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name comes from the historic Rus people that are the ancestors of today's Russians
and other eastern Slavic people.
Russia is a massive country that has one of the world's most intriguing cultures.
To many visitors, the buildings, traffic, and clothing may appear to be no different
than that found at home, but culturally, the Russians are incredibly unique and
this culture is rooted in their long history, priorities, and mentality.
Despite the huge landmass that makes up Russia, the people today are very similar
culturally from region to region, but this wasn't always the case. Despite the
long and impressive history, the Russian people and their culture only began in
about 1000 and they weren't unified until a couple centuries later. Prior to
this, the lands were diverse and sparsely populated. The cold weather, snows, and
long winters have meant the lands aren't ideal for farming and this often dictated
where people settled in early history.
With advancements in technology the Russians spread across the lands, incorporating
many ethnic minorities along the way. At nearly this same time, the Russian culture
began to develop and became more narrowly defined as the language evolved, the foods
changed, the lifestyle was altered, and the Christian Orthodox religion became a
stronghold in the culture.
Over time the Russians created and defined their culture in numerous ways, but primarily
in terms of what it is not. As a diverse land, the people drew comparisons to the
Caucus people in the south, the ethnic Turks and Tajiks in the south, and the ethnic
Mongol and Chinese in the southeast, plus the many other people, including the Tatars.
Eventually, the ethnic Russians dominated these other people and expanded their
As Russian power grew politically, so too did their culture as many czars were from
other parts of Europe, introducing European technologies and culture to the people,
particularly those in the western part of the country. However, the western European
influence never took over Russian culture, although revolutionary thoughts from
the west arrived and helped spark the communist revolution.
Communism changed much of Russian culture, while also magnifying other aspects of
Russian culture. Religion was outlawed and the government began to define moral
questions, the historic town lifestyle was abandoned to a great degree as people
urbanized and industrialization expanded, and traditional clothing was destroyed.
However, the government also tried to force ethnic minorities to become "Soviet"
and this culture was heavily defined using other aspects of Russian culture, such
as the Russian language being taught to everyone. More than this though, communism
changed the mentality of the people as trust was destroyed, loyalty was redefined,
and forced social interactions took the place of the family and religion as social
and cultural focus points.
Today Russia remains a misunderstood and confusing place for many visitors as Russian
culture is rooted in this diverse and ever-changing past. Today rural life is slowly
returning as are cultural aspects tied to this lifestyle, such as their saunas (banya),
religion is slowly returning, and the attitude towards alcohol is no longer viewed
the same way. However, western influences have also arrived as dance clubs are everywhere,
technology is flooding the country, and western entertainment is everywhere. This
new money is also making bribery and connections more important than knowledge and
hard work, preventing much social fluidity. Russia is ever-changing, yet rooted
in the past; it is the land of confusion.
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