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Monthly Newsletter - June 2014

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1. A Westernised Russia?

2. The mysterious Russian soul through the mirror of the language

Our events

3. Doing business in Russia

4. Evgeny Kissin plays Scriabin and Schubert

5. Russian Folk music festival

6. Russia4Brits award ceremony


A Westernised Russia?


A country, person or system is considered to be westernised when it is influenced by the cultural, economic, or political systems of Europe and North America. To understand the link to the Russian culture a little bit better, let's take a brief insight into Russia’s past:


Peter the Great always had an interest in the European system, therefore when he became the ruler of the Russian Tsardom and later Empire on the edge of 17th and 18th centuries, he introduced major political, cultural, socioecomic and even religious changes to Russia based on western standards. His goal was to modernise and europeanise the country in order to keep up with territorial gains, strengthen not only Russia, but also his position as a ruler. Moreover he thought of it as a way to also gain influence on European countries (!). Thus, during his period of reign exchange, specifically with Europe, grew fonder and foreign military goods, fashion and culture came into Russia. Peter the Great set the foundation for changes which still influence 21st century Russia. You might ask yourself: “How?”


One significant symbol of westernisation in Russia was the establishment of St Petersburg and making it capital city in the early 1700s. Saint Petersburg is even today considered the most Western city of Russia and back in the 18th century it drew Russia closer to the European continent, 'the window to Europe' as they called it.

Funny it may sound now (but was a catastrophe for many back in their times) the tsar discouraged men to wear beards, as they were too Asian looking and he prohibited men to wear shoes in bed. Punishment awaited those who did not follow this rules on how to behave 'European'.


Peter the Great increased government revenues and provided substantial funds for the industrial growth of the country. His focus lay mainly on the military aspects of strengthening a country – he was eager to make Russia as independent as possible. His success in implementing technologies allowed him to win wars with the Ottoman Empire out of which the first Russian naval bases resulted. After further wars and territorial gains he introduced a senate and cabinet to keep control over the country.

After his death Peter the Great left the country completely transformed. He managed to impose reforms which - arguably were not all positive, but - strengthened Russia so that it could put an end to Napoleon's success in the 19th century and ultimately Russia could talk with Europe on equal terms.

The country ever belonged to neither Europe nor Asia, as it has always been a mixture of both, but the transformation allowed Russia to be more involved in European geopolitical affairs more closely.


The mysterious Russian soul through the mirror of the language


The myth of the “Russian Soul” is the most prominent cultural stereotype used when describing Russian mentality, behavior, emotional and spiritual concepts. It is widely broadened in Russian literature and philosophy, Russian folk beliefs, everyday life and, аs some people convince, in the Russian language as well.

According to an opinion of cultural linguists, the Russian language creates a clear linguistic image of Russian soul, which shows Russians as fatalists and irrational creatures with a resigned attitude towards their lives.

Is that true? Can a language express national character? Cultural linguistics believe that it can. Do you agree with this somewhat controversial statement? Are Russians really fatalists and passive beings and is it their language that is to blame? Read further and agree or disagree.


For centuries, Russians have viewed themselves as having a very special emotional and spiritual world. According to this view, Russians should be warm-hearted, emotional, irrational, collectivistic, fatalistic, humble, subservient, reckless, freedom-loving, compassionate, ruled by longing, spiritual, mystical, passive, submissive, direct, open, sensitive and lazy. There are quite a few grammatical rules in Russian language which imply that things are happening without our influence, world is completely independent on our wishes and willings and we have usually quite poor chance to change our destiny. Cultural linguists' confidence of Russians being resigned to the fate is based on a grammatical phenomenon called impersonal constructions. In these sentences a grammatical subject is missing and the person is in the dative case. On the contrary, in English grammar, the completion of a grammatically correct sentence is based on a person's willingness or intention. Briefly, Russian is a language where things happen to people, not where people make things happened.

Let's have a look at some examples of these weird impersonal sentences. Let's learn what they mean primarily then guess what their hidden meaning is.


Impersonal sentences can describe the state of our body or mind.
“Мне не спится.” (“I cannot sleep.”) Literal translation would be ”It doesn't sleep me.” As can be seen from this awkward literal translation, grammatically this sentence implies that you don't take any responsibility for what is happening; there is some superior power that prevents you from sleeping. In English, we use “I” which holds narrator (to some extent) responsible for what is happening.


Some other examples: “Мне не здоровится.” (“I'm ill.” or literally, ”It doesn't health me.”) “Мне холодно.” (“I'm cold.” or ”It colds me.”) “Мне скучно.” (“I'm bored.” or “It bores me.”)


Impersonal sentences also describe impossibility to influence the result, they imply fatalism and resigned attitude.
In English sentences “He succeeded.” and “He failed.” the subject is responsible for the result. If you want to translate these expressions into Russian, you would most likely use an impersonal way of saying that: “Ему это удалось.” “Eму это не удалось.” (E.g. “It happened to him to succeed.” “It didn't happen to him to succeed.”) The winner/loser is dismissed from any kind of liability in both positive and negative meanings.

