By Olga and Rick Warden
Table of Contents (Yes, it's that long!)
Overview of CIS/Western cross-cultural communication………….......................................3
I.1 Russia's unpredictable role as the CIS Leader…...........................................................3
I.2 Western culture in contrast to Eastern culture………………………….............................3
I.3 The influence of Soviet atheism on Western education……………….............................4
I.4 The specific geography that defines the Western World……………………....................5
I.5 Contrasts in English/Russian communication styles…………………...............................5
I.6 Personal behavior aspects of Russian/Western communication……..........................6
I.7 Idiosyncrasies regarding personal appearance in Russia……………..............................7
I.8 Historic cross-cultural reforms: Comparing the time of Peter I with the fall of the Soviet Union………………………………………………………….......................................................7
I.9 From Glasnost to the Green Cross………………………………………............................10
II. Impact of Russian Subcultures on Russian/Western cross-cultural communication…………………………………………………………………….........................10
II.1 Roles of subcultures in Russia, and their interaction with the West……........................10
II.2 Professional Russian Businesspeople as a pro-Western subculture..............................11
II.3 The evangelical Christian community as a pro-Western subculture……........................12
II.4 How the national AIDS crisis in Russia lead to cross-cultural engagement………………………………………………………………………...........................13
II.5 Russian youth movement Nashi: Modeling the government's anti-cross-cultural values………………………………………………………………...............................................14
II.6 The Russian skinhead subculture: Anti-cross-cultural behavior.....................................16
II.7 EMO and Goth subculture: Banned by Russian government………...............................18
III. Present cross-cultural attitudes between the CIS and the West………............................18
Cross-cultural communication skills are becoming more important, as communication and travel technologies continue to join the world together in new and challenging ways. Having the challenge of a cross-cultural marriage has taught my wife and I much about the differences between our Ukrainian and American cultures and most of these differences can be summed up as differences between rthe East and the West.
Ukrainians often have to choose between studying American English or British English. Though my wife and I usually use American English, for this essay we thought it would be interesting to use the Queen's English as a cross-cultural exercise. There's a theory, or perhaps just a stereotype that Limey speak is more academic than Yank speak. Because it has been established over a greater period of time, people consider British culture to be more sophisticated than American culture. In terms of style, the British are known for their word artistry, their dry wit, or dead pan humour, which is either famous or infamous, depending on your taste. Ukrainian writers catering to a British audience may wish to develop this. In case you weren't aware, the sign of a highly polished dry wit is when people reading or listening are not quite certain when it is actually occurring. While some may believe humor should never be used in academic writing, this certainly depends on the subject at hand. And it may be noted that the kooky Mr. Bean, also known as Rowan Atkinson, developed his unique shtick as a comedian while a student at Oxford University. For those interested in commercial advertising, humour is becoming ever more popular.
The subject of cross-cultural communication is a surprisingly rich one and, having been married for five years, my Ukrainian wife and I increasingly understand the need for good communication. Though there are many aspects to cross-cultural communication, this essay is for a fairly specific audience. Hopefully some will be able to wade through it and find something of interest.
Cross-cultural communication is based on the understanding that communication includes much more than just knowing the correct foreign grammar and a long list of vocabulary words. There are many factors involved in communication, including a country's cultural history, values, and perceptions, to name a few.
It is also the understanding that communication relates to many subtle non-verbal aspects as well. This article will define and analyse various aspects of CIS-Russian and Western cross-cultural communication and describe its relevance to contemporary society. Because there are many subtle aspects to communication, people have found that direct experience with a culture is necessary in order to better understand the finer details. Peter the Great understood this and traveled extensively. East-West Business described the need for direct and practical experience: “Like speaking a foreign language or riding a bicycle, cross-cultural communication involves a skill component that may best be learned and mastered through instruction and practice: simply reading about it is not enough.”
In this essay, specific aspects of interaction and communication between Russian and English based countries will be addressed and analysed. Before delving into specific examples of East/West language and cross-cultural communication, it would be helpful to understand some aspects and definitions of cross-cultural studies and how the subject is undertaken. Academically speaking, the subject of cross-cultural studies relates to- and includes many different disciplines, such as cultural anthropology and psychology. It generally uses statistical analysis to analyse ethnographic data from an extremely wide geographic area, called the "standard cross cultural sample." George Murdock and Douglas R. White developed the standard cross-cultural sample based on 186 cultures, so as to be used by scholars in cross-cultural studies.
What types of people should be interested in general cross-cultural communication? To some extent, all people should try to develop cross-cultural understanding, the basis of cross-cultural communication, especially considering our increasingly inter-cultural global environment.
More specifically, certain groups of people, such as advanced teachers of languages, should try to develop knowledge of the culture related to the language they study. Beginning students need to focus more on basic grammar and vocabulary. People who are involved in international business should be familiar with cross-cultural communication, even more so than language itself. Why? Because ignorance of cultural customs and taboos may cause a good business opportunity to immediately turn sour. Offending a possible partner or client may cause irreparable damage, even if the offender isn't aware of the offense committed. People in the East tend to be more easily offended and for longer periods of time than people in the West.
Of course, politicians, social workers and missionaries should also be aware of relevant cross-cultural communication issues. People who marry a person from a very different culture would do well to study the differences. Young people are often involved in cross-cultural dialogue and exchange without even realizing it, through the Internet. In short, the more involved one is in another culture, the more important it is to be aware of the cultural issues. Nonetheless, it is possible that someone may take up this knowledge entirely as a hobby and for personal satisfaction alone, without necessarily being deeply involved in another culture.
I. Overview of CIS/Western cross-cultural communication
I.1 Russia's unpredictable role as the CIS leader
Recently, Russia has been flexing its muscles on the world stage as a political power. Ossetia Georgia is one such example, as is its growing influence in Ukraine. For these reasons alone many are interested in better understanding Russia in the context of history and global relations. For those not aware, the CIS is the Commonwealth of Independent States, formerly known as the Soviet Union. Russia, as the most influential nation of the CIS, is an appropriate place to begin a study on CIS and Western cross-cultural communication.
From 880 to the middle of the 13th century, the kingdom of “Rus” was the dominating regional influence, even though Kievan Rus' was founded at approximately the same time by Prince Oleg. History shows how the Scythians, Scandinavians, Vikings, Turks and Mongols all had powerful influences on collective Russian culture in their own ways. The Scythians, for example, were nomadic people and highly skilled horsemen. The entire culture revolved around a close-knit community. You either went with the flow or you were left out in the cold. Peter I and Catherine II were the ones, more than any other people, who introduced a strong international influence upon Russia, and to a large extent, a “Westernized” influence.
