Are Russians Europeans or not?
Asked by Om Pratap, New Delhi
Despite the apparent simplicity of your questions ...the answer always causes major geopolitical debate inside and outside Russia....
I am sure there are plenty of dissertations written on the description of who- can-be-considered-real-Europeans.-Those-who-are-born-on-the-territory-or-those-who-are-born-from-the-local-parents-etc.... depending on the side taken your question, when it comes to Russia, can have both possible answers.
Russians as nationality - yes)....Russians as citizens of Russian Federation - please read below ))))))))
When it comes to pure mathematical approach and calculation based on math and geography the omniscient Wiki says: "Russia is by far the largest country in the world, covering more than a ninth of the Earth's land area. Russia is also the ninth most populous nation in the world with 142 million people. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spanning 9 time zones and incorporating a wide range of environments and landforms". It could be only added that Europe here is considered as a continent (like Africa, Australia, etc) with a total territory of 10 392 855 km2.
However even if 79,3 % of the population of Russian Federation lives on the territory of the European part of Russia it would be a way too easy to think that this fact makes Russian population Europeans.
HISTORICAL ARGUMENTS or "TAUGHT STUFF"
Even if the territories of restless East Slavs (ancestors of modern Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians) caused a lot of headache to late Roman Empire, it was far and away from major European events until 957 when the most influential local Russian Prince Vladimir sent his envoys to study the religions of various neighboring nations.
Suddenly, these far pagan territories promised new income and people to various geopolitical parties.
Thus, Russian Sovereign chose Christianity.
However, the somber churches of the Germans didn't correspond his taste. It was at Saint Sophia (Constantinople), where the colorful ritual of the Byzantine Church was conducted to impress them, so he found what he was looking for: "We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth". If Prince Vladimir was impressed by what saw his envoys, he was yet more impressed by political gains of the Byzantine alliance.
THUS BECOMING OFFICIALLY CHRISTIAN, RUSSIA became ally of ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL EUROPEAN STATES, EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE.
Well, sharing religion doesn't make people the same and it was until much later (17 century) when Peter the Great after his own "reality check" had to admit that sometimes progress has to be forced in Russia.
Among various changes in State structure (NEW CAPITAL - ST.PETERSBOURG - named by Peter the Great "WINDOW TO EUROPE") his reforms included changes in social and everyday life:
NO BULKYDRESSES FOR WOMEN,
EUROPEAN EDUCATION FOR SONS OF THE NOBILITY...
All of this was implemented on not a negotiable basis (as often it was done in Russia))))).
He wanted Russia to become part of Europe...and he made her become such.
Having said all of that, it will be extremely unfair to a long and complicated Russian history to say that Russians are Europeans by historical determination.
If you have read my previous posts you must have already noticed that many of Russian traditions are similar to those of other nations and nationalities of not European origin (read Caucasus, Siberia, Far East) Besides, our last official census of 2002 has showed that 182 different nationalities are living on the territory of Russian Federation.They live, mix, get married, share same habits and history.
GETTING SENTIMENTAL or RUSSIAN SOUL
If I may allow myself a little sentimental comment here.
In my humble opinion, the biggest mistake people make when dealing with Russians is just treating them like any other European nation, forgetting the complexity of the territory, size and history. That is why later on when one gets disappointed or his illusions get broken, he tends to generalize and make quick conclusions.
I am sure many problems could have been avoided if behind our European (or Asian) looks people could see mysterious echo of Asian, Middle Eastern, European behavioral traces mixed up with enormous distance and common historical "good and bad"...or simply what others call "Russian soul" (which can really ache, trust my word!)
P.S. So Sir Winston Churchill did get it at the end saying:
"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" ))))