I just finished reading the book entitled The Xenophobe's Guide to the Russians, by Vladimir Zhelvis. This book is really exciting, funny but informative and inspires the reflection.
As a matter of fact Poles and Russians like each other as people more than their political history would suggest. Poles and Russians share common traditions and a similar fate especially for the last forty years after World War II since they were living under the same communistic Soviet system. Of course, Poles would blame always Russians for imposing the totalitarian system.
According to Vladimir Zhelvis, the author of the book, Russians feel that: the government cannot be any good - the same Poles. But Russians, in general and as a group, I do not talk here about individuals, are more obedient to the institution of government. In some jokes Russians are seen as sheep herd obeying any instruction whereas Poles would question the government even if it would cause the destruction of their own state.
Forty years of communism caused Poles and Russians do not trust that the personal wealth can be earn in any honest ways. Either communistic elite or people who were using illegal tricks could become rich. All businessmen are crook by definition as Zhelvis writes.
Both, Poles and Russians do not trust mass media. According to Russians, any advertising on TV was a sign that the quality of the product is so poor that nobody wants to buy it. The same in Poland, I still remember the TV advertisements of happy children eating bread with margarine on Polish TV. This margarine tasted horribly and was never used as a substitute of butter unless butter was lacking in the groceries. So how could I trust any ads? The variety of products in the stores during communism was not any better in Russia as in Poland, as Zhelvis writes: cheese or no cheese - no choice. Read more about deficiency of products in the stores in Poland during communism in the article Problems with Food in Poland during Communism .
I was amazed to learn that not only in Poland but also in Russia vodka was used as an equivalent of the exchange rate between the Russian currency and the US dollar. The mechanism how it worked in Poland is presented in the article entitled: Polish money - old and new zloty - Tips for Travelers .
The lifestyle of Poles and Russians is similar. People in Polish cities just like in Russia live in big blocks of flats squeezed like herring in the barrel. Since the communistic system was imposed by a set of bureaucratic rules which were usually impossible to follow - both Poles and Russians learned how to break or omit the rules. According to Zhelvis: Russians treat the law like a telegraph pole, you cannot jump over it but you can omit it. The same phrase will be expressed by Poles: the reason for the existence of a law to omit it.
Poles and Russians share many common virtues that have nothing to do with communism. Russians and Poles are known for their hospitality. Read about Polish hospitality in the article: FAQ about Poland . Zhelvis warns - if a Russian invites you for a lunch - do not eat anything for a couple of hours ahead since the table would be bending under the weight of offered food. Poles and Russians eat the heaviest food for the lunch and they like soups a lot.
I is amazing to find out how similar Poles and Russians are. We are so used to hear only negative examples of political conflicts between our both countries. It is quite obvious that we come from the same breed, we speak similar languages and we have entangled history and culture. Still there are some differences between Poles and Russians - which will be analyzed in the following article.
The Xenophobe's Guide to the Russians, by Vladimir Zhelvis