above, I know that many will say that Americans have a right to be "closed off" and suspicious after 9/11.  However, I don't think that is fair to other countries where horrible things have been happening for centuries.

Americans have always had the luxury of oceans that were not speedily cross-able to protect them from the horrors of the wars of the 20th century.  Yes, we have sent troops to fight, but those at home had not, until 9/11 ever felt the fall out of the death of innocents in the name of Jihad or war.

What was done to Dresden in Germany during WWI was a war crime, but no one was ever tried for that catastrophe because those who perpetrated it won.  The same could be said about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Had the US lost the war, it would have been Truman on trial and MacArthur and Billy Mitchell and even Eisenhower and, of course, those who built and provided the bombs.

But this thread is about the Russian Soul.  I am not sure that I understand that.  I am currently rereading The Tragic Bride by V. Poliakoff and he talks extensively about the Russian Soul and how it provided the entry for Rasputin into the closeness of the Imperial Family.  When I have finished, I will try to post some of his thoughts without copyright infringement.  He has an interesting take on the subject.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 25, 2011, 02:49:23 PM
I don't think that Americans (citizens or illegals living in the US) ever see themselves as a "type".  Americans have become far too concerned with belonging to a "community" and not to the nation as a whole.

Everyone (as this may be the fault of the media) is now pigeon holed into a community.  Latino Community, African American Community, Gay and Lesbian Community, Asian American Community, etc.  

After every international disaster or insurrection we hear about the Muslim Community or the Jewish Community or the Haitian Community or the Japanese Community.

There is no single cohesiveness of the people of America any longer.  We have been divided (whether by choice or by media action) into groups who have no common ground and who now fear and despise each other.

The melting pot has tipped over and the contents were spilled a long time ago.  IMHO there is no American soul or American type (except maybe the "ugly American tourist" who desecrates the lands that they visit) that is recognized by the world.

Well, I simply disagree. Completely. In my opinion, late 20th-century and early 21st-century Americans have learned to pride ourselves on our diversity. Whereas for much of our nation's history the "typical" (read "ideal") American was the WASPM (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Male) from New England, nowadays the "typical" American is not so easily categorized. And this is a real sign of change, and, I believe, of progress and hope. More and more, immigrants and their descendants from different races, ethnicities, and religions feel part of the American dream and consequently contribute to our overall conception of our national identity. What's wrong with this?

All this stuff about "identities" counts for nothing when a tragedy like 9/11 occurs. Excuse me, but I didn't see average Americans, back then, saying things like, "I, as an Irish American... I, as an African American... I, as a Gay American....etc., etc." On 9/11 I saw a nation coming together to grieve and commemorate their dead. And don't misunderstand me, I don't think there's anything wrong with "identities" when they're kept in their proper place, i.e., when we're picking intellectual hairs in academia, but I don't believe most Americans outside of the academy (or even most of them in it) feel this way in reality, in their everyday lives. If we did, we wouldn't have elected Barack Obama as our president less than a decade after a guy with a very similar (foreign! Muslim!) name sent terrorists to destroy the International Trade Center.

When I have visited other countries, I have noticed that Americans are not respected as are the citizens of other countries who are also visitors.  Just open your mouth and speak American English and the facial expression and tone of the person changes.

I've never had this experience as an American in Europe, and I visit Europe all the time, and have done so for the last 20 years. Maybe it depends on the individual American tourist or visitor? For example, over the years (long before the Iraq War) I've heard a lot of Americans badmouth French people for being rude, but the French have always been unfailingly kind and courteous to me -- perhaps because I make an honest effort to speak their language? And in Eastern Europe, excuse me, Americans are more popular than ever. Again, I can only speak from my own experience. But I would say that Americans are much admired in this region for their energy, efficiency, and organizing skills -- much as Germans and Scandinavians are also admired for these same qualities. Only in Russia do you encounter a real, pervasive anti-American spirit (to rival perhaps that of French intellectuals, as opposed to the average Frenchman in the street). And as far as I am concerned, such is the abysmal state of Russia in almost every category of political, economic, and social development these days, that I actually welcome their government's disdain. In the current geopolitical climate, Russian hostility towards the USA is practically a compliment.

We are not working together to make America a pleasant place to live and work, but are arrogantly claiming our right to bring our cultures and our ancestor's customs into a "community" that expels everyone else.

Just walk down a street in any fair sized city and try to look into the faces of those you pass on the street.  Either they look nervously away or contemptuously at you as if waiting for a chance to attack.  There are no friendly smiles or relaxed body language.  All is held tightly and suspiciously away.

As a matter of fact I have noticed quite the opposite happening since the election of Barack Obama as president. I noticed almost immediately after the November 2008 election that black Americans were much more willing to initiate a conversation with white Americans they were not personally acquainted with. This happened to me several times, whereas it had rarely if ever happened to me before. For example, one day I was trying on a dress and an older woman, who happened to be black and a total stranger to me, smiled and said, "That dress looks really cute on you." And this kind of thing happened several times over the next several weeks. Ohmygod... Black and white strangers talking to each other in mundane public spaces like grocery and department stores -- what a novel concept! -- and such a refreshing change... And that's also when it occurred to me for the first time in my life that black Americans might be far more frightened of white Americans -- and for far more justifiable reasons -- than whites are of them.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 25, 2011, 03:37:14 PM
I just have to ask, "Do you watch the news?"

Burning of the Qu'ran?

Birthers?

Courting the Latino Community to get elected?  

Riots and demonstrations over illegal aliens and building walls on the boarders or offering amnesty to millions of people who shouldn't be here to begin with?  I actually saw a program where a woman from Mexico purposely came into Texas every time she had a child so that the child would be a US citizen and then moved back into Mexico.  She hid her pregnancy from the crossing guards and lived quietly until she gave birth and then moved back, but she told the reporter that she always knew that her children would be able to "take advantage" of the US citizenship laws if they needed them in the future!

Demonstrations against building a Muslim Cultural Center any where near the "hallowed" ground of the World Trade Center sites?

Anti Semitic hate crimes and the swastika being drawn on temples?

Matthew Shepard killed in a "gay bashing" incident in Wyoming?

Does this sound like a cohesive yet diverse "soul" of the American people?

But as a moderator, I have to ask that we either begin a new thread or go back to the original discussion of the Russian Soul.


Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 25, 2011, 04:32:33 PM
I just have to ask, "Do you watch the news?"

Burning of the Qu'ran?

Birthers?

Courting the Latino Community to get elected?  

Riots and demonstrations over illegal aliens and building walls on the boarders or offering amnesty to millions of people who shouldn't be here to begin with?  I actually saw a program where a woman from Mexico purposely came into Texas every time she had a child so that the child would be a US citizen and then moved back into Mexico.  She hid her pregnancy from the crossing guards and lived quietly until she gave birth and then moved back, but she told the reporter that she always knew that her children would be able to "take advantage" of the US citizenship laws if they needed them in the future!

Demonstrations against building a Muslim Cultural Center any where near the "hallowed" ground of the World Trade Center sites?

Anti Semitic hate crimes and the swastika being drawn on temples?

Matthew Shepard killed in a "gay bashing" incident in Wyoming?

Does this sound like a cohesive yet diverse "soul" of the American people?

But as a moderator, I have to ask that we either begin a new thread or go back to the original discussion of the Russian Soul.

Well, Alixz, before you switch the topic back to the Russian Soul (I thought we were actually on topic, since we were discussing the accuracy of national characteristics as a barometer of national identity and so on, but please excuse me if I'm wrong), I would appreciate it if I could address your points.

Yes, actually, I do watch the news, gosh, I even read it. What I am aware of is that the overall sociopolitical climate has changed since even the early 1960s. And if you look back before that... In the 1890s my Finnish great-grandfather couldn't find a job in the mines when he came to this country because the Irish Americans controlled the mines -- he had to pretend he was a mute Irishman to get a job (he was aided in this deception by his very red hair!). Similarly, less than 20 years later my grandmother and her siblings were pelted with clods of dirt every day by their schoolmates on their way to school because they were "dirty Finns."

You will probably argue that the more things change, the more things stay the same. But I think this is negativity at its very worst, a good example of the kind of closet disdain for America of certain Americans nowadays, this inability, indeed this outright refusal, to accept that American society is, and always has been, gradually changing for the better. Because as you know (or should know), in actual fact every fresh wave of new immigrants in this nation's history (practically the only exception being the Pilgrims and their ilk) has initially been hated and reviled. There was total hatred of the Irish, total hatred of the Finns, the Italians, the Russians, the Eastern European Jews, etc., etc., in their time. Nevertheless every wave of immigration eventually became accepted and even celebrated by the existing mainstream culture. Even the Eastern European Jews, the most hated and reviled of all, with the exception of African Americans, was eventually accepted. (They became, in fact, "honorary whites.") And now we have an African American as president of our country. So there you go. The more things change... the more things DON'T stay the same.

