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About Russian Men

By Olga Campbell

Russian manThere is an opinion that Russian women are charming, sweet and smart, unlike Russian men - at least their majority. Those who have ever visited Russia can confirm that.

There is also a question frequently asked (by the foreigners): why do so many women, who were born in Russia, are looking for husbands from other countries? Aren’t there enough male partners in their own country? The questions are obviously related to the above statement.

I will try to find an explanation to such a phenomenon. I think it is related to History mostly, as well as Geography. As we like to say in Russian: "istoriya s geografiyey" - a story (which is the same word in Russian as 'history' - 'istoriya') with geography.

Everything is clear with Geography: in our harsh climate, especially in winter, women have always tried to find the way to remain feminine and beautiful despite extremely low temperatures and, at times, almost unbearable cold. Hence, they acquired skills to use make-up and other similar products properly (to emphasize their natural attractiveness) and learnt to choose clothing, fur coats in particular, meticulously, so that looking at them you forget that the weather is nasty and it's snowing and freezing outside. Men, as we know, are not so fastidious as far as clothes and cosmetics are concerned, unless they are gay.

The above is somehow the humorous part of the story. Now the tragic one starts.

As for the History, everybody knows what happened in Russia in 1917. The so-called "Great October Socialist Revolution" took place, which changed the course of the history and not only in our country but affected eventually the whole world. It had an enormous impact on Russian men, first and foremost.

When the ‘First Socialist State in the World’ was established (after plenty of blood had been shed), most of the noble, decent, honest men were either forced to emigrate or were murdered by 'bolsheviks' (derived from the word ‘bolshoy’ – ‘big’, or ‘bolshinstvo’ – ‘majority’, that’s how the Russian communists used to call themselves at the beginning of the 20th century). Those “old” Russians, who stayed in their homeland due to different reasons but were secretly opposed to new authorities, had to disguise their background, their knowledge, talents and education if they wanted to survive.

When Josef Stalin came to power, the process of slaying the most talented, intelligent and dedicated continued, it even grew worse. Women were also arrested, imprisoned and exiled to those horrible labour camps, like GULAG, but females are more resilient, as we know, they can adjust somehow to the most terrifying conditions. Men however were dying in millions…

Those who wanted to live peacefully had to 'mimic' - to become communists (otherwise – no career, no acceptable life conditions were available, regardless of however skilled and gifted you were), to adopt and propagate views contrary to their own ideas, and so on. Apparently, it didn't improve the human nature. A new ‘species’ had evolved and spread – “Homo Soveticus”. Those were people, who, in order to withstand extinction, had to get adapted to the conditions and circumstances existed.

Later, throughout the years of Brezhnev's ruling, the process of males' deterioration took a turn for the worse. Since a man, who had always been regarded as a breadwinner and leader in a traditional Russian family, didn't have chances to earn enough money (there was no private business during the "Soviet-era" years; doing business and trying to earn extra money was considered the worst crime in the Communist ideology, even worse then ‘intended murder’) to support his family or do something according to his wishes - there were strict restrictions in almost all spheres of life (with 'the Big Brother' watching), he indulged himself in drinking ‘the bitter one’ (that’s how, euphemistically, vodka is called in Russian). Getting drunk was easier than thinking desperately what a miserable life he was living. Once again, women proved to be stronger and quicker to recover. Besides, they had their children to raise and take care of. A man, her husband, was eventually turning – emotionally and psychologically - into one of her kids. But can you treat a kid as your equal, your real partner? Will you enjoy his childish antics and silly behaviour while you are getting mature and “more sophisticated’? The answer is obvious, and this is one of the reasons why we have what we have.

Yes, of course, the situation has changed tremendously throughout the last decade and a half. But what is fifteen years? A very short period. It will take at least a hundred years to alter the mentality of Russian men.

I think those social changes that started 13 - 15 years ago in the country, somehow triggered an enormous rise of crimes and violence among Russians. All of a sudden, Russian men went wild, weird, willing to kill and torture others as if they wanted to compensate for all the previous years of inadequacy and passiveness. Those were generally the younger men, but in their genes, they had all the memories of a repressed hatred and those inhibited desires, which were never supposed to be fulfilled, of the previous generations. The infamous ruthless Russian Mafia had spread all over the world. It was like a ‘boil’, which was growing and ripening for years and years, finally burst out….

So, by the end of the millennium, we had had the two “extremes”: a male individual, subdued and unable to think positively and change anything in his wretched life, who could be happy only when consuming alcohol or drugs (the latter refers to a new ‘lost’ generation in this country), on the one hand. And a former outlaw, who had escaped from being murdered by murdering others, during the years of the so-called ‘primary capital accumulation’ in Russia, and acquired the status of a respectable businessman later (but still possesses many traits of a ‘gangster’ and treats a woman either as a ‘decorative’ detail, or one of his personal belongings), on the other hand.

That's my view and a very short analysis of the reasons why we - women from Russia, who lived under the same, sometimes unbearable social conditions and had to struggle the same demons, both of the outside world and our inner selves, managed to survive and even ‘flourish’, whereas our men, who suffered numerous humiliations, haven't recovered yet to the extent when they are able to comply with the idea of a “Real Hero”, or just a suitable match in the eyes of my female compatriots.

We do feel sorry for them. But sympathy, pity and compassion are not the best sources of attraction any more (as it used to be, according to the old Russian saying – ‘She takes pity on him, it means she loves him’)…

About the author: Olga Campbell was born in Russia. She is a translator and freelance writer, had lived in different countries. Now she is based in Toronto, Canada, where she lives with her Canadian husband.

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