Some more examples: “Мне вспомнилась Прага.” (“I recall Prague.” but in literal meaning, “Prague came to my mind.” - without my influence or willing). “Ему не сиделось дома.” (“He didn't want to stay at home.”, but literally, “It didn't feel to him to sit at home.” - maybe he personally wanted to stay at home, but some strong power didn't allow him to stay).

It can also imply unwillingness/impossibility to express real feelings.
“Мне не верится, что он это сделал.” (“I don't believe he did it.” Literally ”It doesn't believe to me that he did it.” or “I would rather believe he did it, but something in me tells me not to believe.”

Dative case sentences often express irrationality.
“Его переехало трамваем.” (“He was overrode by a tram.” instead of “The tram overrode him.”) “Его убило молнией.” (“He was killed by a lightning.” instead of “The lightning killed him.”) In these sentences the tram or lightning are in an instrumental case, which implies that the tram and the lightning is a kind of superior power and that they are not to blame in the result of the action. (It's like in the sentence, “The picture was painted with a brush.” Here the brush is not the agent, as the agent is a painter. Equally, in the first two sentences the agent is not (at least grammatically) the tram nor the lightning but somebody behind it (the fate, destiny, superior power, god etc.).
It is, of course, fully adjustable and grammatically correct to use a form “Его переехал трамвай.” (“The tram overrode him.”), and “Его убила молния.” (“The lightning killed him.”). The core of mentioned statements above, lies in a possibility to use such expressions and in the fact that they are so commonly used.

NB: It's also necessary to mention that many scientists don't consider the cultural linguistics a real science and find their results unsubstantiated, irrelevant and untrue.


Reference: Вежбицкая А. Язык. Культура. Познание: Пер. с англ. Отв. ред. М. А. Кронгауз, вступ. ст. Е. В. Падучевой. - М.: Pусские словари,1996. 416 с. ISBN 5-89216-002-5. Apresjan, V. The Myth of the “Russian Soul”. FOLKLORICA 2009, Vol. XIV.



Our Events


Doing business in Russia


Friday 18th July

Start time: 9:00 registration for 9:30 start

End time: 12:00


This seminar is aimed as an introduction for UK companies looking to do business in Russia. The main considerations, opportunities and challenges will be discussed, as well as Russian business culture. Hosted at the City Business Library, ‘Doing business in Russia’ will feature presentations by the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce and Ignaty Dyakov (Russia Local Ltd.)


•     9:00 – 9:30 – coffee and registration

•     9:30 – 9:45 – Introduction from Sophie Robertson, Business Librarian, on City Business Library’s global resources

•     9:45 – 10:15 –Trevor Barton, Executive Director, Russo-British Chamber of Commerce - Opportunities in the Russian market

•     10:15 – 10:30 – Coffee break

•     10:30 – 11:00 – Ignaty Dyakov, Russia Local Ltd. – Russian business culture

•     11:00 – 11:30 – Case study example

•     11:30 – 12:00 – Q&A and networking


You will be able to book the event via Eventbrite:



Evgeny Kissin plays Scriabin and Schubert


Evgeny Kissin



7:30 pm on Tue 10 Jun, Barbican Centre

Schubert Sonata in D major

Scriabin Sonata No 2 in G sharp minor

Scriabin Selection of Etudes from Op 8


Scriabin perfected his Chopin-meets-Impressionism style with his Second Piano Sonata, and in his Opus 8 Etudes the composer was forcing ever-greater technical feats. Sensational Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin exerts his virtuosity and technique into these works as well as Schubert’s Sonata in D Major, a result of the latter composer’s youthful mastery.


For tickets please click here or follow the link below:



Russian Folk music concert


Thursday June 5th at 6pm at the Sutton's Hospital at Charterhouse.

Support HealthProm, an international development charity dedicated to promoting health and social care for women and children in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, and enjoy an evening of music, food, and drinks!


Performances will be given by London's Russian Choir, led by Polina Skovoroda-Shepherd, and Mazaika, with Sarah Harrison (violin) and Igor Outkine (accordion).


It is a wonderful occasion to enjoy great music in a marvellous location: the Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery in London. Since the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century the house has served as private mansion, a boys’ school and an almshouse, which it remains to this day. Click here to read more about venue


Suggested donation is £25 per person.

Suggested donation for those on a lower income is £15 person.

Suggested donation for students is £25 for 2 people.

This includes a welcome glass of wine and traditional canapés from Russia and Armenia


To book a place, please make a donation here:



Russia4Brits award ceremony


Russia4Brits logo

In the end of May Russia Local Ltd. held successful awards ceremonies for the winners of the Russia4Brits competition.

Click here to watch the gallery of the event and find further information on the winning entries



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