I am fascinated by Russian oil painting. It is beautifully composed, with delicate brush strokes that reflect the rich and delicate inner feelings of this nation. However, when you come to this country and live in it, you will find a big gap between the real Russia and the Russia in art. The reality of Russia is very unsubtle.
Let’s talk about a small incident in life. Once I lived in a new, upscale apartment building in Moscow, which had a bedroom, bathroom and living room several times larger than the average apartment in Moscow. On the first day of my stay, I went to the bathroom to take a shower after work in the evening. In the old Russian houses, the bathroom and the shower were separate and the space was very narrow, but in the apartment we lived in, because it was a new high-class house, the bathroom and the shower were combined into one, and there was a lot of space. In the large bathroom, there was a large semi-circular tub, which is not common in Russia, where there are very few baths in ordinary apartments. When I was confronted with the large tub, I found it very inconvenient to use. There was no curtain around the tub to stop the water, so the water splashed outside when I bathed. I had no choice but to be careful, thinking that even if some water splashed out, it would flow away through the drainage holes, so I could at most wipe the floor with a towel. However, after I finished my shower, I realized that I had made an error in judgment, and there was no drainage hole in this bathroom. What’s worse, the drain under the tub is leaking and the bath water is flowing to the floor and then to the bedroom in a steady stream! This is really bad, there is no drainage hole in the bathroom! I had no choice but to call the apartment management to “help”, using a large number of dry towels to absorb the water flowing into the bedroom little by little, the whole work for more than two hours to get the room out of danger, and as a result, no sleep.
What I can’t figure out is, how can there be no drainage hole installed in such a big bathroom?
I asked the management of the apartment building, how do you usually clean the bathroom and where does the sewage go? The apartment manager looked at me strangely and said, “Of course there is no drainage hole, not only here, but also in other apartments. We clean the bathroom with a rag.” She also repeatedly reminded me, “You should be more careful in the shower in the future.”
I found it hard to understand this matter, something that could be solved by just installing a downspout, did the people who designed the house never think of this problem? Or did they never think about it?
When I lived in Russia for a long time, I found that there are such small inconvenient things in daily life, which is typical of Russia. Russia seems to be a nation that thinks about the big things but not the small things, which, in today’s buzzword, is not people-oriented enough. They can talk to you about politics, philosophy, art, fashion and other topics, but they don’t care about the troubles of life and put up with them as much as they can. That’s why many people who come to Russia from China feel at first that many small things in life are not as they should be, and after living there for a long time, they become numb.
Angels don’t need to go to the toilet
The subway is a public place that Moscow people have always been proud of, like an underground palace with tall promenades, beautiful sculptures, full of history and art, which we do share, so riding the subway in Moscow has always been my favorite. Every time I ride the metro, I seem to make some new discovery about history, society and fashion. But one of the things you have to do before riding the subway is to go to the bathroom.
In Moscow, whether it’s an old metro station built before World War II or a metro station built in recent years; whether it’s a small metro station or a large hub metro station with three or four levels of lines stacked on top of each other, if you want to find a toilet, you’re in trouble, because there is none. This matter also makes me difficult to understand, to go to the toilet is a physiological requirement beyond human control, such a large public places, do not provide toilets, this is simply a disregard for human nature ah! On this matter, I asked a senior colleague working in Russian television, he replied in an almost flirtatious tone: “Don’t you know that we Russians are angels? Angels don’t need to go to the toilet!” I was simply delighted to hear this and said to him, “I hope you live an ordinary life, or we’ll never dare to come again.”
The subway is the face of Moscow, so they think that “dirty toilets” are not allowed there. But Russians are not really angels after all, so how can they solve their physical needs? So, outside the subway stations, there are some extremely simple and dirty temporary toilets, one after another in spectacular rows. I took the subway in Moscow and had to use such toilets for a fee. These simple toilets are like bunkers built outside the subway stations, and when you open the door, they stink and are full of sewage, and they don’t have flushing facilities, which is disgusting!
All these inconveniences make me wonder why Russia, a country so technologically advanced, so educated, so prosperous in the arts and so powerful, has such crude and outdated details of life. They sent a manned space station to the universe decades ago, their ballet and paintings have made the world swoon, they have both the elegance of Western civilization and the delicacy of Eastern civilization …… but why won’t they design a small drainage hole for the bathroom? Why not build a few clean toilets for their beautiful subways?
Think of the ironic joke of our Russian friends: we Russians are angels, we don’t need to go to the toilet, it’s really into the woods! Angels are extraordinary, they do not need human care.
Bribes and bribes are the norm
In Russia, government departments and monopolies are not only of poor quality, but bribes are also common. A Russian friend told me that he can guarantee that every Russian in his country has taken a bribe. Because there are many things that cannot be done in Russia without bribes. For example, to do all kinds of documents such as driver’s license, to do all kinds of business procedures, to do all kinds of visas, if the person does not stuff money, it is impossible to do on time, forcing people to pay bribes, which has become a common culture. When it comes to this, Russians are indignant, but there is nothing they can do about it.
