The Russian Soul

Get a slightly wider peek into the enigma of the Russian soul
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Apparently there are arguments whether it exists or not, even among Russians.

I say it does. So does Tolstoy, and many other writers.

To many, it's an enigma.

Some say, impossible to grasp by Westeners, while I tend to lean "very difficult, almost impossible".
Some say it’s an acquired trait.

"you don’t have to be Russian to understand it"

People that lived and still live in Russia or USSR can understand and have it.
Another major characteristic of Russian soul is that is full of contradictions, that are completely inexplicable, but yet don’t raise an eyebrow with a Russian person.

Russians are very generous, yet sometimes can be very cheap.
Russia is rich in resources and talent, yet Russia is struggling economically.

Russians are very hospitable, yet rarely smile and most people think we are rough around the edges.
Russians are very critical of their own government, the system, corruption, yet officially it won’t be discussed, and anyone doing it in front of foreigners is ostracized.
Russians believe in “avos”, yet Russians are a superpower for the longest time, in many spheres that can’t be attributed to just sheer luck (авось).
Russians are ready to save the whole world all the time, yet they think the whole world is against them (the legacy of Soviet propaganda).
Russians love their children and are often “mother hens” around them (god forbid you go outside without a hat in the winter), yet won’t bat an eyelid if their kids play with knives outside.
In Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, this dichotomy is represented by Platon Karatayev and Natasha Rostova. The former stoically accepts everything that fate throws his way.
As to Natasha, remember the dance scene, where expresses her inner passion, her desire for being true to herself in her Russian dancing? She ends up as a self-sacrificing mother with no loyalty to anything but her family and her kids.
Cossack’s soul

The painter of this work (Stepan Razin) was a leader of one of the largest uprisings in Russian history.

Cossacks personified the Russian soul, in that they served Czars, but enjoyed the life of free men on the fringes of the Empire.
If rulers were too hard on them, or life too boring, they always had the option of heading into the far steppes—or turning their weapons against the State.
Some quotes:

“What Russian does not love to drive fast? Which of us does not at times yearn to give his horses their head, and to let them go, and to cry, “To the devil with the world!”?

- Nikolai Gogol
"Humor is the merit of our nation. Caustic and bitter, simple-hearted and intricate, Russian humor has lived through the most ferocious, most desperate years. And I wish to believe, as long as we are able to joke, that we remain a great nation!”

- Sergei Dovlatov
“We Russians have no system of social upbringing. We are not mustered or drilled to become champions of "social principles" or other principles, but simply left to grow wild, like nettles by the fence.
That is why there are few hypocrites among us, but many liars, empty-headed bigots, and babblers. We have no need of playing the hypocrite for the sake of social principles, for we know of no such thing as social principles.
We exist in perfect liberty, that is, we vegetate, lie, chatter quite naturally, without regard for principle.”

- Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin
“It’s frightening how free a Russian man’s spirit is, how strong is his will! No one has ever been so much torn away from his native soil, as he sometimes had to be; nobody ever took a turn so sharp, as he, following his own belief!”

- Fyodor Dostoevsky
“It is sad, yet joyful, on a silent summer’s night, in a voiceless wood, to hear a Russian song. Here we find unlimited sadness without hope.
Here, also is unconquerable strength and the unalterable stamp of Fate; here, also is iron predestination, one of the primitive foundations of the Russian national identity, through which much can be explained which seemed inexplicable in Russian life.”

- Alexei K. Tolstoy
“A difficult problem presents itself ceaselessly to the Russian - the problem of organizing his vast territory. The immensity of Russia, the absence of boundaries, was expressed in the structure of the Russian soul.
The landscape of the Russian soul corresponds with the landscape of Russia, the same boundlessness, formlessness, reaching out into infinity.”

- Nikolai Berdyaev
“I am far from admiring all that I see around me...

But I swear to you on my honor that not for anything in the world would I be willing to change my fatherland, nor to have any history other than those of our ancestors, such as God gave us.”

- Alexander Pushkin
“In these days of doubt, in these days of painful brooding over the fate of my country, thou alone art my rod and my staff, O great, mighty, true and free Russian language! If it were not for thee, how could one keep from despairing at the sight of what is going on at home?
But it is inconceivable that such a language should not belong to a great people.”

- Ivan Turgenev
“That’s our Russian apathy - not to feel the responsibilities imposed on us by our rights and thus to deny those responsibilities.”

- Leo Tolstoy
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