10 masterful quotes about the Russian soul that you need to know

Tretyakov Gallery
Is the secret of the Russian soul in its purpose, or its breadth and openness? Or maybe it can be found in the strength of the Russian will, with a fine dose of madness? Let's try to solve this riddle by recounting 10 insightful and brilliant thoughts by famous Russian writers.

1. What Russian does not love to drive fast?

“What Russian does not love to drive fast? Which of us does not at times yearn to give his horses their head, and to let them go, and to cry, “To the devil with the world!”?

- Nikolai Gogol

2. Humor is the merit of our nation

"Humor is the merit of our nation. Caustic and bitter, simple-hearted and intricate, Russian humor has lived through the most ferocious, most desperate years. And I wish to believe, as long as we are able to joke, that we remain a great nation!”

- Sergei Dovlatov

3. Left to grow wild, like nettles by the fence

“We Russians have no system of social upbringing. We are not mustered or drilled to become champions of "social principles" or other principles, but simply left to grow wild, like nettles by the fence. That is why there are few hypocrites among us, but many liars, empty-headed bigots, and babblers. We have no need of playing the hypocrite for the sake of social principles, for we know of no such thing as social principles. We exist in perfect liberty, that is, we vegetate, lie, chatter quite naturally, without regard for principle.”

- Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin

4. It’s frightening how free a Russian man’s spirit is

“It’s frightening how free a Russian man’s spirit is, how strong is his will! No one has ever been so much torn away from his native soil, as he sometimes had to be; nobody ever took a turn so sharp, as he, following his own belief!”

- Fyodor Dostoevsky

5. Spend the last of his savings on trinkets

“A Russian man is remarkable for his inclination to spend the last of his savings on different kinds of trinkets, even when his most urgent needs are not satisfied.”

- Anton Chekhov

6. Unconquerable strength and the unalterable stamp of Fate

“It is sad, yet joyful, on a silent summer’s night, in a voiceless wood, to hear a Russian song. Here we find unlimited sadness without hope. Here, also is unconquerable strength and the unalterable stamp of Fate; here, also is iron predestination, one of the primitive foundations of the Russian national identity, through which much can be explained which seemed inexplicable in Russian life.”

- Alexei K. Tolstoy

7. The landscape of the Russian soul corresponds with the landscape of Russia

“A difficult problem presents itself ceaselessly to the Russian - the problem of organizing his vast territory. The immensity of Russia, the absence of boundaries, was expressed in the structure of the Russian soul. The landscape of the Russian soul corresponds with the landscape of Russia, the same boundlessness, formlessness, reaching out into infinity.”

- Nikolai Berdyaev

8. Not for anything in the world would I be willing to change my fatherland

“I am far from admiring all that I see around me...But I swear to you on my honor that not for anything in the world would I be willing to change my fatherland, nor to have any history other than those of our ancestors, such as God gave us.”

- Alexander Pushkin

9. O great, mighty, true and free Russian language!

“In these days of doubt, in these days of painful brooding over the fate of my country, thou alone art my rod and my staff, O great, mighty, true and free Russian language! If it were not for thee, how could one keep from despairing at the sight of what is going on at home? But it is inconceivable that such a language should not belong to a great people.”

- Ivan Turgenev

10. That’s our Russian apathy

“That’s our Russian apathy - not to feel the responsibilities imposed on us by our rights and thus to deny those responsibilities.”

- Leo Tolstoy

 

If you haven’t figured out the secret of the Russian soul by now, try to decipher it with the aid of Russian songs, or delve into our research on the Russian soul

 

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