The United Country

A college student Sasha, 20, felt very ashamed when she admitted she was from the Caucus region. The girl didn’t look like the native inhabitant of the region, that’s why I asked her where exactly she was from. “I moved to St. Petersburg from Stavropol 2 years ago. The climate is completely different”, smiled the lady.

The Caucus region is known as a hot spot for Russians. It became the part of Russia a few centuries ago. It took a Russian Tsar around 20 years to seize that tiny territory. 2 centuries have passed, the result is almost the same. “Russia is a multicultural country but people should respect each other and feel safe”, says Sasha. “I feel less danger when Russians control the territories”, admits the student.

The Caucus Region on the Russian side include 9 areas: 2 krais and 7 republics. 2 Chechen wars had a place after the Soviet Union broke up. Nowadays since nothing serious is going on in the south of Russia, the news is not reported very often.

As far as the Southern region of Russia is not that vast, the girl knows a lot about the problems there. “When there was any blast, we got to know about it on the TV”, remarks the student. Sasha says the blast could be in the street near to her house but the civil population wouldn’t know anything about it unless via electronic media. “I think it’s just “media wars”, the channels are battling for higher ratings”,

“The Caucus reminds me of a small continent”, says the girl. The borders are closed for you just for the safety. “Russians can’t go to Chechnya unless their relatives send them an invitation”. Sasha points out there are some restrictions in every republic. “For example, if you are from one Caucus republic and you want to go to any other, you are not allowed to cross the border. This process is going on within the territory of one country, which is interesting.

Sasha said she didn’t like to mention where she was from just because people had already had some stereotypes about the region.

The problem is connected with many issues, however the whole united country should take some measures to prevent misunderstandings and further problems. It doesn’t matter what religion or social status you have, just help your neighbor, your town, your country.


Dealing with the Generation Gap

“Stop screaming”, said a senior citizen to a group of adolescents on a metro car on a red line train on Friday, April,21. The witness of the scene says there was nothing wrong in teens’ behavior, “They looked like 15 or 16, and they were just having fun”, says Alex, 21. An interesting fact is that when the scene occurred, the young generation didn’t pay attention to it at all while the elderly stared at the teens in agony. “I guess we deal with the problem of the “generation gap”, adds Alex.

According to the official data that is given from one of the resources that is close to Saint Petersburg City Metro, the Subway System carries almost half of the population of the city every single day. 2,5 million of passengers do belong to different social and age groups, their interests vary but they have to be near each other at least for a couple of minutes. Some people meet their second halves on the subways, as it happened to a couple that participated at the first season of “The Last Hero” in 2001. People come across their acquaintances, do homework, play games, listen to music, do some readings.

“People do differ, but I always respect the senior citizens”, says Alex, pointing out he can’t understand what an old lady at the age of 70 “can do at 7 am on Monday with a huge bag”. Alex does respect the elderly for the victory of the Second World War. He is thankful, and he has got a chance to live on this planet owing to these senior people. At the same time Alex and thousands of his peers can’t get why the elderly yell at the young generation almost all the time. “To be honest, it’s annoying. Their own kids have grown us up, so the problem is not in the young generation”.

Alex can’t get what was wrong in teens’ behavior. “They just pushed each other, they hadn’t done any harm to any passenger. They are kids”, explains the young man. Alex admits there were some situations when he would like to comment on the behavior of the elderly who were “rude and didn’t respect anyone around them”, but he was silent as realized he was much younger.

The young man thinks the problem is in both upbringing and personal experience. “I spent a semester abroad, and such behavior on transport is a common thing for Europe”, says the interviewee. The young guy thinks the reminiscence of “The Iron Wall”, of the borders were “closed” for tourists can be observed now. “When walking on the street, going to a store or just seeing how people act and react, I can see who has been abroad and who hasn’t”. Alex thinks if a person has spent more than a month abroad, he will “absorb” the culture. “It comes naturally, you don’t even notice the changes until you come back home”.
Speaking about upbringing, the guy mentions The Soviet System. There were some advantages and some drawbacks like in every system or regime. “I am not saying the epoch I have to witness now is perfect. The difference is not that great”, he points out. “I go to the grocery store and see how people even pick up things, how they put it into their carts.” Alex says the young generation (up to 30-35 years old) is “laid back” while people over 35 tend to act as if “there is the only one grocery store in the city, and it will be closed tomorrow.”

Alex, together with the majority of his peers, reckons such “generation gap” is hard to get through. The society needs years and years. At the same time they guy can’t reject the possibly of being the same kind of a person when gets older:”Maybe when I am at the age of 50 or 70 I will grumble at the teenagers like the elderly do, who knows?”

