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Five Myths About Russia

What foreigners really think about Russia and is it true: Rostislav Miretskiy will tell.

Five Myths About Russia

In one of my previous articles for HSE Illuminated, I shared my personal experience of being an exchange student.

During my time in Norway, I learned a lot about how today’s foreign young people actually imagine Russia. Remarkably, what I heard was rather different from what Russians typically think of how internationals perceive us, i.e. vodka, bears and very cold winter. Here is what I found out: my top 5 most interesting ‘true’ modern myths about Russia and their debunking.

‘They are all communists’

Somehow, our Soviet past is still haunting us. To my mind, this is partly because of Soviet memorabilia, which became a part of the internet meme culture. A lot of people expected me and my fellow HSE exchange students to be communists or at least some kind of socialist ideas agitator that is simply not true and doesn’t reflect young people’s feelings in nowadays Russia.

Russians are massively in love with ‘tri poloski’

That is truly one of the weirdest things I discovered in Norway due to the local context. I can’t really speak about anything but Moscow to be accurate, one thing I do know for sure: while it’s quite rare nowadays to meet someone in the ‘tri poloski’ tracksuit on the streets of the Russian capital, it happened to me on regular basis on the streets of all Norwegian towns I’ve been to. So, who is really in love with the tracksuits, huh?

Hard bass is Russian national music

Once again, the internet meme culture has proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with. A lot of people expected me and my fellow HSE exchange students to be familiar with the hard bass subgenre of electronic music and were pretty surprised when we knew nothing about it. Hard bass indeed originated from Russia during the late 1990s and there are local fans but it is not as big in Russia as it’s believed. Basically, today the whole Russian hard bass industry works for the western audience and because of the Russian lyrics, they mistakenly believe it’s a product for the domestic audience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLW1ieY4Izw

It’s either hard or expensive to travel in Russia

There were many people, who were surprised, when I advised them to choose Russia as one of the vacation destinations in the future. Somehow, for some reason, they thought that it’s hard to obtain a visa and/or living and travel costs are high. Both of these beliefs are not true: the former is not harder than getting a Schengen visa, while the latter is praсtically exactly the opposite due to ruble being a weak currency nowadays.

Everything about alcohol consumption

I hate vodka and it has been a ‘problem’ for me since day one as declining a shot of it always raised a million questions from different people. It is the myth that actually complies with what Russians typically think of how internationals perceive us: they think that we either drink a lot in everyday life and/or love vodka very much. However, what came as a big surprise is a willingness to defend and reluctance to leave that stereotype at the dump history. It is more or less the same for all countries and nothing special about Russia in this case. Moscow and Saint Petersburg are cities with wealthy populations, so, alcohol consumption there is varied and vodka does not hold any special place among young people, while people from less developed regions of the country invest their money in vodka as it is the cheapest liquor on the market that is the story. 

Text by
Rostislav Miretskiy