Australian PrehistoryHistory - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other CountriesMethodology used to study the past


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Cultural awareness: to stereotype or not?

Argentina
Emotion & innovation

America
Group vs individual

China
Tradition & change

Canadacanada
Cults of multiculturalism

England
Warden & Convicts

France
Failed revolutionaries

Germany
Thinkers and Drinkers

Ireland
Immigration and emmigration

Indonesia
Colonial masters

India Cultural Differences Between Australia and India
Convicts and Maharajas

Japan
Samurai & Convicts

New Zealand
Convicts vs Do gooders

Papua New Guinea
Chiefs and Elites

Russia
East or west?

South Africa
Kaffirs and Convicts

South Korea
The middle-powers

"Australians appear very naive to the newly-arrived Japanese. They speak the same way with everyone."
Hiro Mukai - Japanese

"I can personally affirm that to stand before an audience of beaming Australians and make even the mildest quip about a convict past is to feel the feel the air conditioning immediately elevated."Bill Bryson - American

"You have no need to feel iffy about a country where "relaxation is the aim". There's nothing to be worried about if "no worries" is your mantra. People have killed for less."
Soumya Bhattacharya - Indian

" What sort or peculiar capitalist country is this in which the workers' representatives predominate in the upper house....and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?"
Vladimir Lenin- Russian

"You feel free in Australia. There is great relief in the atmosphere - a relief from tension, from pressure, an absence of control of will or form. The skies open above you and the areas open around you"
D.H Lawrence - English

" The Australian, who are the men our troops have had opposite them so far, are extraordinarily tough fighters. The German is more active in the attack, but the enemy stakes his life in the defence and fights to the last with extreme cunning."
Major Ballerstedt - German

"New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries."
Robert Muldoon - New Zealander

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Tony Abott

Cultural Differences Between Russia and Australia

Both Australia and Russia are located in the eastern hemisphere; however, they show a Caucasian face to the world through government and mass media, which in turn leads to expectations from other cultures that they should conform to western values. Australia generally conforms to western values while Russia is more eastern. 

 
Russia
Australia
Population 142,500,482 (July 2013 est.) 22,262,501 (July 2013 est.)
GDP per capita ($US) $18,100 (2013 est.) $43,000 (2013 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 4.2%
industry: 37.5%
services: 58.3% (2013 est.)
agriculture: 3.8%
industry: 27.4%
services: 68.7% (2013 est.)
Public debt 7.9% of GDP (2013 est.) 32.6% of GDP (2013 est.)
Racial groups Russian 77.7%, Tatar 3.7%, Ukrainian 1.4%, Bashkir 1.1%, Chuvash 1%, Chechen 1%, other 10.2%, unspecified 3.9% (2010 est.) White 92%, Asian 7%, Aboriginal and other 1%
Export partners Netherlands 14.6%, China 6.8%, Germany 6.8%, Italy 6.2%, Turkey 5.2%, Ukraine 5.2%, Belarus 4.7%  Japan 19.6%, China 12.3%, South Korea 7.5%, US 6.2%, India 5.5%, NZ 5.5%, UK 5% (2006)

From CIA World Fact Book

History

Russia has a history that seems to support the notion that a people need to be strong and united otherwise they will be wiped out by the cold or an invading force. In prehistoric times, southern Russia was populated by various nomadic tribes that had warfare as a central feature of their way of life. From the 8th century BC, Greeks, Romans, Huns, Turkic started encroaching into the region to either trade or plunder. The people who are defined as Russian today are believed to have originated in the area that is now Poland and Ukraine and by the 7th century, they constituted the bulk of the western Russian population.

The Principality of Muscovy was founded in the 12th century but soon fell to the Mongol armies who ruled over the region from the 13th-15th centuries. When the Mongol rulers fell, the Principality of Muscovy started conquering and absorbing surrounding principalities and expanded Russia from Siberia to the Pacific.

In the 18th century, Peter the Great came to power and started modernising Russia along European lines. The modernisations helped expand Russian territory to the Baltic Sea. Peter’s daughter, Elizabeth, continued Russia expansion with the annexation of East Prussia. 