Stereotypes: Community Colleges

Putting lots of rouge on her cheeks, Katarina heard her Mom comparing the young lady with a community college girl. In fact, Katarina attends Saint Petersburg State University, she is a sophomore. The student understands there are certain stereotypes about guys who go to community colleges in Russia. However, she thinks there’s nothing wrong in it as not everyone can go to a college he wants to.

Katarina’s friend, Diana, attends a community college. Saint Petersburg State University student points out her friend is smart, “She was the best among the whole school at Chemistry and History”. Why does the girl have to go to a community college? The money is the issue. Diana had no choice. Either she had to go work 5 days a week or study in a “non-prestigious” place. The girl has chosen the second option. She graduated with honors the past year, and entered a Private Law School. Diana has to work a lot, she has no private life, but she really hopes she is doing everything for her future. Katarina says her friend could drink and party, but she has chosen the hardest and the longest way to become a decent person.

Katarina’s mother is not the only person who has a straight line in the head from something extraordinary to community college students. Why does it happen? According to official statistics in year 2007, 66 percent of Russians believe studying in a community college is not prestigious, 17 percent think it’s prestigious while 17 percent were hesitating in their answers. As far as one can see, stereotypes do exist. However, they are not always fair.

Diana’s neighbor, Max, attended a community college, too. The guy is 20 now, and he has to work. “I want to study but I don’t have such a chance right now.” Max neither parties nor hangs out with friends. He has an 8 year old sister, and she needs to be taken care of. A young guy lives with his Grandmother. “I should pay all the bills in time, I should buy clothes and toys for my little sister, and I want her to be happy”. Max admits he is saving up some money for college. “I try to read a lot as I don’t want to lag behind the rest.”

Katarina’s mother says she feels sorry for those kids, but a stereotype does exist. “I know when I say about community college students, my daughter recollects Diana and Max.” The woman tries to explain it is life, but Katarina can’t get it. “She always tells me about spoiled kids in her college and kids like Max and Diana, who do have to go through “real” life. And I do understand.”

 Both Katarina and her mother do believe the situation with community colleges will improve. “I always recollect a movie “Homeless to Harvard”, and I do believe fairy tales can come true if the one strongly believe in himself and will go towards the dream”.

The Nation Plus the Press

According to the official statistics that is given by scientists and professors on webpage, the amount of Russians who read has dramatically decreased during the last decade. Only 36 percent reads newspapers while 19 percent reads magazines or journals.

The North-Western regeon of Russia is considered to be the most “reading” area in the country. Here we carried out a survey about the attitude to reading. Though all the participants belong to one generation, the results were quite interesting to have a look at.

Elena, 33, a director of a chain of flower shops in Saint Petersburg, says she reads “Time Out” magazine twice a month. “I like it as it contains all the necessary information about theatres, museums, clubs and restaurants.” Speaking about the price, Elena points out it is appropriate for her, which is important. “I can read “Cosmopolitan” or “Gracia”. I suppose the majority of girls do it as every girl wants to know the latest fashion news”.

Olya, 20, a student of St.Petersburg State Technology and Design University, travels a lot in subway. “I can’t miss a morning circulation of “Metro” paper.” Olya adds she takes the newspaper not to fall asleep and to forget about her thoughts for a dozen of minutes while traveling. “I also buy “Star Hit” magazine as it had some amazing stories about celebreties and rumours”. Unfortunaly, the store where the ldy used to buy the magazine was closed, so now she doesn’t buy it.  It’s rather interesting that Olya likes magazines with pictures. So when the college girl feels fatigue, she just gets a colorful magazine and observes them for hours while traveling back to dorm.

The statistics shows not a great number of people likes to read local news. However, Maria, 20, a student of one of Saint Petersburg’s Universities, enjoys reading home news. The reason of reading is quite weird. Maria says she started to read the paper when they posted her picture in it. “I can say I became famous because of it”, says the girl. The student remarks crosswords and papers with jokes are also popular among the population. “I think peoples’ mood increases greatly when they either solve a puzzle or read ridiculous stories about life”.

Gathering all the information, we can say in general people like to read press that is close to their occupation or hobbies. Elena is a florist, and she likes fashion as her business is linked with it so she enjoys reading fashion magazines; Maria likes to read papers about sport as she is a volleyball player, and it’s her hobby.

As far as one can see, both people of middle age and youngsters read press. The choice of papers depends on each individual. However, everyone will agree it’s good to read as reading means development.

One More Article On Alcoholism

While drinking coffee in the center of Saint Petersburg City, two college students Alina and Helen saw a few beggars, who were asking for the money. “They stared at us, and I felt sorry for them”, says Helen, 21. “Alina said they needed some money for vodka, not for their babies or for medicine while I really wanted to help”.

