Only in Russia – Better to have 100 friends than 100 rubles

The Russia Only articles are a series of short stories about Jeroen’s experiences of living and working in Russia over the past 25 years.
article-100friends

100 friends versus 100 rubles

“It’s better to have 100 friends than 100 rubles” is a saying that every Russian will consent to. Dealing with the daily reality in Russia can be a daunting task. Many domestic matters, daily chores or banal issues at work that can be dealt with in the blink of an eye in many countries, often manifest themselves as major obstacles in Russia. The service sector is still underdeveloped in Russia and official institutions and organisations are still lacking. For the most mundane tasks that elsewhere, you can solve in minutes by opening the yellow pages or browsing the internet, in Russia, you will need to rely on the people who you know.

The Russian Micro Cosmos

This network of people that are close to you and that you can rely on, is something I call the Micro Cosmos. You will see that every Russian has this Micro Cosmos around him or herself. After 16 years of living in Russia, I also came to realise that I created this Micro Cosmos that helps me to deal with most problems in one or two phone calls. Via friends and friends of friends you can get just about everything done. Your work permit, the right apartment, your car registration, without the need to stand for hours in a queue, the best doctor in town or the right business partner. All of this can be easily arranged through your Micro Cosmos, whereas, the official channels mostly come up blank when you need a solution. The Micro Cosmos does not only exist on the level of individual people; the government and big Russian companies function according to this principle.

Cosmoses as the building blocks of society

Business and political leaders always bring their close group of trusted people whenever they occupy a new post. Even corporate and national political policy often stems from the idea of this Micro Cosmos. Russian businesses prefer to do everything in-house, whereas, their Western equivalents would outsource many tasks. Also, the Russian national policy is focused at establishing independence from the outside world. Russian political leaders would deep down prefer to deal with other countries from the position of autarkic independency. These Micro Cosmoses are the building blocks of the cohesion of Russian society. Each Micro Cosmos functions according to its own rules and systems and although Russia often seems unorganised and unexplainable to foreign eyes, much can be explained by recognising and understanding the workings of the Russian Micro Cosmos.

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