In general, Russia's role, with regard to international relations, has been unpredictable, depending upon its leadership. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia a well-respected PHD would not be caught dead referencing, describes how “Nowadays, Russian cultural heritage is ranked seventh in the Nation Brands Index, based on interviews of some 20,000 people mainly from the Western countries and the Far East. That's with the fact that due to relatively late involvement of Russia into the modern globalisation and international tourism, many aspects of Russian culture, like Russian jokes and the Soviet Art, remain largely unknown to foreigners.”
The Nation Brands Index is an attempt to rank countries according to their reputation and individuality. In a sense, nation promotion is closely related to the promotion of a commercial product brand, basically trying to make a country attractive to foreigners and investors, by hyping up its unique heritage and advantages. While the Nation Brand Index is obviously important to overtly capitalist countries, Russia today is more interested in distancing itself from the West, perhaps partly due to national/cultural pride as well as some anti-Western and anti-capitalist sentiments. The term "Nation Brands Index" implies that everything, even countries, are based on commercialism and money, which can seem a bit demeaning.
I.2 Western culture in contrast to Eastern culture
While Westerners sometimes view Russia and the CIS as Eastern, Russians often see themselves more as Western, showing how subjective the question is. How is Western culture defined?: “Although there is some subjective opinion involved, Western culture is based on various degrees of the following: Graeco-Roman Classical and Renaissance cultural influence, concerning artistic, philosophic, literary, and legal themes and traditions, the cultural social effects of migration period and the heritages of Celtic, Germanic, Romanic, Slavic and other ethnic groups, as well as a tradition of rationalism in various spheres of life, developed by Hellenistic philosophy, Scholasticism, Humanisms, the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, and including, in political thought, widespread rational arguments in favour of free-thought, human rights, equality and democratic values averse to irrationality and theocracy."
That was one long sentence! Leo Tolstoy certainly may have appreciated it, but is it true Slavic people are considered Western? In this essay we'll see there are strong Eastern influences. Slavophilism and the desire for unity as a people group, for example, are quite strong. While independence, "...free-thought, human rights, equality and democratic values..." have not been primary concerns for most Slavs, as they have been in the West. Western culture also relates to unique literary, scientific, political, artistic and philosophical principles. The so-called Western canon outlines this set of traditions and knowledge.
I.3 The influence of Soviet atheism on Western education
The Western canon mentioned above is a term used to denote a canon of books, and, more widely, music and art, that has been the most influential in shaping Western culture. The Great Books of the Western World is an attempt to present the western canon in a single package of 60 volumes. It should be noted that a large grouping of these classic books, as listed in the “Harvard Classics,” relate to Christianity and have gradually been excluded from the curriculum of most US colleges in favor of atheistic writers. The origins and effects of atheistic education in the West are more pronounced than most people realise. Most people are not aware of the role of Soviet Russia in this process with regard to John Dewey. Dewey's visit to Russia was little publicized but highly influential in its seemingly one-way cross-cultural exchange.
John Dewey is well known as the “Father of Modern Education,” as pertains mainly to the West, but few are aware he was one of the authors and signers of the radical atheistic Humanist Manifesto 1 in 1933, and few are aware of the specific experiences which helped to reinforce his social philosophy.
In the summer of 1928, Dewey visited Russia, and his book “Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World,” ...reveals he was well impressed by the tour of the “Great Experiment” of atheistic education and the society in general. This is highlighted in Chapter VI, which is entitled “The Great Experiment and the Future,” as noted: Soviet Russia “is an experiment to discover whether the familiar democratic ideals — familiar in words, at least — of liberty, equality and brotherhood will not be most completely realized in a social regime based on voluntary cooperation, on conjoint workers’ control and management of industry, with an accompanying abolition of private property as a fixed institution — a somewhat different matter, of course, than the abolition of private possessions as such... But the further idea is that when economic security for all is secured, and when workers control industry and politics, there will be the opportunity for all to participate freely and fully in a cultivated life…”
Humanist Manifesto 1, which was published five years later, reflects a radical result of his trip to the Soviet Union and the desire of Dewey and other atheistic humanists to completely control every institution, including religious ones, as noted in the thirteenth article: “Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.”
I.4 The specific geography that defines the Western World
Because the idea of the “Western World” relates more to culture and religious ideas than to physical geography, there is no agreed upon specific geographical location or locations. In a more general sense “...These definitions almost always include the countries of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. These are Western European or Western European-derived nations which enjoy relatively strong economies and stable governments, allow freedom of religion, have chosen democracy as a form of governance, favor capitalism and international trade, are heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian values, and have some form of political and military alliance or cooperation." It should be noted the term ‘Western world’ is not used in international treaties and legislation because it does not have a strict international definition.
I.5 Contrasts in English/Russian communication styles
First, let's consider some basics of Russian/English communication. Many Russians know a bit of English, as it is often taught beginning in the third grade. While Westerners are used to greetings among strangers on the street, such as "Good morning" and “How are you today?” Russians practically never converse or exchange smiles with strangers as they are walking down the street. In Russia, one greeting, “Zdravstvuite,” suffices for the entire day, no matter how many times you may see each other thereafter. In the West, it is not uncommon to say “Hi” or “Hello” repeatedly throughout the day if there is repeated social contact. In Russian culture, people rarely ask “how are you?” while in the West, this is the most common greeting phrase. One reason people may not ask "How are you?" is because of the the answer, "Normalna." In direct translation, the exchange goes: "How are you?" - "I'm normal...thanks... and you?" It just doesn't seem to work. It was a Ukrainian who pointed this out to me and laughed about it.
What people generally consider normal topics of conversation with Russians may include sports, the economy, light politics and possibly religion. Speaking or laughing loudly in public is considered rude, as Russians are generally reserved and somber. Are there any subjects that are off-limits for conversation? In general, Russians are open to talking about almost any subject, and seem to be more open to talking about religious ideas than Westerners. Even if there is not agreement, there is openness, generally, to this topic. The U.S.S.R. was officially an atheist nation in the days of communism. After the dissemination of the U.S.S.R., however, participation in religion and spiritual issues dramatically increased, especially the first few years. Presently, many citizens openly practice Protestantism, Islam, Russian Orthodoxy, and Judaism.