Russia’s golden age came under Catherine the Great who ruled for the later half of the 18th century. She extended Russia’s frontier into central Europe and downwards into the Black Sea. In addition to expanding Russia territory, Catherine abolished serfdom, established universities and art academies, increased industrial output to improve the standard of living of all Russians and reformed the bureaucracy. She also established public schools that promoted two ideologies above all others,: the need to be patriotic, and the need to accept innovation.

In the early 19th century, Russia colonized Alaska in the east while fighting and defeating Napoleon’s invading armies in the west.

In 1856, Russia ascendency took a backwards’ step. The Ottoman Empire was in decline and Russia wanted to exploit the decline but France and England wanted to prevent Russian gains of Ottoman territory. Russia lost and with its defeat, Russia was prevented from having a Black Sea navy.

More defeat came at the hands of the Japanese in 1904-05, which in turn helped spark the Revolution of 1905 leading to the formation of a parliament. Even more crushing defeats came in World War 1 and by 1917, famine and disenchantment led to the Communist revolution that over threw the Tsar and plunged Russia into civil war. In 1918, the new Soviet leadership accepted demands form the central powers that saw Russia surrender the Ukraine, Finland, the Baltic provinces, the Caucasus and Poland.

By the time of World War 2, Russia was seen as decrepit and rich for the pickings. Germany abandoned its non-aggression pact to invade and although it made early ground, ultimately the Russians turned the tide. With the German military machine broken, Russian soldiers marched into conquered German territory, installed puppet Communist governments and positioned itself as a world superpower.

Communism didn’t prove the utopia that had been hoped for. Tens of millions died and the economy stagnated until General Secretary Mickhail Gorbachev tried a modernization program. Gorbachev’s initiatives led to the Soviet Union breaking into 14 independent republics, a significant decline in industrial output and a corrupt transfer of state-owned business to private entrepreneurs.  

Whereas Russia has been central in the minds of empire builders for the last millennia, Australia has been absent from them. The continent was discovered by Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch mariners but they looked at the harsh landscape populated by nomads and decided it had little of value. The British planted a flag on the basis that they needed a place to dump criminals in a way that wouldn’t put any economic interests in other colonies at risk.

Some revisionist historians have written that 19th century Australia was characterised by bloody conquest and frontier wars between colonists and Aborigines, but their evidence has been based on false citations and partly reflected a desire to make Australian history more dramatic. In truth, popular culture on the 19th century shows colonists trying to build relationships and associations with Aborigines in order to build their cultural capital relative to British migrants. Australia has no cowboy and Indian story telling genre like America or national myths of killing blacks like white South Africa because the same conflict didn't occur in Australia.

The 20th century also seemed to be quite placid on the domestic front. Not even the depression motivated Australians to resort to violence. Instead, they went to the racetrack and sporting grounds to cheer on the heroes like Phar Lap and Don Bradman.

For some action, Australians volunteered to fight in World War 1, and World War 2 and subsequently discovered that war wasn't that much fun. After World War 2, the Australian government positioned Communism as a threat and with few volunteers to the cause, introduced conscription. Australians were then forced to fight Communist forces in Korea and Vietnam, which in turn sparked an anti-war movements in Australia.

War remembrance

Russia and Australia remember war in very different ways. In Russia, Victory Day marks the Soviet Union’s defeat of Germany in World War 2. The day typically involves military parades showing advanced war machinery, ceremonial meetings, receptions and fireworks.

Victory Day

Russia's Victory Day parade shows the power of its war machine.

In Australia, the traditions associated with war remembrance commenced with veterans, not politicians, which resulted in them being far more sombre. On the 25th of April 1923 at Albany in Western Australia, the Reverend White led a party of friends in what was the first ever observance of an ANZAC Day dawn service. This date was the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing; a failed invasion of Turkey which cost the lives of 7600 Australians and was then evacuated. (It wasn't until 1927 that the first official service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph.)

