Stereotypes are definitely generalizations, but we all know they exist for a reason. In an earlier episode, we talked about the fixed image of Americans; the rather portly, loud, proud, person who may have a fondness for carrying firearms, but now we’re moving on. Today, we are heading to the largest nation on Earth, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Common Stereotypes about Russians.
You don’t have to go further than the movie industry to see stereotypes in full swing. Movies may be less guilty of stereotyping these days, but in the past it was common. We had the goofy man from China, who was usually nice but always a bit clumsy. Englishmen were either gentlemen with rather posh accents, blundering romantic fools, or just the bad guy. Mexicans were either wild like Pancho Villa, mostly poor, and the women all buxom and hyper-sexualized. But what about the Russians? Well, as you know, they are mostly the bad guys in film. The men are all born tough, and the women are sexy and dangerous.
Where does the tough guy Russian stereotype come from? Well, part of this is probably because Russian male soldiers suffered so much during the world wars in terms of casualties and the harshness of their environment. Then you had the Cold War and a Russia presented to us that was a tough place to live in. Even the works of Dostoyevsky often portray very difficult environments, but not so much macho men. Actually, according to a 2015 article in the Moscow Times, this brand of macho hard men was cultivated by well-known Russian officials – we wonder if he’s referring to Putin? The article says things have changed and that “Russians are more interested in thriving rather than merely surviving these days.” Another article in Vice says Russian men are no longer interested in being tough, masculine types, and now fashion plays more of a role in their lives.
Now that we’ve put that to bed, what about the possible fact that all Russians are vodka addicts? According to Russian journalist Oleg Yegorov, when Russians were asked to answer a questionnaire about stereotypes of Russian people, they answered ‘no’ to many questions, but just about everyone said ‘yes’ to the question: Do Russians drink a lot of Vodka? World Health Organization data does indeed state that Russians are very partial to a bit of booze. The last available data puts Russia as the 5th country in the world for alcohol consumption, with Lithuania taking the crown. When that data was published in 2014, a slew of media articles stated that because of avid vodka consumption, 25 percent of Russian men would likely not make it to 55 years old. So, the Russians aren’t denying it, and the stats seem to corroborate the fact, that Russians drink a lot in general.
The next stereotype is that russians are really crazy drivers? If you’ve ever seen those crash videos on YouTube, then you know that so many of them are filmed from the dash cams of Russian cars. In 2012, Business Insider cited a Russian journalist who said that so many Russians have dash cams because, yes, Russian driving is chaotic, but he also said part of the reason was that the police were not always reliable. The most recent data tells us Eritrea has the most traffic fatalities in the world at 48.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Russia is about 23 deaths per 100,000, according to Statistica, which is pretty high, but since 2006, the number has been getting smaller and smaller. When the question of bad driving in Russia was posed on Quora, the mainly Russian responders all said, indeed driving in Russia is crazy. One person said it doesn’t help that everyone on the road is convinced he or she is right and everyone else is an idiot.
Talking about unreliable police, there’s often a stereotype of Russia as being a very corrupt country. Well, the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International does rank Russia very high, saying that Russia is the 131st most corrupt country out of 176 countries. A 2017 Russia corruption report states that corruption is endemic in the country. As for law enforcement, the report states even though “Russian law criminalizes active and passive bribery, facilitation payments, gifts and other benefits,” police, public services, politics, land, tax, and customs administration are all beleaguered by corruption.
Moving on, what about all those stunningly beautiful, tall, slim, Russian women who are a bit dangerous a la Hollywood. It really depends on what part of Russia we are talking about, but the average height all over Russia for a woman is 5 ft 5, (164 cm), which is quite tall. In 2017, it was reported that a Russian woman called Ekaterina Lisina is aiming to be the world’s tallest model. She stands at a whopping 6’9 inches (210cm). The average female weight according to some Russian media has shot up, stating that Russia is now facing an obesity problem. It’s said the average female weight is now 159 lbs (72.7kg). As for beautiful, that’s a matter of opinion. We looked at top 10 and top 20 lists of most beautiful women in the world and Russian women were always on those lists. One writer said in the cities the women tend to dress up fine, wearing “lavish outfits, complete with fur coats, fine jewelry, and flawless makeup and hair.” And the femme fatale factor, well, if you want to understand Russian women, the media site Russia Beyond says go and read some Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
Turning from love to hate, another stereotype is that homophobia is everywhere in Russia. There have been some worrying videos out there depicting people being beaten up in Russia because of their sexual orientation, but is homophobia everywhere in Russia? According to The Atlantic, Russia is a pretty homophobic place, and the article states that people still worry that heterosexual men can be ‘turned gay’ and so society has to be on the lookout. The article states that “Only 16 percent of Russians today say homosexuality should be accepted by society,” but if you cross the border over to Poland, that number becomes 42 percent.
Aside from being homophobic, Russians are often described as rude by stereotypers. No please, no thank you, and curt to a fault. This question was asked on Quora and the Russians that answered said it was not true, but Russians just have a way of interacting socially without all the pleasantries. One man said that people may seem rude at first, but “Once you get to know a Russian… these folks are often found to be the kindest, warmest, and friendliest on the planet.”
Some non-Russians said the men were not so rude, and the fault lay with Russian women. There have also been quite a few articles recently saying that Russian tourists were voted as the worst tourists in the world, maybe taking the prize away from new money Chinese tourists. Another thing that people have noted about Russians is that they don’t tend to smile a lot. Writing for Bustle about this matter, one Russian writer agreed, but added, “Culturally, we don’t smile at strangers for the sake of being ‘polite’ because we consider this gesture weird and a waste of time.”
So, what do you think of our Russian stereotypes? Are any of them real or are they all just massive generalizations? Let us know in the comments!