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Oksana: Привет всем!
Eddie: Eddie here. All about. Lesson 10. Modern Russian Society. Hello and welcome to RussianPOD101.com, where we study modern Russian in a fun, educational format!
Oksana: So, brush up on the Russian that you started learning long ago or start learning today.
Eddie: Thanks for being here with us for this lesson. Oksana, what are we looking at today?
Oksana: In this lesson we are going to look at Russian life and society.
Eddie: We’re going to look at five areas and see how it compares to Western life. When learning any language, it’s really important to understand the culture and people that speak it as that is all part of the why the language is shaped the way it is. There was a huge shift in Russian life after the collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t there Oksana?
Oksana: My goodness that’s probably the understatement of the decade. The changes were quite extreme compared to Soviet life and for many were considered life changing.
Eddie: For the older generation this really was quite a challenge as it all happened so quickly.
Oksana: Yes, and in some respect is still ongoing though obviously it isn’t so new anymore.
Eddie: How would you describe how everything changed?
Oksana: Well, on one hand Western values suddenly flooded into every aspect of Russian life, yet the end result is that certain elements of tradition Russian culture have remained.
Eddie: It’s fascinating really. Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to actually imagine how life can change; I know some people have almost described it as waking up one day and feeling like you’re living in another country. So, let’s start with Religion. Is there one religion that most Russians subscribe to?
Oksana: The dominant religion in Russia is Orthodox Christianity. Over 70% of the population consider themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians, which is about a hundred million people.
Eddie: Wow, that’s a lot of people! So they’re all devout faithfuls?
Oksana: Actually not really, it’s only a minority of these that attend church regularly. For most of them, their religious activities involve going to church when they baptize their children and going for funerals.
Eddie: The beginning and the end!
Oksana: That is certainly one way of looking at it, Eddie!
Eddie: It’s really like many people regardless of which country you look at.
Oksana: True. In an Orthodox church, the service is always in Old Russian. Russians can understand the gist of it, although it can be very difficult to totally comprehend.
Eddie: I think it’s good that this has been kept, it’s a bit like the Vatican keeping the Latin tradition too. What about the churches themselves, are they as you’d expect?
Oksana: No seats!
Eddie: What? None at all? Where are you supposed to sit?
Oksana: You don’t. You stand.
Eddie: How long does a service last?
Oksana: Often for quite a few hours. Some kneel during a service and others bow.
Eddie: I think I’d be collapsed in a heap!
Oksana: Oh stop it Eddie, it isn’t that bad!
Eddie: And is it true that men must remove hats and caps to uncover the head?
Oksana: Indeed it is. And women must cover their hair and wear long skirts, no trousers.
Eddie: I get that actually. Most churches have something like that, at least to be respectful. This applies to everybody doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian attending a service or not.
Oksana: That’s right, if you enter a church in any capacity you are expected to dress accordingly.
Eddie: I have an interesting fact!
Oksana: Oh you do? Is it related to what we’re talking about?
Eddie: Of course it is, you make it sound like I say things randomly?
Oksana: Well...
Eddie: OK OK let’s leave it there before I dig myself a hole! So, here’s the interesting fact, when Russian Orthodox Christians cross themselves, they do so from right to left, whereas other Christians cross from left to right.
Oksana: That is not only interesting but a good thing to remember.
Eddie: Yes indeed. So what about education in Russia?
Oksana: Well, for many Russians education is very important and is taken extremely seriously.
Eddie: Yes, this applies to everybody, doesn’t it? Even those with very little money are known to save on food and clothes in order to pay for private tuition for their children.
Oksana: Most children aged from three years old are enrolled in kindergartens.
Eddie: After the end of Communism the number of kindergartens really fell so now there are far more children than places.
Oksana: This means that there are extremely long waiting lists and many register their children at the moment they were born!
Eddie: No time for any waiting around then?
Oksana: Absolutely not.
Eddie: Primary and secondary schools are free in Russia, in total, school lasts for eleven years.
Oksana: In the Soviet Union it used to be ten years.
Eddie: Children attend primary school from the age of six and many of them are already able to read at this point.
Oksana: That’s a big credit and complement to kindergartens and parents.
Eddie: It really is.
Oksana: School hours and breaks differ to what one may be used to in the West. Primary school hours usually start in the morning and end in the afternoon. Children have quick snacks in between classes and do so until the end of school. There is no meal-break whatsoever and it is expected that the child’s meal is given at home after school.
