It is now the second week of being in Russia and I have had some time to digest my initial impression of the country and people. Some aspects that I initially thought were part of Russian culture I have found to be only random events or aspects of my own preconceptions about the country. However, one thing that has remained a prominent impression is the Russian patriotism. Although we arrived in Moscow after May 9th and therefore missed Victory Day, I have seen many memorials of the fallen soldiers of the Great Patriotic War. Before I came to Russia, I had no idea about the somewhat recent tradition of displaying pictures of fallen soldiers throughout the city. If I am not mistaken, I believe that it was created as a way for younger people to become more aware of the events and tragedies of World War 2.
However, not only did we see memorials and symbols about the Great Patriotic War, but for one day during the first week we were invited to listen to some Russian poetry. The theme of the poems was war and a lot of the poems, or sometimes even letters, were written from the point of view of people directly affected by the war or soldiers themselves. As a beginner of Russian language, it was difficult to understand the actual words of the poems, but the emotion was very clear. The emotions portrayed seemed to be love, duty, pride, but also sadness and longing.
Although patriotism is a big part of American culture as well, the patriotism is very different in its form. To me, Russian patriotism seems to be more concerned about people and celebrating Russian culture, whereas American patriotism is more concerned about the people’s rights and laws and protecting the values on which America was built. This might have a lot to do with the foundations of the countries and the history. The United States of America is a very young country compared to Russia and was built on a combination of many cultures. Although Russia has also changed over time and covered many different areas and ethnicity groups, it seems like the Russian identity has more to do with culture than the form of its government.
I think understanding a countries history is important in understanding the way that its people act. For example, I believe that it can sometimes be difficult for countries like Russia to realize its wrongs, when so many people sacrificed their lives to protect its borders during Soviet times. But it is also important to realize that governments do not always represent the people, and I think that Russia is an excellent example of this. The pride of its veterans does not have to do with the country’s leadership so much as the willingness of its people to fight for what they believed in. For example, several churches and cathedrals were destroyed during the Soviet Union, to the despair of the people. It was not until the government realized the importance of religion in creating morale that the destruction was stopped.
This analysis of patriotism is important when analyzing the actions of governments, but also the distinction between states and populations. States may choose to act in a certain way, but it might not necessarily have the blind support of the population. Or the population might choose to overlook certain aspects of the government in order to protect what it thinks is most important. I think this all ties in with the UN sustainable development goal of 17 – partnership for the goals. In order to create a partnership in implementing the UN goals, a mutual understanding is important to communicate in a way that both parties can see the necessity of implementing changes and the benefits of it. If we can see what others value and the reasoning behind it, I believe that it will be easier for us to predict the behavior of others and therefore framing a sustainable partnership.