Westerners and Russians have different customs for addressing one another. In English there is no differentiation in the word “you” when addressing an older or younger person. But in Russian, the word you has both the formal option and the informal one. Also, when writing a letter in English, the word “dear” is the standard while in Russian this direct translation would never be used. Rather, the term “respected” is used. In English, a neighbor is referred to by his or her first or last name. But in Russian, a neighbor, friend or acquaintance is referred to as “aunty” or “uncle.” Also, people wouldn't usually address a young stranger simply as “boy!” or “girl!,” or a salesperson as “man!” or “woman!,” as it would be considered impolite or even insulting. But this is a custom in Russian, in terms of children and adults. Often communication seems to be “no-frills” -more direct in Russian, though many prefer to be quite verbose.
One thing that may be uncomfortable for a Westerner is the purchase of food in an open market. In the West, open food markets are rare and most food is bought in supermarkets. While this is becoming more common in Russia, some parts of cities and towns still rely on the open market as the main location for the purchase of food and other items. Why would an open market be uncomfortable? In a supermarket, items are labeled and priced and then sit upon the shelves. A customer has time to check the product and read the ingredients without any sense of pressure. In an open market, however, there is frequently some competition between the different salespeople and there can be quite a bit of pressure to purchase something quickly. Also, Westerners are not used to bartering and because products are sold by weight, without a clearly labeled price, it is easy for a foreigner to be taken advantage of.
I.6 Personal behavior aspects of in Russian/Western communication
The International Business Center website has outlined some behavior tips for visitors to Russia and especially business people. In general, social events are not rigid in terms of being on time. It depends on the wishes of the host. To be late 15 to 30 minutes is acceptable. For business guests, however, it is more complex. The host espects the guest to be on time, but the Russian host may be late simply to test the patience of the guest. The advice is not to make a fuss, even if the appointment begins one or two hours after the scheduled time. Patience is considered more important than punctuality in Russian culture. Russians are often slow to show signs of compromise, whereas Westerners are more quick to try and work out solutions. What very much seems like the "final answer" may not be the final answer at all. And a better deal may be had with patience.
Professionals have also noted the importance of understanding emotions: "Some have stated that negotiations with Russians often involve flared tempers. During negotiations and meetings, temper tantrums and walkouts often occur.”
Other key concepts include personal connections and third-party influences. It is usually difficult to do business in Russia without help from a local. To help with this issue, gifts, money or other items are often used when doing business in Russia. What is the difference between a gift and a bribe? Many countries, such as Russia, have determined a maximum monetary value of a gift. Law firm Baker and McKenzie outlined the updated changes to the law made in 2008:
“The Anti-corruption Legislation has amended the provisions of the Civil Code concerning gifts (Articles 574 and 575). It raised the value of a simple gift (to which the restrictions placed on gifts by the Civil Code do not apply) from five minimum statutory monthly wages (i.e., from 500 Russian rubles, which currently equals approximately 15 US dollars) to 3,000 rubles (currently approximately 90 dollars).”
In Ukraine, gifts may not legally exceed the amount of one tax social benefit (as of 2009, UAH 302.5, or US$38). In general, gifts are an important aspect of Russian life. If attending dinner at a family residence, it is appropriate to bring a gift, such as a bottle of wine, dessert, or a bouquet of flowers.
What are some other behavior idiosyncrasies? In the West, people generally do not approach very closely when conversing, not closer than about two feet. But in Russian culture, people often draw closer to each other in conversation. When shaking hands with someone in the East, be sure to take off your gloves, as it is considered rude not to. When attending any formal engagements such as the theater, it is appropriate to check your coat and other belongings at the front door of the establishment. Do not show the soles of your shoes, as this is considered impolite. They are considered dirty, and should never come in contact with any type of seat (like on a subway or bus). Most Russian families avoid wearing "street clothes" in the house after work and prefer to change into house clothes, which are cleaner and more cozy.
One delicate subject has to do with alcohol. Some suggest a Westerner should be open to taking a drink or having a toast, as refusing to do so is a serious breach of etiquette. But considering the great problem with alcoholism, some Westerners do not feel comfortable in supporting and encouraging drinking, especially if they rarely or never drink themselves.
Many people in Russia seem to follow habits and traditions without seriously analyzing the reasoning behind the traditions. The effects of Communism, for example, continue to effects the work habits of people. It has been difficult for businesses to grow into a “consumer oriented” service attitude. Salespeople will often ignore customers who come into a store and most restaurants have poor service compared to the West. It is hard to blame the waiters because they have probably never seen a restaurant with a high quality service oriented team.
I.7 Idiosyncrasies regarding personal appearance in Russia
Businessmen in Russia are fairly conservative and usually wear suits that are dark and well tailored along with good dress shoes. A businessman’s wardrobe demonstrates the individual’s image and status as a professional. Men often do not take off their jackets in negotiations. It's not considered polite to stand with your hands in your pockets. It's considered rude. Women should always cover their heads when entering into any Russian Orthodox Churches. People commonly attend churches in the West in very casual clothing, which may make Russians uncomfortable. When attending dinner in a local citizen’s home, casual dress of slacks and a nice shirt without a tie are appropriate. In recent times, people in Russia have been dressing more casually and many Westerners consider that younger women today dress too immodestly in Russia. On the other hand, Russians consider the clothing of many Westerners to be unstylish and too plain. Men's pants in the US are considered too baggy and women's clothes and hairstyles etc., are considered too plain by many Russians.
I.8 Historic cross-cultural reforms: Comparing the time of Peter I with the fall of the Soviet Union
There have been various degrees of interchange in history between the East and West. Prior to the reign of Peter I, Russia was very isolated from the rest of the world and Western Civilization. But his reforms and activities, as well as the successive reforms of Catherine II, transformed Russia into an internationally involved empire. This is, in some ways, similar to what transpired after the fall of the Soviet Union, which had isolated the socialist, highly controlled society from the rest of the world.
Beginning in 1991, Russians have had more access to Western Civilization and many have desired to move out of Russia because the infrastructure and economies in Western countries have been more stable and prosperous. One of the main differences between Peter I and Vladimir Putin, Medvedev and the present Russian political system is that Peter I sought to unite Western and Eastern cultures while present Russian policies have kept an isolationist tone. In some respects, it is as if the name has changed but the style of operation is similar to Soviet times. The goals of Glasnost, including free speech and transparent government, may have gained some ground in the 1980's but presently there seems to have been a regression. We can glean some insight by first examining the reforms of Peter I more in detail.
