Everything you wanted to know about Russians but were afraid to ask

Grigory Avoyan
Why do Russians use parentheses instead of smileys? What is the secret of their courage? Why do they need round-the-clock flower shops? We shed light on the mysterious Russian soul

Why don’t Russians smile much?

Sincerity and openness are hallmarks of Russian culture, which is why Russian smiles are rare and expressed only in contexts where they are appropriate, in order to express an honest emotion of happiness. Here are some descriptions of typical Russian smiles — and non-smiles.

It’s almost the same with Russian gloom, which is not always the case each time that someone doesn’t smile. 

Do Russians drink as much as people think?

They do. The Russian love of alcohol has been an issue for almost 1,000 years. According to the 12th century chronicle, "The Tale of Bygone Years," when Prince Vladimir, the ruler of Ancient Rus, had to choose a faith for the pagan Slavs he learned that Muslims prohibited drinking alcohol. So, Vladimir abandoned the idea of converting his people to Islam. "Drinking is the joy of all Rus. We cannot exist without it," the prince said (in Russian).

Find out what Russians drank before vodka was invented, and how genetics plays a role in this issue.

Why do Russians get married?

Here are 5 reasons why people get hitched in Russia, which includes social pressure, religious beliefs and conservative views. Some are far different from the West, primarily due to society's conservative views.

Why do Russians wear wedding rings on their right hands?

The choice of hand on which to put a wedding ring depends on several factors: religion and national custom. Russians wear it on the right hand.

The Orthodox Church inherited the custom from the Romans (through Byzantium), which imparted this tradition to the ancient Slavs when the rulers of Rus were baptized in the 11th-13th centuries. One can even say that the Russians got their habit of putting wedding rings on the right hand from Julius Caesar and Cicero.

Why are Russians so fearless?

Sometimes Russians look really crazy and fearless. You might think we push it to the extreme, but historians say it’s in our DNA, and we agree.

There are also a number of reasons, such as historical context, climate and even ‘vodka masculinity.’

Why do Russian women wear high heels?

Many people believe that it’s to attract men, but actually things are not that simple. There are at least 3 reasons to wear stiletto shoes, in the opinion of women themselves: they improve one's gait, they inspire confidence, and finally, yes, women in heels are more attractive. 

Why do some Russians look Asian?

There are more than 190 ethnic groups among the 142 million citizens of the Russian Federation, from ethnic Russians who form 78 percent of the population, to the Ket people of Siberia who number around 1,000. Most ethnic Russians have a so-called European appearance, but there are many Russian citizens who can be classified as ethnically Asian.

The Asian appearance implies a relation to the Mongoloid race, and there are at least 10 such ethnicities living on Russian territory (Tatars, Bashkirs, Yakuts, Buryats, and etc). Such diversity sometimes surprises tourist, but you should know that Russia does not officially define any group as Asian.

Why do Russians need round-the-clock flower shops?

Everyone who lives, or has lived in Russia, knows that there’s always a time when the 24/7 flower shop is a lifesaver. Here are four situations when in need: 'Surprise factor', 'Guilty husband,' 'Responsible husband' and 'Impoverished Casanova.’

What do people miss most about Russia?

Russians living abroad usually miss the Motherland, and top on the list of things are specialty foods, central heating in apartment buildings, Moscow's clean and efficient metro, and 24-hour stores.

Why do Russian women still wear fur coats?

A brief study by a Dutch student revealed the reason for this mystery: Russian tradition, plus a desire to be unique.

Joke on the subject: Russian women can't understand how a man with two kidneys can say that he can't afford to buy his wife a new fur coat; he can always sell one kidney.

Why do Russians call Moscow the ‘Third Rome’?

Don’t be surprised to hear the nickname, ‘Third Rome,’ to describe Moscow, and the city is also called ‘first-throned,’ or ‘golden-domed.’

Orthodox monk Philotheus (Filofei) first called Moscow the ‘Third Rome’ when in 1523-1524 he wrote letters to the Grand Duke of Moscow urging him to fight against heresies. The Duchy of Moscow, in the monk's view, remained the last bastion of the true faith.

"All the Christian kingdoms have come to an end and have converged in the single kingdom of our sovereign," Philotheus wrote in one of his epistles. "Two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth shall never be.”

Why don’t Russians trust America?

This conclusion is based on research by the Levada Center, which found that in 2017, 69 percent of Russians said that Washington behaves aggressively and is Moscow’s main enemy.

The topic is far too complex, especially since the collapse of the USSR, but you can read about the possible reasons in the comments from Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

There is some good news, however. The Russian people have no negative feelings towards Americans as a people, despite the political tensions.

Why do Russian women get involved with foreign men?

We spoke to a few Russian gals, those either married to or dating men from other countries, and asked what really motivated them to start a relationship. Quite frequently we found that the simple answer was love, and not nationality.

Why do Russians applaud on planes?

While this is not something that only Russians do, there is one difference. If the average European starts clapping after a difficult flight or happy ending to a dodgy landing, the average Russian will do it in any situation, as long as the aircraft doesn't miss the runway. And we have at least five theories why they do this.

Why are Russians in love with (Adidas) tracksuits?

Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You’ve lost control of your life if you’ve bought sweatpants.” If this is true, then many Russians don’t have a handle on their lives.

Normally we have a special name for guys in striped tracksuits – gopnik. While not all Russians are gopniks, we explain the potential reasons to sympathize with three white stripes on a black sports suit

Why are Russians not interested in politics?

According to research, almost two-thirds of Russians are indifferent to the country’s political situation. The main reason – Russians are more concerned with making ends meet, the soaring cost of utilities and food, and low wages

Why do Russians hate Muscovites?

People from the periphery think residents of the capital are gluttonous, mean and arrogant. In addition, they say that Moscow sucks the lifeblood out of the regions and has become a separate state.

Why do Russians hold the Victory Day Parade every year?

When sociologists ask Russians what they’re most proud, the most popular response for the last 20 years has been victory in the Great Patriotic War, (1941-1945).

Why do Russians use parentheses instead of smileys?

If you’ve ever talked to a Russian via the Internet or SMS, you’ve probably noticed strange symbols at the end of sentences like this «)))». What do they mean? The same as ordinary smileys with a colon and dash. It’s just a Russian way to be polite and friendly.

Read about bracket etiquette: how many to use in each case, and what does their number mean?

Why do Russian boys dream of having a beard?

They see it as a necessary attribute of “a real man.” We also talked to a few bearded men and understand that this is not the only reason. Read their stories

Why are Russians still searching for Bigfoot?

Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, Yeti – this mystery persists and still intrigues people around the world. The topic is too exciting to give up. We wrote about how Soviet scientists searched for the Yeti, and the new information discovered. Don’t hesitate to read about it.

‘Everything you wanted to know…’ is an extended guide to the most popular topics about Russia. We constantly work on new material, and this page will be updated with new entries and information.

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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