I am sure that each of us at least once heard about stereotypes about Russia:Bears that walk freely among the streets, immersed in the depths of snow of the endless Russian winter, from the cold of which each comrade warms the body with a bottle of vodka and a hat with earflaps, and the soul with music on a balalaika and playing matryoshka. As they say in common parlance — Cranberry. And if you meet with an average foreigner and ask him about our country, most likely he will remember this particular berry.
At the same time, we can definitely say that this is not so, because … we are people in the real world, and not in some fairy tale. But the question is: where did all these images and stable stereotypes about our land, people, our Motherland come from?
Let’s start from the oldest stereotype: Russia is the country where bears walk the streets. Even historians of the 19th century conducted research into its origins and came to the conclusion that this image has a real background. The cult of the bear has long existed on the territory of our country; it really was the embodiment of the spirit for the Russians. This animal was totemic for the inhabitants of our country, the bear has always been the subject of folklore. With the advent of Orthodoxy, the church supported this stereotype of national identity. Once upon a time, at almost every fair there was a tradition to show the fight between men and bears as a way to demonstrate their prowess. Also, these animals performed for the amusement of the public, what Z.I. Vlasova wrote about in her scientific work “Skomorokhs and Folklore”.For foreigners who came to our country, the meeting with the bear was a real shock, so upon their return they were horrified to talk about the ventures of these “strange Russians”. It should be noted that Russians are happy to support this stereotype, they joke a lot on this topic.
Many stereotypes about Russia are associated with vodka. The Russians really accompanied any meal for the reception of foreign guests with the use of this drink. In addition, visitors could observe noisy fights, songs and dances of drunken men in taverns, and, as is usually the case with stereotypes, they spread these impressions throughout the nation. This image was actively supported by the Western media in our country. The fact that Russians who traveled abroad often allowed themselves to drink too much and did not control their behavior also worked to strengthen the stereotype.
For Western ideology, the real gift was the behavior of President Boris Yeltsin, who loved to drink. Propaganda based on his example strengthened the reproduction of Russians as drunkards.
The Russian winter for foreigners, especially those living in warm countries, is an extremely vivid impression. Since stereotypes tend to fix and intensify emotions, the experience of the sensation of frost becomes a kind of symbol of Russia. It is easier for residents of warm Europe to imagine our country as a snow-covered endless land, where cold always reigns. Snow is becoming a key symbol of the state. And the people who can live in such conditions are endowed with special characteristics. He simply cannot be the same as, for example, Italians or Greeks. This stereotype was formed in ancient times, when the first contacts of the inhabitants of Southern Europe with Russia began, but over time, the world wars only added firewood to the furnace, because in them the winter always turned out to be unexpected and harsh for unprepared invaders.
The most terrible stereotype, according to the statistics of the BBC’s articles about this, is the mysterious Russian soul, which essentially unites all past stereotypes. Russian literature has done a lot for the formation of ideas about our country: Pushkin, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy. They all, without exception, tried to solve the riddle of the Russian soul. Therefore, the usual stereotypes about Russia have been enriched by these ideas. By the way, our nation is happy to support this myth and spread it. It is easier for foreigners to blame everything on the strange Russian character than to comprehend our behavior and look for some explanation for it.
As a result, we can say that every stereotype has a place to be, because they are a mirror of the entire culture of the country: every action, every ritual or cultural phenomenon, mixing together, gathered in folk songs, dances and bears.