In 2003-2004, the New York Public Library held an exhibition entitled “From Isolation to Empire: Russia Engages the World, 1453-1825,” which still exhibits the related art and history in its virtual form at a NYPL Web-site. The extensive exhibit spans from the reign of Ivan the Terrible to Alexander I. However, Maggie Riecher, who described the exhibit, focuses on the history of Peter I and Catherine II, with regard to their interaction with Western Civilization.
Peter's childhood tutors included a Russian, Nikita Zotov, and two Scottsmen, Patrick Gordon and Paul Menesius. This gave him an international view from a young age. Peter had an inquisitive, adventurous and bold personality. For example, he traveled incognito to learn shipbuilding and even procured a navy before he had a port for docking the newly obtained ships. He envisioned the joining of the Caspian and Black Seas, as well as many of Russia’s great rivers, by newly developed canals. Peter ruled from 1689 to 1725 and Catherine the Great ruled from 1762 to 1796. By the end of the 18th century, Russia had become a multi-ethnic empire, from Siberia to Crimea, and to the borders of China, the Americas, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Armenia, Georgia, etc. Russia emerged from isolation and became a world power in approximately one hundred and fifty years. Edward Kasinec, the curator of the New York Public Library’s Slavic and Eastern Collection, highlighted some key historical details:
“In 1697 Peter decided to learn more about Western culture and made his first of two trips to Europe, traveling to Germany, the Netherlands, England, and Austria. He brought back with him hundreds of men to command and train his new navy and three hundred artisans to train his populace.
“Russian explorers undertook voyages to places as far as the Holy Land, China, and the North Pacific. By century’s end, Russian navigators began a series of more than thirty circumnavigations of the globe.
“Expeditions were often accompanied by artists and ethnographers, and so the printed accounts of these journeys were often supplemented by illustrated atlases, many of which will be on display,” says Kasinec.
“Not everyone welcomed Peter’s vision for Russia. The established Muscovite elite, and the common people as well, opposed Peter’s reforms. He was ruthless with his detractors; he tortured and killed two thousand Streltsy who were leading an armed rebellion in Moscow to return to old traditions and replace Sophia on the throne. ‘He touched a certain veneer,’ says Kasinec, ‘but I think it is wrong to say his reforms went to the core of society.’
“Manuscripts and printed texts of the Russian Orthodox laity included denunciations of the church reforms Peter initiated and original popular prints depicted Peter as the Antichrist. Despite this opposition, Peter’s reforms lived on after he died in 1725.”
Maggie Riechers also described how Peter introduced printing presses in Cyrillic in 1703, in addition to other languages, allowing for the printing of Western literature in Russian and increased cross-cultural study. Many libraries were also built under his reign. In 1725 he established the Academy of Sciences and encouraged scientific and scholarly study. Although the printing press existed in Russia by the 1560s, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, few books were printed. Under Peter, however, Russian culture; literature, secular music, science, popular theater, and education continued to be deepened and broadened.
Kasinec described how Russia was completely overhauled by Peter including the administrative, military, religious, and social orders of the nation. Peter changed the calendar to match Europe’s, and actually penalized Russians who would not shave their beards and adopt European clothing.
By the mid-seventeenth century, Russia had charted the Pacific coast with expeditions to Alaska, California, and the Hawaiian Islands. The cross-cultural influences of Catherine the Great (Catherine II), who reigned thirty-four years, simply continued in many ways where Peter left off. She was very adept at following international literary trends and the developments of the French Enlightenment. She collected quality European art and filled the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, which she had built. Catherine was somewhat paradoxical in that she espoused the ideals of the Enlightenment and the “Age of Reason,” while at the same time she tightened control of the serfs and opposed uprisings with force, as opposed to the use of diplomacy and reason.
While Riechers focused mainly on the cross-cultural reforms of Peter I, one cannot help but consider the more recent reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, including perestroika and glasnost. How does the fall and opening up of the Soviet Union compare with the cross-cultural reforms of Peter the Great? Peter I used brutal tactics, when necessary, to implement his internationalism. Gorbachev, on the other hand, was seen as a kinder, gentler reformer. Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Kahn outlined some key aspects of Gorbachev's reforms and how they influenced communication and the media in his article: “A Comparative Research Study of Role of Glasnost in Russian Media.”
“Glasnost, meaning ‘openness’, from the Russian words for ‘public’ and ‘voice’ was introduced in the 1980s. The main goal of this policy was to introduce meaningful short and long terms socio-economic strategies to pull out the sinking titanic of newly born Russia from the deep waters of poverty, corruption, debts, fear, disintegration, and above all economic recession. It institutionalized the traditions of corporate/good governance, transparency, check and balances, and easy access to truth and information sharing. Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the former Soviet Union, was the pioneer of this policy. He knew that his policy of Glasnost could bring multidimensional changes in the economics, society, politics, and media. Glasnost, a mantra of Gorbachev’s perestroika (restructuring of Soviet economy) was instrumental of bringing new ideas and means of interaction in once closed society. Glasnost brought freedom of speech and dogma of information sharing, elements of criticism, accountability, greater sense of rights and duties/responsibility and above all increased levels of two-ways connectivity between the ‘State and Citizens’ in Russian society. It played an important role in upbringing and maturing of Russian new ideology which was entirely different from the Soviet Union’s Authoritarian Approach.”
The author KHAN makes the convincing point that freedom of speech is one of the main underlying supports of true democracy. He shows how some of the reforms that began with Gorbachev in the Soviet Union actually made for a more democratic environment than exists today in Russia. Just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, 1n 1992, the government of Russia declared that any information pertaining to the millions of informants and criminal acts of the Soviet Union in general were to be considered state secrets. In 2002, after the primary mass grave/killing-field of the Red Terror, approximately 30,000 victims, was found outside of St. Petersburg, it was declared off limits for excavation, because it is located near an active shooting range that should not be disturbed. So much for glasnot, that is, openness. The continued worship of Soviet heroes and the refusal to acknowledge criminal acts, or even condemn one person of a crime, has contributed to a popular belief that the Soviet Union didn't actually end but unofficially went on hold, temporarily.
I.9 From Glasnost to the Green Cross
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev didn't waste very much time in forming an international green NGO. Green Cross International (GCI) is a Geneva-based non-governmental organization founded by Gorbachev in 1993. Membership includes Ted Turner of AOL Time Warner, for one. The motto of the NGO is "Building a Global Culture of Peace and Sustainability.”
