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News from Russia tends to focus on internal troubles and geopolitical ambitions. That may leave learners wondering, beyond the obsession with Putin and vodka clichés, what do I really know about contemporary Russia? This post will explore some surprising, inspiring, and, yes, disturbing facts about Russia.
According the the CIA World Factbook, over 99 percent of adult Russians were literate in 2015. This source defines the literacy rate (гра́мотность) as a percentage of adults 15 and older who can read and write. Other former USSR countries, such as Ukraine and Latvia, have similarly high literacy rates. The educational system is often credited for this high level of attainment in Russia. World Atlas reports that 53 percent of Russians get a higher education. Historically, a campaign to raise literacy in the USSR in the 1930s might have made a difference, too.
Compared to other countries, Russian women tend to have their first child (ребёнок) relatively young. Izvestia reports that in 2015-2017, the average age of a first-time mother was 26.1 However, that age has actually gone up compared to the 1995-1999 figure—20.9, reflecting the overall European trend.
What is the reason for having kids early? Part of it may be that Russian women are traditionally encouraged to have children in their early 20s for health reasons. Culturally, too, women are expected to have children to fulfill what’s seen by some as their “natural” role.
A few unsettling but informative findings came out of a recent Pew Center study on religion, tolerance, and social attitudes in Eastern Europe. One of the results was that only 40 percent of Russians said they would welcome a Jew into their family, and only 34 percent would welcome a Muslim. Mind you, there are actually Jews (евре́и) and Muslims (мусульма́не) in Russia. In the context of the overall study, it appears that many people in Russia and several other countries in Eastern Europe see being Orthodox Christian as an important part of their national identity. This could explain some of the hostility.
What do you think about these figures? Are there any other facts about Russia that surprised or upset you?
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