As most people are aware, Russia is a strongly bureaucratic country – full of administration and rules (A). However, CCCC’s analysis shows that Russian business owners tend not to be ‘A’, but are visionary and people-oriented personalities (VF), in stark contrast to the West where owners tend to be doers and entrepreneurs (PV). This Russian VF (visionary, friendly, people-oriented) perspective is in obvious contrast to most outsiders’ concepts, which tend to pigeon hole Russian business people as anxious and bureaucratic (PA).
Manifestation of Bureaucracy
The truth of the matter is that Russians get great satisfaction out of breaking rules – any rules. They feel most rules are stupid. (The innovating, independent-minded V is at work.) The word ‘stupid’ may seem strong, but it represents feelings that are very strong. Breaking rules was the custom 200 years ago; it is the same today.
When Russians light up a cigarette in a smoking-prohibited place, they are attempting to show their independence from the system and from the rules. They are greatly satisfied when breaking those rules.
With a strong A Government, action by ordinary citizens was forbidden, but thinking was not – you can’t forbid thoughts. The result: free thinking, while there was no free doing. It became more important for Government (State) to eliminate free thinkers (enemies of the system) than to deal with those who committed crimes. In the end, it was forbidden TO SAY, but not TO DO.
So you can’t say that your Director is a fool, but you can safely fool him every day.
Bureaucracy Leads to Development of V
In Russia, before the Revolution, during the USSR period, and since then, the STATE was THE SYSTEM; the STATE was A. Slavery existed until 1861 and in some ways it hasn’t changed much. More recently, according to the law, you couldn’t change your job without permission of government authorities (read: you can’t change jobs). Employment was guaranteed by the State, but upon completing university you could be sent to work in Siberia (and you couldn’t say NO). Unemployment was a crime. If you were not working, you could go to prison (called a working camp).
Out of the strong A of the State developed a lack of need for A in people, in individual characters. But heavy A means bureaucracy – and common people, especially common Russians, hate bureaucracy. From this sentiment started a hidden war against bureaucracy. People began breaking rules to protect themselves and to express themselves.
Bureaucracy also created situations where you can follow laws only if you break laws. This stimulated a need for V – you require imagination and ingenuity to break laws to follow laws. And you need V for your new ideas to survive.
Development of the Social Element
The maxim that ‘It is easier to rule the crowd than an individual’ has been the driver for the Russian Government’s continual social orientation. However, such a social body was not oriented towards social benefits for all. Social in this context means to create dependency of people on others. “To live for your own prosperity is BAD; you should live for the prosperity of all”. Russians are socially oriented – if they suffer, they suffer for the nation. We Russians think that individual suffering is nothing because you can overcome your own pain. But, suffering for somebody else, is the right and respectful thing to do. You must be respectful yourself, even if nobody notices your suffering. Russians are more interested in other people’s suffering and hence, one can argue, more interested in other people than in themselves. “I do pay attention to needs of people living close to me, while I pay no attention to my own hurts.”
Strong F means taking to heart other people’s pain. And in Russia it encompasses the ability to spend your life for the survival of others. Or, it may entail the satisfying of somebody else’s demands. Russian Rescue Forces work in conditions of extreme danger to their lives when there is a chance to save one person. American, German or British rescuers, given the same situation, will often leave. Similarly, firemen, policemen or doctors – despite their usually being poorly equipped (lack of V, F of the State) – sacrifice their lives to salvage somebody – and not because they are looking for fame, but because, for them, somebody’s life is IMPORTANT. A new development in Russia, due to influence of foreign culture, are TV shows describing heroic situations. Previously Russia did have heroic movies, but did not have inane TV shows with reconstruction of every little detail of what had happened. Fame, honour and heroism were internal issues – personal for Russian citizens – not for crowd celebration. On the other hand you are a hero only if other people recognize it. And you can be a hero, but you can’t feel yourself as a hero.
Strong F creates strong trust in people – trust in feelings or thoughts. You’d like to trust people, but real life in Russia gives you the answer “No – you can’t trust people”. (Consider that on the one hand, with no ‘A’, (no control), many things come undone, but you have trusted and, on the other hand, you get no results – absence of P). That brings a great deal of suspicion to Russian people. We trust, but with suspicion. “Trust but check” – we say.