This situation seems to be a typical one. People stumble across dozens of poor men in every big city. Some people feel sorry and try to help like Helen; meanwhile some like Alina don’t feel anything towards beggars. Most Russians believe either a big gun makes money out of these beggars or people in raged clothes are asking money for vodka. “I am tired of men lying in the sidewalks, on the benches in the subway, on the stairs. It’s a shame”, says Alina, 20.

Some scientists say alcoholism is dangerous in any dose. Some German scholars say alcohol starts to damage a person’s brain in 6 minutes after he has drunk a few bottles of beer. It’s interesting that both female and male brains react equally. However, some experts say female alcoholism is more dangerous, as a mother is more connected with a kid than a father. It’s a few times harder for women quit drinking then for men. The latest report in 2007 show that women suffer from alcohol more than men. There were no special conditions: the representatives of the 2 sexes had to fall into binge drinking for a few weeks. All the participants were from 18 up to 40 years old. There were 24 women and 78 men. The representatives of the 2 sexes fell into binge drinking for a few weeks and then they had to stop drinking for a while. The results showed that men were more successful in mental and visual tasks while women just failed.

Alcoholism is a well-known hard disease. People know it quite well; however the statistics shows relatives of abuse-drinkers use different methods. According to a webpage, which is an official partner of Russian Health Care Ministry, published an interesting article about coping with alcoholism. 1/3 of all people who participated in the survey said they hide the money, 45 % say they hide alcohol while 1/4 claimed they help their drinking relatives talk to police, go to a doctor, take care of themselves.

According to the official data, 600- 700 thousands of Russians die because of alcoholism. Lots of families break up because of a drinking parent, violence in families exist because of alcoholism. More than 4 million Russian kids don’t know their parents; many children do not know their fathers. “6 out of 11 guys in my group do not know their fathers, 3 parents either drink heavily or do not care about the kid at all, which means only 2 fathers are normal”, says Alina.

The young lady had an opportunity to live both in a big city and in a small rural town. She says people in rural areas seem to drink more than in dwellers of mega polices. “They have no work, they have no occupation, they become lazy’, says Alina. She adds it’s absolutely normal when an 8 year old drinks pure spirit in villages and remote areas.

Alina shared with me a story of her neighbor who lived near Moscow. The man was in his late fifties, he spent the whole life working at a shoe factory. “I remember I was a small girl, and he gave a pair of pink shoes for my Birthday”, says Alina. “People loved him as he was a very generous person”. In late 90ies the factory was closed, people lost their jobs. Alina remarks the population haven’t had any freedom of choice – some left their villages for big cities, some started to drink heavily. “Peter’s daughter got married and moved far away. He didn’t have a job himself. There was nothing to do, so he started to drink. His wife tried to understand him but when she told the husband he had to quit drinking, the man started to hit her. They woman had to put up”. Alina says Peter was a binge drinker, but he never admitted it.

Alina’s neighbor had problems with abdominal system, so his wife had to go to another village to get some special medicine. “When Mrs. Olesya was gone, Mr. Peter invited his friends. They were drinking the whole evening”, explains Alina. Once the guests were gone, the man fell asleep with a cigarette in his mouth. “He burnt while alive, the house burnt, the cows, goats, sheep burnt.  It was a shock,” reports the college girl.

Alina remembers her neighbor Peter started to lose his mind a few years before the terrific situation. He became aggressive, and he also got memory lapses. Doctors say these symptoms, plus a refusal in social and physical activities, withdrawal symptoms are obvious signs of having a libel “an alcoholic”.

However, this situation is shown here not to say drinking is a systematic problem. Some strong-willed people may quit drinking as easy as ABC. Some weak-willed may join a special world-wide society that has a few hundred branches in Russia, and it’s caledl Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It’s quite interesting that the first branch was opened in 1987 in Moscow, just when the Gorbachev’s “Dry” Law was laid out. The main thing winthing a society is a desire. If you want to say “no” to drinking, a few dozens of people with the same problem will help you. Hope and faith are crucial. People don’t have to pay any fees, the organization is absolutely free.

Alina says her neighbor was not aware of the problem of drinking abuse, so he never thought of joining the society. Moreover, there are no chances to do that in rural areas.

Strangers may come to a conclusion Russians love to drink like Germans like to eat sausages or Japanese eat sushi. However, there is nothing in such a stereotype on Russians. Despite being a part of a culture, alcoholism it’s a nationwide problem. Unless people start to be aware of their actions, have plans for the future or just dreams, anything positive in this direction is unlikely to happen.