Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why so many Russian women go abroad

I am an engineer and had seen many Russian speaking ladies in my field who left Russia for other countries. Why so many Russian women want to live abroad?
asked by Akshay, India

I don't know much about Russian emigration to India (still subject to be studied)...but Russian speaking emigration to European countries after perestroika has brought there over 5-6 million people.

Well, it is bit too general as an observation to say that there are all girls ))))) but it is true that we see a way too many Russian ladies living in other countries comparing to Russian men. There are several reasons for that.


I am sure the modern population movement of Russian Federation is a subject of many studies in demography and social sciences. I might be wrong but my observation showed that there are 3 types of Russian speaking girls leaving their country:

- students. Those who decided that they would want be able to get the most exclusive education ( read to move to Moscow or St.Petersburg) available back at home.

- women in their 30th. Often already divorced with 1 or 2 children or just single. Who want to have another chance of having a family. (Looking at the demographics below will explain why it is gong to be harder for them at home)

- professional expat women of any age. You can include here Russian models too. What will we do without them)))) Often very successful in the work who consider their emigration as a new swing of their carrier . (This will make them part of the international professionals).

Something tells me that you are more referring to the second group. Am I right?


As you can see from the graphics it is simply country specifics to naturally have more girls then men. I found an interesting graphics showing the proportion of population (in millions ) of the Russian territory by the age groups and gender.

So it's true that there are more girls (pink) in Russia then there are boys (blue).


Another reason could be their desire to work and really gain well their own life. During the Soviet times Russian women may be didn't have access to the latest fashion trends, but they were definitely those of the first ones to vote in Europe (in 1917). Very few industries were closed for women and this cultivated the image of Soviet women-mother-comrade known to the rest of the world.

Now the times of guaranteed work and stable salary in Russia have gone and many women and girls hope to gain their life at least as well as their sisters in Europe and other countries.

They don't count only on the men to support them and since their early age know that they will have to work. That is why it is so important for our girls to study well and to learn foreign languages, hoping to get later in life chance to make their own assets work for them - so called return on investment.


All women are known for their ability to adapt to new situation easier and quicker then men. There where men will feel frustration and anger women will be more patient and wise. Remembering that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Besides those who already left once their home country are strong and ambitious. This applies to all internationals.

Having said all of this, I must mention that it is not that Russian girls don't want to go is just hard for them to do ones they get married and have children. (Like Ms.Natalia Vodyanova, for example)

And surprisingly.... they are rarely single for a long time
abroad (like Anna Kurnikova, for example) ))))

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sit for a second before traveling

My college roommate always made everyone sit for a second in silence before leaving for any trip. She didn't speak Russian but had some Russian relatives and always said that this is what they do for good luck. Is it true?

asked by Collette, NY

this remarkable tradition does exist and has it roots in the times of ancient Russia. By saying ancient I really mean it is one of the superstitions of pre-Christian Russia.


Our pagan ancestors believed that the good and bad spirits surround every human and his house
, so like in Ancient Rome the special rites accompanied every event of man's life. This particular custom, which requires to sit for a second in silence before leaving your house, is one of them.

Originally this ritual let the traveler put his thoughts together and was suppose to trick domestic spirits. It was suppose to make them stay home and not follow him in his journey. People thought that, if man leaves without this preparation the bad luck will follow him, because most likely on his way out he will recall something he forgot to take
and will have to return...and that will definitely mean that he will not have a tail-wind , because offended spirits will spoil his travel and he might never come back.


Well, those times are gone...and hardly anyone will know the origin of this tradition. But it's still there and once again thanks to 70 years of Soviet Union all traditions mixed up and now this ritual of siting before leaving the house is spread among all nationalities and religions.

Even those who left the territory of ex-USSR long time ago are easy to spot. Regardless of their assimilated names and lastnames
already dressed for traveling they will make every member of family (grandma, baby, cat including) sit in silence for few moments before opening the door.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Russian dinner drinking habits (vodka and not only)

I was invited recently to one Russian friend's house for a dinner and came with a bottle of wine but finally everyone ended up drinking vodka as we are drinking wine. Is it really always like this during your dinners?

asked by Anonymous, Paris

Well, I was sure this question will arise very soon.

To answer shortly.... everything depends on the occasion and the type of dinner you are talking about. You have not specified what was the occasion.
In any case, I am sure it was not a simple family dinner...or maybe you were served a special food which requires only vodka as a drink to accompany (yes, it exists!). Was it this? Pelmeni?

Nevertheless, Russians rarely drink vodka during their ordinary dinner...and rarely drink soft drinks while eating.


It's well known that vodka is a national Russian drink and there are many books and articles dedicated to this subject.
But to a big disappointment of many foreigners visiting Russian flat, they might see a vodka bottle in the fridge, but unless it is a special occasion their Russian friends will not offer to drink it with their ordinary dinner. The maximum you would get will be a bottle (or two) of beer to go as your aperitif. (Sounds not too much Russian but this is the reality)

More that that, it is possible that even water will not be offered. Why? Simply because we don't drink during the meal, but always finish our meal with 1-2-3 cups of hot tea.

