The Good Russians: Poorest Give to Others Even When They Don’t Have Enough to Eat

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 23, 2017)

One of the many things those Russian officials and their allies who condemn any critic of the Russian government as a Russophobe don’t understand is that the objects of such attacks make a distinction they do not – between the horrific government and the many good Russians who suffer under its rule.

Indeed, as some in Moscow do not understand as well, a major reason why many in the West came to the study of Russia and continue to be fascinated by it is because they have always been struck by the fundamental goodness of so many ordinary Russians and the stark contrast between their qualities and the horrors of the Russian regime.

And these students of Russia have usually been horrified by the insistence of many in the regime and its supporters that the Russian government and the Russian people are one and the same thing, a specious claim such people use to deflect criticism from within and without by suggesting that the people are the same as the state when that is clearly not the case.

On this American Thanksgiving Day, when we pause to reflect about the many good things we have been blessed with, it is appropriate to recall the good Russians of whom there are millions who despite their suffering continue to choose to give to others poorer than themselves even when they don’t have enough to eat.

Earlier this week, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported the results of a survey by experts from the Higher School of Economics showing that despite hard times, 57 percent of Russians give to charitable causes with many of them giving more now precisely because times are hard than they did earlier (ng.ru/economics/2017-11-21/100_poorrussians.html).

As anyone who knows Russians would expect, much of their charitable giving is directed at children, those that are ill in particular, but also those who are orphans or who have been left in difficult circumstances far beyond their control.

But the most important and timely finding of this study is the following, as Nezavisimaya gazeta makes clear: “the greatest average sum of gifts to those people do not know directly comes form the least well-off strata of the population, who often ‘don’t even have enough money to feed themselves.'”

These poor people do this, the study suggests, “out of solidarity” with those who are suffering a difficult fate like their own, a finding that those Russians who insist that Russians are incapable of solidarity and thus remain atomized victims of the state need to recognize is incomplete if not completely wrong.

[Article also appeared at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-good-russians-poorest-give-to.html]