Dawn is central to the ANZAC Day service as it was one of the most favoured times for an attack. As the half-light played tricks with the soldiers' eyes, they were awoken in the dark, so that by the time the first dull grey light crept across the battlefield, they were awake and alert. The fresh light instilled a sense of optimism for the new day tempered by the fear that it could be their last. For those who survived, it bequeathed memories of burying a mate along with the awareness that they would have to preserve the feelings of what they had lost. In one, it was both the beginning and the end.

Another central feature of the ANZAC Day service is a paragraph taken from the poem 'Ode for the Fallen':

" They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. "

The poem neither attributes right or wrong nor does it glorify war as the liberator of freedom. It simply articulates what the war meant to those who were involved in it.

Dawn Service

Whereas Russia’s military day commemorates a victory, Australia’s commemorates a defeat.

 

Nationalism

Like most people in the eastern hemisphere, Russians are very nationalistic. Perhaps the nationalism can be attributed to almost a century of Communism, which demanded individuals subordinate their individual desires for the "good" of the nation. Perhaps it can be attributed to almost constant conflict over the last millennia where Russians learnt that if their village, their faction or their nation was not strong, a stronger group would take control and dominate.  

Some Australians are patriotic but their patriotism doesn’t resonate widely because many other Australians are anti-patriotic, (especially in the arts, universities and government.) In the 19th century, patriotism was probably seen as a threat to British rule and discouraged accordingly. Perhaps as a legacy, Australian accents were banned on the state-controlled ABC until the 1970s and Englishmen were imported to read the news. Another difficulty with patriotism is that Australian history lacks the glorious stories of defeating invading armies or expanding the empire as do countries like Russia. Instead, it has 80 years of Convict transportation at its urban foundations. Striking a seductive pose in tribute to the founding mothers or donning the ball & chain in tribute to the founding fathers just doesn’t have the same emotional resonance as spilling blood in the pursuit of empire building.

Reflecting the lack of patriotism, at the 2007 Sydney Big Day Out ( a music festival held on Australia Day) organisers argued that waving the Australian flag was symbolic of racism and needed to be banned. According to promoter Ken West,

"The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it."

Ironically, being anti-patriotic has itself fuelled an intellectual factionalism that consolidates the power of some, fosters prejudice and excludes others. For example, comedian Catherine Deveny frequently tweets her distaste for Australia with caricatures such as,

"An Australian Flag in your front yard tells everyone you're only a couple of Bundy and Cokes away from lynching a wog, slope or Arab."

The anti-patriotism has contributed to Deveny gaining strong promotion on the state-run ABC and a strong following in its audience.

Convict Nationalism

A cartoon created at the time of federation alluding to the Convict heritage and public drunkenness that made it a little difficult for many Australians to feel patriotic.

 

Visual art

Visual art is often used as a visual representation of a culture and Russia’s visual art is very much in the western tradition. Prior to the modernist movement at the start of the 20th century, Russian paintings were similar in style to European paintings in that they used oil as the medium and created imagery with depth, perspective, and tonal variance. When the onset of modernism, not only was Russia involved, it took at the lead. Complete abstract art as pioneered by Wassily Kandinsky while Kasmir Malevich went on to produce a manifesto starting that complete abstraction was the rediscover of pure emotional art. Ironically, the art was labelled decadent by the Communists, which inspired America’s CIA to appropriate the movement and make it the face of western America via painters like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Kasmir Malevich Black Square

Kasmir Malevich - The Black Square (1915) Abstract expressionism was introduced to western art by the Russians, but it was appropriated by the United States and made the face of subjective, individualistic and expressive western art.

Australia visual art has also been significantly influenced by Europe and American traditions, but it has also infused influences from Asia via the like of Tim Johnson and Bret Whitely and Aboriginal Australia via the likes of Sidney Nolan. Aboriginal artists like Clifford Possum adopted the mediums of the west in order to adapt traditional practices of art creation to a gallery exhibition format.