When it comes to bribery, we are not exempt from it in Russia, and I have experienced it twice, and it really “works”. Once at the Moscow airport, when our interview team returned to China, our friends who were seeing us off offered bribes to Russian customs and airport staff, which was said to be normal and a “necessary bribe”. Listen to the word, “obligatory bribe”. Because when we returned home, everyone bought a few Russian paintings. Russian oil paintings are very beautiful and relatively cheap, so they are a popular “Russian specialty” for many Chinese people. When we bought the paintings, we all obtained a certificate from the cultural department that the paintings were “not Russian cultural relics and could leave the country”, in accordance with the Russian regulations. But if you think so, you are naive. Russian customs officers do not think like that. They don’t look for any proofs, they just detain the painting, even if it is a print, for the reason that “Russian antiquities are not allowed to leave the country”. If you are still “rigid” and try to reason with them, sorry, no one will pay attention to you, and you will have no choice but to cry. Of course, if you produce a valid certificate can be released, but this valid certificate must be in cash, preferably in U.S. dollars. We gave about 200 US dollars, and the customs officer at the Russian international airport naturally put the money in his pocket and immediately cleared our departure with enthusiasm and efficiency, gave priority to our luggage, and then shook hands with us warmly and said goodbye.
This is Russia, but all departments with some power, it is said that this is the way, bribes to do things, everyone convenient. I have experienced the “necessary bribe” many times, and then I got used to it. What is the use of blaming these customs and police officers? They are just working according to the unspoken rules and the social atmosphere.
This kind of service attitude, this kind of bribery and bribery phenomenon in Russia, in fact, we are not unfamiliar. But in comparison, China’s progress in business, in law enforcement, and in humane service over the years is indeed much more obvious than Russia. The most important thing is that the rules of the Chinese market economy are more robust than those of Russia, and the service industry is developing in the midst of competition, so no one dares to offend consumers.
Russian people’s personal culture
Despite all the above-mentioned unsatisfactory aspects of Russian society, there is one thing that we have to praise: the majority of Russians are well-trained.
Drinking and driving, for example, is a frequent phenomenon in China, so serious that the Ministry of Public Security has to carry out a nationwide crackdown on it, but despite this, many people continue to do the same.
In Russia, although it is a world-renowned alcoholic country, “alcoholics” are many, and the rate of people drinking is much higher than in China. But unlike China, Russians will definitely switch to the subway or cabs if they get drunk. I asked several Russian drivers who drove us if they had ever driven after drinking, and they all looked at me in astonishment and said: “How is this possible? It’s impossible! I deliberately said: Drink a little less, the police can not find out. They shook their heads: No, no, absolutely not, your idea is terrible! Not drinking and driving in Russia is not only a matter of compliance with the law, but also a consciousness of citizens. The number of cars owned by Russian families is much higher than in China, and with this nation’s natural love of alcohol, the consequences of not having this consciousness of citizenship would be unthinkable.
In the subway or on the bus and tram, we have seen this situation many times: a woman just got on the bus, surrounded by seven or eight men will stand up together to give up their seats, and then the woman frankly picked the nearest seat to sit down, and nodded back to the man who gave up his seat. A man who does not give up his seat or give way to a woman and her child, and who shows disrespect to a woman in public, is, in their opinion, a very humiliating and shameful act. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the crowdedness of subways and trams is similar to that of Beijing and Shanghai during the rush hour, but it is absolutely impossible to have the situation that Beijing and Shanghai seize the door and grab each other’s seats, let alone the situation that men are sitting and women are standing. If this really happens, the man is probably a drunken alcoholic.
If a woman goes to a concert or show at the theater, she hardly has to push the door to enter, the man next to her will take the initiative to open the door and give way. When we first arrived in Russia, several of the women in our interview group were embarrassed by this “treatment” and thanked us repeatedly, but later they became very open about it. I reminded them, “Don’t develop these “problems”, do you still want to go back to Beijing?
Russia is such a country full of contradictions. Many details of its material life are very outdated, many of its public officials seem lazy and even greedy, and its government at all levels is not “people-oriented” enough …… but at the same time, Russians are very kind and warm, elegant and educated. It is true what a Russian philosopher said: The Russian nation is a nation of contradictions, civilized and barbaric, generous and greedy ……
Peter the Great started Russia’s reform journey 300 years ago, and it was a severe reform in the form of a “whip on a slow ox” that enabled Russia to emerge from feudal serfdom and quickly integrate into European civilization and become a world power, but this historical process did not continue. Today, Russia is still struggling, it is still a country full of internal contradictions and anxieties. The only thing Peter the Great can do now is to stand on the bronze battleship on the Moscow River and silently watch the Russia of today.