Day to day life in Russia and emigration

What is day to day life like in Russia?

Despite your imagination may create snow hills up to the 3rd floor and stray bears in the streets, actual Russian daily routine doesn’t significantly differ from Western life style.

Since Moscow is the only good place for making money, it’s terribly overpopulated and people have to wake up very early to reach their workplaces in time. One-way road may take up to 2 hours. This includes sub-urban train, car-driving from railway station to subway, subway itself and finally afoot stroll. Double salary in comparison to provinces compensates these tortures.

State offices usually work since 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Private – with 1 hour forward shift. Stores open at 11 a.m. and close at 8-9 p.m. Most jobs provide 30-60 minutes for a lunch break.

After a work people return home to make a dinner (they don’t visit restaurants often). Then they have free time and spending it depends on a person. Some play with kids, others have a beer in front of TV.

Friday is considered as a drinking day among clerks and laborers. Since they don’t need to wake up early on the next day, they can afford having alcohol in the evening. They gather up in companies and go to bar or stay at someone’s home.

Saturday and Sunday are days for family business. It could be a barbecue in recreation, dacha, cleanup or whatever.

an_ordinary_dayhow other countries see Russia

What are Russians’ favorite countries?

The most popular countries for vacation are Turkey, Egypt and Thailand because of the best ratio of price to quality. These countries fit good if you want to have sunbathes at a sea, proper service and nothing more.

For traveling Russians prefer Europe due to its nearness and rich cultural legacy. I suppose, France and Italy are one of the first in any traveler’s list.
North America and Asia are less popular, while South America, Africa and Australia are almost forgotten.

Do many Russians want to leave their country or are they happy where they are?

The majority of Russians have never crossed USSR’s borders. Since they’ve never seen any examples of another life, they are fine in Russia. I don’t mean Russia is bad or worse than other countries, I want to say, most people just don’t reach the point of comparison and selection.

Some Russians believe that West countries are way better and aspire to leave Russia. Eventually they fulfill their dream and get citizenship in a foreign state. Then they begin to show off with their brand new life in an “elite” country, but start to cry and complain after the 3rd shot of vodka IRL. Of course, some are happy abroad, but in my opinion, the country will be alien for them forever and they’ll be the 2nd class people.

i_wanna_leavepiglet Pyotr (Peter), the symbol of Russian emigration

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Several minor facts

Today I’ll overview some lesser things that don’t deserve an entire post.

Labor classes

On the first labor lesson we’ll take a big screwdriver
and a file and make a small screwdriver.

– a joke

First of all, I’ve already mentioned school labor classes, but didn’t explain it. Labor lessons imply simple manual work in elementary and carpenter’s or housekeeping work in middle school.
Labor classes are the only classes taken gender-separately. In the 5th grade girls begin to study housekeeping, sewing and cooking while boys move to workshop to machine wood and metal.

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I don’t know much about girls’ classes, but the only thing I’m assured in is that their cooking is a guaranteed poison. For the sake of justice, most boys are terrible carpenters.

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An ordinary workshop has several simple machines like lathe and drill. Every student has a workplace with bench-vice and instruments. Whatever they do depends on the teacher: from screw boxes to wooden hilts. Skilled students are able to create a useful chopping board or even a stool.

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Labor classes are always funny and interesting. Almost everyone loves them. It’s easy time and you finally do something material.

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Free (?) help for friends

Russian friendship is rather peculiar. Here many things are done by familiarity. If you want something with guarantee, better ask a friend or at least a familiar person.
If you pay blindly, you risk to have low quality goods or poor service. Indeed, if you go to premium class place, you’ll have a perfect treat, but you don’t visit only #1 stores, do you?
According to what I’ve heard, this relationship method belongs to Asia. And Russia has a light version of it. It’s way worse in the East.
So, people look for any clue to get a familiarity with someone they need. Or they address directly to the person that has some relation to the subject they’re interested in. And they’ll regularly ask him or her to do something for them. Like re-installing Windows, repairing electricity, giving an advice for picking a car… Friends are supposed to help friends for free, but these relationships imply a payback. Once you ask someone to help, later he may ask for your help and you cannot refuse. Yeah, just like in Godfather. Paying back with money is absolutely inappropriate and will be considered insulting.
This is how Russian friendship works.
Unfortunately, some bad persons tend to get profit at the expense of their friends. Then they could even blame a friend for their own failures. So you have to decide what request to accept and what to decline. Both options have consequences.

