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On dissing Russian men

Welcome to the re-launching of Natalia’s column. It will run every other Sunday, and will now be more personal, for we have decreed that it will be so. Forever and ever – or until she gets bored with it. Amen.

An American friend of mine told me on a recent visit to Moscow that sure, I can marry a Russian man, “as long as [I] know what [I’m] doing.”

It wasn’t an ill-intentioned comment, but it threw me off-guard. I had already heard from plenty of Western expats that while Western men were entitled to date whoever they choose, Western women dating Russian men, let alone MARRYING them, “mostly isn’t done.”

“How dull,” I thought. “These people are missing out.”

The knowledge that such statements about Russian men are also freaking offensive came later. I always try to put off offense for as long as possible. After all, it doesn’t agree with me. I’m a fan of generalizations – especially darkly humorous ones. I use them all the time!

And yet, the same Westerners who would undoubtedly think it horrible to say something like, “And don’t ever marry a black dude – he’ll probably turn out to be a crack dealer,” have no problem saying what basically amounts to as the same thing when it comes to Slavic men, Russian men in particular.

Some of this stems from a familiar trope – the idea that there are these women out there who must, at all costs, be rescued by enlightened Westerners from their own husbands and boyfriends. Textbooks have been written on the subject. Anyone interested in the topic is probably better off reading one of those, as opposed to this column.

Then, there is pop culture. While the image of the Russian woman has been popularized in all sorts ways – many of them suggesting that she is an object of desire, even if it’s a dangerous desire (just look at the elaborate dance the media has done around Anna Chapman) – Russian dudes are mostly portrayed as thugs. Well, Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” was a pretty fine thug. But then again, nobody could seriously confuse Viggo for an actual Russian (could they?).

But then there is also the fact that in many ways, Russian men are simply in their element in Russia, in a way that most Western dudes aren’t. They aren’t seen as mouldable, unlike Russian women. If you wind up marrying one of them, you’re marrying more than just an individual – in the eyes of your Western friends, you’re marrying a system, an entire way of life. You might as well be chaining yourself to the Kremlin Wall.

I’m too unsettled to get married at the moment, but I also have a father. Who is half Russian and half Ukrainian. He is a big, blue-eyed man. When I’m back home, the two of us have vodka shots with lunch. We go out for shashlik together. When we’re in one of our collective mournful moods and sitting on the balcony of our apartment in Kiev, we sing a song about a black raven circling over a warrior.

I love my father. And I knew exactly “what I was getting into” when I was born to my mother and him – i.e. I am glad to have been born into this family, in this time, in this place.

When you insult Russian men, you insult my father and two grandfathers. You insult my kid brother, my cousins, my friends, the people I love. You insult who I am as well.

Cut it out, for God’s sake.

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Natalia Antonova

Natalia is a writer and journalist. She’s the associate editor of openDemocracy Russia and the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute.

7 thoughts on “On dissing Russian men

  1. Hi,
    can you elaborate are you cross at Amercian men dissing Russian men? I have read in many various websites,blogs than
    russian men are really really really really really repulsed by american/expat women who are living and working in Russia and might go out with one as a joke to satisfy their curiosity but would rather die than actually marry an American!
    I’m a mutt girl half Ukrainian and mom’s side is russian Old Believers live in Manhattan and have never heard of a professional american 20-40 something women ever being asked out or even dating a russian or even setting a Tory Burch ballet shoe into Brighton Beach.
    There was some buzz about Mikhail Prokhorov being in Mafia and with him waving a AK-47 in the 60 Minute dosen’t help IMO his PR manager Ellen Pinchuk’s fault. Specs about him hitting the NYC strip club circuit and “dating” models but the american girls would be too old for him. Misha enjoys his image as a “playboy” but strictly likes russian teenage lolitas (heifers) no one under 20 and has been known to be this way for many years.

  2. I think this column makes it clear who it is that I am cross at. I’m not really sure what Mikhail Prokhorov has to do with what I said either. If Prokhorov is representative of Russian men, then I’m sure Donald Trump must be representative of American men. Since we’re trading in generalizations and such.

  3. For Anny, here’s a good (and very readable) example of an American woman who is quite happy living in Russia with her Russian husband;

    http://dividingmytime.typepad.com/

    although she takes occasional affectionate potshots at him, as many women do to their men.

    “Knowing what you’re getting into” might also refer to getting involved with a man who may not speak your language very well, whose ability to support you might not be what you expected and whose ability to leave Russia (if that’s your collective decision) might be complicated by visa requirements. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Russia, my wife is Russian, and the guys I’ve met – who are generally the husbands or boyfriends of my wife’s friends – are your typical fun-loving lot, no more insensitive or rude or moody than guys anywhere else.

    Knowing what you’re getting into is good advice for any relationship. Your love interest’s nationality shouldn’t be a deal-breaker just on the face of it. Mine was the wisest decision I ever made, and plenty of people counseled me against it. An awful lot of prejudices are born of no acquaintance with the country or people at all, but from what one sees in the movies, where Russian men are 7-foot monosyllabic goons with poorly-fitting suits and steel teeth.

  4. I am surprised at the number of people that don’t understand how different the European men are. I married a Polish man that spoke both Polish and Russian. He was very nice.

  5. Russian men are incredible. Don’t fret over the ignorant commentary of people who have never been to Russia, never dined or worked among Russians, or only know about Russia and Russian men what Google tells them. I’ve been a friend of the Russians since the Eighties, and my best lover during the Nineties was Russian. I miss him, his tender, honest, open heart (and his technique… rrrrr lol).

    Here’s an American woman voting loud and clear for the beautiful Russian man and his soaring, courageous, hard-working soul. I intend to wed one.

    Makes sense in retrospect: my father was black American and my mother was a complex mix of Central Asia and Europe/Eurasia. A friend bought a DNA test for me, and I submitted saliva to find out its results.

    I look kind of Persian IRL. Turns out a good portion of my DNA is from Russia and Ukraine 🙂

    No one but my heart knows. TO Russia with love,
    Me

  6. Hello to whom it may concern I am 49 years old and dating a 53 year old Russian gentleman we are deeply in love with each other and plan on meeting here in the USA next year. We plan on getting married in Russia am I ready to give up everything to be with him ? Yes that means my nursing career and my American citizenship . I fill it’s important that you should always follow your heart but most importantly you should both sit down with a immigration lawyers on either end and discuss all the options good and bad. Learn the language of Russia and their way of life, always keep in mind that not everyone around you is out to swindle you out for a green card. Alot of people you will meet are just looking for someone to share there life with and there heart, being judgmental will go no where but keeping a open heart and mind can open you up to alot of surprises .
    S.G.

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