Stuff that Russians do well

They are exceptionally good at friendship these Russkies, most of them anyway. They make friends at kindergarten, school or college and then tend to remain close friends until they die. You tell them this and they say: “No, no, no: that’s not particular to Russia.” Then they tell you about their oldest friend who they met in a maternity home incubator in 1973 and who has just borrowed $50 000 from them to buy a car. They also help their friends in very concrete ways.

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What set me off was was a show where Fry and Laurie were reunited in front of the cameras recently and the narrator said how rare such a long standing friendship is. It struck me as nonsense until I realized that all of the examples I can think of are Russians. It happens in England too, of course, but it happens a lot less.

Of course, you can construct a thesis about the ways in which an absent or indifferent state leads people to stick closer together: when there is no stability in the place you live you have to build your own networks. The people who fall through the cracks fall really hard here: there is no safety net to speak of, but if you have friends they will catch you.

Or you could raise the specter of how this family and friends closeness is part of a wider tendency towards tribalism, and that dubious word Nashi (ours) but why do so?

Better to admire the way they have of staying best friends forever without posting glittery “best friends forever” shit all over their worlds while bitchin about each other constantly.

 You don’t hear so many stories of betrayal and nastiness listening to Russians talking about their friends as you do listening to Americans or British people. They are forgiving of faults and pretty used to being forgiven for their own and that’s no less brilliant for being everyday and undramatic.

It might be a case of making a virtue of necessity, but it’s a virtue nonetheless.