Russian Language Blog

In Russia Philosophy is not Just for Plato Posted by on Jun 17, 2015 in Culture, Soviet Union, Traditions

It was once said by the great Dostoevsky that “all real Russians are philosophers.” While philosophy, and discussions about it, has a place in most cultures and countries, its place in Russia, both during Soviet times and now, cannot be understated – especially while conversing with friends and family. Many of us take this deep and intriguing topic to the extreme – it has a way of entertaining us when the weather is bad, the job outlook is bleak, and the vodka is not quite up to par.

Intellectual and philosophical discussion will usually set itself down at the dinner table of everybody from the oligarch down to the serf. Philosophizing reality really took root in the Soviet Union; Plato’s teachings on the symbiotic relationship between ideas and the State’s foundation were taken seriously. Perhaps, it is because in the Soviet Union one had to be clever when speaking about all things political. From previous blogs, you might remember the joke that if a man invited 10 people to his apartment on Saturday night, by Monday, 9 would be in jail. Speaking in philosophical terms may have been a way to speak about the government while not directly appearing to do so – in a similar fashion to how some religious teachers preferred to speak in parables to engage only select participants in conversation.

Upon coming to America, I was surprised at how philosophy seemed to be considered almost humorous or not taken as seriously as in Russia. It seems as though philosophical discussion is elusive and people would rather speak about American Idol, sports, the weather, and so on. I am certainly not implying that all Russians like philosophical discussions but it does seem as though topics of that nature are touched upon more frequently by Russians.

Should you have the privilege to sit down to a nice dinner with Russian people, complete with great food and drink, you just might engage in some form of conversation that lends itself to philosophical ideas. If you are not versed in this type of “deep” conversation, you may find yourself at a loss. Please note that, in my opinion, while some of us enjoy speaking in such a manner, I don’t believe that we take ourselves too seriously – unless you are on the second bottle of vodka.

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Nina:

    Yes, and in my childhood home, when all the men and a few womand turned the party supper table into a philosphical discussion (here in America), and it was the 3rd or 4th bottle of vodka that was being nursed … it often led to anger between opposing philosophies and sometimes fisti-cuffs as well. But that was after the songs had already been sung and all the kids had been shooed off to bed.

    • Jenya:

      @Nina Nina, this is very true, I have been a part of such dinners myself .

  2. winger:

    да, чтож вы к этой водке-то прицепились? как будто в остальном мире алкоголь меньше пьют.

    • Jenya:

      @winger Winger, Вы знаете, я думаю, что меньше… (но чаще?) 🙂