But it will be a different case if you are invited to a special occasion dinner. Where a lot of food will be served and people are planning to spend hours and hours at the table.

Of cause traditions are changing and the influence of Western culture is changing the look of traditional Russian meal, but still some things hardly will change.

For example, the fact that Russians drink pure vodka and never mix it with juice or soft drink. Alcohol cocktails are not our favorite drinks.

So for the special occasion dinner you will probably find on the table from the first course till the desert standing side by side the following drinks :

-vodka (for men & women)
-sweet red wine (for women)
-sparkling white wine (Russian version of champagne) (for women and some men)
-cognac /whiskey (for men)

-sweet liqueur (for older women)
-beer (for men & rarely women)
-juice or soda (for children)

Sometimes there will be a sparkling bottled water and if your Russian is good enough you might read on its etiquette that it is a special thermal water for treating digestion problems. Well, that is exactly why it's there and if you look at homemade pictures of Russian special occasion dinners you will understand why you would want a glass of it.

You probably will be surprised to see that people might drink high spirits during the meal as Europeans will drink wine, but at the end of the meal you might not be offered a digestive.

As I said, one thing is sure, every dinner ends with a big pot of tea (or even two) .

But once again , you have your freedom to stay with your drink.

Just one advise, please make sure you never drink less strong drinks after the stronger ones. This rule is international. Otherwise, don't blame Russian vodka for your head ache the day after.

I hope to write later a special post to Russian eating habits, but for now, just remember that you will be offered a tea at the end of the dinner or even during, but if you want a glass of water, you might just ask for it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why do Russians have these long first-second names?

I've heard that Russians often address to each other not by their first name but by a long hard to pronounce names, which apparently is not their last name. Why is that?
Asked by Nicolas, Paris

This strange long name is probably what is called in Russian "OTCHESTVO" (so called patronymic name) As you can see from the link this name is not used in Europe, but is part of Russian identity.


Regardless of gender, religion or origin Russians never have several first names but just one first name and one second before their last name. Unlike surname it's not connected with various nicknames and defined strictly by the name of the father. As a matter of fact it reflected genetic communication through the father with all his descendants.

The patronymic name as well as the last name always testified the fact that certain person belongs to a certain family (kin). It's literate translation mean: "Child of (the first name of the father)"

(Remember Vladimir Vladimirovich?)

Historically patronymic names were established in the upper Russian nobility, members of the Royal court. That fact testifies the value of a patronymic name as a sign of big respect of the personal merits. The first such person was, of cause, Russian Tsar and his family members.

(Remember last misfortune Russian Tsar's wife Alexandra Fedorovna?)

And it was only in 1610 when the right to be called by his first and patronymic name was granted to not a high noble person. This lucky person was a merchant with a known lastname - Stroganoff who by a special Imperial decree was granted such permission "for his great merits in the protection of Russian land". (Everyone can mention at least oen merit of this family which deserves a prize. Remember boeuf Stroganoff?)

Thus, except for genetic and information loading the patronymic name also bore expressed sign of social respect for the person who was addressed by his patronymic.

Gradually, in XVIII and XIX centuries in Russia the reference by the patronymic name began to spred not only among Russian nobility and officials, but also among intellectual, cultural and spiritual elite.

The reference by a patronymic name became an integral part of person's identity in Russia. Therefore patronymic name was extended to all parts of Russian society as expression of respect and a reminder of the origins.

After Russian Revolution in 1917, the patronymic name was gradually extended among other nations of the Russian state, regardless of the nation

(Remember Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin? )


Now after this historical info I want to specify that there are some other rules which go together with Russian patronymic name:

- You always address to older Russians by the full name : first+ patronymic. Noone will dare to call their teacher (Maria Dmitrievna Ivanova, for example) by her last name (Ms. Ivanova), or by her first name (Maria). She is for everyone: Maria Dmitrievna

- This applies to any kind of official relationship (doctor/teacher/ legal appointment) regardless of age of any party...even if there is a major age difference.

- You also never address to someone calling them by their first+ patronymic names and use the form "you/tu (in French)". Using patronymic name shows that there is a distance between two parties. I remember that I was shocked to be called by my full patronymic name as a freshman in my university.

-Patronymic name is a must. So if the child is born by a single mom, she has a right to give her baby her father's first name as a patronimyc name or the one of his biological father or any patronymic name she'd like, regardless of the opinion of this man.


So, as was explained in one the text books for Russian philology students : "When one is called by his patronymic name, it actually reminds him of his father. Thus normal intellectually developed person subconsciously feels hidden presence of his father, genetic and spiritual communication with him and through it feels respect not only for him, but also for the whole kin".