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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Russia in three words

Russian Folk Singers in Traditional Dress Plus One with An Electric GuitarHow to sum up the vast expanses of Mother Russia? This is the challenge that Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov set the nation.

He is calling upon his countrymen and women to distill the "national idea of Russia" into three words, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

And opening a fitness centre in the Kaliningrad region he suggested that one of those should be leadership, "For us Russians the national idea is leadership. To aspire to leadership is a trait that is inherent to Russian citizens," he told MK.


But some of his political colleagues were unimpressed.

"You could also suggest as a national idea that you should be healthy and wealthy, and not poor and unwell... This is utter stupidity. There is not one country in the world which is a leader in everything. What does 'everything' mean? Corruption?" snorted Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin.

"We have already gone through all of this," said Boris Nemstov. "Nikita Sergeyevich exhorted us all in the last century to catch up and overtake America. Why waste his breath?"

Alternative suggestions

But the idea of capturing the mysterious Russian soul in a few short words has caught on, and Moscow News readers had a number of interesting ideas.


Images of Dr. Zhivago swathed in fur have made an impression on those looking into the great land in the east. "Big, cold, hats?" suggested Lisa. "Vodka, fur hats, cold" from Nicole and "Far away, cold," from Tim. "Cold, scary, talented," advised Lucy.

And images from Russia's recent history are still potent for Catherine, "Cold, big, communists."


Visitors from Europe and America are often struck by the ubiquitous appearance of mayonnaise and dill on the dishes they are served here, and this was the first thing that Tekorei thought of. She then added trains and snow to the list.


For some it's as if the 90s never went away, and Mick's three words of choice were "run by criminals."


For Russians, that famously elusive soul is all important. "Crazy, interesting, surprising," said Marina. With "hard to define" from Olga.

But there were patriotic thoughts from Karina, who suggested: "Honest, strong, ours."

And Yulia evoked the lyrics of a DDT song, which busted the word limit but offered an image of a country you can't help loving, for all its ugliness and gullibility.

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