And you can quote me... It's in places like Russia, which conspicuously lack a strong democracy, civil society, and political institutions, that things always stay the same, or, if they do change, change only for the worse. If you think we have racial hatred and ethnic conflict here, in the United States, my God, Alixz, go to Russia and see what the real thing looks like in all its hideous living color and all-pervasive violence.

To put it bluntly, what we have in the States is basically DISAGREEMENT. What they have over there is basically WAR.

Of course, it's true that nowadays there is a lot of hostility and discrimination directed against Mexican and other Latin American immigrants. But who precisely is behind all that hostility? As far as I can make out, a bunch of very self-satisfied white people who think they're the one and only true Americans who understand America and all it stands for... And in that context the examples you cite of Mexican immigration to the US are very telling -- I mean, even glaring, since instead of listing all the numerous examples of Latino immigrant success and contribution to our economy and cultural life you chose examples of an entire ethnic group using the system to cheat the average American taxpayer. Also, the example of a politician courting the Latino vote in this country. Please forgive me, but what exactly is wrong with a politician courting a significant voting bloc? Forgive me for saying so, because I honestly don't think I'm wrong, but whether or not you ever vote for them, isn't the Tea Party courting your own vote, Alixz?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Rodney_G. on April 25, 2011, 09:10:36 PM

Of course, it's true that nowadays there is a lot of hostility and discrimination directed against Mexican and other Latin American immigrants. But who precisely is behind all that hostility? As far as I can make out, a bunch of very self-satisfied white people who think they're the one and only true Americans who understand America and all it stands for... And in that context the examples you cite of Mexican immigration to the US are very telling -- I mean, even glaring, since instead of listing all the numerous examples of Latino immigrant success and contribution to our economy and cultural life you chose examples of an entire ethnic group using the system to cheat the average American taxpayer. Also, the example of a politician courting the Latino vote in this country. Please forgive me, but what exactly is wrong with a politician courting a significant voting bloc? Forgive me for saying so, because I honestly don't think I'm wrong, but whether or not you ever vote for them, isn't the Tea Party courting your own vote, Alixz?
[/quote]

Elisabeth, I think your first sentence mischaracterises the present negative feeling towards those groups mentioned . And although discrimination in any form is abhorrent I don't think this is what we're dealing with here. The hostility and antagonism is overwhelmingly towards ILLEGAll  immigration which is indeed a serious problem in the US  and most especially , though not solely,  in the four border states. It's hard to deny that an an illegal immigrant's first experience with his new country , namely his very crossing of the border illegally (which of course is by definition a crime) doesn't show contempt for the destination country's laws and values.
Waving Mexican flags openly at pro -imigration raliles and otherwise flaunting your (Mexican) anti-assimilationist positition doesn't endear one to your new hosts. Nor does ditching work or cutting clases en masse to do so.

And the antagonism doesn't exist solely on the part of comfortable and complacent mainstream white America. It's felt very much  by other relatively recent legal immigrants (and not just Latino) who had to submit to a long (up to eight years in some cases) and difficult process of legal application for residency and citizenship.  They're quite resentful of illegals and I can't blame them. Nobody lijkes a line-jumper.

The  present phenomenon of illegal immigration is especially damaging because it really does detract from the great  social  ecomomic and cultural contributions of Mexicans (in this case) to the southwest quadrant of the US. Life in those areas is unimaginable without that contribution but the hispanic-american flavour developed over literally centuries and was not inconsistent with eventual real assimilation.

As for the issue of a politician courting the Latino vote or any significant voting bloc for that matter; there's nothing wrong if there's a natural affinity between pol and voting bloc. There's a huge problem when courting is essentially pandering , or worse, vote-buying. And I think that's a real aggravating factor that only further exacerbates interest  group tensions. Diversity is one thing, a good one if it develops 'organcally'; the isolation and alienation fostered by political support of resistance to assimilation is quite another.

And, by the way and back to topic , the American experience of large scale immigration and  ethnic diversity pretty much precludes the development of an identifiable American soul.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 26, 2011, 10:35:39 AM
Elizabeth - Perhaps you are right and the discussion of the Russian soul does lead to the discussion of the American soul or lack of it.
As long as FA doesn't think we are going too far off topic I can't see any reason to stop the current posting trend.

I don't know Rodney at all and I have never spoken to him outside of the forum.

However, he has explained, much better that I could, what I meant by the various points I made in my post yesterday.

I am well aware of the discrimination against every new wave of immigrants who came to this country.  I am usually the one who points that out.  I believe that discrimination came from fear of the unknown and the fear of those who were already here losing what they had already worked so hard to acquire.  I also believe that the biggest fear came from the language barriers and that helpless feeling of listening to someone speak in a language not understandable to you.

No where in the past, have we given a pass to those who came here when it came to language.  I doubt that any other country in the world would accept me or you as prospective citizens and not expect us to learn the official language.  But suddenly in the US we are teaching (at taxpayer's expense) English as a second language and publishing our laws and documents and signs in Spanish to accommodate an illegal population which is breaking the law just by being here. (That is the definition of illegal - not obeying the law)

No where in the past have we published our documents or laws and even IRS documents in Finnish or German of Italian or Gaelic or any other language spoken by the "waves of immigrants".  It is no wonder that people are feeling anger.

But that is only one of the things that prevent cohesion of the American soul.  As Rodney said, no one likes line jumpers.

As I mentioned before, the melting pot tipped over a long time ago and there is now no effort made to "become" American (whatever that meant or now means).  I voted for Barack Obama, not because is is 1/2 black, but because I thought he was the best man for the job.  I am now disappointed in his presidency especially his handling of the non-wars in Africa (but that subject doesn't belong in this thread).  And as for the Tea Party, I will not vote for them as long as they continue to support or be supported by Sarah Palin.  I believe she is the wost example of bigoted America and the failure of the public school system.

I was thinking last night about the original illegal aliens the English and Spanish (and French and Portuguese) who came here because their King or Queen or Pope told them that they could and then proceeded to abuse the "Native Americans".  But since those "Native Americans' actually were Asian and crossed illegally (stay with me here - I know that this is going to be a foreign concept to most)  over the land bridge to roam the North American Continent - did they actually have the right to be here either?

Back in the present.  We are here and we have laws and those who disobey or break the laws should be punished not cosseted or given a "pass".  And those who want to live in the US and to "take advantage" of the American Dream (which is no longer a good job and a house with a white picket fence but has become the chance to sue someone big time and live off the proceeds of the settlement for the rest of one's life) then one has to "become" American.  (Yes, I am cynical.  The older I get and the more I see the more cynical I become.  I used to be a 1960's dreamer and I wonder "Where did all those flowers go?")

Then perhaps America will have that elusive but cohesive and diverse soul.

But again, Rodney put it best:

And, by the way and back to topic , the American experience of large scale immigration and  ethnic diversity pretty much precludes the development of an identifiable American soul.

And I add:  That is unless those who come here are willing to let their heritage go and "become" American.  We are probably the only country in the world where when a person is asked "What nationality are you?" we don't answer I am an American, we answer, "Oh, I am English or German or Spanish or 1/2 of this or 1/4 of that."
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on April 26, 2011, 12:00:10 PM
Quote
Only in Russia do you encounter a real, pervasive anti-American spirit


Kind of sad, more than twenty years after the end of the Cold War, some Russians still think of Americans as the Enemy.  I thought all that went away when the Berlin Wall came down.  

Are these the same people that wax nostalgic for Papa Joe Stalin, I wonder.  How anyone can miss one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th Century is beyond me.  Of course, there are people in Germany who think Hitler was a good thing too.  Go figure.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Robert_Hall on April 26, 2011, 01:06:00 PM
Quote
Only in Russia do you encounter a real, pervasive anti-American spirit

 That may be the case amongst a certain, older generation of Russians, but I personally, in my several visits to Russia have certainly never encountered anti-Amrican sentiment.  The Russians I know are welcoming, curious and kind.
 There is indeed xenophobia and racism in Russia, but it is no different than that found everywhere else, INCLUDING the USA.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on April 26, 2011, 04:36:43 PM
Sad but true, Robert.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 26, 2011, 05:02:58 PM
Elisabeth, I think your first sentence mischaracterises the present negative feeling towards those groups mentioned . And although discrimination in any form is abhorrent I don't think this is what we're dealing with here. The hostility and antagonism is overwhelmingly towards ILLEGAll  immigration which is indeed a serious problem in the US  and most especially , though not solely,  in the four border states. It's hard to deny that an an illegal immigrant's first experience with his new country , namely his very crossing of the border illegally (which of course is by definition a crime) doesn't show contempt for the destination country's laws and values.
Waving Mexican flags openly at pro -imigration raliles and otherwise flaunting your (Mexican) anti-assimilationist positition doesn't endear one to your new hosts. Nor does ditching work or cutting clases en masse to do so.

