Recently, we asked our writers, editors and contributors to tell us what they thought were the ‘most Russian’ things and shared the results on our website. We also asked our readers to take part in a poll and have their own say. We received a number of responses - and here’s what they told us:
Our staff’s opinions were split between Moscow and Suzdal. And, unsurprisingly, our readers also chose Moscow. Indeed, the capital of Russia, with its Kremlin and cathedrals, is worthy of the title.
However, we couldn’t not mention other interesting replies: Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Sergiev Posad, Kazan, Tyumen, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok. To be honest, we were pleasantly surprised that our readers know so many Russian cities - and have even been to some!
“Definitely the villages, the Russian heart isn’t confined to Moscow or Peter,” one reader replied - and we can’t argue here, either!
Our staff considered it’s sincerity and we were pleased to see that our readers also mention this. However, the most frequent answer was hospitality. Isn’t that wonderful? Russians really love guests and welcome them with open arms… and bread and salt!
We were also pleased to see honesty, courage, sincerity and loyalty also among the replies to this question.
Some other traits were not so complimentary: For example, being direct/rude (depending on the situation), closeness, suspiciousness and not showing emotions.
Other interesting replies included: trouble-mindedness or overthinking. Well, it seems someone overread Fyodor Dostoyevsky! But yes, sometimes we have “woe from wit”!
Here we found what we expected: despair and melancholy. Just the same as our staff said. Read more about the Russian ‘toska’ - despair without a reason.
Similar to our staff’s poll, blini and borsch shared the honored first place. But it was nice to see Olivier salad, pelmeni, potatoes with herring, as well as syrniki and caviar among the answers. Have you already started salivating?
Someone left a witty answer that it’s pizza and sushi - and you know, this might be true in some of the larger cities, like Moscow, as urban Russians love this food (as well as Czech beer and Italian wine!).
5. The most Russian gesture
Our staff are sure it’s flicking your finger onto your neck (like in the GIF below).
Our readers appear to know this gesture, too, but also named several others, including a shrug, a cuckoo sign (making a circling motion of the index finger at the ear or temple), the money gesture (rubbing a thumb, index, and middle fingers),
and the fig sign (putting a thumb thrust between index and middle finger).
Find out more about Russian gestures here.
Our staff said it’s “Davai”, a tricky word that can be used in any life circumstances, and some of our readers also mentioned it, alongside “spasibo”, “babushka” and “na zdorovye” (but the last one is a myth! And here’s why).
It was so nice and funny to read all the curse words that you know in Russian (and there were a lot of them in the answers!). And we noticed a couple of words that Elizabeth Olsen taught Conan O’Brien in his show once. Read more about cursing in Russian.
Our staff and readers were in unison that it’s not throwing away anything - or, in other words, hoarding. It seems you know us too well already!
But someone also replied that Russian habits are drinking tea, reading, sitting before a trip, taking off shoes before entering home and wearing ‘tapochki’ (slippers) at home - and having a plastic bag for other bags at home. All this is true!
And one answer said it was procrastination... but this thing probably unites everyone, no?
Most of the respondents decided it was Irony of Fate and we can’t agree more. It’s really one of the most popular Russian movies, and probably one of the most well known abroad.
However, it was nice to see that you also know such great movies as Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears (an Oscar winner), Officers (a great war drama) and Brat [Brother] (a sincere movie about the ‘wild 1990s’ in Russia).
Dr Zhivago was also included in the list twice by our American readers. This is a legendary U.S. movie starring Omar Sharif. It is not that well known in Russia, however, we are happy that it’s popular in the U.S., because it’s an adaptation of the great novel by Boris Pasternak, who was awarded with the Nobel prize in literature for it.
If you’ve ever wondered which Russian movies to watch, here is a list of those that define Russian cinema.
War and Peace, or even “anything by Tolstoy” was our readers’ most popular reply. But we are happy that you didn’t forget such greats as Eugene Onegin and Fairy Tales by Alexander Pushkin, Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment.
We were just amazed by how many Russian proverbs and sayings our readers know! Without any introduction, we’ll just leave them here. Do you know the meaning of all of them?
Не все то золото, что блестит - Everything that glitters isn’t gold
Тише едешь, дальше будешь - Haste makes waste
Семь пятниц на неделе - Seven Fridays in a week (means a person changes his mind very often)
Поживем - увидим - Let’s wait and see
7 раз отмерь, один раз отрежь - Measure seven times, cut once
Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей - Don't have 100 rubles but have 100 friends
Хотелось как лучше а получилось как всегда - We wanted the best, but it turned out as always
Доверяй, но проверяй - Trust, but verify.
На Бога надейся, да сам не плошай - Hope for God, but do not sit idly by
Работа не волк, в лес не убежит - Work is not a wolf, it won’t run off to the forest
That last one is exactly what most of our Russia Beyond staff replied.
And here, just like our staff, most people said, “Vladimir Putin.” Other replies included Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Yury Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a typical babushka, and even Roman Abramovich.
People who took part in the poll were aged from 17 to 85 (!) and from all around the world: mostly from the U.S., but also Sri Lanka, Sweden, the UK, India, Canada, the Netherlands, Croatia, Australia and many more. Around 80% of them didn’t indicate any Russian roots or relations with Russia - and we were surprised to see their thoughtful and smart answers.
A big thanks to all for sharing your thoughts with us, guys. We also asked if we forgot any ‘most Russian’ things - and our readers kindly suggested to get down to the bottom of the following:
Your wish is our command! Keep checking our website and social media for the next installment of the ‘most Russian things’!
If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.
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