I’ve taken a fancy in Russia since quite a while. The availability of fine arts in Russia, Russian girls, pre-Soviet architecture, Russian girls, Russian history, Russian girls, etc. I guess it’s just this hint of exotica that’s connected to anything Russian, as it’s at the same time so similar, yet so different to the rest of Europe. Perhaps, I see Russia as an alternative Europe, one that has taken an entirely different path at some point. What is it that makes the difference? The stronger influence of Asian, Muslim and other cultures as compared to the Roman Western Europe, maybe?
In the wake of recent developments, it might be fruitful to take a look at something different, though, that has startled me about Russia. There seems to be an affinity towards patriarchism and strong traditional male symbols. Take Stalin, perhaps the biggest sadist and mass murderer in human history along with Hitler, Mao and Tamerlane (thumbs up to Southern Asia, for having a big proportion of the human population, but so far abstained from breeding a psychopath of this scale). Even though being indirectly responsible for the tremendous losses of the red army in the beginning of WWII, Stalin still has a considerable amount of fans, even among young academics, for “winning” said war. A completely different field; more than once have I heard (and seen) how sporty, brutish dudes with a strained decisive manner had much more of the feminine attention on parties in Russia than most of the other guys. Now I would include my personal experience, but, uhm, sociological experiments require a basic population of at least 1000 members to be relevant, and I just happen to have hit on 999 Russian damsels. Anyways, to see how Putin uses this cultural phenomena to his advantage, you can check out following this hilarious link or by observing his fight against what stupid people often regard as the least masculine behaviour of all, which is homosexuality.
The apparent Russian proneness in unreflected alpha males is, in my opinion, directly connected to their collective perception of the “Great Patriotic War” (aka the Second World War) in no less than two ways; by influencing it and by being influenced by it. I mentioned above how Stalin is regarded as the winner of the war*, but this goes beyond.
When I was in Veliky Novgorod, I saw a statue of a rising Soviet war plane. I asked my Russian friends what this was supposed to signify. The answer surprised me, as it was supposed to be a monument against war. Memorials I saw in Central Europe are usually simple. Names of the wasted lives engraved into stone, for example. Often, graveyards of fallen soldiers are transformed into memorials. In Cologne and Wroclaw I saw that parts of the cathedrals, which had been demolished in the war, had not been replaced in their former beauty. Those memorials, I think, remind people what war is about; death and destruction. While this kind of memorials also exist in Russian cities, what dominates are the other kind; rising MIGs, brute soldiers with edgy faces sternly observing the horizon, and tanks, lots of tanks. What comes into mind when you look at those memorials? Strength, I assume. If you pass by one of those statuary every day, sooner or later you will associate “war” with “strength”. It’s a positive implication, and turns “sacrifice” into a heroic concept.
This is the second connection between perception of the war and perception of “strong” unreflected alpha males. It’s also the one which worries me. Below, you will see a picture I found of a Russian soldier in a public school in Omsk, Siberia. Little kids, some as young as six years old, played to its feed every day. This is the ideal picture of manliness that automatically gets implemented into those little fellows; stern, decisive, unquestioning, probably never bothered learning a foreign language. Ironically, this specific fellow reminded me of the popular “Warhammer”-universe, home to numerous Sci-Fi and Fantasy games and stories. In this universe, just about every unit is a phallic symbol; huge, strong, never reflecting on their point of view, always happily giving their life for the superhuman “Emperor”. Fun Fact: If you take a closer look at the Warhammer universe, you will notice “commissars“, resembling trashy Science Fiction interpretations of Soviet commissars in both looks and fanaticism. They also routinely shoot their own soldiers as soon as they try to retreat from the battle. Would you want a picture of those guys to hang in your children’s primary school?
So as much as I like Russia (I actually have a book called “Traditional Russian Fairy Tales” on my e-reader right now), I think this connection of war and traditional perception of masculinity is dangerous. You can observe a side effect right now; ask any random Russian why Putin is being supported (or any conservative Turk about Erdogan our back in Germany in the 1930s about Hitler), and you will most likely hear “strong”. The implication is that strong men make good leaders (even though history often taught us the opposite). Obama, on the other side, is not perceived at strong at all. But this is what we want; the whole point of democracy is to prevent charismatic dictators from seizing power and turning their country into a swamp of corruption and injustice. After all, the “weak and indecisive” EU has been attracting all those countries who endured “strong” Moscowian rulers long enough.
Boy, I like Russia anyways. Like this song “Katyusha”; almost everybody in Russia could sing you this song about a (probably hot) Russian girl longing for her man who’s at war. But wait, isn’t it again a sign for the Russian identity mainly being based in the sacrifices of the Great Patriotic War? Ach, to hell with you, brain…
Or to Siberia.
Better to Siberia.
* Of course, it wasn’t Stalin who killed Hitler in an epic battle between fantasy overlords like in this awesome comic. It were the Russian soldiers, engineers, factory workers and peasants who defeated the Germans. Stalin, however, purged all the experienced officers out of the red army in the late 1930s.