And the antagonism doesn't exist solely on the part of comfortable and complacent mainstream white America. It's felt very much  by other relatively recent legal immigrants (and not just Latino) who had to submit to a long (up to eight years in some cases) and difficult process of legal application for residency and citizenship.  They're quite resentful of illegals and I can't blame them. Nobody lijkes a line-jumper.

Look, my own spouse is thinking about applying for American citizenship after living here for more than 2 decades on a green card, and I don't see him voicing any complaints about Latino immigrants. On the contrary, he thinks, as I do, that they are extremely good for the economy and for the cultural life of this country. It's a fact that Mexican and other Latino immigrants, both legal and illegal, have revitalized, indeed brought back to life, entire towns scattered across the United States, especially in the Midwest and near West... I am not talking about those idiots who fancy themselves political leaders, the vanguard of the working class, etc., and wave Mexican flags during demonstrations -- no, I am talking about ordinary hard-working people, who whether they can get a green card or not (usually not) do all the crappy service jobs that even the poorest native-born Americans turn up their noses at. For example, all the garbage collectors in our town are Mexicans. I don't know if they are legal or illegal immigrants, but I suspect the latter. Because if you're legal, you can usually find a better job, if only slightly better, at least washing dishes in a Mexican restaurant (there are a lot of new and genuinely Mexican restaurants in our town, which is wonderful, and in complete contrast to even a mere decade ago, when there were only crappy fast-food chain restaurants for this particular national cuisine).

So you're right, I don't have much sympathy for anti-Mexican sentiment. As far as I'm concerned, as long as these people are willing to work so hard (and demonstrably, they do work extremely hard at very thankless jobs that actual native-born Americans refuse to take, because they consider such jobs "beneath" their dignity), then they have a welcome place in our economy and society.

And, by the way and back to topic , the American experience of large scale immigration and  ethnic diversity pretty much precludes the development of an identifiable American soul.

I'm not sure there's an American soul, but there are definitely American national characteristics, which foreigners at least recognize. I don't think American national characteristics as identified by Eastern Europeans can actually be differentiated all that much from the perceived national characteristics of Germans and Scandinavians... Nevertheless, there are definite differences in the way Eastern Europeans perceive Americans and Northern Europeans and the way they perceive themselves, at least, in my experience and from what I've read. Northern Europeans and Americans are generally perceived by people in the former Soviet bloc as very organized, efficient, energetic, reliable, responsible, and conscientious. They are regarded as more honest and less corruptible than Eastern European politicians and bureaucrats. Whether this is true or not (I think it is actually true, otherwise the European Union wouldn't always be arranging things so that certain Eastern European countries can't be put in charge of important things like the EU budget) is kind of beside the point. It's the perception.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on April 26, 2011, 05:09:47 PM
Robert says: There is indeed xenophobia and racism in Russia, but it is no different than that found everywhere else, INCLUDING the USA.

I beg to differ, my dear Robert. I would call Russia's war in Chechnia an actual WAR, moreover, a war which in the last decade has spread, with disastrous consequences, to other regions in the Russian Caucasus, e.g., Daghestan.

Moreover, the last year has seen terrorist bombs at Russia's main international airport, Domodedovo, and in the Moscow subway. Nowadays apparently even young Russians, not just elderly people, cross themselves before boarding underground trains in Moscow. Frankly I don't think things, ethnically speaking, look terribly brilliant for Russia right now.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Robert_Hall on April 26, 2011, 06:29:53 PM
I certainly have no problem with  the Latinos in our midst. After all, here in Ca. and the Southwest, they were here before we were. This is why just about every place is a San or Santa, La or Los.
 As for Russia, I maintain my point. The situations in the Federation are unique to Russia. Absolutely no comparison to the USA or probably anyplace else. [except,perhaps China & Tibet]
 The conflicts there are the direct result of empire building and manipulation. both Imperial and Soviet.  They involve distinct religious, ethnic and distinct nationalistic identities. And, they are not universal struggles amongst the populations,  creating more of a civil war style conflict. But still, not the same as an actual civil war, IMO.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Nathalie on April 27, 2011, 06:29:41 AM
I am not Russian, but living "in the region" so to say - though I've never met anybody who thinks of the USA as "enemy", I could say, there is a ...misunderstanding (?) amongst "us" and "them" - and I've met young Russians who feel the same.
I think it is somehow natural. We have so different historical, societal background, different way of thinking, how we see things, life, that Americans (or, sticking to the topic's spirit, "American soul") is something alien to us.

(Of course when I'm talking about "Americans" I mean from the States...I don't like to use this word, as I'm sure, a Peruvian or a Chilean is also different, though he/she is also "American":))

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 27, 2011, 10:06:42 AM
Elizabeth - I don't know why you have zeroed in on the plight of illegal Latino is the US.  My original list covered more fear of the "Muslim Community" and the things done to them than to any other group.

I have problems with anyone who is breaking the law for what ever reason.  I don't care if what their background is.  

Right now the public is concentrating is on boarder crossings and illegal workers and the boarder states are not the only place it is being debated.  There are many illegals in the eastern part of the US due to the proximity to Cuba and those who would flee the Castros.

And Robert - while it is true that the Spanish were in California before "we" were, they were part of the original illegal aliens just as the English and the French and the Portuguese and the Dutch were as their kings and queens sent out explorers.  Those old "Spanish Land Grants" mean no more than the paper that gave Lord Baltimore the area now known as Maryland and the Spanish did just as much to destroy and/or convert the Native Americans they found here as all other invading Europeans did.  In the case of Cortes - they were worse.  Conquistador means conqueror.

Elizabeth you have fallen back on that hoary old time worn cliche:

So you're right, I don't have much sympathy for anti-Mexican sentiment. As far as I'm concerned, as long as these people are willing to work so hard (and demonstrably, they do work extremely hard at very thankless jobs that actual native-born Americans refuse to take, because they consider such jobs "beneath" their dignity), then they have a welcome place in our economy and society.

I am so tired of that excuse for not obeying our country's laws.  Its OK to be illegal if you are willing to clean up after the rest of us, pick up our garbage, pick our crops and become nannies to our children.  (It sort of sounds like the anti bellum old south -  so where are the "quarters" - out behind the Taco Bell?)

And that is OK to you?


Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Robert_Hall on April 27, 2011, 10:45:20 AM
Alixz, I was referring to the Mexican population, not the Spanish colonials. They are 2 different groups.  The Spanish have not been here since the 1820s. The  "white" migrations did not occur until the Gold Rush and the Dust Bowl. And, even more so after demob  at the end of WWII.
 BTW, I do not know about other cities, but in SF, those "undesirable" jobs  in the rubbish collection business are highly sought after here. They are high paid union jobs and impossible to get into. It is a pretty much closed shop.
 And Nathalie, I can understand what you mean.  However, "Americas" refers to the continents, in that sense, Canadians are  also in America, as is Mexico, etc. "Americans" refers to citizens of the United States of America. As far as I know, that is the only country to have the word in  the official name of the entity.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Nathalie on April 28, 2011, 12:51:47 AM
Quote
However, "Americas" refers to the continents, in that sense, Canadians are  also in America, as is Mexico, etc. "Americans" refers to citizens of the United States of America. As far as I know, that is the only country to have the word in  the official name of the entity.

Oh, it's good that you wrote this, now I won't feel ashamed by using the -easier- expression, "americans":)
However I remember reading about Nelson Algren, who wrote, that when he was somewhere in South-America and was asked at the aiport of a country there, where is he from and answered he is an American, the soldier replied, well Sir, I am an American too...
:)
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 28, 2011, 09:12:09 AM
Robert - You are right about the union jobs that we call "civil servants" or Sanitary Engineers.  Here in a very small town they are paid about $20.50 and hour entry level.  That is about $41,600 a year and nothing to turn one's legal actual native born American citizen's nose up at.

It was Elizabeth who characterized the jobs as menial and unwanted by those who don't want to get their hands dirty.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on April 28, 2011, 09:21:03 AM
I have a question.  Are the Mexican's the descendants of the Aztecs and those other mezzo-American natives who were here before the Spanish decimated their population with disease and war?

Or are they the descendants of the Spanish who migrated here to take advantage of the "new world"?

Exactly who is a Mexican and where did they come from to make up the country of Mexico?

Once there were no boarders and the mezzo-American tribes travelled back and forth over the Rio Grand and mixed with the Hopi and the other Southwestern native tribes.  Are these people the ancestors of what is a true Mexican?  Or is a true Mexican only created with the intermingling of the Spanish and Cortes and the other Conquistadors?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: RichC on April 28, 2011, 01:59:32 PM
AlixZ, my partner is Mexican-American (meaning his ancestors came from Mexico but his family has been living in the U.S. for several generations).  Most Mexicans, including my partner are a mix of native American (Aztec or Maya) and European blood.  A study presented by the American Society of Human Genetics showed that Mexicans are (in general) 58% White (European), 31% Asian (Native American (e.g. Aztec, Maya, etc.)), and 10% Black (African). 

