Misperception and Reality

What difference in mentality can be seen in different regions of Russia?

April 30, 2016

My Russian friends used to annoy me when they insisted I could not understand Russia if I knew only Moscow and St. Petersburg.  So I began to visit other Russian cities and surrounding countryside--Perm, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Izhevsk, Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Ufa, Krasnodar, Vladimir-Suzdal, Tuapse.  My conclusion?  My friends were right.  These cities are not Moscow or St. Petersburg.  But then, Oklahoma City, Provo Utah, Flint Michigan, and Columbus Ohio are not New York City or Washington D.C. 

There is, however, an important qualitative difference between regional differences in Russia and those in America.  In many regions of Russia, not to mention the now independent former Republics of the Soviet Union, there are significant non-Russian populations. In many regions, Russians are even in the minority.  To some extent, regional differences are thus qualitatively different from those in America.  Not only Russian regions but most of the republics and regions of the former Soviet Union share a common civilization that runs through all ethnicities.  The differences between Kazan, Ufa, and Chelyabinsk are less noticeable than are the differences between France, Germany, and Italy, because of this shared civilization that runs through all of the former Russian Empire.  

Like the United States, Russia is a melting pot, yet in Russia, ethnicities are more deeply-rooted and do not melt away to the extent they do in the US.  The reason is obvious.  America is a nation of immigrants.  Different ethnic groups have settled down in various regions, but they are not as firmly rooted in these regions as ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union are rooted in their home regions. 

In America, immigrants settled a vast continent that was sparsely populated. The indigenous peoples were destroyed or put on reservations. The Russian Empire spanned two continents. The Empire would conquer new territories; then Russians would wander east to settle down amongst indigenous populations. These Russians intermarried to a significant extent. But this did not erode away their ethnic identities nearly to the extent Americans immigrant groups have melted into a homogeneous national culture. 

Here is a link to a blog post I wrote on this transethnic civilization.  "Russkiy Mir" Revival of Russian/Soviet imperialism?

Share this article

Poll conducted

  1. In your opinion, what are the US long-term goals for Russia?
    U.S. wants to establish partnership relations with Russia on condition that it meets the U.S. requirements  
     33 (31%)
    U.S. wants to deter Russia’s military and political activity  
     30 (28%)
    U.S. wants to dissolve Russia  
     24 (22%)
    U.S. wants to establish alliance relations with Russia under the US conditions to rival China  
     21 (19%)
For business
For researchers
For students