The Essence of Russia: Devushki, Zhenshchiny, Babushki

I believe Russia is a country of women. Without questioning the value of Russian men -- nor considering the immense Russian cultural, artistic and religious treasures and relics, what definitively impresses most visitors (obviously including me) during a trip to Russia are the Russian women.

Russian women impress more than Russian men. Yes, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, in Russia for a long business trip, an expat, a tourist for just a few days, or if you are a student or a pensioner: what you'll remember about your Russian experience are first of all its women, then comes the rest.

In fact, although Russian men are -- like Russian women -- warm in their nature, they generally tend not to take too much care about their appearance, which makes them less remarkable than women when you just look at them. This doesn't mean they are not smart, educated, kind and sensitive to their women's needs and desires. For example, compared with foreign men in this aspect, even in their own country they seem very closed and change-resistant – this is particularly true for the current middle-aged male generation. The younger generation definitively has greater access to international standards and trends, and perhaps also driven by a stronger curiosity they are learning how to care more about their appearance.

Should I specify right now that by talking about Russian women I'm not only referring to their indisputable beauty? Maybe I should: well, I'm not just directing my thoughts towards one of the most common international stereotypes (and a reality): the astonishing beauty of Russian women. But I cannot ignore it either. While the reality is evident going around the big cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg as well as in rural villages, in winter or in summer, there is a second dimension surprisingly able to shadow the glamour of the Russian beauty.

This is probably the main reason why Russian women seem so interesting, attractive and memorable -- their strong character which surely enables them to fight to "survive", advance and succeed in the extremely competitive environment of today's Russia without impacting their exquisite natural gentleness. They tend to have a high level of education as well as possess open-mindedness, intelligence and pragmatism, and this combined with their strong ethics at work, where they prove to be reliable and hardworking, can make them exemplary employees.

Their attributes include clarity in setting personal objectives and the consistency in achieving them, an ability to always guide and support their partners, in good times and in bad, and the proven ability to overcome any difficulties while still remaining feminine regardless of the socio-economic context in which they find themselves. Does it seem too much? It is not.

And we are back to the beauty of Russian women. In a convergence with their natural beauty, Russian women -- it appears crystal clear -- are nowadays extremely determined to affirm their femininity, to be and appear like women regardless of their income and personal situation.

Russian women seem to make something of a mission of valuing their femininity with a dress code, careful makeup, and high heels they apparently never abandon: in the office, visiting shopping centers, going around with their friends, walking with their kids, in supermarkets, in a park or at a museum, with no difference whether they are going to drive a car or take the underground, and even ignoring the sometimes challenging Russian weather or the road and sidewalk conditions.

Why, you might ask? Simply, Russian women desire to be beautiful and attractive. And they succeed because they know well how to do it without offending their intelligence, their dignity as a woman, and surely without merchandising their body. It has nothing to do with feminism in Russia. It is about culture, education and desire.

As a visitor, it is of paramount importance not to confuse a dress code, which sometimes might leave little to the imagination, with an invitation to approach a woman believing she might be somehow "easy". You can instead easily avoid making a poor impression by just not thinking that whatever you see is obvious. The era of Russian women looking for foreigners to escape Russia and improve their living conditions is definitively over. The opposite might be true now.

Surely these are not unique differentiating factors of Russian women, but I believe this combination explains why many non-Russian men fall in love with Russian women although they might keep struggling forever with the cultural differences. But that's definitively a different story.

What I believe is important to consider, when striving to understand today's Russian women, is the historical context that has contributed to the conditions and common elements you can notice in their personality.

Simply learning the recent history of Russia has personally helped me a lot; along with progressively understanding and appreciating the positive aspects of my now years-long experience in the country, while also clarifying many of the more or less apparent and strong paradoxes and contradictions that characterize daily life in today's Russia.

In fact, although the situation is gradually changing for the better with benefits spreading from the wealth Russia has been generating in the recent years, I'm pretty sure that together with the impression of Russian women what you'll bring back from your Russian experience are the extremes you will notice simply going around the country, and -- if you stay long enough -- you may also come to struggle with. Anyhow, Russian citizens are fighting against them almost daily, and be sure they will progressively solve them; at least the most pressing ones.