ARE RUSSIANS BECOMING KINDER?
By Stephen Wilson
Second City Teacher
(Moscow, Russia) - It comes as a bit of shock. When you attempt to cross a pedestrian crossing, and a car is coming up, you pause! Instead of driving straight past, they stop and let you cross. Some even smile at you!
Ten years ago it was almost unthinkable. I thought it represented only a freak occurrence, but no, I was wrong. It happened again and again! Russian drivers are becoming more polite and considerate to pedestrians. At least, a growing number of them are!
Of course, we can't overlook some grotesque incidents where a driver knocked down two pedestrians and got casually out to inspect the damage to her car, rather than rush to aid the poor victims.
There is still some 'khamsteva', which translates into a kind of boorish aggression where drivers will drive up and deliberately knock over a pedestrian who is walking too slowly along a pavement or road. I have witnessed such incidents in Moscow a few times.
The worst incident was in Kishenev, Moldova, where an angry and aggressive driver beeped his horn madly to a crossing pedestrian to 'Get out the way'! The pedestrian indignantly refused and the driver got out of the car and assaulted the poor man by using some judo. So much for judo being 'the gentle art or way', I thought. Nobody had taught that driver that the aim of judo is to control the self and not to lose it.
There is another sign Russians might be becoming kinder. If you open up Russian newspapers, you will see many appeals for funds to help sick patients who urgently require medical aid.
There is also a much more caring attitude to the homeless. I have heard that some students of Moscow state University and even some school students have formed groups to help the homeless in a spontaneous way. They gather to go to certain spots, to feed, cloth and befriend homeless people. In fact, I accidently bumped into one helper. I and a Scottish friend were walking up the escalator of a metro (subway) when a homeless man came tumbling down on us. Luckily, we managed to pull him up and get him to the top.
When we reached the top, I noticed a young school girl of around 14-15 greeting him. It turned out she was helping him and was one of those guardian angels.
I heard of another intriguing fact. A Russian 'Kindness' society' has just been established, with its own website, whose aim is to inspire 'acts of kindness'. It was largely set up by Russian academics. I met one of those key founders a week ago during a lecture of David Wansbrough's. He is a famous naturalist called Nicholas Drozdov.
On this occasion, he made a speech where he hoped that people would come together and make peace with each other. He even awarded a peace prize to David for his kind efforts to promote peace. Incidently, Nicholas Drozdov, a cheerful and warmly friendly man, is Orthodox and strongly inspired by Orthodox Christianity!
So it seems that there are more and more people in Russia heeding Doctor Gaas's dictum 'To hurry up and do good'!