Ever wondered what the Russians’ attitudes to foreigners are? Authors Slava Katamidze and Charles McCall talk about here in an excerpt from our title “The Lowdown: Business Etiquette – Russia”
Q. Generally, what’s the attitude to foreigners in Russia?
A. Quite mixed. On the one hand, Russia is now a capitalist country whose economy is seriously entangled with the West. It supplies gas and oil to many European countries, Russian corporations have become involved in many international projects, and most of the goods in Russian shops come from Western countries.
On the other hand, nationalistic rhetoric has a powerful effect on the man in the street. For example, the old themes of ‘Great Russia being dealt with unfairly by the United States’ are often used to unite the country around dominant political figures and their entourages. As a result, many people in Russia today regard Westerners, and especially Americans, as people who aren’t capable of understanding Russian problems and Russian intentions, both on the world stage and at home. Some Russian politicians use this for political gain - it’s for domestic consumption, but for the average Russian citizen it sometimes manifests itself in resentment and suspicion.
Q: Do Russian businesspeople feel this way?
A: Some do. That’s my opinion, anyway.
Q. Can these feelings spill over into hostility?
A. No. That would be extremely rare. Law and order is one of the main focal points of the Russian government, and historically Russians are law-abiding. Don’t forget: Russia, although a capitalist country with democratic institutions, is a long way from Western democracy. It’s still very much a police state, where the ruling class dominates society. To protect their investments and to control society, Russia needs law and order.
Have you travelled to Russia on business? How did you find the experience? - LK