The Russian Character

Blog Post
I ran onto this quote by George Kennan and it echoed a discussion that I had at lunch with a friend the other day. Read it, carve it in stone, whatever. Keenan nails the Russian national character perfectly: 
“The jealous and intolerant eye of the Kremlin can distinguish, in the end, only vassals and enemies, and the neighbors of Russia, if they do not wish to be one, must reconcile themselves to being the other.  
No matter how big and powerful, Russia always feels threatened. Even when they are feeling weak, they bluster and bully to hide their vulnerability. In this sense, Putin’s policies and beliefs are largely consistent with Russian history and the legacy of the Russian Tzars.”
As some of you who know me understand, I am not the least bit anti-Russian. I simply feel that knowing one’s rival (or principal adversary as the USSR called the USA) allows you to predict behavior. Good or bad – you, blog readers, are the judge. However, apply Keenan’s observations when you judge.
Great Russia and the ethnic Russian people are predictable. Russians brood endlessly and it’s why they lead the world in chess masters and axe murders. 
I also enjoy the tv show on FX –  The Amerikans – a show about KGB Directorate S operatives in the United States during the Late 1970’s up through the 1980’s. I find the vibe accurate, and the shows entertaining. (also on Netflix) It’s in its final season on TV now.

21 thoughts on “The Russian Character

  1. I have nothing against the Russian people, chess players and navel gazers though they may be. I have a beef with the communists in Russia and where ever else they show their figurative red heads.

  2. Vladimir Vladimirovich behaves like a czar and he's particularly faithful to the 'Russian national character model'. Remember that we rely on the Russians to transport us to (our) the International Space Station, and in a number of joint projects of that nature. Despite tough rhetoric, all that cooperation remains cordial and in place (1) because we pay; (2) because it makes them look good; (3) Putin himself has said that he "recognizes that the world only has one super power and that's generally a good thing." The Russian GNP is smaller than that of Texas, yet the nation is 9 time zones long.

  3. The Russians can rattle a saber like nobody else. And they certainly know how to tank a presidential campaign of an Old Crone who slighted them during her infamous tenure as Sec of State.

    Moral of the story: don't mess with the Russians, or you risk nerve agent surreptitiously sprinkled over your Rice Crispies. Or your presidential campaign kaibashed.

  4. I read essentially the same thing that Kennan quote says back in the mid 80s, before the fall of the Berlin wall and dissolution of the USSR. Think it was a National Geographic article, someone brought to work.

    One of the author's main ideas was that while they were prone to "bluster and bully to hide their vulnerability" they weren't expansionist. I suppose that's what happens when you're a country 9 time zones long with a tiny population density.

    The author said that throughout history one of their consistent battle tactics was to retreat and mire their enemies in the Russian winter, much like the Russian Front in WWII. Again, not expansionist.

    Putin, OTOH, is the most transparent world leader. He's a thug. He's trying restore the old (Czarist?) Russia and will step on anyone he has to. Throw reporters out a window? Check. Kill political foes? Standard procedure. He'll be dictator for life until someone more ruthless than him comes along.

  5. I like Putin because he had P*Riot whipped and defeated the Old Crone's bid for absolute power, and he encouraged laser shows mocking Obama.

    These are all braggable achievements.

    Then again, I have to say that #russianbot

  6. Putting my prejudice on display. There are many Russian/Slavs emigres in the Car Biz. Criminals to the core.

  7. P.S. – come to think of it I have two classes of relatives in the car business. A brother-in-law who is NOT a crook.

    And others who are. And none of them are Ruskies, Slavs, or Mohammedans.

  8. Putin is all-in for himself and Russia (in that order). That makes him a Russian patriot by their standards.

  9. Yes, Putin acts predictably. If you need to be thrown out of the window of a high rise (suicide in Russia), it happens. I know of Americans who threw Chinese out of high rises in PR China and it was written off as suicide… Putin will behave the way a czar would…and the czars were not known for being soft and cuddly toward the opposition. Then again, neither are the Clintons.

  10. Big yes to Persians. Groups I had satisfactory dealings with include Siberians, Chinese, gypsies and Jews.

    Worst, race not a factor? Druggies.

    As in any business, get your shit together or get flattened.

  11. That we must rely on the Russians to launch a visit to the ISS really gets my goat. A super power should be able to do that on its own.

  12. There are available literature that helps to better understand how Russians leaders are programmed after they have been through the process that shaped them to become leaders of the system. The short version is that they will never change as long as they keep the same system and they will always be loyal towards their system and core interest as long as they are part of it. This makes them kind of predictable and as long as you accept them you can deal with them. But they will always try to use you to their own benefit. As long as they succeed they are happy. The country is vast and rich of culture, nature natural resources and history.

  13. The soviet era of the nation was one of rampant exploitation of resources and damage to those very things (Lake Bikal comes to mind) that they should have protected.

  14. We ignored a lot of things during the eight miserable years of Obamanation while we racked up $10 trillion in debt.

  15. That is a part of the behavior of the system and culture. When the leader(s) have decided they seem not to care about the small people and the kongruensen. The "small people" always try do the best to survive but the leaders have bigger plans than what the small people are concerned about. They are more like an asset to make the system survive. If you take a look at the numbers of casualties in the battles Soviet Union had during WW2 it looks like that people was a commodity they just spent. The brutal force and the willingness to spend people is a trade mark. But have a look at this little girl and see how she express her opinion on how the leaders not taking care of the nature by polluting the environment. in a few years time I guess she will be in prison. In the US she would be suggested by the MSM to be a future President.

  16. Then again, neither are the Clintons.

    American Czars – should be a made for TV special.

  17. Lake Bikal — thanks for reminding me of that. The Sovs really messed with nature, as though they hated it.

    Mind you, our crew aren't far behind.

    Locking up the COUP TRAITORS would go some way towards redressing the balance.

  18. Read this years ago and found it interesting.

  19. All of my interactions with Russians has been in the technical field. As such, their Engineers are a lot like ours; pragmatic, goal-driven people who'd rather leave politics out of it and just do the best job possible.

    My limited dealings with Russian business people is exactly the opposite. The bastards will try and grab a mile if you give them a millimeter, and you get the feeling they'd steal the gold from Grandma's teeth if they thought they could make a ruble off it….

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