Being aware of their own character flaws, Russians do not hesitate to criticize foreigners

Kindness, integrity, and sincerity are still considered the most valuable qualities of the Russian national character

Russians believe they like drinking and they lack initiative. However, the above flaws can not stop them from being soulful and kind-hearted people. Russians still view the Western people as greedy, egoistic and emotionally deficient individuals. According to the latest opinion poll by All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies (known as VCIOM), 42% of Russians could not find any positive character traits as to residents of the West. Sociologists believe that the majority of Russians continue to rely heavily on historical stereotypes regarding their opinion about the West. Personal experience is not involved due to lack of it.

All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies has recently published the results of an opinion poll titled "Russians and the people of the West: similarities and differences of the two national characters as viewed by Russians." The participants of the poll were asked to evaluate character traits of the Russian people and representatives of the Western civilization. One thousand and six hundred people from 46 regions of Russia answered the questions of the poll.

The poll shows that kindness, integrity, and sincerity are still considered the most valuable qualities of the Russian national character (41% of the polled). Soulfulness and a high moral character are the runners-up (26%). A smaller percentage of Russians (from 9% to 13%) value mutual support and camaraderie, tolerance and reliability, hard-working attitudes, courage, hospitality, a sense of purpose and tenacity.

Meanwhile, our compatriots are well aware of their bad character qualities. Drunkenness is the major flaw, according to 43% of the respondents. A lack of initiative along with laziness are the second most condemned qualities (23%). The black list goes on with bad manners, brutality, cruelty, malice, envy, a lack of responsibility and discipline (from 9% to 11%).

Notwithstanding their bad character qualities, Russians' attitude to foreigners (especially Europeans) is highly critical. Nearly half of the polled (42%) believe that residents of the Western countries have no positive character traits at all. However, some of the respondents (16%) point out that people of the West are known for their hard-working attitudes. From 6% to 10% of Russians appreciate the Western sense of responsibility, obedience to the law, and politeness.

According to 15% of respondents, a passion for money is the biggest vice of the West. From 5% to 10% of respondents do not like foreigners for their arrogance, egotism, lack of spirituality, heartlessness, and loose moral standards. 

It is noteworthy that those Russians who dislike foreigners are confident that people in the West do not like them either. According to a study conducted in spring of 2005 by Pew Research, a U.S. center for sociological studies, 57% of Russian respondents are certain that foreigners do not like them.

VCIOM is quite cautious in making comments on the results of its own findings. Speaking to GZT, Dmitry Polikanov, an international and public relations director of VCIOM, pointed out two important things pertinent to the subject. “The majority of Russians with anti-West sentiments can not come up with either negative or positive qualities of the Western lifestyle,” said Mr. Polikanov. “In other words, those Russians still draw heavily on some myths and stereotypes alleging a lack of spirituality of the Western society, they have no personal experience to build their opinion upon,” added the expert.

Igor Bunin, director general of Center of Political Technologies, is confident that Russia's negative attitude to the West is a deep-rooted historical phenomenon. “Ivan the Terrible set the ball in motion by decreeing xenophobia a state policy, the Bolsheviks put the USSR opposite to 'the rotten liberal West,' and the stereotypes like that are very persistent,” said Mr. Bunin. According to him, the Kremlin is between the rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Russia is in desperate need of modernization which is simply impossible without the orientation to the West. On the other hand, the authorities can not ignore the anti-West sentiments of a constituency.

It is pretty optimistic to see a critical attitude displayed by Russians to themselves. Mr. Polikanov believes that the lack of conspiracy theories is a step in the right direction. “Russians no longer blame some foreign enemies or 'the world imperialism's machinations' for their own drunkenness, and that is good,” said Mr. Polikanov.

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Author`s name Olga Savka