We live in Chicago, which has the second largest Mexican-American population in the United States (Los Angeles has the largest) so we are regularly exposed to many of the issues that are being discussed here.

I agree with the other statements made here, including those by Elisabeth, that the influx of immigration, including illegal immigration from Mexico has been good for the U.S. economy and has enriched our culture.  But what I worry about is the noticeable resistance to the process of assimilation that seems to have taken root in some quarters in the immigrant community.  Without proper assimilation, these immigrants will remain mired in poverty.  The celebrating and flag waving on May 5th (coming up) and other Mexican holidays we see here has a definite political dimension and it is not appreciated or accepted by the native born population (white or black). 
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Robert_Hall on April 28, 2011, 03:29:03 PM
I would agree with Rich C, except to say that the Mexicans I know tend to identify with the states they originate from, where they still have families, rather than any one tribe or ethnic background. Like almost all Americans, Mexicans  are a melting pot; that is a mixture. Personally, I think the Aztec influence in celebrations is mostly theatrical, they were colourful but not very nice people, after all.
 And, maybe just because SF is a big party town, but Cinco de Mayo and Carnaval,  attract  the whole population, not just the Latinos. Same with all the other celebrations, Gay, Irish, Chinese, etc.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Rodney_G. on April 28, 2011, 06:55:56 PM
To give the US experience with uncontrolled immigration some further perspective consider Europe today. There the problem is unassimiliting Muslim arrivals. With the host countries' smaller areas and populations compared to the US' , they  can be  adversely affected by  a far smaller absolute number of immigrants. Significantly most of the recipient countries have well-earned reputations as places of asylum and succor for the oppressed , and for tolerance : France, Holland , Sweden, Great Britain,Denmark, most notably, but all are presently starting to resist or have problems with Muslim immigration.
But it's not unreasonable for a nation, a people,  to want to retain control of its identity. Though most European countries are not as   completely racially or linguistically homogeneous  as  say Japan, or Saudi Arabia, or Botswana, they are still predominantly (Judeo-)Christian, caucasian(well duh) and with a primary national language.
When experiencing a major influx of Muslim, Arabic-speaking ,  and Middle-Eastern , or North African immigrants, destination countries  will not unnaturally perceive a  threat (though none may be intended by the immigrant) to their national identities. To be blunt: while they're all homo sapiens,  a Dane is not a Somali; a Lutheran is not a Muslim, French is not Arabic. And viice-versa. It's unfortunate that political correctness has cast these basic distinctions in moral or value-laden terms. They aren't inherently. But they  represent challenges to the respective nations ' national identity, if not soul, and it seems national identity is a powerful thing and runs more deeply than we are inclined to think.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Nathalie on April 29, 2011, 02:28:27 AM
Quote
There the problem is unassimiliting Muslim arrivals.

Definitely but then how what is the position of those, who have deep roots in their country/nation and CONVERT to Islam...?

Quote
it seems national identity is a powerful thing and runs more deeply than we are inclined to think

Or not, at least it is not the case with the above mentioned reverts/converts. They seem to drop rather quickly their identity to switch to an "arabized" one..*sigh*

(Back somehow to the topic, I met some Russian muslim converts before, I wonder how do they deal with such issues, i.e. identity, etc...Unfortunately I was too young in those days and was not interested in such issues so I did not ask...)

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on April 30, 2011, 11:52:07 AM
Since this thread has already been knocked way off topic (it was about the Russian Soul, not legal/illegal immigrants), I hope no one minds if I break in to ask if anyone has heard from Bear lately.  She has not logged in since February 25, over two months ago.  She was an active poster here and then poof!

I only ask because in one post she mentioned she was near 70 (one thing this board has done for me is debunk the popular myth that the Internet is solely a young person's domain).  I'm beginning to wonder if something has happened to her.

So, has anyone here heard from her lately?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on May 31, 2011, 05:38:33 PM
I haven't heard from Bear, but then, I normally don't. I have a soft spot for her because she was the first (really the only) established member of the AP to welcome me warmly when I started posting here. I hope she is well. It's true she has been ill in the past, however, we must keep in mind that the AP is in the doldrums, at least recently. Bear might just be bored with all the new posts and not feel like contributing.

Has anyone here read Tzvetan Todorov's column, "Letter from Paris," in the American humanities journal Salmagundi? Todorov is a well-known "public intellectual" in France, where he emigrated from Bulgaria in the early 1960s, fleeing totalitarianism. Recently he wrote about the current geopolitical situation, that is, post-communist world politics, as being divided among the countries of appetite (e.g., Japan, China, India, potentially Russia and Mexico), the countries of fear or anxiety (most obviously the United States and the European Union), the countries of resentment (much of the Middle East, parts of Latin America) and the countries of expectation (probably most of the former Soviet bloc, i.e., most of Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe). In his opinion, the biggest evil and threat to the world right now is the vicious circle of violence that is ever-present and ever-intensifying between the countries of resentment, via terrorist acts, and the countries of fear or anxiety, via violent retaliation against such acts. Todorov cautions that fear is not a good place from which to conduct a foreign policy. Moreover, he sees American foreign policy in the Middle East under the Bush administration as on a continuum with the French Revolution and even communism -- in his opinion, all preach a form of secular political messianism.

At any rate, Todorov is a really interesting writer and thinker, and I believe what I'm posting here is actually quite relevant to our discussion. But of course I could be wrong.  
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on May 31, 2011, 07:13:11 PM
Quote
I haven't heard from Bear, but then, I normally don't. I have a soft spot for her because she was the first (really the only) established member of the AP to welcome me warmly when I started posting here. I hope she is well.

Actually, she was here on May 11, so it seems she's okay.


Quote
we must keep in mind that the AP is in the doldrums, at least recently

Yeah, what happened to all the dicussion and debates that were going on in this area just a few months ago, they just seemed to fizzle out.  It's been dead in here for ages now.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Rodney_G. on June 02, 2011, 05:53:00 PM
Quote from Elisabeth : "we must keep in mind that the AP is in the doldrums, at least recently."

Aren't they south- east of the Bahamas and  way south of Ultima Thule?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on June 28, 2011, 12:35:26 PM
Yes,  I'm still around.

No,  I haven't been ill.    My husband and I had added an in-law apartment to our home, brought my parents to live with us,  so,  I could help my mother with my father, an Alzheimer victim.... Been kinda busy with a lot of other things, too.  Thanks for being concern.

Back to this subject, "The Russian Soul", which I have always found  interesting and I'm glad to see it has spark some new interest.

I have come to believe that the majority of  countries have an individual soul,  which is made up of it's >>self, inner being, life force, vital force; individuality, makeup, subconscious <<.   I view each country as a whole, which is the sum of it's parts.   Some have old souls and some have new souls.

My own personal view:  the area which we once called Russia has an old soul and many are still is clinging to this old soul in the newly named countries which no longer holds the name Russia....   The US, as it is today, is a new soul, because we (the newcommers, which started with the European impact) torn apart what was the old soul, which had been  created by the natives that stretched up and down  North America and South America.

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on June 28, 2011, 01:19:20 PM
I can see the image of an"old soul" in the European and Asian countries.  That makes sense.

There may have been an "old soul" in the Americas before the invasion of the Europeans, but they did shatter it and I don't think it has come back together in any form that we would recognize and, not yet anyway.

It seems to me that there are just too many differences in the people who live in the Americas to have any kind of joined or common soul.  Everyone is still pulling in different directions and unwilling to give up those differences.

I said before that what was once called a "melting pot" was long ago tipped over and the contents have spilled out to become the new "communities" that we hear about.  Communities who are forever looking for confirmation of their right to be different.  I think that has a detrimental effect on a common soul.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Robert_Hall on June 28, 2011, 01:34:25 PM
I asked my Russian buddy what he thought  "Russian soul" meant to him. He took a long time to think about it, but when it came to his answer, he said "guarded, a bit suspicious.  But generous and helpful  towards one's mates [he was in the military and police so I think that meant comrades in work and friendship]. I know, towards me he is very generous and helpful and I am not Russian. He is also very protective. So I take him as an example of "Russian soul".
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 04, 2011, 09:52:51 AM
I think the Russian soul, if ever in fact it existed (and that's highly debatable) is now officially dead. I've been subjected to several weeks of cheesy Russian music videos (on Russian Music Box and some other dreadful channel) and I can honestly say, I now understand completely why great Russian writers have for centuries been obsessed -- yes, obsessed, it's the only word one can use in this instance -- with the concept of "poshlust'" -- which is a difficult term to translate from Russian into English, but basically means, cheesiness, over-the-top sentimentality, bathos (as opposed to pathos), and kitsch. I mean, okay, maybe this is the "Russian soul"... Vera Brezhneva (the breakaway "talent" from the hit girls group Viagra) breathing multicultural lyrics while dancing around half-naked in Thailand or some other "developing nation" with cute little brown children. Most of the videos are far worse than this. They feature white Russian guys trying to be inner-city African American guys, rapping away in Russian even as they sit around the table and drink tea out of glasses... pathetic.

