Silver linings – Resilience

Looking for the silver linings to the dark economic cloud hanging over Russia in 2015, Jeroen Ketting wrote a series of articles about Russian resilience, ingenuity and strength.

Why Russians can deal with a changing world

Life is changing rapidly in ways that we could not foresee twenty or even ten years ago. Things that we took for granted like job security, pensions, personal safety, our economic growth model and the climate have suddenly become causes for concern. We feel less safe and secure than we used to and the balance of the global political landscape is changing. Even a juicy steak and a second glass of wine have become health hazards as we recently learned from the World Health Organization. We are often poorly prepared to deal with these changes and perceive them as traumatic – especially when it concerns that prohibited second glass of wine. For Russians, however, change and ambiguity have been a part of daily life for centuries, let alone the last two decades. A forty-something Russian alive today has experienced an empire’s rise and demise, war and peace, wealth and poverty, expropriation and privatization, lawlessness and legalism, hope and hopelessness. As a result Russians have developed great mechanisms for coping with uncertainty.

The Russian ability to lay back

Russians are flexible and don’t have the urge to control everything. They are able to make decisions and act without having the complete picture. They understand that when you act you may make mistakes and that you can’t make an omelet without cracking some eggs. They have a high ambiguity threshold and are not easily stressed by uncertain situations. They believe in a higher purpose and are willing to resign their fate to this higher purpose.

Hope dies last

This makes Russians extremely resilient. According to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, “resilience is the long-term capacity of a system to deal with change and continue to develop. For a forest, this can involve dealing with storms, fires and pollution, while for a society it involves dealing with political uncertainty or natural disasters in a way that is sustainable in the long-term”. Russian resilience is inspiring, and whenever I feel overwhelmed by the changes happening around me, I say to myself the words I learned in Russia: “hope dies last”.

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.

Share this article