Thursday, January 16, 2020

For Russians, ‘Modesty and Smiling are Shortcomings,’ Nalgin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 13 – Unlike Europeans and Americans, Andrey Nalgin says, Russians view modesty and restraint as a shortcoming and believe they have to flaunt what they have in order to show others that they are stronger, richer, and tougher than others, a reflection of the fact that they remain at the level of the struggle for survival rather than moving on to development.

            In the West, the Russian commentator says, those with power and wealth do not feel the need to flaunt it. Instead, they are inclined to understate it because they view such modesty as becoming since all are equal ( and

            “But Russians, who constantly exist in conditions of a fight for survival, simply are forced to bluff and demonstrate in the manner of animals their power, toughness, and wealth” even if they to fake things to do that. “Otherwise they won’t be able to survive!” Nalgin continues. 

            That’s why a Russian will buy an expensive car on credit that he can’t afford because he sees that the powers like Putin and the Patriarch have big cars and therefore that is the appropriate style, one designed to show everyone that even if you aren’t respected, you will at a minimum be feared.

            Another example of this is the contrast between the readiness of Europeans and Americans to smile at those they don’t know and the unwillingness of Russians to do so when they meet anyone but close friends, Nalgin says. This also reflects a certain “animal-like wariness” on the part of Russians who view the smiling Westerners as insincere.

            Westerners, he argues, don’t need to smile only for some because they do not make the division all the time because their own and others: “there all are equal and all are their own.” But in Russia, the division between one’s own and all the others is critical because it is viewed as a requirement of survival.

            “The values of survival force people to be part of one collective herd, to be among their own” and to display behaviors like smiling and not smiling to indicate its limits. “Such unity in struggle is a requirement of survival,” but it involves “a certain loss of individuality and freedom” because the actions of the individual are subordinated to those of the herd.

            In the West, people focus on individual development and thus are ready to smile at everyone and not just at those they have included in their “herd.”  In fact, they do not define themselves in that way because all are pursuing individual development – and smiling helps rather than hinders that process.

              If Russians want to break out of the herd and become individuals committed to development rather than mere survival, Nalgin concludes, they might try smiling at people they don’t know as a first step.

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