Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Modern Russian and American Culture

    In our view, the culture of modern Russia has, indeed, a unique phenomenon - a kind of an organic combination of interest in the Russian national culture, on the one hand, and the growing interest, borrowing elements from other cultures, on the other.
    Inculcating respect for the younger generation to the original Russian culture begins in childhood.  In kindergartens, schools of Russia celebrate traditional Russian national holidays in different regions and cities. "Moskvovedenie" and "Orthodox culture" have developed a unique training program with elements of local history because, according to the expression "We will not know peace without knowing its edge." At the same time more and more people of all ages learn foreign languages, cuisine, traditions, and customs of other nations.
    In our view, the processes occurring are quite obyasnimy and natural.  This is due to the globalization of the world, as well as with the trend of historical development of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
   One striking example of the integration of modern world culture is the creation of the first square dance club in Moscow. This dance is known throughout the world, classes are held in the Moscow-based American Center in the Library of Foreign Literature. The organizer of the club Alyusheva Lil Wayne said that this is a unique form of dance, which not only serves to strengthen one's
health and fitness.  It is also good for the soul and medicine for stress, as well as a means of international communication. Developing an international program, and those who have mastered it, we can square dance in all the clubs in the world. Square dance fans are people of different ages, nationalities, and religion, International events and regional meetings are held annually. At the annual meeting of the European Association of Square Dancers from 1000 to 2000 people dance from different countries.  In Germany there are about 500 square dance clubs.  In Russia there are only four, but interest in this type of dance is constantly growing.
   We believe that as a result of the processes a new identity is being created, the identity of the XXI Century - respecting and knowing its historical roots, on the one hand and open to the perception of other cultures, on the other.
    However, unlike Russian culture, American culture is not so closely connected to a particular religion.   The United States was founded as a nation by people who came here in order to avoid religious persecution in Europe.  However, religious tolerance has not always been a reality. 
    Founded largely by European Protestants, there were periods of history where Catholics, Jews, and anyone else who was Protestant were persecuted because of their religion.  
    Since we are a nation of immigrants, the United States has a rather diverse culture.  Each group of immigrants has brought their own unique culture and cuisine to the US.   In fact, food which is considered to be “traditionally American” was actually brought here from somewhere else.  Hamburgers and frankfurters were brought to the US by German immigrants, pizza was brought here by Italian immigrants, and even what many Americans consider to be Chinese food is actually uniquely American. 
   We certainly do not have as long a history as Russia; however, we have had a major impact on world history in the rather “short” time that we have been in existence.  It is standard practice in the US that all grade school students be taught about the history of our nation. 
    Our musical history is also the result of immigrant influence.  African Americans, who were brought to this country in chains, introduced jazz and, eventually, rock and roll music to the US.  American folk music tells the story of the history of our nation. 
    If it were not for the immigrant population, the US would be a much different place.  The only “traditional” American culture is Native American culture and this was severely impacted by the treatment of the Native Americans.  There really was no single Native American culture since this group of people is actually composed of numerous tribes or ‘nations’ who lived in various parts of the country.  
    Modern Russia is being heavily influenced by American culture.  For many young Russians, the US represents western culture and they want to become more like Americans.  The influence of western culture on Russia is certainly nothing new.  Czar Peter the Great (1672-1725) attempted to change Russian culture forever by introducing western European ideas.  Those who chose to oppose the introduction of western European culture became part of what was known as the Slavophile movement.
    Since the introduction of Communism into Russia, which eventually lead to the rise of the Soviet Union, there has been very little known as Russia in the US and what was told to us was not positive.   We were often taught that all Russians were anti-American, godless atheists who wanted to bring about the destruction of the United States.   The few things that we did hear about was centered on Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) and his nation’s influence on World War II. 
    Based upon what I have learned from numerous friends in the former Soviet Union, their students learn more about US history than we have ever learned about the countries which made up the Soviet Union.  The history of nations like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and others would be completely unknown to most Americans. 
    Since the introduction of the internet, our world has actually become a much smaller place.   The fact that we can receive information from people from around in the world in a matter of seconds instead of weeks has changed how Americans and others experience the world.  The internet allows people to see what is going on within their own country and countries around the world instead of having to rely upon a particular government’s propaganda.

*This article has been co-authored with Victoria Bugaeva.

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