One of the basic problems with Russian rap "artistes" is that the Russian language is simply not suited to rap. It's too soft and musical a language, arguably too feminine, and when used as rap it's completely laughable. Languages like English and German, which are harsher-sounding, more guttural, are infinitely better in this context.

Although that's the other fave of these awful Russian pop "artistes," the artful ballad. With violins and aching chords and sappy sentimental lyrics (unfortunately, ideally suited to the Russian language). One song is indistinguishable from the other, except for the women's breasts and other consumer goods on display.

At any rate, judging from these videos, the "Russian soul" is currently addicted, to an even far greater degree than the average American consumer (and that's saying a lot) to material goods -- cars, real estate, bling -- and of course the inevitable scantily clad, writhing "chiksy" (chicks).
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 07, 2011, 05:23:54 AM
This is a link to a music video by Russia's most famous rapper, Timati (Timothy in English). I think it's a very catchy tune and also quite funny for three reasons: 1) it shows how desperately little white Russian guys want to be big African American rappers; 2) the sexual component is actually pretty innocent here, in that most sexual energies seem to be directed at the boats and cars, which consequently are far more important than the "chiksy" and 3) Timati is in fact the son of a Russian millionaire and there's no question but that his father hired all the boats and cars for this video, so much for making one's own mark on the world. For that matter, so much for buying one's own bling!

Here's the link on You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhC6g_KVfG0
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Rodney_G. on August 08, 2011, 01:20:41 PM
Elisabeth, it's scary how well you've nailed this aspect of Russian popular culture (and more), with its implicit lack of a distinct Russian soul. (soullessness?). I think Russia indeed had a soul pre-Revolution consisting of, among other things, sentimentality, stoicism, insecurity, etc. But at the risk of making 'the big statement', I think that soul was lost over seventy years of, well, soul-deadening communism. This is not easy to do, since this,'soul', however characterised, would have been formed by a huge population over a period of a millenium. Still, just as an individual may be said to have lost his soul, I think Russia did.

 But your observations wonderfully confirmed what I have been thinking for years about Russia , not only in terms of culture, but in many other spheres of life as well, namely that Russia doesn't import well. The attempt at importing the French/European Enlightenment was a failure. Likewise , and disastrously, with German Marxism. Likewise now with Western capitalism. And for a long time now I have been cringing at Russian efforts to capture popular American culture. From early 20th century American jazz, Argentinian tango, original American 50's rock and roll (with Elvis wannabes that made you want to laugh and cry at the same time), through Madonna and Lady Gaga wannabes to present day black rappers. Even allowing for the considerable difficulty of effectively capturing the spirit of an original artist (let alone a foreign one), Russians somehow always seem to latch on to the superficial features of a foreign culture and the result is inevitably cringeworthy.


I think the prevalence of "poshlust", (though cheesiness, kitsch, and bathos are pretty accurate, too) represents a desperate attempt to fill at least a part of the void left, not only most recently by the fall of communism, but even more so,  by the loss of much of the preexisting  Russian 'soul', i.e. predating communism. Could we say now that blingy and 'chiksy'-filled tv and videos are the opiate of the masses?(even of some of the American masses?)
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Petr on August 08, 2011, 02:46:53 PM
I think people are overlooking the resurgence of the Orthodox Church.  What in Soviet times was the province of little old ladies ("Babushky") is now increasingly becoming a part of the lives of individuals seeking a spiritual meaning in their lives and young families who want to rear children in the faith. The Church has been ingrained in the Russian soul for over a thousand years and despite all teh efforts of the communists to extirpate it it has survived. I have been impressed with the number of churches that have been or are in the process of being restored after years of neglect or worse (and I'm not only talking about the major churches such as, recently, the Monastery of New Jerusalem, but also small village churches). Further, there has also been a resurgence in the Monastic movement which has always been an integral part of Russian life and culture. What was originally a politcal decision on the government's  part (i.e., seeking the Church's support) has now been surpassed by what appears to be a self-sustaining movement with popular support "back to the future".  In this develoment, hopefully, the Russian people will truly recapture their "soul".

There is an interesting congruity to note here between the efforts of Pope Benedict to combat the materialistic and secular culture of Western Europe and the Orthodox Church's unwaivering adherence to traditional Nicean principles. This has accounted for encouraging efforts by the Pope (following the efforts of his predecessor John Paul II) to open a dialogue with the Orthodox Church in which lately Metropolitain Hilarion (the Russian Church's head of its external affairs department) has participated with Patriarch Kyrill's blessing and such things as the prior good faith gesture of returning an original  copy of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan (Казанская Богоматерь) to Russia in 2004. Perhaps we will finally see in our lifetimes  "the union of all in one holy apostolic church" and a reversal of the Great Schism of 1054.

Petr                       
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 12, 2011, 01:12:35 AM
Elisabeth, it's scary how well you've nailed this aspect of Russian popular culture (and more), with its implicit lack of a distinct Russian soul. (soullessness?). I think Russia indeed had a soul pre-Revolution consisting of, among other things, sentimentality, stoicism, insecurity, etc. But at the risk of making 'the big statement', I think that soul was lost over seventy years of, well, soul-deadening communism. This is not easy to do, since this,'soul', however characterised, would have been formed by a huge population over a period of a millenium. Still, just as an individual may be said to have lost his soul, I think Russia did.

 But your observations wonderfully confirmed what I have been thinking for years about Russia , not only in terms of culture, but in many other spheres of life as well, namely that Russia doesn't import well. The attempt at importing the French/European Enlightenment was a failure. Likewise , and disastrously, with German Marxism. Likewise now with Western capitalism. And for a long time now I have been cringing at Russian efforts to capture popular American culture. From early 20th century American jazz, Argentinian tango, original American 50's rock and roll (with Elvis wannabes that made you want to laugh and cry at the same time), through Madonna and Lady Gaga wannabes to present day black rappers. Even allowing for the considerable difficulty of effectively capturing the spirit of an original artist (let alone a foreign one), Russians somehow always seem to latch on to the superficial features of a foreign culture and the result is inevitably cringeworthy.


I think the prevalence of "poshlust", (though cheesiness, kitsch, and bathos are pretty accurate, too) represents a desperate attempt to fill at least a part of the void left, not only most recently by the fall of communism, but even more so,  by the loss of much of the preexisting  Russian 'soul', i.e. predating communism. Could we say now that blingy and 'chiksy'-filled tv and videos are the opiate of the masses?(even of some of the American masses?)

Dear Rodney, you took the words right out of my mouth I guess. I did sense a complete moral degradation in Russia when I visited Moscow and St. Petersburg twenty years ago, in the summer of 1991. The overwhelming sensation was one of complete disarray, not only economically speaking but also spiritually, as if 70 odd years of communism had left the country with nothing much in the way of a moral compass. As if in fact it had destroyed that great nation's moral compass entirely.

Many people who come back from Russia now, 2 decades later, in 2011, say the same thing, that it is a nation given over entirely to hedonism and conspicuous consumption on the part of its wealthier denizens. However, I don't want to give the impression that I am completely negative about Russia or its future. My own feeling is, that this people -- the Russians -- are a very talented and endlessly resourceful people. They survived the twentieth century, for God's sake, and came up fighting for air and freedom. My guess is that they will emerge from the 21st century stronger than ever, and despite all the obstacles that their government (as usual) puts in their way.

Lolita Miliavskaia is a nice exception to the current reign of "poshlust'" (the actual proper transliteration of this word is "poshlost'", but Nabokov transliterated it as "poshlust'" to emphasize its sordidness) in Russian popular culture. See her latest summer 2011 video, deliberately filmed very much in the style of the 1920s. The song is entitled "Otvali" ("Get Lost"). Here's the link on You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIqgk-TEAF8&feature=topics

Unfortunately the You Tube version is not the official version that I saw in Eastern Europe this summer, the lips don't match the lyrics. Nevertheless, I think it remains a wonderful video as well as a wonderful song. It's completely modern and completely Russian at the same time. Decadent, maybe, but not wallowing in it, in fact taking it all with a sense of humor (yes, that's Lolita in drag). And it owes next to nothing to Western influences, except to the extent that we're all influenced by each other, all the time, in popular culture.