Eddie: I’d go hungry!
Oksana: Eddie, you can have snacks.
Eddie: Snacks aren’t enough! I’m growing and need my nutrition!
Oksana: What are you? Six years old?
Eddie: No, I’m just doing my bit for the hungry children.
Oksana: They aren’t hungry Eddie, they are fine. Though this might upset you, the school week is five or even six days a week.
Eddie: Isn’t it true that, unlike Western school children, Russian children have no choice as to what subjects they can study?
Oksana: That’s partly true yes, in the sense that the only choice they have is for the last two years of your education, you can either stay at your same school or transfer to a specialist center.
Eddie: Oh that’s right, these used to be divided into two categories, the “PTUs” and “Technicums” with the PTUs regarded as inferior. Though this changed during the last decade and they’re now referred to as “college” or other “foreign” names that have recently entered the Russian language.
Oksana: Yes. And when it comes to further education Universities traditionally had their own admission exams and took little or no account of a student’s school record.
Eddie: And then in 2003, the Ministry of Education launched the “Unified State Examination” known as the “U.S.E.”, wanting to bring a standard.
Oksana:As you can imagine, many Universities didn’t like this and fought it arguing that they needed their own entrance exams in order to survive.
Eddie: I’m sure fear of losing control was involved too.
Oksana: Probably, and yet despite of this, the U.S.E. was introduced in 2007 and is now used in all Russian Universities. A small number of the most prestigious Universities are still allowed to conduct their own exams alongside the new system.
Eddie: So everybody wins! Except the student who has to take two exams now!
Oksana:Well, no University gives places and degrees away.
Eddie: True. Though there are a few websites based all over the world that’ll sell you a Diploma!
Oksana: Which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot?
Eddie: Yes, always steer clear of those.
Roxanna: So now let’s look at the healthcare in Russia.
Eddie: Healthcare in the Soviet Union used to be free and even since its collapse is still available from the state for all those that need it.
Oksana: However, lack of funding for many years has led to the emergence of many private medical establishments, particularly since the late nineties. The end result is that these private practices have inevitably been able to attract the best and most qualified doctors and staff.
Eddie: That’s just the way of the world isn’t it?
Oksana: It so is.
Eddie: OK so let’s now look at family life in Russia.
Oksana: Well, because property in Russia is very expensive whether you buy it or rent, it’s very common for children to live with their parents until they marry and even afterwards.
Eddie: That’s similar to some countries in Europe and South America, where there’s almost an expectation that you look after your parents as they become older and need help if they cannot care for themselves.
Oksana: Yes, there’s also an advantage too in that grandparents can and do spend a lot of time bringing up their grandchildren while the children’s parents go to work.
Eddie: And if both parents work there is a better chance of affording somewhere to live.
Oksana: Exactly, it actually works really well and there is a lot of positivity in keeping the family unity together.
Eddie: Something that we have criticized ourselves for in the West as time has passed. I think it’s great really.
Oksana:So lastly let’s look at Russian fashion and clothes.
Eddie: Really? I thought fashion was Milan, Paris and New York?
Oksana:There are more than three countries in the world Eddie!
Eddie: So it’s big in Russia then?
Oksana: Absolutely, especially for women. It’s actually quite unusual for them not to wear any make up at all, even first thing in the morning! Also, compared to the West, it can be said that Russian women and girls dress in sexier clothes.
Eddie: Actually I have read about this and yes, they do take the way they look very seriously.
Oksana: Unlike the West wearing fur is very common and accepted during Russian winters, the given excuse is attributed to the extreme cold.
Eddie: I wonder if that will change over time?
Oksana: It may very well.
Eddie: OK, that wraps it up for now.
Oksana: Yes, what we have discussed here illustrate the changing culture since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some parts of life remain firmly rooted in Russian history although Western values clearly influence life today.
Eddie: With RussianPod101.com, you don’t only learn the Russian language, you also learn everything about the country, its history and culture, because that is embedded in every language so is just as important.
Oksana: That’s so true.
Eddie: That just about does it for today. Premium members, don't forget to subscribe to the Premium Feed.
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Eddie: Get the Sample Feed at RussianPod101.com! Take care and until next time, bye!
Oksana: Всем пока!