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11 Probs. Communism 47 (1962)
That's No Lie, Comrade

handle is hein.journals/probscmu11 and id is 113 raw text is: 

That's No Lie, Comrade

By Ronald Hingley

IT WILL BE generally agreed that Soviet society   has
evolved a special style of public behavior which may be
observed  when  Soviet citizens engage  in diplomacy,
good will contacts, political or cultural celebrations and
the like. This style is highly original, but its creation
has been assisted by many diverse influences. For exam-
ple, one influence has been a tendency-natural in the
members  of an authoritarian society-to imitate the man-
ner of the overall boss. Thus, under Stalin, the Russians
whom   one met tended to be as taciturn and inscrutable
as their leader. After Stalin's death and Khrushchev's
rise, they suddenly became bluff, bonhomous and clubby,
reproducing the image of their new leader, homely prov-
erbs and all.
  Stalin, of course, was not a Russian at all, nor was
he very much  like a Russian. But in many ways  Khru-
shchev is a typical Russian, so that his ascendancy has
opened  the door for elements  in the Russian national
character to influence the Soviet style of behavior to a
greater degree than before. This style has spread to non-
Russian areas whose  inhabitants are often pathetic as
they mechanically reproduce  fashionable and  required
postures. To  some  extent the  new  manner  has  also
affected Communists  in the satellites and in the free
   In the West sufficient attention has not yet been given
to the important ways in which Soviet behavior has been
conditioned by the Russian  national character, perhaps
because national character is such an elusive thing and
so often provokes misleading and  even offending gen-
eralizations. The assessment of a people  is at best a
crude and  unscientific procedure, and in attempting it
one must never trip into the pitfall of attributing national
characteristics without discrimination to all representa-

Mr. Hingley  is University lecturer in Russian at Oxford
University, Research Fellow  of St. Antony's  College,
and author  of several works on Soviet literature. This
is his first contribution to Problems of Communism.

tives of a given nationality with whom one may come in
contact. That this common  fault is tactless and foolish
need not, however, deter one from  enquiry, and in the
present instance the writer will try to rely as far as pos-
sible on the evidence of Russians about themselves.
  Such  an enquiry can all too easily give the impression
of being anti-Russian when  it is nothing of the sort.
The  fact is that humanity in the mass (on which conclu-
sions about national character have to be based) is less
prepossessing than in small  doses. Russians, Ger-
mans  and the British considered in the lump are less
pleasant than the Russians, Germans,  and Englishmen
whom   one knows.   Moreover, there appears to exist a
law whereby, when  national characteristics become insti-
tutionalized (as has happened  in Soviet Russia), it is
precisely the more absurd characteristics which push out
the more  dignified and attractive. Perhaps I can best
put this in perspective by considering what might have
happened  if my own country, England, had undergone a
Bolshevik Revolution, instead of Russia. If, as a conse-
quence, the more  famous English qualities had become
features of the official Communist  behavior-style, the
results would obviously have been  completely different
from  what we now  find in Russia. But would they have
been  any less absurd? I doubt  it. Yet to believe this
is not necessarily to be anti-English.

The   Fine  Points  of Vranyo

   With these qualifications, we may now approach  the
subject at hand, which is the influence on Soviet behavior
of a specific Russian characteristic-the tendency to in-
dulge  in what   the Russians  call vranyo. Just  how
untranslatable this is may be illustrated by reference to
the two main Russian-English dictionaries, one of which
renders the word  as lies, fibbing, nonsense, rot, and
the other as idle talk, twaddle. To these words may
be added  the Irish blarney, which comes nearer than


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