Mail order brides

Perhaps you’ve heard about Russian women who could be met online and agree to move to foreign country and marry in exchange for permanent residence. Well, this practice is almost gone in presence. It was popular in 90’s, when young females had no perspective in Russia (males could make a profitable but short criminal career). So their only way to have a bright future was to marry a relatively rich foreigner and leave Russia.
Nowadays for majority of Russian women cost of learning English outweighs possible profits from emigration, therefore they stay.
However, swindlers may pretend a pretty girl to suck foreigner’s money under pretense of plane tickets, etc. So, I don’t recommend to “order” a girl you’ve never seen IRL.
On the other side, women are in danger too. Sometimes they end up as a prostitute without passport in a foreign country.

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Na zdorovie

A famous toast outside of Russia, but no Russian will ever pronounce it, because it’s incorrect both grammatically and semantically.
“Na zdorovie” literally means “for your health” and it’s a polite respond for gratitude:
– Could you pass me bread?
– Sure.
– Thank you.
– Na zdorovie.
In case of toast Russian can say “Za tvoyo zdorovie!” – “To your health!”

Ashberry gun

This thing comes from my childhood. It’s a simple but menacing weapon. It could be done very easy: all you need is a plastic bottle, a saw and a rubber glove. Cut bottle’s neck with the saw and slice a finger from the glove. Place the finger on the bottle’s neck and fix it with its own cap. Done!

ashberry gun

Now find a handful of any dense berries and put one of them into the glove’s finger. Pull and release. You’ll be surprised with power of this thing. It hurts even through thick jeans.
We used to play war games with ashberry guns and it was amazingly funny. Fortunately, nobody lost an eye.

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Russian school system

Before the starting, to avoid a mess using phrase “to have classes” I will apply to terms:
“a class” – a solid community of students
“a lesson” – a 45 minute lecture for the class

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People say Soviet school was one of the best in the world, and present Russian school is a mere leftover from original soviet model.

Most of Russian schools are free but indeed we also have private schools. Children graduate from kindergarten at the age of 6 and go to school of their neighborhood at 7. As I already told in Commieblocks post, almost every block possesses a school. And blocks are very small, therefore students are able to go to school on their own and schools don’t own buses to pick up kids somewhere.
Russian school education lasts for around 11 years. 1-4 grades are elementary, 5-9 are mandatory medium course and 10-11 are high school. All this students share the same building, but elementary has a particular floor.

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The studying year begins at the 1st of September. This date is a holiday Day of Knowledge, but students hate to celebrate it. Education process is divided into 4 semesters and ends at the 25th of May. Students have holidays 4 times a year: 1 week at autumn and spring, 2 weeks in winter and entire summer.
Students come to school at ~8:30 a.m. to take 5 to 6 lessons, 45 minutes each. They visit school even on Saturdays. Usually lessons over at ~2:30 p.m. and students go home to do their homework, which is supposed to take around 1.5 hours.

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A crucial distinction from USA school is that students don’t take lessons solely, but they always stay in a class. Classes are composed at the beginning of school tier. It means, people you’ve met at the beginning of the 5th grade, will spend 6 hours a day with you for the next 5 years. Swaps between classes are possible, but rare. Consequently, nobody has a personal schedule, but it coincides for entire class.

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A class consists of 25-33 students of both genders, which is apparently excessively. Kids from elementary have a bound classroom and a single tutor, who teaches several subjects like basic math, Russian language and Russian literature. Medium school students visit different teachers who always stay in definite classrooms.
In case of extra students, some schools practice two shifts. I myself was attending at school since 12 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. for two years.