Though different in their approaches, the cross-cultural reforms of Peter I, Catherine II and Gorbachev had one thing in common. They were basically top-down, government-led reforms. Are there any other kinds of movements which have led to cross-cultural exchange between Russia and the West? The roles of various Russian subcultures cannot be ignored in this respect.
II. Impact of Russian Subcultures on Russian/Western cross-cultural communication
II.1 Roles of subcultures in Russia, and their interaction with the West
Historically, the Russian government has been the most influential element of the territory today known as the CIS, with regard to cross-cultural communication with the West. But during times, such as the present, when the government develops an indifferent and even negative environment for West/East interaction, these are times when subcultures often take on a unique role of instigating dialogue and interacting between the two cultures. There are certain subcultures, however, which model the government's attitude or become even more antagonistic than the Russian government has become towards the West, as of late.
During the time of the Soviet Union, there was a very strong subculture movement among the youth. For example, though rock music was not officially legal, many young people knew the Beatles' songs and Russia and the rest of the USSR was developing its own rock band legends. Even though it was technically illegal, the Beatles, rock music and aspects of the counter-culture movement in the West became adopted into- and accepted by Russian culture. The history of rock music in Russia is a good example of how Russian culture often imitates a Western movement or style and recreates it into something unique to its own culture and character.
Before delving deeper into the influences of sub-culture, it would be helpful to explain there are two different definitions of subculture. The first definition does not hold that a subculture is necessarily different from the mainstream, but is just a small section of it. The second definition, however, defines a subculture as a counter-culture, a group in society which does not conform to the mainstream.
Which aspect of these two definitions most applies to Russia? It seems the first one. In the West, the second version has been more popular, to openly oppose the government and mainstream stereotypes. This is because there has been a strong sense of legal freedom of speech protecting the right to challenge the establishment.
In Russia, however, there has never been this sense of freedom of speech which fully guarantees a person's right to express his or her views publicly without serious repercussions to the individual and possibly to his or her family as well. This truth has been well impressed upon the Russian psyche. Historically and presently, there are some examples of various subcultures which have related to the West based on their unique identities and ideologies. Some have pushed the limits of government tolerance, others have played it safe, but all of them offer insights into cross-cultural communication.
II.2 Professional Russian Businesspeople as a pro-Western subculture
There are many aspects of Russian business which make it possible to define certain young Russian businesspeople as a unique and influential subculture. One aspect of this includes the overseas sales offices of large Western businesses. As representatives of Western countries, the employees tend to develop an affiliation for things Western. Another aspect includes workers who perform outsourced work for Western companies.
Some of the most stable businesses in Russia have to do offshore work from Western countries. For example, many Western businesses presently prefer to pay an offshore company to design Internet websites for less money than it would cost to hire a local company to do the same caliber of work. Why is this? It’s simply because the wage rate is much higher in Western countries. People are not aware of the vast amount of work that is being outsourced to Russia and other CIS countries. An estimated $1 billion in revenue was estimated in this field for Russia in 2006. This may include web design, computer security system design and anything at all related to computer programming, design and the Internet. While the CIS is growing in offshore work, it does not compare to India, which in 2004 apparently was already earning $12.5 billion a year by exporting high-tech services, representing one-fifth of the developing nation's total exports.
While some business people operating in the above capacities may be indifferent, envious or bitter towards Western culture and the higher standard of living in the West, in general they won’t be hostile to the West. Why? There is a saying “Don't bite the hand that feeds you.” It makes the point that we are not prone to oppose or make a conflict with the source of our income, especially if there are not very many alternative sources for that income. We all desire to support our families and see them well maintained so it stands to reason the source of our income will influence our attitudes. The government of Russia also takes a pragmatic approach and supports offshore work income. Leonid Reiman, the Russian minister of information technologies and communications, stated "Our task is to convert this human potential into a new source of national income."
Because of this unique relationship to the Western world, it seems these types of offshore businesspeople can be qualified as a unique subculture which has an influence on the local Russian/CIS society where they operate. In dialogging with their Western business employers and business colleagues, this subculture may constitute the largest cross-cultural communication exchange presently between the West and the CIS. Though groups like the US based Peace Corps may make a deliberate attempt to forge ties with English clubs and public school interaction, the size and daily functioning of this business subculture makes it perhaps the most influential of all cross-cultural exchanges. It should be noted that the main complaints of Western offshore employers relate to poor English and poor communication skills.
II.3 The evangelical Christian community as a pro-Western subculture
Another subculture which is influential in Russia and the CIS is the evangelical Christian community. What does the term evangelical mean? 1: of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels, 2: protestant, 3: emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual.
During the time of the Soviet Union, protestant Christianity was illegal. Not only was it non-atheistic, it went against the Orthodox tradition, which has always been closely identified with Russian culture. The West has had more of an affiliation with evangelical churches in the CIS since 1991, when doors of opportunity opened. Many missionary organizations have been influential in helping to convert non-Christians and to establish new church worship centers in the CIS. Russia presently has over 1.5 million Protestants, a little over 1 percent of the entire Russian population. Approximately 30 percent of Ukraine's religious communities are Protestant.
The Liberty of Conscience Institute recently discovered that the Russian government presently prefers the Russian Orthodox Church in ways that may inhibit the religious freedoms of other denominations. Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association says there is reason to be concerned. "The West is concerned with human rights and the freedom of conscience and the freedom of worship," notes Griffith. "And officially under the constitution, there's supposed to be freedom of religion and freedom of worship in Russia. So any moves to do this certainly fly in the face of what the Russian constitution would say."
A March 12, 2009 article “A Mending in Moscow?” describes some key points regarding the situation for evangelical churches in Russia: “Many evangelical churches in Russia currently experience discrimination under unevenly applied laws. Non-Orthodox organizations are not permitted to offer religious education and sometimes have trouble registering with the government for a legal identity. (Some organizations refuse to register on principle.) Also, changes to visa laws in 2007 have affected missions in Russia by requiring foreigners to leave the country for 90 out of every 180 days.
“Evangelicals in particular are struggling against the concept that non-Orthodox Christianity is foreign and even unpatriotic. William Yoder, spokesperson for the Union of Evangelical Christian-Baptists of Russia (RUECB), explained the popular conception of religion in Russia: ‘If you're Russian, you must be Orthodox. By the same equation, if you're Baptist, you must be an American.’
