October 3, 2008
By Daria Chernyshova
Some time ago, a popular Russian magazine published a test that allowed readers to ‘measure your Russianness.' It wasn't devised for migration services, but for pure entertainment. It was quite interesting for lots of Russians to understand exactly ‘how Russian' they really are.
The test consisted of five blocks with questions concerning Russia's cultural heritage. Yet this heritage is all we know. To describe our sentiments we use expressions from films, proverbs, folk wisdom, lyrics and songs lyrics. We even dare quote politicians. This is true for each country, and it varies from place to place. So, if you want to feel the Russian soul and imbibe Russian features, then you should watch lots of Soviet-era films, such as charming comedies about Shurik's adventures "Kidnapping Caucasian Style," "White Sun of the Desert," "Seventeen Moments of Spring," and so on. The test asks a number of questions on Russian literature - the most prominent works by well known Russian authors. This aspect of Russianness can't be skipped - Russians can speak volumes about their literature, and regularly draw parallels with their literary heroes. It is the best way for Russians to express themselves. What other people can say the same? Popular songs have also become a way to tap into the mentality of a people: many popular expressions derive from old and new ‘hits.' And never forget to swim with current events: politicians, sportsmen and celebrities are cited today more than ever. These aspects of cultural heritage may help you keep your head. Thus the test may be a sort of teaching aid for you to understand why you aren't Russian as you map your way towards Russianness.
Russia today is a multicultural country. Originating from different parts of the vast Russian landmass, the majority of ethnicities were raised on the same cultural traditions set down by the state via public bodies and media. Still some regions of today's Russia weren't engaged and still live by their original traditions. But many citizens of neighboring countries are aware of their Russian roots. Thus, it turns out that many ‘non-Russians' are more Russian than the Russians living in the Russian Federation. Yet many of these people have their Russianness oppressed. Here, I'm hinting at Crimea, and particularly Sevastopol, both located in Ukraine. Russians bred and born, these citizens are not permitted to be called ‘Russians.' They are denied the right to be proud of their great heritage.
For many people, being a Russian implies professing Orthodoxy. That is because the church has long been regarded as the main force for uniting Russian people. It is a mental component of being Russian. This also applies to the situation in the Crimea: the Christianization of Kievan Rus derives from here. But the abovementioned test asserts that all its citizens may be considered Russians despite their origins or religion denomination. Thus anyone may become Russian who has the traditional set of Russian expressions. This approach seems incorrect - one's ‘countryness' cannot be measured. It's a state of mind that includes all one's love for the motherland.