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There were
many situations when I told a foreigner that I was from Russia and heard «Yes,
I’ve been to Europe» as an answer. I realized that many people from abroad
either refer Russia and its culture to the western world or they don’t know
where exactly it belongs and what culture prevails. That is why I made a
research which clarifies this question.

To begin
with, obviously, geographically Russia is not Europe. Russia is located in
Eurasia and only 35% of Russia is in Europe and 65% is in Asia. A Russian
philosopher Chaadaev said: «Russia is neither of the west nor of the east». His
statement is not an opinion but a fact: Russia can’t be fully related to one of
these parts of the world. Let’s see the aspects for which people call Russia a
western or eastern country.

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 Firstly, there are the reasons why Russia’s
culture is similar to western. In the 18th century, when Peter the
Great “cut a window” through to Europe, Russia became influenced by the culture
of West, and by the 19th century the culture was decidedly western.
It was popular to speak French and to read French books, to hire a governess
for children from France and most Russian academies brought in scholars from
Europe.  Therefore, Russian literature,
music and painting are similar to the western ones. More than that, Russia was
always an inseparable part of European political culture. Russia participated
in European politics since the middle ages through its links with Byzantium. Russia
is also involved in European affairs and tries to develop western democracy,
individual freedoms and free market economy.

despite all of the above Russians think that they are different from Europeans
and don’t identify themselves as westerners. Competitiveness and individualism
are spread in the western world, whereas Russians are known for their communal
spirit. The westerners value their personal space, however in Russia shoving in
crowds and public transport is a normal thing. You can see many people in
physical contact with each other in the streets even if they are not close
friends. Women hold hands while strolling, men kiss men when greet each other.
Everybody’s business is everyone else’s. More than that, soviet Russia tried to
delineate its society in contrast to the western one. The Soviet Union’s
cultural policy during Stalin’s time even fought against the Western influence
on Soviet culture.

after the fall of USSR, Russia looked at Europe as a model to follow and
strives to be a modern “European” country. But as a geographical actor, Russia
has embraced a hard-power worldview that goes beyond the normative European
model of soft power.

Russia is
not a western country but it is not an eastern one as well. It is something
average between these two cultures and something unique. As a conclusion, I
want to cite a famous Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev: «Russia is special, you
cannot understand it, you have to believe in it». 

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