Okay, yes, maybe it's decadent, but it's heartfelt and real at the same time. Also aesthetically pleasing to hear and look at.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 12, 2011, 01:40:40 AM
I think people are overlooking the resurgence of the Orthodox Church.  What in Soviet times was the province of little old ladies ("Babushky") is now increasingly becoming a part of the lives of individuals seeking a spiritual meaning in their lives and young families who want to rear children in the faith. The Church has been ingrained in the Russian soul for over a thousand years and despite all teh efforts of the communists to extirpate it it has survived. I have been impressed with the number of churches that have been or are in the process of being restored after years of neglect or worse (and I'm not only talking about the major churches such as, recently, the Monastery of New Jerusalem, but also small village churches). Further, there has also been a resurgence in the Monastic movement which has always been an integral part of Russian life and culture. What was originally a politcal decision on the government's  part (i.e., seeking the Church's support) has now been surpassed by what appears to be a self-sustaining movement with popular support "back to the future".  In this develoment, hopefully, the Russian people will truly recapture their "soul".

There is an interesting congruity to note here between the efforts of Pope Benedict to combat the materialistic and secular culture of Western Europe and the Orthodox Church's unwaivering adherence to traditional Nicean principles. This has accounted for encouraging efforts by the Pope (following the efforts of his predecessor John Paul II) to open a dialogue with the Orthodox Church in which lately Metropolitain Hilarion (the Russian Church's head of its external affairs department) has participated with Patriarch Kyrill's blessing and such things as the prior good faith gesture of returning an original  copy of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan (Казанская Богоматерь) to Russia in 2004. Perhaps we will finally see in our lifetimes  "the union of all in one holy apostolic church" and a reversal of the Great Schism of 1054.

Petr

Petr, I hate to disagree with you, because like Rodney's your posts are always so interesting, but in this instance I truly must. If communism is dead in Russia, then the Orthodox Church is in a coma. It has virtually no influence whatsoever, except to the extent that it props up the weak state's governing ideology of a great, Orthodox Russia. In this sense it is ever the lackey, just as it was in Soviet times and pretty much in tsarist times, too. More to the point (and this is the real source of the rot), the 21st-century Russian Orthodox Church is incorrigibly and relentlessly corrupt. See this article from East-West Church & Ministry Report back in 2001:

http://www.eastwestreport.org/articles/ew09407.html

You might dismiss this as merely the propaganda of a Protestant evangelical ministry, and yet EWCMR has received a lot of praise from the mainstream press for its objective reporting on religious issues in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Moreover, the corruption in the ROC has only gotten worse in the last decade or so. Now Church hierarchs are building private roads and cordoning off public beaches for the summer villas they've had constructed for themselves in the Crimea. I will get back to you on this subject; I have to review my sources. But let me assure you, these sources are pretty damning. The ROC has numerous monopolies on various products like alcohol; its bishops sport Rolex watches and tell parishioners they should be grateful to support such a lifestyle for the Church hierarchy; in fact, you name it, it seems the ROC has committed the sin already.

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Petr on August 12, 2011, 10:33:41 AM
Dear Elizabeth:

I don't dispute your criticism of the Orthodox Church's hierarchy and it is one which has characterized major organized Religions since the time of Christ and before (remember the Pharisees and various venal Popes, for example), but in this as in prior cases one must make a distinction between a Religion and its hierarchy on the one hand and its members on the other hand. Any organized Religion is a human effort to reflect and institutionalize the divine and, accordingly, has to be imperfect because humankind is imperfect. But this should not discredit the effort. It merely means that we must constantly strive to improve the results. 

When I mentioned the place of Orthodoxy in the Russian "soul" I was referring to its place in the hearts of the people and not to the heirarchy, most of the older ones who were appointed and promoted by and some of whom were members of the security services (viz., recently Patriarch Alexei II).  Even there, living in an avowedly atheistic state, the Church was forced to make compromises to survive. Sometimes it takes a fox to know how to protect the hen house.

The Church in Russia was always subject to criticism, even in pre-revolutionary times, and periodically underwent reforms (some prompted by internal hierarchical efforts, some prompted by the State and some even as a result of pressure from members). However, you cannot dispute the fact that it is ingrained in Russian literature, music and culture. Thus a return to the Church is in part a return to traditional Russian culture (which, unfortunately, the current regime is exploiting).  To Americans, who are accustomed to the separation of Church and State, the traditional closeness between the Orthodox Church and the government appears as a weakness or even something to criticize. However, without agreeing or disagreeing with this view (although my personal preference would be to keep the relationship at arms length) I should point out that this type of relationship is not unique to Russia.  Remember that the Queen of England is still the titular head of the Anglican Church and the "defender of the faith" and the Lutheran Church was the established State supported Church in Sweden until quite recently. There are other examples of a close relationship between the State and a single "established" Religion that I'm sure you can name, even in "liberal" modern countries (the Catholic Church in Spain and Italy and Shintoism in Japan).  The Russian Church was independent until Peter the Great abolished the Patriarchy as part of his Western inspired "reforms" (possibly taking England as his model).  At times, one could argue that historically the Church had a tempering effect on the Tsar by reminding him of his responsibilities and his accountability to a higher power.  None of this affects, however, the natural human desire for meaning in life and in the absence of the secular, souless religion which the communists tried to promote, the Russian people are increasingly turning to the Church with various degrees of conviction. This is what I tried to convey. By the way, when you say the Church has no influence are you referring to political influence or its influence on people's lives. All I can say is that Church attendance  is up and the demographics are encouraging. I've seen YouTube clips of mass pilgrimages (one recently held to commemorate the murder of the IF that Paul Gilbert showed on his blog) and public celebrations of various "feast days".  Hopefully, as attendance continues to grow and the old guard dies out the beneficial influence of the Church will manifest itself.   Finally, what do you expect after 80 years of aggressive state sponsored atheism. Frankly, I'm surprised at how quickly the Church has rebounded (in my view another example of its place in the Russian "soul").

Petr                                           
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on August 12, 2011, 07:33:57 PM
Quote
They survived the twentieth century, for God's sake, and came up fighting for air and freedom.

I agree with that, Elisabeth.  The 20th Century was the worst thing that ever happend to Russia.  Even Ivan The Terrible comes across like a playground bully compared to Stalin.

Twenty years later after the USSR was thrown into the gutter of history (where it rightfully belongs), Russia is still struggling to emerge from the long dark night that Lenin and his thugs cast it into.  I hope the 21st Century will be better for that poor country than it's predecessor was.

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on August 13, 2011, 02:23:46 PM
I view the Russian soul as a "spirit" which enveloped the early humans  long before a church was built in this vast area of land which became known as Russia.... 

Their  old ballads are melodious which causes  deep emotional moods that rises from a distant history and  cries out to the present. 

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 17, 2011, 04:50:12 AM
Recently Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church criticized the West for its materialistic frenzy whilst sporting a Breguet watch (worth 30,000 euros). See this link, it's both morally outrageous and hilarious at the same time (in fact, this is what must be meant by the expression laughter through tears, so often used in connection with the "Russian soul"):

http://zik.ua/en/news/2009/07/30/190593

If you want close-ups of the ROC patriarch's splendid watch, which probably was purchased from the proceeds of alcohol and tobacco sales (the Russian Orthodox Church has numerous monopolies), see this link:

http://www.unian.net/eng/news/news-329063.html

Petr, I understand that you are optimistic about the Orthodox faith among the Russian people, but I am not. Most educated, very successful ("new rich") Russians I have met are completely unreligious, although they usually for form and tradition's sake get married in the church and have their babies baptized there (much like middle and upper class Anglicans in Great Britain, where otherwise church attendance is virtually nil). Whereas ordinary as opposed to elite Russians tend to be extremely superstitious rather than religious, much like the average American with his faith in pyramids and magic crystals. I think the average Russian in the street spits in the corner three times to ward off the devil with as much -- actually more! -- assiduousness as s/he says her prayers, whether s/he goes to church regularly, occasionally, or not at all. As far as I can see the Soviet regime gutted the Russian Orthodox Church of any scant integrity it ever had, and left in its place nothing but a mutilated, hemorrhaging carcass.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 17, 2011, 05:29:00 AM
Dear Elizabeth:
By the way, when you say the Church has no influence are you referring to political influence or its influence on people's lives. All I can say is that Church attendance  is up and the demographics are encouraging. I've seen YouTube clips of mass pilgrimages (one recently held to commemorate the murder of the IF that Paul Gilbert showed on his blog) and public celebrations of various "feast days".  Hopefully, as attendance continues to grow and the old guard dies out the beneficial influence of the Church will manifest itself.   Finally, what do you expect after 80 years of aggressive state sponsored atheism. Frankly, I'm surprised at how quickly the Church has rebounded (in my view another example of its place in the Russian "soul").
Petr

Evangelical conversions have also been up in Russia, at least until recently. That's the thing, you know, it's not only Russian Orthodoxy that's benefiting from the Russian people's search for a new ideology to replace communism, it's also a lot of Western Protestant churches, including some pretty bizarre sects. But maybe Russians have found their new over-arching ideology, in the consumer/consumption "frenzy" that Patriarch Kirill was complaining about even as he fell prey to it himself.

