Russian Lessons – Family Matters

The Russian Lessons are about the positive things in Russia. They give an insight into what we can learn from Russians in areas such as loyalty, generosity, family and creativity.

Recognizing Russians

Russians can recognize a foreigner in Russia a mile off, but equally Europeans who have spent some time in Russia can usually recognize a Russian as well. One of the tell-tale signs, originating from the nature of the Russian family, is if you see an adult woman in high heels with her mother and sometimes a child travelling together, there is a high likelihood that they will be Russian. And if you still doubt it, then just look to see if the mother seems to have been made from a slightly more voluminous DNA strain than the daughter. If so, you can be sure they are Russian.

I know of no other nation where it is so common for mother and daughter to travel together and to share large parts of their lives. I start this section on family with mothers and daughters on purpose as they form the backbone of the Russian family unit. I never cease to be amazed by the strength of Russian family ties. Usually three generations, and sometimes four, lead intricately connected lives but also aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces are an inherent part of the Russian family. grandparents play a big part in raising their grandchildren, and children support their elderly parents.

Importance of the family

Family in Russia is the most important social circle that people live in but it is also the most essential social security that a Russian can have. In a country where the pension, health and social insurance systems leave much to be desired, family is the foundation of your well-being. It doesn’t mean that Russian families know no difficulties. And maybe that is for the better. It was not for nothing that Lev Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina that, “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. But I have seen great examples in Russia of strength and wisdom on the part of people dealing with difficulties inside the family and bearing the cross that your family sometimes is. To walk away from your family is not an option in Russia. When I think of the Russian family, a Spanish proverb comes to mind: “an ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship”. This certainly holds true in Russia. The Russian family continues to be a source of inspiration for me when dealing with my own family back in Holland, which is like most families — as the popular saying goes: “like fudge… mostly sweet with a few nuts”.

Share this article

Sign up for our newsletter​

Sign up for our monthly mailing to make sure you never miss out on Jeroen Ketting's latest publications, events and webinars.