Siberia vs. Western Russia

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Siberia vs. Western Russia

Postby CittaKyle » Thu May 05, 2016 1:17 am

Do mindsets and cultural norms vary significantly across Russia by geography or are they fairly uniform? I assume there are some urban vs rural differences, but anything more significant than that?

Russia is so large and borders so many different cultures. It's hard to imagine there aren't significant impacts to the way people think as a result.
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Re: Siberia vs. Western Russia

Postby tarvos » Thu May 05, 2016 4:51 pm

Moscow is a microcosm and everything outside of Moscow is way more authentically Russian, with both its good and bad sides. I love Siberia. They are very hospitable towards tourists (and curious because they don't get many). I spent three weeks in Siberia a few years ago and loved it.

Times have changed though, I think.
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Re: Siberia vs. Western Russia

Postby vonPeterhof » Thu May 05, 2016 5:33 pm

In general the variance is minuscule, since ethnic Russians are the majority in most of Russia's regions. In fact, you're probably more likely to notice variance in ethnic Russian populations within European Russia than between the urban populations of European Russia and Siberia, since most of the modern inhabitants of Siberia and the Russian Far East descend from migrants who moved there within the last 110 years or so. You might find some variance if you look at the indigenous communities, but even among them there are plenty of those who are fully assimilated into Russian culture and haven't preserved much of their traditions. The biggest outlier in Siberia is Tuva, which was only formally incorporated into Russia in the 1940's, still has no railway link to the outside world and retains an indigenous absolute majority, for many of whom Russian is pretty much a foreign language. Outside of that the differences are trivial (one that immediately comes to mind is that in the Far East a lot of people drive second-hand cars from Japan and treat left-hand drive cars with suspicion).

The most culturally distinct place in European Russia is likely North Caucasus, due to both the ethnic, linguistic and religious differences and the fact that the region was also conquered relatively late. There are concentrations of ethnic minorities in other regions as well, but since the people there had spent more time under Russian rule the differences might not be as pronounced. And, like I mentioned previously, the variance within the rural areas of the traditional ethnic Russian heartland (plus certain subgroups outside of it, like the Cossacks or the Pomors) can be noticeable in things like dialect, folklore, architecture (in the south of Russia houses were traditionally built with the main entrance facing the road, while in the north the main entrance is on the opposite side), etc. And then there's the little things, like the fact that in Moscow people line up on the right side of the escalator going both ways, while in Saint Petersburg this is only done when going down.
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Re: Siberia vs. Western Russia

Postby IronMike » Thu May 26, 2016 10:26 am

In Moscow (or St Pete) if you say "Привет," or "Добрый день" to someone on the street, they'll lower their eyes and walk on, ignoring you.

If you say the same to someone in Khabarovsk, or Ufa, or Ekaterinburg, they'll stop and talk to you in Russian (or in English) and ask you how you're doing and how you've learned their language.

There is Moscow and St. Pete, and there's Russia.
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Re: Siberia vs. Western Russia

Postby Alessa » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:54 am

It is a cute story :), although I'll venture that this difference in behavior is largely a function of the size of the settlement (sheer number of people). Since, I'd observed something quite similar in the U.S. -- smile at a pedestrian in Denver, CO, and you'll get a sunny smile back and, potentially, a friendly comment. Smile at a pedestrian in New York City, and they'll avert their eyes or look "through you" and walk by like you do not exist.

Similarly, inhabitants of large metropolitan areas tend to generally speak quieter, since there are always others around, whom you might bother, or whose attention you might not want to draw to yourself, when you speak. People who grew up in the countryside, on the other hand, tend to speak freely and loudly. I'd noticed in the Russian villages people would greet you all the way across the street, so it is natural to speak loudly to cover large distances with you voice. As a result to a city dweller people from the country are recognizable by the fact that they are "loud", i.e. seemingly impolite. To those who are used to living in the freedom of large open spaces of the countryside, it is not clear why people from the city speak almost whispering, as if they are in a library.

IronMike wrote:In Moscow (or St Pete) if you say "Привет," or "Добрый день" to someone on the street, they'll lower their eyes and walk on, ignoring you. If you say the same to someone in Khabarovsk, or Ufa, or Ekaterinburg, they'll stop and talk to you in Russian (or in English) and ask you how you're doing and how you've learned their language.
There is Moscow and St. Pete, and there's Russia.
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Re: Siberia vs. Western Russia

Postby IronMike » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:39 pm

Alessa wrote:It is a cute story :), although I'll venture that this difference in behavior is largely a function of the size of the settlement (sheer number of people). Since, I'd observed something quite similar in the U.S. -- smile at a pedestrian in Denver, CO, and you'll get a sunny smile back and, potentially, a friendly comment. Smile at a pedestrian in New York City, and they'll avert their eyes or look "through you" and walk by like you do not exist.

Similarly, inhabitants of large metropolitan areas tend to generally speak quieter, since there are always others around, whom you might bother, or whose attention you might not want to draw to yourself, when you speak. People who grew up in the countryside, on the other hand, tend to speak freely and loudly. I'd noticed in the Russian villages people would greet you all the way across the street, so it is natural to speak loudly to cover large distances with you voice. As a result to a city dweller people from the country are recognizable by the fact that they are "loud", i.e. seemingly impolite. To those who are used to living in the freedom of large open spaces of the countryside, it is not clear why people from the city speak almost whispering, as if they are in a library.

IronMike wrote:In Moscow (or St Pete) if you say "Привет," or "Добрый день" to someone on the street, they'll lower their eyes and walk on, ignoring you. If you say the same to someone in Khabarovsk, or Ufa, or Ekaterinburg, they'll stop and talk to you in Russian (or in English) and ask you how you're doing and how you've learned their language.
There is Moscow and St. Pete, and there's Russia.


Alessa, very possibly you are right. But I would challenge you to smile and say hi to someone in a big city in the south of the U.S., like, say, Houston (4th largest city in the U.S. at a bit over 2 million) and you'll get a smile back along with probably a greeting and even more. So, while I'll say maybe "size of the settlement" has some influence, the location of the city (at least in the U.S.) has a lot to do with it too!

Cheers!
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