“Despite ongoing discrimination, observers point out that religious freedom has drastically improved in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. ‘You could want better relations, [such as] the right to build bigger and better churches,’ said Michael Bordeaux, founder of the Keston Institute, which studies religion in current or formerly Communist countries. ‘Despite the restrictive law of 10 years ago, conditions are pretty good for Catholics and Protestants in Russia today.’
“Yoder agreed, especially when Russia is compared with surrounding countries such as Belarus and Uzbekistan, where religious rights are worse. Today, he said, ‘Protestants are fleeing to Russia.’”
The evangelical movement has been a source of cross-cultural engagement and continues to be. However, it is unclear what the future holds for evangelical Christians in the CIS. It seems there is a backlash occurring both by the Orthodox Church, which sees the evangelical movement as a threat, and the various CIS governments, which want to please and work together with the Orthodox Church for political reasons.
II.4 How the national AIDS crisis in Russia lead to cross-cultural engagement
In a unique turn of events, the AIDS crisis in Russia has led to cross-cultural communication. According to Anna Sevortian, the AIDS epidemic in Russia, in recent times, has reached crisis proportions. But one positive aspect of this tragedy, at least in terms of social awareness and an example of interaction, is that it has helped to motivate young people to take the initiative. The population of Russian AIDS victims is so large that they are a subculture in themselves and have become an unlikely source of cross-cultural exchange both in the East and in the West.
Many AIDS victims became fed up with government inertia and have taken it upon themselves to become leaders using non-traditional political methods to desperately find solutions. As it has been written “necessity is the mother of invention.” These young leaders have become aware that the knowledge of English and other foreign languages will help their cause greatly and have set about to master these, as one aspect of their renewed educational thrust. While treating AIDS victims and seeking an AIDS cure are altruistic pursuits in most people's minds, AIDS advocacy groups sometimes use their public policy pursuits as a means of promoting the homosexual lifestyle in general. And this is where they tend to lose favor with conservatives. The Russians, in many respects, are modeling the Western homosexual agenda. In the West there is so much activism by this subculture that the very word “advocacy” is immediately associated with homosexuals.
Excerpts from the following article by Anna Sevortian, 20 November 2007, outline how, by way of the AIDS epidemic, public health, medical care, and education have been transforming in Russia due to cross-cultural influences:
“It is a curse, but the reaction to it can also make it appear a blessing. For HIV activists are one of the most energetic groups in Russian society, gathering people who have developed a growing sense of solidarity and vision in coping with this affliction. Their impressive qualities become evident as the personal stories of people joining the HIV-service community are accumulated and shared.
“It may seem a paradox, but in Russia you won't find such rapid development and individual empowerment in any other field. In a quite natural way, the agenda of the HIV-community has within five years been transformed into a broad platform which addresses issues important to society as a whole. This group, which has never been remotely close to the human-rights movement, is now debating and taking action on such issues as discrimination, strategic litigation, and reform of the health-care system. Moreover, many HIV-positive Russians have worked their way through special training courses to be able to perform better in dealing with judiciary and governmental agencies, and in attempting to shape policy-making.”
A light bulb in the head
“Throughout several changes of political regime, education has remained a ‘big idea’ in Russia for more than a century. Today, teenagers and young adults recognize how essential knowledge of foreign languages has become. Many of them will be learning English at least, as a minimum requirement for a job with their preferred employer. There is no doubt at all - notwithstanding laments that life in Soviet times was more sustainable, predictable or basically better than today's - that over the last twenty years Russians have made great progress in their linguistic abilities.
“This deepening of expertise means that education is another area where people "outside" the political process (in the broad meaning indicated above) can find a place to be active and purposive.
“There are several visible indicators of this. The enforced paralysis of Russia's leading TV journalism training-provider Internews in 2007 is one example; when this happened, some of the training streams were able immediately to transfer to the prestigious Higher School of Economics (Russia's equivalent of the LSE).
“More evidence of this trend is found in Moscow's central bookshop Moskva, which stays open until 1 am (or 3 am when a new Harry Potter volume arrives). One of the bestselling books of 2007 is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, translated and published by the Dynasty Foundation. This is just one of the publications the foundation has promoted as part of its ambitious project to create a library of the books most capable of spreading knowledge of the natural sciences and humanities to a wide, popular readership.”
Dmitry Zimin, the founder of Dynasty, stated that the main goals of the group are to see a platform for a liberal democratic society, to develop science and education in Russia, and prevent a brain-drain. In the above article, it was noted that young people are highly motivated to learn foreign languages and that Russian employers increasingly require this. It was also noted how grassroots movements in the arts and in politics began through the crisis with AIDS, which became a platform for cross-cultural growth and interaction. Another subculture movement, Nashi, did not begin as a grassroots movement, but, rather, was specially designed for Russia's youth by the government.
II.5 Russian youth movement Nashi: Modeling the government's anti-cross-cultural values
According to an article by Armine Ishkanian, Russia's young people have been involved in a campaign to advance the Kremlin's vision of "sovereign democracy,” a very unique approach to activism and cross-cultural relations. While it embraces some democratic ideals, it rejects many which it perceives as Western. Following are some excerpts from Ishkanian's article, “Nashi: Russia’s youth counter-movement”, dated 30 August 2007, wherein she describes the fascinating cross-cultural attitudes of this Russian youth subculture:
“Nashi (Ours) is a pro-government, patriotic Russian youth movement that was created in March 2005. Since then, the movement has rapidly grown throughout Russia and presently has over 200,000 members of whom 10,000 are regular activists or Nashi ‘commissars’. The majority of Nashi members are in their late teens or 20s, and for some membership is a path of career advancement. Behind the opportunities for individual progress and social mixing, however, a more ambitious political project is at work.
“The movement's activities include voluntary work for members in orphanages and helping restore churches and war memorials; organising educational and training programmes; and mobilising demonstrations and rallies. Nashi's critics, who number Russian opposition activists as well as western observers, argue that the movement is the Kremlin's attempt to co-opt young Russians and control dissent in the wider aim of preventing a ‘colour revolution’ from occurring in Russia.
“Nashi has been described as a neo-Komsomol (the Soviet-era youth movement) body. It is indeed similar to its communist predecessor in that it trains and prepares its members for leadership positions; but it does so by using the forms (e.g., demonstrations, sit-ins), techniques (e.g., master classes, trainings), and language (e.g., rights, participation) of civil-society organising.