I don't take name day festivities as any great sign of religious enthusiasm, either, because for example in Bulgaria there are numerous saints' days, which everybody is more than happy to take off from work, even though almost nobody, I mean nobody, goes to church... In fact I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that Bulgaria had more religious holidays listed as public holidays than any other country in the European Union, only, Bulgaria is probably every bit as non-religious as all the other countries, maybe even more so... Example: one of the students at my local university, a Mormon on a mission, came back from Bulgaria after two years (by which time he spoke excellent Bulgarian) and was asked how many of the natives he had converted to his faith. Not a single one, as it happens. In Bulgaria they even have trouble staffing the beautiful ancient monasteries, the people are so irreligious.

Okay, so I think you might be right, Russians are more religious or spiritual or superstitious than, say, Bulgarians, but then again, maybe that's the gist of the problem with Russia. In other words, maybe that's what we're indicating when we say "the Russian soul." Maybe "the Russian soul" is a national characteristic that in fact points up an especial susceptibility to ideologies of all kinds. To put it bluntly, maybe Russians always need something to worship, whether it's the great Christian God or tsarism or Marxism-Leninism or capitalism in the guise of "frenzied" consumer consumption. Frankly I think what I'm suggesting might be utter crap but it's an idea at least, and perhaps one worthy of further discussion.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Petr on August 17, 2011, 06:45:05 AM
Whereas ordinary as opposed to elite Russians tend to be extremely superstitious rather than religious, much like the average American with his faith in pyramids and magic crystals. I think the average Russian in the street spits in the corner three times to ward off the devil with as much -- actually more! -- assiduousness as s/he says her prayers, whether s/he goes to church regularly, occasionally, or not at all. As far as I can see the Soviet regime gutted the Russian Orthodox Church of any scant integrity it ever had, and left in its place nothing but a mutilated, hemorrhaging carcass.
Elizabeth, I'm not especially optimistic as much as hopeful. But faced with the alternatives Orthodoxy (or any Religion for that matter) is still better than nothing and your characterization of the Church as a "mutilated, hemorrhaging carcass" is a bit harsh. BTW, Russians are notoriously superstitious and the Orthodox Church has battled this since the beginning (I must confess I still throw salt over my shoulder if I spill any at the table). It's interesting to note that in the Baptismal liturgy (which hasn't really changed in a thousand years) at one point the God Parents (in their roles as proxies) in response to the question of whether the child renounces the devil and his works turn their backs to the Altar and spit on the ground.  In Orthodoxy the devil is considered a real tangible presence who must be combatted and this too is part of the Russian soul. Russia never really went through the Protestant reformation so the Church and Orthodoxy still retains a strong element of mysticism which characterized the early Church. The architecture of a Church with its iconstasis separating the people from the Altar and the Holy of Holies, the gold vestments, the heavy use of incense as well as the whole liturgy itself and the importance of the Eucharistic service underscores the central fact that the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is a mystery. For us Orthodox this simply becomes an article of faith something the Western Churches with their emphasis on rationality have always had difficulty reconciling. Finally, as I have previously indicated the Catholic Church is also highlighting (viz., lately Pope Benedict) that wrist watches aside the modern world's emphasis on the materialistic versus the spiritual is a moral dead end and nothing illustrates this better than communism.

Petr           
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on August 17, 2011, 11:00:11 AM
It seems what's happening in Russia is the same as what is happening in the West.  The appearance of pagan religions such as Wicca have drawn younger people away. 

Mind you, these religions have been around in one way or another for thousands of years, but were suppressed by the "mainstream" religions, who didn't want to lose their power (Salem Witch Trials, folks).  Now that these pagan faiths are no longer under attack, they seem to have been embraced by many young people.  And if Russia is following this trend, more power to them.  I've studied some of these faiths myself, and most of them are very tolerant.  Namely, they don't advocate killing those that don't agree with you, unlike some mainstream religions I could name.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Paul on August 17, 2011, 11:25:37 AM
Pagan revival in Russia? How encouraging! Please: where could we read more about this?
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 17, 2011, 11:42:02 AM
Whereas ordinary as opposed to elite Russians tend to be extremely superstitious rather than religious, much like the average American with his faith in pyramids and magic crystals. I think the average Russian in the street spits in the corner three times to ward off the devil with as much -- actually more! -- assiduousness as s/he says her prayers, whether s/he goes to church regularly, occasionally, or not at all. As far as I can see the Soviet regime gutted the Russian Orthodox Church of any scant integrity it ever had, and left in its place nothing but a mutilated, hemorrhaging carcass.
Elizabeth, I'm not especially optimistic as much as hopeful. But faced with the alternatives Orthodoxy (or any Religion for that matter) is still better than nothing and your characterization of the Church as a "mutilated, hemorrhaging carcass" is a bit harsh. BTW, Russians are notoriously superstitious and the Orthodox Church has battled this since the beginning (I must confess I still throw salt over my shoulder if I spill any at the table). It's interesting to note that in the Baptismal liturgy (which hasn't really changed in a thousand years) at one point the God Parents (in their roles as proxies) in response to the question of whether the child renounces the devil and his works turn their backs to the Altar and spit on the ground.  In Orthodoxy the devil is considered a real tangible presence who must be combatted and this too is part of the Russian soul. Russia never really went through the Protestant reformation so the Church and Orthodoxy still retains a strong element of mysticism which characterized the early Church. The architecture of a Church with its iconstasis separating the people from the Altar and the Holy of Holies, the gold vestments, the heavy use of incense as well as the whole liturgy itself and the importance of the Eucharistic service underscores the central fact that the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is a mystery. For us Orthodox this simply becomes an article of faith something the Western Churches with their emphasis on rationality have always had difficulty reconciling. Finally, as I have previously indicated the Catholic Church is also highlighting (viz., lately Pope Benedict) that wrist watches aside the modern world's emphasis on the materialistic versus the spiritual is a moral dead end and nothing illustrates this better than communism.

Petr

Actually, you're wrong about my characterization of the ROC as "a bit harsh," it was in fact unduly harsh. I take back my words. My only excuse is that I'm incredibly jet-lagged at the moment, and given to spouting off at 3 o'clock in the morning out of sheer irritation at not being able to sleep!

For that matter, I don't think the Catholic Church, at the present time, is any more credible than the Russian Orthodox Church. The recent scandals in the Catholic Church, and the way they've been handled by the current pope, are more than appalling. After its great apex of influence under John Paul II, and its role under his leadership in the downfall of communism, it seems that the Catholic Church is definitely faltering, if not already in some kind of death spiral... But in my opinion, overall, historically speaking, the Catholic Church has been a much better good for Western European societies and Western civilization in general than the ROC has been for Russia. The West had a great advantage over Russia during its formative centuries, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, because in the West the Catholic Church, very powerful in its own right, acted as a counterweight to the secular power of kings. And as we all learned in college, this separation of powers eventually led to the separation of church and state, as ironic as that might seem when this very same Catholic Church gave birth to the Inquisition and other such horrors.

By contrast the Russian Orthodox Church has always, as you say, traditionally been allied to the state, in the Byzantine manner, with the usual Byzantine-like results. A strong state and a weak church, in the ROC's case especially weak not only since Peter the Great but even much earlier, I would argue, since the time of Ivan the Terrible (there was one great hierarch who stood up to Ivan and was brutally murdered for his courage, does anybody know if he has been made a saint by the ROC? why do I somehow doubt it?).

I also don't like the materialism in modern popular, mass culture (of course, I have been unduly influenced by great Russian writers like Gogol and Solzhenitzysn), but hey, my only point is that this materialism is a worldwide phenomenon, and certainly not confined to the masses -- it's as much at home in the papal curia in Rome as it is in the patriarch's offices in the so-called Third Rome, Moscow.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on August 17, 2011, 11:49:21 AM
It seems what's happening in Russia is the same as what is happening in the West.  The appearance of pagan religions such as Wicca have drawn younger people away.  

Mind you, these religions have been around in one way or another for thousands of years, but were suppressed by the "mainstream" religions, who didn't want to lose their power (Salem Witch Trials, folks).  Now that these pagan faiths are no longer under attack, they seem to have been embraced by many young people.  And if Russia is following this trend, more power to them.  I've studied some of these faiths myself, and most of them are very tolerant.  Namely, they don't advocate killing those that don't agree with you, unlike some mainstream religions I could name.

Tim, don't get excited about a pagan revival in Russia. Most converts to new religions in that country are, as far as I know, converts to various Protestant churches and sects, like the Pentecostalists and the Baptists. As far as I know Wicca missionaries, if they even exist (and wouldn't that be a contradiction in terms?), have made no inroads whatsoever in the great Russian motherland.

