Sunday, October 7, 2007

Megan's Blog

Myths and Truths about Russia!

Myth: RUSSIA IS FULL OF MAFIA AND IT'S DANGEROUS HERE!Truth: Really, many people think that Russia is some place filled with Mafia and it's so dangerous to come here. Well, there is Mafia, but the wild west nineties are left in the 20th century. Nowadays it's like any place in the world and Russia is not more dangerous than anywhere else. If you know where to stay, keep away from the "bad" places, do your normal traveler's things and practice your normal traveler's safety, you'll be okay. You can only have contact with criminals when you're into something illegal, like buying or selling drugs, or are really looking for trouble. Really, think about it: why would anybody have problems because of you? The Mafiosi spend all their time making business, the gangs spend all their time dealing with each other, so you certainly will not experience any of that. Also there's so much police on the streets of Moscow it seems like the safest place in the world.

Myth: THE ECONOMY IS DESTRUCTED AND RUSSIA IS A POOR COUNTRY WITH NO FUTURE :-(Truth: Well, it's not quite true, though many people think so and they have their reasons. The economy is rising now, becoming more and more independent and stable, but unfortunately there's a temptation to do it at the cost of heavy industries (like oil & gas, resources etc.) which turns Russia into a country, that sells resources only. At the same time Russia tries to keep up with the latest technological advances, and to improve the side of the economy that workes especially for people. It can be seen: I traveled around Europe a lot and to my mind the quality of services in Russia is among the best. Almost all shops are opened 24 hours here, there are currency exchanges on every step (even in smaller towns), cell phone providers offer much more attractive and less expensive deals. Russia is becoming very capitalist and consumer-friendly.Also, the government is starting to understand that it's there not to suck money, but to help people and the country, but there's a high level of corrution and a high dumb-head factor still. At the same time the increasing gap between poor and rich people intensifies social tension in society; there are broken down towns and villages (with dead industries); there are lost people not required in the new system and having nothing to do - therefore drunkenness, narcotics and crimes; low paid old people are really just trying to survive; low salaries in state-employment result in bribes to customs, police...The good side is that there are more and more people who adapt to the new system, and who understand that they depend not on the government (like in old Soviet times), but on themselves now, and what can be seen and felt now is that the people are changing, their attitude is changing, they understand that only by acting themselves will they achieve something, they look quite optimistic to the future and that means everything is going to be all right. There are young people who want to change how things are and people are trying to do something to make their life better. It works, there are more and more "middle class" people. But the problem with poor, old and "lost" people remains.

Myth: THE WINTER IS SO COLD HERE!Truth: It's not very cold, though sometimes it might be quite freezing. But if you have warm clothes, you'll be ok. Generally, the lowest is minus 10 or 15 Celsius in the winter, though it might sometimes (rarely) go as low as minus 25 or 30, but even that is not very cold, because it's not humid. And the true thing about Russian winter is that it's very beautiful, that is right. I like it!

Myth: MANY RUSSIANS ARE RACISTS, AREN'T THEY?Truth: Russians are not racists. Even in the communist time people were raised up on the idea that everybody was equal. The only thing is that few middle-aged and old people have something against the States. But they'll not insult or offend a tourist because of that. Just don't hurt anybody's patriotic feelings.Anyway, Russians are more often than not very open and generous to the foreigners.

Myth: RUSSIANS ARE DRINKING MUCH TOO MUCH...Truth: Maybe, but after ages of driking they have a strong immune against alchohol, so they don't become drunk too fast. Also vodka is considered to be the best thing to warm oneself up with in winter. And, in fact, I have the same stereotype about .. uhm... British. Do they really drink as much beer every day as they say?Seriously, alchoholism is a big problem in Russia, especially among older people. After the collapse of Soviet Union, many people got lost and instead of dealing with the new challenges, they decided to escape their problems through drinking. Because of that, families are unhappy, many people are unemployed, people don't want to build something new, but want to drift into the 'careless' state of mind and not to do anything.

1 comment:

Bimini said...

The "warmth" that strong alcohol gives you is false's just the tissues in your throat becoming dehydrated. It doesn't actually warm you up temperature wise at all.

(I'm not arguing this to try and say Russians really do drink too's just a useful fact to know, should you ever be trapped in a freezing cold place with a bottle of vodka as your only source of warmth, you'd be better off trying to use the vodka to start a fire rather than drinking it...)