“The Nashi manifesto declares the movement's aim to be support for Russia's development as a global leader in the 21st century - in a process achieved by economic, social and cultural means rather than military and political domination. The key theme throughout the manifesto is that of sovereignty, which is interpreted as the freedom and independence to set the ‘rules of the game’ in one's own country and the rejection of western (i.e., American) hegemony. The manifesto also condemns and calls for the liquidation of ‘oligarchic capitalism’; it credits President Vladimir Putin as being the first to have challenged the oligarchs' power, strengthened the state, and turned Russia into a global power. Nashi pledges its support for Putin's policies and vows to work toward these goals in a variety of ways including by creating a ‘functioning civil society’.
“The manifesto criticises the existing ‘liberal’ civil society as being the ‘worst advertisement for democracy’. It commits Nashi to promoting civil debates; working with multiple stakeholders (government and business among them) in promoting Russia's economic and social development; fighting against fascism, intolerance toward ethnic minorities, and violence in the army; and restoring people's faith in Russia's future.
“Nashi's manifesto is greatly influenced by the work of Kremlin ideologue, Vladislav Surkov, and his idea of suverennaya demokratsiya (sovereign democracy). This rejects the idea that there can only be one type of democracy and argues that each country should have the freedom and sovereignty to develop its own form. Indeed, the only sources cited on the movement's website are Surkov's works. The concept of sovereign democracy is, clearly, a critique of western democracy-promotion efforts implemented following the collapse of the Soviet Union (see Ivan Krastev, "Sovereign democracy' Russian-style”, 16 November 2006).
“The idea of sovereign democracy as espoused in Russia is spreading beyond its borders. In July 2006 the Nashi Rossiya-Uzbekistan movement was established in Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Dariga Nazarbaeva, the daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, praised sovereign democracy as a sign of freedom.
“The political opposition in Russia - including members of the opposition Drugaya Rossiya (Other Russia) coalition - have faced repeated harassment from police and have had their rallies and meetings broken up or otherwise disrupted by security forces. By contrast, Nashi's actions have received official support and promotion.
“Vladimir Putin, while derided for his autocratic policies in the west, enjoys widespread public support in Russia. His popularity is based on the perception that he has restored Russia's pride and place in the world and that he is challenging the hegemony of western powers including the United States and Britain. In a scathing critique of democracy-promotion, Putin made the following remarks at the G8 summit in St Petersburg:
‘If you look at newspapers of 100 years ago, you see how, at the time, colonialist states justified their policies in Africa or in Asia. They talked of their civilising role, of the white man's mission. If you change the word 'civilising' to 'democratisation', you find the same logic, you can read the same things in the press today.’”
The idea of Nashi seems to be full of paradoxes. Is the idea of “sovereign democracy”, as manifested, really democratic? Author Ishkanian also pointed out that 70,000 Nashi members celebrated the Soviet defiance of the Nazis' attack against Moscow, but, on the same day, Only 400 people attended a rally the same day to commemorate the 200 or so journalists who had been killed since 1991 in Russia. The Nashi movement supposedly is committed “to promoting civil debates”, the author mentioned, but is that really possible under heavy censorship?
One of the key aspects of cross-cultural relations between Russia and the West was touched on in the article, and that is the sense of resentment which resulted after the fall of the Soviet Union. For many Russians, the resentment was not aimed at the government of the Soviet Union, but rather at the West, perhaps in part for its prosperity, but also in part for the sense that Russian culture and society was perceived as inferior to Western culture. In this context, one of the key aspects for cross-cultural exchange is the ability to discern what aspects of Western society may be desirable for Russia and which aspects should be rejected.
II.6 The Russian skinhead subculture: Anti-cross-cultural behavior
The following is an excerpt from article entitled, Things you Should Know when Traveling to Russia: “Violent crime has increased. Crime against foreigners is a serious problem. Pickpocketing, assaults, and robberies occur frequently and are often committed by groups of children. Vulnerable areas include underground walkways, subways, tourist sites, restaurants, airports, train stations, and hotel rooms and residences, even when locked and occupied.
Do not accept food or drinks from strangers. Do not leave food or drinks unattended in bars or restaurants. Cases of drugging followed by robbery and assault have occurred.
Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment. Organized criminal groups target foreign businesses and have been known to demand protection money under threat of serious violence. Extortion attempts should be reported to Russian authorities and officials at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow (see below).
Harassment and attacks on foreigners of Asian and African descent have increased. Canadians should exerCISe extreme caution in crowds and places frequented by skinhead groups, including open markets.”
The above warning to Western tourists planning to visit Russia may seem extreme, but according to Westerners familiar with the happenings in Russia and other CIS countries, tourists would do well to heed the warnings. Some of the above warnings relate to petty criminals seeking to gain a few extra dollars. Other warnings relate to organized crime and the mafia, while a third group relates to xenophobic, hate-based behavior against foreigners, much of which is perpetrated by the subculture of skinheads, also known as neo-Nazis.
There are large numbers of skinheads in Russia, estimated at approximately 50,000, responsible for a significant number of xenophobic attacks, including 97 deaths in 2008 alone. Some of the causes cited for skinhead popularity include 1) Growing up in a harsh environment. 2) Poverty and a sense of hopelessness with regard to educational possibilities. 3) Influences of racial hatred by parents and peers. 4) A lack of interracial interaction at a young age.
According to Russian newspaper Wriemia Nowostiej, a young skinhead nationalist, Artur Rino (18), confessed to police that he was responsible for the murder of 37 persons of non-Russian origin in Moscow. He stated his aim was to clean whole city from strangers who he's hated since he was "at school."
A recent article, Skinhead Subculture in Russia, noted how the skinhead subculture, or neo-Nazis, in Russia have grown from a few dozen a decade ago to over 50,000 in recent times. This subculture is made up of mainly teenagers with shaved heads who wear bomber or camouflage jackets and heavy steel-tipped boots. They generally enjoy harassing and physically attacking Jews, Blacks, Chechens and Asians. One fifteen-year-old skinhead, Zakhar, was asked why they do what they do, he replied, “Because [Hitler] gave us the holy idea of National Socialism.”