Schools don’t offer lockers to students and they have to bring all textbooks and exercise books in huge backpacks. Although students don’t have personal wardrobes, they have a common cloakroom.
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The list of studying subjects is pretty wide. Usually students have about 17 courses per year.
An approximate list:
– mathematics (1-6 grades)
– algebra (7-11 grades)
– geometry (7-11 grades)
– informatics (3-11 grades)
– surrounding world (1-4 grades)
– nature study (5 grade)
– geography (6-11 grades)
– biology (6-11 grades)
– astronomy (11 grade) optional
– physics (7-11 grades)
– chemistry (8-11 grades)
– natural science (5-11 grades) optional
– ecology (8-11 grades) optional
– history (5-11 grades)
– social science (6-11 grades)
– basics of religions and ethics (4-5 grades) optional
– Russian language (1-11 grades)
– reading (1-4 grades)
– literature (5-11 grades)
– foreign language (2-11 grades)
– labor (1-4 grades)
– technology (5-11 grades)
– plotting (9-11 grades) optional
– physical culture aka gym (1-11 grades)
– drawing (1-2 grades)
– music and/or singing (1-7 grades)
– history of arts (8-9 grades).

To manage with such number of subjects (schedule changes every week) students have a special journal, which is simply called “a school diary”. Students fill forms with subjects and write down hometasks, while teachers set marks and comments with red pen. Parents are supposed to check diary at least once a week.
In contrast to USA, Russian teachers tell students to use pens instead of pencil to avoid erasing mistakes.

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(click to expand) good student’s diary

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(click to expand) sometimes it turns into an offline chat

Russian mark system is pretty simple. Totally there are 4 possible marks:
“5” – excellent
“4” – good
“3” – satisfactorily (poor work)
“2” – unsatisfactorily (in this case student has to try again)

People say, it’s much harder to cheat in Russian school than in American. Teachers are careful and strict. But on other hand, our classmates will never tell teacher if you have been seen cheating. Denouncing is a very serious blame in Russia. Looks like staying together against superiors is an integral part of Russians.

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History of Russian foreign policy

This post is an exception. As I stated, the blog is free from political issues, but Russian foreign policy is an important thing for understanding our mentality. Many Russian people used to live (and continue) not for their own happiness, but for greater purposes.
Warning: this post is dark and full of terrors.
Entire text is my translation of original post http://mi3ch.livejournal.com/2722323.html You may want to see immersive photos there.

 It used to be a huge problem for Russia that most of its rulers were bored to take care of their own country. Meanwhile the greatness of the ruler was estimated in thousands of square kilometers of conquered lands and millions of victims. We used to fight for anyone’s interests instead of constructing houses, bridges and roads. Constructing for centuries, not for years.

When Prussia wished to take Silesia from Austria, Russia certainly couldn’t tolerate it and fell into Seven Years’ War. We sent 100 000 Russian soldiers to manage Prussia. We took Berlin. Then appeared a menace to Hannover, a possession of English king in the center of Europe. And 30 000 more afoot soldiers went throughout entire Europe to fight for Hannover.

Have you ever ponder, what for did Suvorov’s bruisers perish in the Alps? What for did we crush the French in Italy? How did Napoleon appear in Russia? Emperor Alexander was desperately jealous of his glory and afraid of bacillus of revolution. However, France was not a threat to Russia.

He participated in 3 alliances against Napoleon and every time was beaten – both at Friedland and Austerlitz. And every time Napoleon made no conditions to Russia, but released caprtives with respect. Alexander solemnly hugged Napoleon, called him his brother and immediately rallied militia for a new war.

We have desolated our country, lost hundreds of thousands soldiers for the sake of maniacal ambitions of Alexander I. But the thing he was frightened most of all was the case of Napoleon entering Russia and canceling slavery. Consequences would be unpredictable.

We always punished foreign revolutions. Russia saved Austria-Hungary from disintegration by suppressing Hungarian revolution. And only 4 years later Francis Joseph refused to support Nicholas I in Crimean War.

But the reason of Crimean War itself was ridiculous:  who would own the keys from Church of Jesus Birth in Bethlehem, the Orthodox or the Catholics? And when after a long hesitation the Turks conveyed the keys to the French, Nicholas considered himself insulted and deployed troops in Moldova and Wallachia. We suffered the heavies defeat in Crimea, lost fleet and almost 150 000 soldiers because of Emperor’s insulted feelings.

