Another important factor is that the modern Russian family structure also reflects the stress of the society as a whole. "Family stress is related to the local variant of the widespread crisis in the Russian economy (Wolfe and Vitebsky, 2002, p. 73)
This leads to the question of how social roles are defined. Social roles are linked to the authority structure in the family and are usually hierarchical and patriarchal. However, this situation is open to many variations, especially in the light of the recent changes that the society has undergone. As Schultze ( 2000) states, "Although the man is usually considered the authority in the house, the woman provides most of the discipline and the affection for the children"(Schultze, 2000, p. 45).
3. Attitudes towards activities and problem solving.
It should be borne in mind that there is a greater sense of conservatism among Russians generally than is found in developed Western countries. "Russians are more likely to be cautious and conservative defenders of the status quo. Their cruel climate, harsh history, and skeptical outlook on life has caused Russians to value stability, security, social order, and predictability, avoiding risk" ( Goehner). Coupled with this is a more relaxed sense of time. "To Russians, with their agricultural heritage, time is like the seasons - a time for sowing and a time for reaping, and a time for doing little in between" (Goehner). This attitude was perpetuated by the job protectionism under communism.
These factors tend to suggest that in term of goals setting, activity and problem solving the Russian culture is not as intensely focussed as many Western cultures. In other words there is a more "relaxed" attitude towards life. However, it should also be pointed out that attitudes among younger Russians are changing. In a recent study it was found that conformity and conservatism was not a primary issue among young Russians and that there was a greater emphasis on peer approval and activity; which tends to suggest a shift away for the older conservative attitude in Russian culture (Williams, 1999).
5. Sex and Sexuality
In discussing sex in relation to social norms and authority structures in the culture it should be noted there has until very recently not being any real women's movements in Russia, as was the case in America and Europe. "in Russia there was no parallel mass movement to advance women further toward equality" (Schultze, 2000, p. 42). This has meant that there is no tradition of women's rights and most women are still treated in terms of the rather rigid patriarchal norms of a male centred -centred culture.
However, the division between the sexes in terms of work has changed as a result of the more active and responsible role given to women during the communist years. The understanding of the role of the sexes in this culture is therefore complex. On the one hand "The tradition of male domination of Russian culture, rooted in peasant culture and bolstered by religion, underlay the lack of regard for women" (Schultze, 2000, p. 44); whereas the role of women was increased under the communistic ideology. In reality many critics point out this the more traditional and conservative attitudes towards women tend to prevail in Russia. "Since 1991, the participation of women in government has declined. Political figures and media reporters do not hesitate to characterize women as unsuited for politics, lacking the analytical skills (Schultze, 2000, p. 44).
The situation with regard to sexual expression is also complex and not easy to define. On the one hand there is the traditional conservatism about sex and on the other we have a modern breakdown of taboos and traditional norms about sexual expression.
It would be incorrect to assume that there are hard and fast conclusions that can be reached about counselling interventions with regard to persons from a Russian background. Despite this reality, knowledge of the traits, norms and values of Russian culture are aspects that are vital to counselling and the counsellor should be fully aware of the general cultural tendencies among Russians.
There is a Russian tendency to accept authority more easily and a sense of community and sharing that is part of the culture. Russians also tend to be less individualistic and more conservative in their approach to problem solving. However, there will always be exceptions and those who do not adhere to these generalizations. The counsellor or therapist has therefore to be on guard that he or she does not presume cultural traits and become biased in assessment.
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Wolfe, S., & Vitebsky, P. (2002). Chapter 4 Assumptions and Expectations. In Working Inter-Culturally in Counselling Settings, Dupont-Joshua, a. (Ed.) (pp. 65-88). New York: Brunner-Routledge.