The Russian Work Regime: 6 Months out of 12

Контент 18+ (лексика, описания, агрессия)
Last time, I wrote about the 'north-south' issue in terms of work ethic, and I suggested that northern countries and cities seem to have it more than their counterparts in the south. The 'evidence' I put forth (using the EU as one of my examples) can certainly be disputed. I was not offering Science — only an impression. Yet the uncomfortable thing about stereotypes is that apparently, they have some kind of basis in truth — otherwise, where did they come from?

So, to review: the efficient Germans and capitalist Brits work to support the lover-boy Latins and sun-bathing Greeks. The North Americans help to feed the Haitians and Guatemalans. And so on.
What about Russia?  It is certainly cold and gloomy enough, so you would expect to find the same cheerful busy-bees that buzz to work in the perpetual English drizzle, the same formal-faced German commitment to excellence and superior organization, that mark our illustrious neighbors to the west of Poland,  right?
Wrong. I told you wouldn't like this, but after ten years here I have come to the conclusion that Russians are lazy. Or if not lazy, they just don't want to waste their energy by working. It's not necessarily the same thing— I grant you as much. Being lazy means that you don't want to get out of bed or off the sofa; on the other hand, wishing to avoid work to do something else doesn't automatically mean that you have no energy. Russians have the energy to spare. But getting to work early in the morning — a staunch trademark of the American and British 'protestant' work ethic — is not part of Russian mentality.  Or so I gather.
As with everything else Russian, we are left with a kind of bewildering mosaic that suggests a most complex intertwining of influences but yields no clearly identifiable sense of direction. If, for example, you watch the 'reconstruction' of the city which is going on day and night, it would be hard to spot a lot of laziness. But these are laborers, and most of them aren't even Russian. A different kettle of fish entirely from what I am talking about. Likewise, the bus drivers, metro workers, people in the kiosks who are forced to work some really crazy shifts for very low pay. These folks can't afford to be lazy. The government would be only too happy to let them starve if they were.
No, the worst offenders come from the professional classes; indeed out of the pool of a population from which emerge the majority of my English students. Let me compare the Russian system of holidays and time off work with that of the country I was born in: the USA.
The Americans like to play too — and many of them earn enough money to enable them to play hard and long — and yet this "work ethic" seems to be the glue that holds everything together. Start with Thanksgiving. It is always on the last Thursday of November, and it is a four-day weekend, officially signifying the start of the 'holiday season.'' Then people go back to work until just before Christmas, which is always on the 25th of December, meaning it can fall on any day.. Some people celebrate right through the New Year, but most work a few days in between. About the 5th or 6th of January, Americans go back to work. Next holiday that involves work-stoppage is Easter (Pasqua) which is at the end of March or early April. 4 days off and back to work. Then Memorial Day (30 May). A 4-day weekend. Then the 4th of July (Independence Day). Then back to work until the first week of September (Labor Day — 4 day weekend Then back to work until Thanksgiving, and the cycle starts all over again. Of course, people have personal holidays, but these are granted by the company according to seniority and position. You don't just say, "The hell with it, I'm going on holiday."
In short, people are pretty much working the year-round, and there is NEVER a time when qualified personnel are not available in a crunch, in an emergency.
In Moscow, by contrast, this what I have found: The New Year holiday usually starts about a week in advance, unless some frantic deadline is being pursued, usually indicative of poor performance leading up to it. The government establishes the number of official days off work, maybe 9, maybe 10 or 12. It depends. But then, nobody goes back to work. What happens is that so-called professional people then attach a 'personal' holiday onto the government holiday. This can last for another two weeks. So by the time they sober up and remember where to find their office, the WHOLE MONTH of January is shot down the drain.
Then people work hard for three months: February, March, April. On 1 May, everything stops again. First of May combined with Victory Day combined with another personal holiday, and that is May down the tubes. Then school is out, and DACHA SEASON is on. Families who actually LIVE on the dacha in the summer still must send their 'breadwinners' off to work during the week. Trouble is, they often don't start back until Monday morning — expecting, as Russians will do — that the roads will miraculously be clear of traffic — and promptly get stuck in the traffic jam. Good bye work day. Then these same people leave early on Friday (or maybe even Thursday) just to go straight back to the dacha. So we are talking about a three-day work-week, in effect.
Then comes September, schools starts, and everyone is back to work, right? Nope, wrong again. Over the past several years I have noticed that September is PRECISELY when many Russian professionals have ANOTHER holiday. Why? Because it is cheaper. And maybe the rain-clouds and autumn chill is in the air over the charcoal-colored skies of Moscow. OF COURSE, another holiday is needed !!!
January, May, most of the summer, most of September. By my reckoning that adds up to six months when the very people who are supposed to be responsible for Russia's future are just farting around, doing as little as possible that does not relate to personal pleasure.
Maybe it's that Russians do not believe in the future of their country. Maybe they are used to doing nothing until they are told what to do.
Or maybe Russians are just wise enough to say: WE are going to enjoy what life and opportunity we have. We don't care about tomorrow, why should we kill ourselves at the office or factory?  All the hard work and sacrifice in the world is no guarantee that things will EVER get better. Because this is Russia.
So, the people say: See you in October. We're going to the dacha.

===Eric Richard Leroy===

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