Russian superstitions are only different in form from Western European superstitions. I mean, as late as the 17th or 18th century Scottish farmers were still pouring wine or milk (I can't remember which, but I'm pretty sure milk) into their fields in order to pacify the spirits before the plowing began. The whole idea of "dvoeverie" (simultaneous faith in both Christianity and paganism) which was supposedly characteristic of the Russian people up until the Revolution and even perhaps beyond, and was a staple of Russian history classes when I was in college 20 years ago, has been pretty much dismissed by scholars who have studied the religious life and literature of early modern Russia.

In other words, just because you're superstitious and perform certain rituals, doesn't mean you're a pagan or a wicca. For example, I sit down with my family and cross myself before setting out on a journey (lots of Russian relatives have worked their influence, okay?). But I'm not a believer in the ancient Slavic god Perun, heck, I'm not even a baptized Christian. I've just always been so superstitious my husband says I "should be a Russian girl."

Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on August 17, 2011, 04:00:10 PM
Quote
Tim, don't get excited about a pagan revival in Russia

I'm not, I was just pointing out an alternative, since the "mainstream" religions no longer have total monopoly.

Basically, what Russia needs to do is rediscover it's true self, the Russia that Lenin and the thugs that followed him tried to murder. Hopefully, it can be done. 

As for the Soviet Union, it belongs on the trash heap of history, alongside Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy.  May it stay there forever.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: AGRBear on October 02, 2011, 01:58:57 PM
I wish I could remember the title of the article and the author but I can't.  Anyway,   about a year or so ago, scientists told us that some humans have a "faith gene".  And to add to the complexity, some humans have a stronger need for some kind of faith while others do not.  It makes me wonder when this gene surfaced in humans.  Was it the fear of the unknown?  Or was  it the way humans explained about unexplainable things which happen to us and around us and having this need to find answers to everything  (the old knowledge and apple in the garden of Eden story jumps up into my thoughts) we've invented things such as good luck charms and gods.... The reason I've pondered over this is because I'm old enough to have lived on the border of when most of the older generations strongly believed in supersitions such as if you spilled the salt you take a pinch and through it over your right shoulder because if you didn't bad luck was waiting for you around the corner or if a knife was dropped,  a man was going to visit,  and let me not forget the tales of ghosts.....  Well,  I'm still unsure about ghosts due to a personal experience....  I've talked to my grandkids and they cannot help but laugh at such things.  Why?  Because a great deal of the unknown,  such as an  apparently healthy person can drop over dead,  and,   not a single witch is blamed, but the doctors can explain the person had a bad heart and no one knew it until after the death.  And, yes,  there were dragons taller than our modern trees which did roam the earth.   I remember when Star Wars became so popular with my sons because God was not mentioned,  but the credit to all things was given to "THE FORCE".

If it's true that there is a "faith gene" then,  I think,  it's not going away soon, therefore,  people, who have it,  will continue to reinvent their  religion to suit the group to which it belongs.

I think the "Russian soul" might return, be it in one form or another.

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on October 02, 2011, 06:02:27 PM
AGRBear, I think you are absolutely right that some human beings are genetically hardwired to be religious. No doubt it's even adaptive to be religious in evolutionary terms, because it frees you from so many terrible doubts about the point of existence.

And while I have little patience with organized religion myself, I can certainly understand why some people join churches or mosques or whatever. Members of Homo sapiens are, as far as I know, the only living creatures currently on the planet that realize they are going to die. Most people can't remember when they first learned this sad, indeed tragic fact of human existence -- but I think for most people, nonetheless, it was a traumatic childhood experience. Hence, in my opinion, the recurring popularity of vampires, as evidenced most recently in the slew of teen novels and movies on the subject. Nobody wants to die. In the absence of religion, and its assurances that we will all have an afterlife of some kind, the supernatural steps in.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on October 03, 2011, 09:05:26 AM
I jut wish that the current slew of teen vampire novels weren't presenting "cuddly vampires".  They are like the old "hooker with a heart of gold" theme except these are blood thirsty killers with the need not to kill because they also have a heart of gold.

Vampires with a conscience.

And I believe you are right about finding out about death at an early age.  A child often learns of death from the loss of a loved pet or the death of an aged grandparent (which isn't as traumatic sometimes because old age has no meaning for the young).

In my freshman year of college, a student from my high school class died in a drowning accident.  That was the first time that I realized that even the young may die.  Before that it was the province of the old and the infirm - whom I was told, were expected to died and so it was not as traumatic.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on October 03, 2011, 11:25:06 AM
I jut wish that the current slew of teen vampire novels weren't presenting "cuddly vampires".  They are like the old "hooker with a heart of gold" theme except these are blood thirsty killers with the need not to kill because they also have a heart of gold.

Vampires with a conscience.

Oh, I so agree. For this precise reason I find Anne Rice's vampires disgusting. Admittedly, Interview with the Vampire was clever and even great, for that genre of popular horror novels, but her subsequent stuff just shows how sick her basic premise is and has always been (vampires feed off human beings and in doing so kill them -- but feel guilty about it afterwards, like feeling guilty about sex, get it? but such a premise is really too disgusting for words). In my opinion this is kind of a Catholic thing, too, this obsession with death. It's even very medieval, like 14th and 15th century European art after the Black Death had killed off a third of the population.

And I believe you are right about finding out about death at an early age.  A child often learns of death from the loss of a loved pet or the death of an aged grandparent (which isn't as traumatic sometimes because old age has no meaning for the young).

In my freshman year of college, a student from my high school class died in a drowning accident.  That was the first time that I realized that even the young may die.  Before that it was the province of the old and the infirm - whom I was told, were expected to died and so it was not as traumatic.

It's hard for us to imagine, but only a century ago people still had to deal regularly with the deaths of very young people in their lives. Because even in 1918 there was no penicillin and no antibiotics. And by way of contrast, let us remember, there was no major epidemic after World War II, despite the horrendous population dislocations and depredations, unlike after every other continental war before it, precisely because of the invention of these life-saving drugs.

I guess my point is that being long-lived is a relatively recent phenomenon, a product of the late 20th century. Before World War II it was not rare, but not common either, now it is only too common, completely widespread in the developed world.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on October 03, 2011, 11:26:46 AM
Mind you, reports of ghosts as such predate most of the major religions (in fact, it's possible said religions incorporated those reports into their doctrine as time went on).

And ghosts are still being reported today.  Are the shadowy figures that were reported at Alexander Palace over the years just that, shadows.  Or, as some believed, was it NAOTMAA, returning to the place they called home (maybe being Canonized as Saints released them to move on, who can say).  Clearly we humans still don't know everything that goes on out there.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on October 03, 2011, 05:31:52 PM
The books I worry about are the current Twilight books and the TV shows that they have inspired.

I am so glad that I don't have any teen-aged girls to bring up in this current air of cuddly vampires.

I read Interview With A Vampire many years ago and accepted it for what it was.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: TimM on October 04, 2011, 12:05:48 PM
I'm sure this Vampire craze will die down soon.  This is not the first time this has happened, I remember the last one, in the late 1990's, when Buffy and Angel came along.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Alixz on October 04, 2011, 01:11:08 PM
I had forgotten Buffy and Angel and we used to watch it with our son.  Again not that often as girls are more apt to like things like that than boys, but there was the character of Xander the nerd and that is what our son has always been.  The class computer nerd.

Now his is the one fixing every one's computers and they are glad that he is there.
Title: Re: The Russian Soul
Post by: Elisabeth on October 05, 2011, 05:47:54 PM
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a completely great series, long may it live in reruns -- actually that's how I first saw it, long after the show had been cancelled. Buffy and Willow were (are) great role models for high school girls, and the dialogue was so witty and the characters in general so engaging and interestingly developed that you could overlook the occasional lameness of the plots (not to mention the frequent lameness of the cheap 90s TV special effects). I love it in the first season, maybe it's even in the first ever episode of the series, when Willow (typical nerd) shows up to school in a nondescript, dumpy jumper and the class mean girl Cordelia looks her up and down in that sneering way that only mean girls in high school have and says, "Oh, Willow, I see you've discovered the softer side of Sears."

Classic!

I also don't mind the Twilight movies (the books they're based on are another matter -- I tried to read the first book and failed, it was so badly, sadly written). I find these films have a weird but at the same time enchanting 1950s innocence to them, largely because the vampire hero and mortal heroine can't have sex for fear that he'll literally devour her, blood and gore and veins in his teeth and all. This creates a level of sexual tension between Boy and Girl that is almost unknown in our modern-day popular culture with it's upfront, full-frontal nudity and overall shameless display of what is usually (let's be honest) pretty crass and as a result very unsexy sexuality. If you compare the Twilight movies to the American Pie ones, you'll see immediately what I mean.

Also, I can't find anything really harmful in imaginary, fictional vampires who refuse to prey on humans even though it costs them terrible pangs of hunger, and instead prey entirely on wildlife. I mean seriously, are 21st-century vampires supposed to be Vegans or something?