American and Russian Values: Different or Alike?
American and Russian Values: Different or Alike? Any kind of multicultural communication is based on shared cultural values: socially determined ideas about what is good, right, or desirable. When we explore American and Russian values, we find some interesting similarities that make us realize that establishing communication between our countries is relatively possible. On the other hand, there is great cultural misunderstading between two nations, each of them thinking the other behaves strangely and differently from what is expected.
Say, both Russians and Americans have national loyalty and love to their countries. American citizens have a special pride for being American, which they want everyone to know about. The U. S. flags are flying in the streets and squares of American cities and patriotic slogans can be found everywhere, from ads to school books. American love is mailnly political — they are deeply attached to the sacred ideas of freedom and democracy, as the country is just as young as 500 years, and a loyal American simply doesn’t have a sufficient body of traditions to rest his views upon.
But still, American people are patriots. So are Russians, whatever you say, despite that our patriotism has different roots. Russian affection to homeland was inherited through deep historical, religious and cultural traditions, and especially the love for the land, beautiful, vast and wealthy. Russian patriotism is somewhat geographical. Still, it is patriotism, and this pride for being part of a certain nation is something we share with the people of the USA. More than that, both Russia and America regard themselves as chosen nations with a messianic mission.
Both countries are vast, rich in resources, both are great military powers, expansionist, and have tamed a wilderness in the past. As a result, the people of Russia and the United States believe their countries are strong enough to expand their national values worldwide. The U. S. citizens view America as the exceptional superpower, whose uniqueness is in enormous power (nuclear, military, financial, economic) and in democracy, and they do believe that it’s their sacred duty to bring it all over the world. Similarly, Russians have always viewed their country as an xception — to a great extent because of the so-called idea of «eurasianism», that is, Russia is thought to be a bridge between the West and the East, and also much due to the Soviet ideological influence. The people of the USSR also considered their country to be a superpower, whose uniqueness was in socialist model of society and nuclear, military and ideological strength. The ideas of communism were meant to be spread far beyond the country’s borders. Putting it all together, both Russia and America believe they are destined to bring their own versions of enlightenment to less fortunate people.
Despite that similarities can be traced in American and Russian attitude to their states, there are still huge differences in the attitude of people to their own, daily life. For example, in contrast to individualistic Americans, Russians have great communial spirit. Communal spirit and togetherness distinguishes Russians from Westerners. Russia has a history of the agricultural village commune, with decision-making determined by the assembly. The objective was to find the collective will, which after discussion and opposition ceased, resulted in a consensus which became binding on all households.
The affinity for the group can still be seen today. Pushing and shoving in crowds bring no hard feelings. In restaurants Russians will not hesitate to join a table with strangers rather than dine alone. Recreation is often arranged in groups, often with colleagues they work with. We prefer organized sports with set teams. Russians feel free to tell you if you or your child is not dressed warm enough. In general, in a collective society, everybody’s business is also everyone else’s. On the contrary, individualism and competitiveness are more common in the States; they are esteemed characteristics.
The concept of individual freedom began to be associated with the United States. The early American settlers were mostly farmers whose success depended on their ability to survive and confront hardships on their own. This idealized self-reliant individual is easily recognizable in the industrial age as a small businessman who became a financial success on his own. The U. S. Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791, assures particularly individual rights such as freedom of speech, press and religion. Putting it all together, Russian way of life vs.
American way of life is the question of the way people identify themselves with the community. Apart from that, unlike Russians, for whom money is filthy lucre, Americans strive for material wealth. The phrase “to go from rags to riches” reflects the great American dream in which material wealth and possessions are one of the top priorities. The self-esteem of many Americans is closely connected with performing rewarding work and acquiring material status symbols. It was America that has given birth to the ideology of consumerism: I buy things, I get material values, therefore I live.
Just the other way round, an important feature of the Russian national value system — preference of spiritual (family relations, friendship, culture) over material. N. Berdyaev considered Russians to be the most spiritual people in the world and claimed that the economy can be viewed only as an instrument but not the goal or the highest value. A Russian can spend all his money in a restaurant during one night just to have fun with his friends, Americans would probably never do this and would consider the Russian behavior strange or just foolish.
Summarizing, the attitude to wealth is another dramatic contrast between us. To recapitulate, though Russians and Americans share pride of their countries and the belief to be the chosen ones, the questions individualism vs collectivism, and preference material vs preference of spiritual makes us directly opposite to each other. However, the more we learn about each other, the more we respect people of another culture and become tolerant to differences and misunderstandings.