Driving Down P
From this trend in thinking comes the observation that things can be accomplished only if you discuss them in person, have met and communicated with people informally (open yourself to them and let them see you as a human (F)). Formal meetings are only a ritual, with little value because there is no A to look after the details and to follow up. That is why Russians prefer to have negotiations at the dining table or in a sauna than in the office. You can trust the person you have drunk vodka with, whereas a contract means nothing – it’s only a formal paper for the informal, but real, face-to-face agreement.
In Russia, the equation is:
a lot of V (looking for better life, surviving in dreamland)
a lot of F (co-feeling with other people, your life is not important)
State’s A (“step to left, step to right, open fire without warning, do not break rules, do not make waves”)
situation where deeds cost nothing, as they are valued less than thoughts. If you do not like our Party or Mr. X (don’t like thoughts) then I don’t care what you are doing; you are a bad person anyway.
That creates a LACK of appreciation of P – a lack of P itself!
Why should I do something if I can’t get results in my life (no A)?
Why should I do something if I can’t implement (no P) what I had planned (lots of V)?
Why should I do something if I can’t implement (no P) what I had planned (lots of V)?
Why should I do something if the majority does not agree (F) or was not able to concentrate on the details to do it (lack of A of individuals)?
Russia always had excellent inventors (V), writers (VF) and scientists (VF), but these people never used inventions, ideas and dreams in real life for their own benefit. We had no drive (no P) to improve it for us – which comes across as laziness!!!
Impractical Dream of Communism
Pure Communists were optimists and ideologists – they wanted to build a socially oriented world where all people were working together for the benefit of all. Everybody would be happy; money would not be needed. People would need no control, as they would be committed to work without punishment and without recognition. It was good dream. And I accept Communism as a good idea, but it’s an inappropriate utopia in our real world of different interests, different perspectives and different goals.
Lack of State F
Russia was, and is, potentially, a very rich country. This becomes a very big problem for Russian citizens because the State doesn’t look at people as an important national resource. The State may send millions to death if the State feels it is important to serve the State’s interests – it will survive despite the human losses because of the enormous reserves of its natural resources. There is no F in the State.
How Does a Person Respond?
I return to the thought that the State (A), the nation, needs something – perhaps F. Or, I see that the State is wrong (going against the V of individuals who have their own understanding). Whether I agree or not, I can’t go against other people (my F) or I avoid doing something properly for my State (no A in me, and in conflict with my V). So I have no motivation to take actions (I do not need P) on the State’s behalf. I will only create a fake version of activity for the State (it needs my V to do so, not P). I will follow all the rules of the State (A) without any ability to change anything; I can’t master my own details (A). Thus, I will live in my dreams (my V) which, I’m sure will never come true (no P or A to make them happen). And, I can spend my life for the sake of other people (my F), on my own (no State F), in the way I feel I should (VF).
According to the law of saving of energy in the Universe (entropy) – it is easier not to do something than to spend your time, money and health on useless things.
State A (external A) means: Do so; do not ask why. In such an environment you have to do things even if you have no experience or knowledge (no State F – bad delegation of people, bad trust), you need creativity (V) to perform in this surreal situation. And, in Russia, you have to do so quite often. In real life you would be facing a lot of P to get things done. But in such a situation you are trying to avoid P. You’ve ‘had enough’, and so you fake it (you have V). You have motivation to behave this way, as many things that should have been done yesterday now appear useless today; thus you have saved your energy, resources and health when faking activity under these conditions. So you were right. Your behaviour is reinforced by avoiding doing and of not needing P.
Russians are fond of reading, viewing good movies, attending theatre and opera – mostly V activities. We are fond of watching sports and really like discussing things with friends in the kitchen (F). This is a real Russian tradition. Our homes were always so small, ugly, uncomfortable – no State F, but a lot of State A to plan our lives – that the best way to meet people was in the kitchen, where you can drink tea or vodka, without disturbing your relatives (F), while meeting your friends (F).
State Vs. Motherland
For us State and Motherland are different. During World War II people fought for the Motherland, for the nation, but really not for the State as they suffered terribly from it. Only when Russians understood that the enemy at the gates was worse than their own State, did they start to fight with all their might.