Ned Kelly


Sidney Nolan, The Trial,

 

Religious subversion

In 2012, the neo-dada art group Pussy Riot staged an art performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior church. The performance was well within the norms of western art values that celebrate subversion of Christianity but Pussy Riot was jailed. The punishing of Pussy Riot would have been within the norms of the Western legal system if laws concerning religious vilification were applied equally in the west. (In the west, if the group had staged the same performance in a mosque, they may not have been jailed but it is highly likely they would have been found guilty of religious vilification and received some kind of punishment.)
There were a number of explanation for why the Russian legal system didn’t show the same tolerance of vilification of Christians as is shown by western legal systems. One explanation is that all religions were persecuted under Communism. As a result, Russian Christians are perhaps more sensitive about being vilified than are Christians in the west. A second reason is that Christianity in Russia does not have the same dominance relative to other religions. Specifically, it 2006, it was estimated that 15-30% of Russians were Orthodox Christians and 10-15% were Muslims. Because Christianity does not dominate as it does in the west, it is more difficult to say that it doesn't require the same legal protection as minority religions. (Even if Christianity had greater dominance, perhaps Russian ideologues that interpret the legal system wouldn’t have the same sympathies to minorities as ideologues in western countries and would therefore be even more inclined to protect it.)

Pussy Riot Punk Prayer was within the norms of western art, which explained why it gained so much exposure in the west.

In Australia, religious subversion is widely celebrated in some subcultures if the target is Christianity but it is condemned if target is another religion. Some successful artists that subvert Christianity include Tim Minchin and Rodney Pople. Occasionally, some artists have created work that could be interpreted as subversive to Islam but it has been condemned. For example, in 2014  artist Catherine Lane photographed herself with her hair in a hijab design. The exhibition was pulled on the grounds that it was 'putting forward the position that all women who wear the hijab are not empowered''.

Rodney Pople

Australian artist Rodney Pople has received a great deal of positive press for pairing imagery of porn with church scenes. Although it is possible to read his work in multiple ways, there isn't the same concern for misreadings as there is for art dealing with other religions.

Catherine Lane Hijab

Catherine Lane's photos of women with hair in the shape of a hijab were seen as having the potential to cause offence and therefore not shown. Many art critics praised the decision to pull the works.

For many in the Australian arts, vilifying Christianity is safer because they see it as subverting their own culture (even if they aren’t Christian). On the other hand, Islam is seen as an outsider culture that needs to be respected otherwise the critic is being racist.

Homosexuality

In Russia, it is illegal to promote homosexuality to people under the age of 18; however, it is not illegal to be homosexual. The law against homosexual promotion has enraged western activists in ways that laws against homosexuals in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, etc Afghanistan  have not. The most likely explanation for the concern against the Russia laws is that Russia’s Caucasian face seems to condition western activists that Russians should be like them. When the same activists see even more extreme laws applied by non-Caucasian faces in other Asian hemisphere countries, they apply a post-modern value system and explain the laws as an example of cultural diversity that needs to be respected.

In Australia, a similar kind of psychology has resulted in a great deal of activist abuse being directed at prime minister Tony Abbott, who supports gay relationships but opposes a law change that would define gay civil unions as a marriage. 

Putin Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Russian president Vladimir Putin was the target of protest in Australia’s 2014 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras due to Russia’s gay propaganda laws. A post-modern value system resulted in the leaders of India, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan and Malaysia not being subjected to the same ridicule.

 

National enemies

Over the last few centuries, Russia has made a few enemies in the process of defending itself from invasion or invading other countries. Hollywood generally portrays the United States as its greatest enemy but this is perhaps more of a reflection of how Americans feel about Russia, not the other way around. Although the two have fought proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, they have not fought each other directly in a way that builds the hatred. Furthermore, Russian colonialism has never been like Britain and the US which has tried to send its troops across the ocean and stake a claim in far off land. Instead, its focus has been on land immediately surrounding Russia.

World War 2 conflict against Germany was particularly brutal and has not been forgotten but Russians don't seem to have the same hostility to Germans that Chinese have to the Japanese and even western Europeans have to Germans. Perhaps installing a Communist government in East Germany led to a degree of cross-cultural understanding.