How much did idea of panslavism cost for Russia? Patriarch Nikon decided to unify Church ceremonies alike Greek to stay closer to the South Slavs and take them under the wing of  Orthodox Church. Tzar Alexei I liked the idea of spreading Orthodox tzar’s authority “from sea to sea and from rivers to the end of universe”. In result we had dissidence, distemper and thousands of burnt dissidents over Russia. According to Senate, even in Peter I times more than 900 thousands were in hiding, it’s almost 10% of country’s population.

We lost dozens of thousands of our soldiers for freedom and independence of Bulgaria. During the WWI Bulgaria was an ally of Germany, during the WWII Bulgaria was an ally of Germany. Today Bulgaria is a member of NATO.

After the revolution it went much worse. We used to support communist parties in all countries of the world. We used to fund revolutions abroad and cruelly punish revolutionists inside of the socialist camp. In 1953 our tank forces suppressed rebellion in GDR; in 1956 – in Hungary. Marshal Zhukov got the 4th star of Hero of the Soviet Union for “suppressing Hungarian anti-revolutionary rebellion”. Indeed, our media called people rebellions “fascist sorties”.

In 1968 our tanks entered Czechoslovakia. In 1979 – Afghanistan. We lost 15 000 soldiers there and killed about million Afghans. Our media reasoned it: if we didn’t do it, then both CSSR and Afghanistan would be invaded by Americans.

Our soldiers used to fight in Korea, China, Bangladesh, Laos, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia, Grenada and Cuba. We supported any cannibal claiming he builds communism. On the 28th (the last) forum of Communist party the declared cost of our aid was 700 billion rubles over 20 years. 35 billions a year. Back then the official exchange course was 1 dollar for 0.63 ruble.

We used to suck all juice from our country. Do you know when all soviet peasants got passports? In 1974. Until then they were avoided to be employed in a city.

What was an average peasant’s pension in 1980? Do you know? 34.80 rubles per month.
Communism was promised to be built in this year.

Our president again says Russia won’t tolerate something and will force others to respect it.
Perhaps, it’s enough to play geopolitics?
Perhaps, it’s time to engage in own country?
Engage in boring and uninteresting job: services, roads, constructing, taxes, creating a good climate in the country.

Our county will be respected when we’ll have the best education and healthcare in the world; when scientists from all over the world will aspire to work in Russia and our senior citizens will have the largest pensions in the world.

Gopniks and squatting

Gopniks are Russian street criminals. They’re 14-22 y.o. males from troubled families. Gopniks are bold, cruel and reckless. They gather themselves in 3-5 people mobs and rob passing people. Usually they stop a man and begin a harsh talk to find a reason for beating him. They always pick a weak target and outnumber their victims.
Gopniks were widespread in 80’s and 90’s. Nowadays they still exist, but much less. Generally they inhabit outskirts or industrial blocks.

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Gopniks have a distinct dress-code. They wear a cheap sport-suit, a leather cap and pointy leather shoes. Also they carry a purse and beads. Gopniks feed on beer and sunflower seeds. They constantly smoke and spit. If they stop at a park bench, they’ll spoil it in 15 minutes by dropping shells of seeds and cigarette stubs and spitting on everything around.

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Gopniks adore to squat. The reason of this custom lies pretty deep. As I aready said, gopniks are minor outlaws and they admire there “more successfull” relatives, who spend time in jail or just leaved it. Therefore gopniks aspire to copy behavior of prisoners without realizing what stands behind them.
Russian prisoners often squat for two reasons: prison rooms are overpopulated and not everyone has a place to seat (they even sleep by turn); security commands prisoners to squat at the wall during opening the cells because in this pose people cannot immediately stand up and run.

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This quote perfectly describes gopniks’ mentality: “Gopnik dreams to leave a jail, but never spend time there; get rid of drugs, but never have addiction; catch gonorrhea, but remain a virgin.”

Gopnik’s life ends up four ways:
– he may change lifestyle and become a normal person (the least probable);
– he gets into a jail;
– he dies because of alcochol, drugs or knife-fight;
– he turns into a complete alcoholic.