Global Education

Countering Stereotypes: Russia

By Daniel Rozenblum
Published: October 2010

As with all nationalities, there are plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions circling around ‘Ëœbout us Russians. Fortunately for you, I have decided to take out the old MythBusters toolkit and separate what’s true from what’s false using examples from my very own Russian-background life.
For starters, I’m not a Communist. I don’t have one of those life-sized Fathead sports posters of Stalin hanging up in my dining room, and my red window curtains don’t have the hammer and sickle imprinted on them.
Just like my boy Winston Smith, I’m not a big fan of totalitarianism.
Despite what you may think, I don’t have borsht on a regular basis, and, though Mama Rozey does make a killer borsht (must add some sour cream), I generally find beets to be pretty unappetizing.
Also, vodka is not the only drink in my household (we sometimes have water).
The rates of alcoholism in Russia may be the highest in the world, but that doesn’t mean all Russians are alcoholics. My dad, for one, is not an alcoholic, and even with a bushy mustache, he is not a member of the Russian Mafia.
Actually, come to think of it, there have been numerous occasions when my dad has come home from “work in the late hours of the night wearing a dark trench coat and carrying some sketchy briefcase with a six-digit padlock attached to it (I’m not even a little bit kidding), so you can scratch that last one out.
And then there’s math! Sure, a good number of Russians are pretty proficient when it comes to the subject of mathematics (Russian School of Math represent), but that doesn’t give you an excuse to hate on those who are not so advanced. Math doesn’t run in our blood, so I don’t want to hear any of my fellow Russians assaulted with attacks of “wait, but you’re Russian, so you should be good at math! Yeah, none of that please.
I’ve also heard that people seem to think that Russians “party hard. Well, I ain’t gonna argue with you on that one.
Like many others who have written for this column, I’m not here to chastise those who make racial jokes. Heck, I make them all the time. What better way to face one of the biggest problems in the world than to laugh about them every once in a while.
Yet, all too often I see these jokes move away from cordiality to a point where they become very offensive. There’s a fine line between joking and judging, and unfortunately this line is crossed more often than not.
Sorry to turn this into a Thursday night race special on Lifetime television network, but I thought that maybe you all could get something out of this article seeing as I really haven’t done a good job debunking any Russian stereotypes.
Maybe my parents are mobsters, and maybe I eat borsht every now and then, and there is definitely a reason I haven’t even attempted to tackle the issue of Russian parents having bad English because, honestly, in sixteen years of life I don’t think I’ve heard my dad use a preposition once, but these characteristics aren’t necessarily who I am, just where I come from.
So I’m totally cool with all of these harmless jibes at my culture, but please, keep it friendly. My reputation should not be determined by the actions of anyone but myself.
And no, I don’t ballroom dance.

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