My Government is close to me (because of my F), and I will protect my country from an external enemy. But I will do nothing if my own Government sets about to destroy the nation or is stealing from it. I hate the situation of my State (my V, the State’s A), but I live with it (my F, my absence of P). And the State needs my defaulted absence of P, to increase its A.
Russians like to dream, but not to do. And if Russians decide to do, they usually understand how it should be done, but do it, typically, in the wrong way. Russians usually know HOW to do things, but when we take an action we do so as an extreme P – effective but absolutely inefficient, i.e. the wrong way.
We pour over instructions when we have free time (read: never), and if so, not very carefully – and definitely not before operating the equipment.
We adopt copious amounts of information and study many new things in a limited time, independently. Yet, we cannot delegate (it needs A, not just F).
In Russia ideas cost nothing – only implementation is valued. We are producers of ideas – the only thing we could produce safely during the past hundreds of years.
Russian fairy tales are about fools with magic tools allowing them not to work, but to get results: a fish giving three or more wishes, other animals creating results, old people making things happen. A Russian proverb is: “Work is not a wolf, it can’t run into the forest”.
Quote from a fairy tale: “Go to sleep. Morning is wiser than evening.” And: “In the morning, heroes find that everything has been done by other persons”.
Our Russian dreams are about wizards who will make our wishes come true. Or we’d like to get a magic wand…
Result: Rule Breaking
We have to be excellent in finding holes in Russian laws; it’s a matter of survival. Because of V we are able to adopt other systems fast. We understand “laws” of living in Canada; we adapt to it faster. We will survive in Canada, but we’ll find a lot of holes in Canadian laws. Russians will try not to work, but to get money using those holes. Or Russians will break rules to show their independence and disagreement with Government. And Russians will wait for support from Canadians as both peoples are on the same side of barricades (Government is always on the other).
Of course, Russians are not so inhospitable as this ‘theory’ suggests; they will not intentionally set about to disassemble or disobey Canadian laws. It’s just that there is a tendency in Russians not to value rules or laws as of absolute importance. Most Russians will not start their work in Canada by looking for holes in legislation, but if they find them, there is a higher probability – compared to Canadians – that the Russians will use those loopholes.
Because of the high V, Russians are good testers of systems. The Russian will find more things that are wrong – and correct them. So Russians are good hunters for wrong things (including holes in legislation). Their nature tells them to break rules and their V pushes them to it. They will open a box if there is a sign “Do not open”. If there is no sign, then it is less interesting to open. Because, for centuries, it was forbidden to protest, Russians break rules as their form of protest.
Some Russians view it, not as ‘law breaking’ but as ‘using laws for your own benefit’ and for the benefit of those who are less fortunate – to make laws achieve what they were originally intended for but no longer do.
Friendship in Russia is truly important.
If you drink vodka with Boris, he becomes your relative; you can’t tell him NO if he asks for something, later. But you may beat his face, as you are not expected to be under self-control (no A).
The distance between conversing individuals is very close to one another – let’s say 20 centimeters, not 1.5 meters as in Canada. (More F, than in Canada.)
In real life people may lie to you many times, but you believe them (F); you even trust them. However, after time, it creates disillusionment with people. If you can’t trust people but you believe them (F), what should you do? You should open yourself to them even more, becoming closer in order not to allow them to betray you.
BETRAYAL is the problem in Russia, not TRUST.
Analysis of PAVF in Russia
The Russian State creates for itself PA (thus lacking VF). This mirrors VF in people, lacking PA. Here we follow the rule of filling the void through the laws of supply and demand.
As with the CCCC analysis of Extremes in PAVF, also in Russia, the peoples’ mirror of Extremes of Government creates real voids:
Extreme V means no real vision – only dreams;
Extreme A creates chaos;
Extreme F brings untrusting and betrayal;
Extreme P gets no needed results.
Russia is balancing Extreme P, Extreme A, Extreme V, Extreme F at the same time, but there is no balance of PAVF as a system.
What does this mean for companies with respect to their problems, relations and traditions? Stay tuned for the next letter from Russia.
Director, CCCC Russia
© Vasiliy Ilyasov, 2002
Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCCC)