The color red can be seen on a rose or a heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentines Day, but according to Ekaterina Y. Aleshina, associate professor at Penza State Pedagogical University in Russia, many Americans still associate red with Russia and communism.
Aleshina, who is a Fulbright visiting researcher at SCSU, was taking part in a U.S. Affairs conference at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy, when a professor jokingly asked her if the red coat she wore was picked out intentionally or subconsciously.
Aleshina not only explained this stereotype at her presentation on Wednesday, but also a number of other misconceptions about Russian culture.
Born in 1978, Aleshina grew up in the Soviet Union where she said she had a fun childhood.
Aleshina said the color red used to be known as a beautiful color.
“Throughout my home I had red flags and red banners,” Aleshina said. “There was a corner in every Russian household called the red corner, where the most beautiful possessions were kept.”
Aleshina said the color red was worn for special occasions and holidays.
Since red was such an appealing color in Russian culture, the Bolsheviks and Communists adapted the color to all their propaganda. In addition to red, they also used black and white.
As the ideology of communism spread, Aleshina said the red corner that once held beautiful personal or family items now showed pictures of Stalin and Lenin.
Aleshina said red was also a popular color of the Communist party because they wanted it to symbolize the blood of peasants and proletariats.
Even though it has been 15 years since the fall of the communist Soviet Union, Russia still uses the color red in many advertisements for movies and books.
Aleshina said characteristics of Soviet propaganda could be seen in America; she used Rihanna’s Russian Roulette CD cover to show its main colors: black, white and red.
Another stereotype Aleshina explained was that Russians are constantly struggling because of a shortage of basic goods. She said a neighbor of hers in Hamden asked if she was surprised about how big
the malls were in America.
Despite what many people think, Russia is a thriving nation that is slowly recovering from the Soviet
collapse, she said.
“Russia is not struggling,” Aleshina said. “There are many choices between Russian goods and imported
goods. There are large stores in Russia but there is also small stores and farmers’ markets.”
Surprisingly, in 1992, Aleshina said Russia’s first McDonalds was built in Moscow.
“The 90s were the hardest time. Everything was empty,” Aleshina said. “There were long lines at this alien
western world restaurant – it was considered fancy.”
Aleshina said Ford Motor Company is a large manufacturer in Russia.
“There are two plants in Russia,” Aleshina said. “Ford is a very common vehicle.”
Vodka, one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Russia, has brought a misconception to Russian culture, Aleshina said.
“Don’t think we drink vodka for breakfast, vodka for lunch, vodka for dinner,” Aleshina said. “It is used mainly for parties or other special occasions.”
Aleshina said vodka is a problem because it is cheap and there’s a lot of it.
“Drinking is a grave problem in Russia,” Aleshina said. “The president [of Russia] has called it a national disaster.”
At the same time, Aleshina said vodka plays a great role in the Russian economy because vodka is one of Russia’s main exports.
According to Ceepackaging.com, Russian Alcohol, Russia’s leading vodka producer, said they had net sales of almost $2 billion in 2009.
Aleshina said many people still believe the State assigns professional roles to people.
“It is a totalitarian idea,” Aleshina said. “The state doesn’t do this, but they can control the roles.”
As a child, Aleshina said the state popularized blue-collar jobs to bridge the idea of socialism, but it never happened.
“I was waiting for socialism since I heard all the propaganda on the radio,” Aleshina said. “I would say to myself, ‘I’m going to be 20 and socialism will start and I won’t have to pay for anything anymore.’”
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Aleshina said Russians didn’t want to work low-income jobs; they wanted to be part of the business class.
“It was sad,” Aleshina said. “Kids wanted to get an education but there weren’t enough teachers.”
In modern day Russia, Aleshina said the working class is evening out and a lot of people are starting off
by working at blue-collar jobs, then completing their studies afterward.
Alexa Garabedian, a freshman majoring in collaborative special education/elementary education and English, said she enjoyed the presentation.
“It was really good,” Garabedian said. “She was honest about the stereotypes and they were all interesting.”
Garbedian said she was familiar with some of the stereotypes.
“I heard some of the stereotypes before,” Garbedian said. “Some fit and some didn’t, but different cultures perceive them different ways.”
Jacqueline Torcellini, office manager and communications coordinator for International Programs at Southern has coordinated not only this presentation but many others throughout the year as well.
“There have been three presentations given this year,” Torcellini said. “It is part of Southern’s way of internationalizing the campus.”
Torcellini said she hopes Southern as a whole, and not just students, take advantage of these presentations.
“The presentations are given during community hours,” Torcellini said. “It is the easiest time for people to
attend events on campus.”