The above referenced article continues: “The country (Russia) is bracing for a wave of xenophobic attacks. It's a spring afternoon in downtown Moscow. Pushkin Square, a major hub of the Russian capital, is as vibrant as ever. Even those who hurry along on urgent errands steal a second to stop and enjoy the sunshine after weeks of rain and snow. But the atmosphere in one corner of the square is more menacing. A crowd of about 80 teenagers is chanting ‘Kill the U.S.A.!’ and raising their arms in the Nazi salute. Zakhar, aged 15, with shaved head and camouflage shirt, is reluctant to talk to a journalist, but makes an exception to explain that the rally is ‘all about exterminating the Jews, Americans and other scum.’ Immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Russians in their thousands brought flowers, wreaths, lighted candles and icons to the U.S. embassy wall. Something of a rapprochement between Russia and the West followed. But those feel-good days are gone. In a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation last month, 70% of those surveyed regarded the U.S. as a hostile country. And earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Moscow received an e-mail in broken English that read: ‘We are to kill all the foreigners we see, marking the birthday of Hitler [April 20].’”
By and large, the Russian government has not been taking serious measures to curtail the growth of the skinhead movement. Even when it comes to statistics, “hate crimes” are often overlooked or not defined as such in the documents of police records. It seems as if the Russian government actually condones the behavior, perhaps considering it supports its nationalistic anti-Western ideologies.
II.7 EMO and Goth subculture: Banned by Russian government
While the Russian government is highly supportive of the Nashi youth movement, and seems to actually condone skinhead racism towards other nationalities, the Russian government made motions in 2008 to ban Emo and Goth youth subculture because they stated it led to suicide on occasion. There was a worldwide reaction by teenagers and a petition. 1,200 signatures were listed in a petition, with some comments, mostly westerners, at website “Petitions Online.” A 2008 article in NME News article entitled “Emo to be made illegal in Russia?” describes the situation:
“A new Russian law could make being an emo kid illegal in the eastern European country. Legislation is currently being formulated in Russia to heavily regulate emo websites and ban emo and goth dress style in schools and government buildings. The new laws are apparently being driven by fears that these ‘dangerous teen trends’ encourage depression and suicide.” The emo and goth lifestyles are adopted from Western types of music and culture, which includes wearing black clothes, tight pants, lots of skin piercing and hair bangs which cover one's face. The most disturbing element, however, seems to be the desire to wallow in depression. The legislation by the State Duma apparently was never approved to outlaw these dress styles and cultural expressions.
III. Present cross-cultural attitudes between the CIS and the West
Many Americans are not aware of the extent to which Russians and people of CIS have come to dislike them, especially since the beginning of the Iraq War. In order to address the problem of bitter East/West relations, the most important element is awareness of the situation.
Susan Richards, director and founder of Open Democracy, wrote an article in 2009 entitled “Russians don't much like the West,” which should be read by Westerners interested in understanding today's political climate.
“Russian attitudes to the West are known to have soured in recent years. But it may surprise Western readers that the majority of Russians now express a positive dislike of the West in general, and particularly of America. Nor do most of them regard liberal democracy as a model towards which Russia should aspire any more, either.
“These are the findings of an ambitious new socio-economic study entitled ‘Are Russians Moving Backwards?' by Sergei Guriev of the prestigious New Economic School in Moscow, Aleh Tsyvinski of Yale University, and Maxim Trudolubov of the business newspaper Vedomosti. The research is based on the findings of regular opinion polls and on a mass of data on values, attitudes and perceptions, between 2003-2008, which have not been drawn into the policy debate before.
“The findings are stark. When Russian attitudes to democracy and the market place are compared with those of other countries, Russians come out as among the least enthusiastic in the world, a good deal less keen even than the people of Belarus.”
In the above article, Richards goes on to describe how some of the governing attitudes in contemporary Russian society were formed long before even the Soviet Union was established. The idea that the solidarity of the group is more important than the freedom of the individual is in many ways based on the deep-rooted survival instinct of a people who have had to survive together through many harsh periods and under life-threatening circumstances. The tendency towards conformity is a characteristic not just of Russia but of the East in general. Japan, for example, places a very high premium on conformity. There is a saying in Japanese “The nail that sticks up is pounded down.” Japan has balanced its strong sense of conformity with the idea of capitalism and democracy and has become one of the most highly developed countries in the world.
Further on in Richard's article she points out how Russians have disassociated economic improvements in Russia from the idea that the more free and open economy was in any way a result of Western ideas or influences. Much of the suspicion of foreigners is probably tied to Russia's vast yet isolated geography. The deep traditions of the Motherland do not change quickly. Russia, for example, has great pride in the Orthodox faith, not just as a religion, but as a cultural banner of a perceived superior civilization. Considering the increased opposition to Western influences, the only note of hope Richards offers for near term exchange is the notion that a pendulum always eventually sways back again towards the center.
Susan Richards pointed out that the dislike of the West is becoming more pronounced at this time with young people. To reiterate: “The youngest respondents (20-year-olds) showed the same degree of dislike of the US as their grandparents, while the 35-45 year olds were less hostile to the US.” While many young Russians favor Western pop music and Western sub-culture, the attitudes and ideals of the West are often rejected by those same young people.
Having reviewed the history of positive and negative trends regarding cross-cultural engagement between the CIS and the West, an interested person may desire to ask “How one can enrich one's knowledge of new Issues regarding cross-cultural communication?”
Business people interested in developing cross-communication skills should study the various nuances. Article entitled “Russian Cultural Values and Workplace Communication Styles” offers some guidelines for Western business people.
For Western evangelical Christians who desire improved religious cross-cultural interaction with Russians, a better understanding of the Orthodox Church, its influence and its mindset, would be helpful. Article “Russian Orthodox Soteriology – Crisis of Soteriology” may be helpful in this regard.
The most immediate means of being informed of up to date news and information is to regularly visit Internet news portals and blogs that touch upon the types of subjects you are interested in, as related to specific countries.
The most effective way for a Westerner to understand CIS culture, would be to physically visit and live in the area. It is recommended not just to be a tourist but, rather, to do something perhaps more meaningful. For example, some young people, interested in mastering the Russian language, visit as college students for a semester or a year. Some visit to do some volunteer work at a church or an orphanage camp, which are usually grateful for help. In these ways one is able to get below the surface of the culture and really engage it. CIS citizens can often engage Westerners in business, academic or religious spheres and practice their English as well.
Another way in which a person can seek out cross cultural exchanges and personal interaction is through the Internet. With the advent of the Internet and Skyping, it is possible to meet and chat with native speakers both in text and live, both informally and with professionally prepared lessons. This is, of course, much cheaper than flying oversees, but is more interesting than the snail-mail pen-pal method of writing and sending letters, though there are some who do prefer this more classic method.
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