During the cold war, Russia went to war with China over border disputes and leadership of the Communist world. At a government level, the leasing of nuclear power submarines to India would suggest that Russia sees China as the most significant threat.

Marx to Mao

Even when both were Communist, the governments of Russia and China didn’t get along. After the death of Stalin, Mao considered himself the leader of the Communist world and he created propaganda to visually communicate that. Russian communists didn’t agree.

Another pressing concern for Russians seems to be separatist movements and countries that were once part of the Soviet Union now wanting to be part of Europe. It is perhaps more accurate to say that anyone who isn’t Russian is seen as a threat by the average Russian.  

In regards to Australia’s enemies, centuries of being ignored have resulted in few national dislikes. In the 19th century, Russia was portrayed as the threat, probably due to Britain fighting Russia in the Crimean War.  At the later half of the century, non-whites were seen as a threat to labour market conditions and the union movements because of their perceived superiority. For example, prime minister Alfred Deakin, the architect of the White Australia Policy, proposed,

"It is not the bad qualities, but the good qualities of these alien races that make them so dangerous to us. It is their inexhaustible energy, their power of applying themselves to new tasks, their endurance and low standard of living that make them such competitors."

In the 20th century, Japan was a threat during World War 2 but there was extensive trade between the two countries before and afterwards and few Australians hate Japanese based on the war. Russia was promoted as a threat by numerous Australian governments wanting an enemy. The threat was used to justify conscription that sent Australians to fight Communism in Korea and Vietnam. After the wars, Russian spies were the basis of fear campaigns. For example, in 1983 Labor PM Bob Hawke made an example of former national secretary David Coombe to demonstrate how seriously he took the threat of Russian espionage. Security agency ASIO secretly recorded Coombe sharing a drunkard evening with Valery Ivanov, the First Secretary to the USSR Embassy in Canberra. Coombe never said anything to indicate that he was part of a Communist conspiracy or that he had national secrets to share. At the time, Coombe had a private lobby business and the transcripts recorded his plan to use his connections to make money - like a good Capitalist.

The transcripts were shown to Hawke, who then announced to the media the "threat" that ASIO had uncovered. Hawke then expelled Ivanov as a potential spy. As for Coombe, although he was never charged with anything, he was ruined and by ruining him, Hawke demonstrated to the public that the Labor Party would not tolerate potential Communists in its ranks.

Fort Denison

Fort Denison was built to defend Sydney against a Russian naval invasion

 

Political overview

The constitution that Russia adopted in 1993 was drafted to ensure the separation of powers and to prevent a dictatorial leader building up a power base that would enable him or her to rule for decades. Executive power resides with the president and the prime minister, who is appointed by the president, leads the government. Legislative power resides with two houses of Parliament. Like the US, a president may only two terms consecutively.  

In practice, Vladimir Putin seems to have found a way to attain the power the constitution was drafted to constrain. After serving two terms, Putin gave up power and the presidential election was won by his anointed successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who then confirmed his predecessor (Putin) as Prime Minister. In 2012, Putin returned to the presidency and appointed Medvedev as his Prime Minister.

In theory, power is dispersed in Australia so that no one person or body can ever have complete control. One power is the legislative, which is Parliamentary power to make law. The second is the Executive, which refers to the different Ministers of the Crown's power to execute and administer law. The third is Judicial power, which refers to a court's power to interpret and enforce laws.

For many years after Federation, judicial power resided with the privy council of London, and its power to interpret and enforce Australian laws positioned it at the apex of the Australian legal system. The apex of Judicial power has now been transferred to the High Court of Australia, with the justices being appointed by the Australian parliament.

Because federal parliament has the power to make and administer laws, as well as choose the justices that interpret them, Australia doesn't have a true seperation of powers. Furthemore, because the federal government selects the governor general, it has managed to gain control of a system designed to preserve British rule in Australia. The result is quite a weak democracy, yet one that is incorrectly perceived to be a strong democracy. Fortunately, Australians seem to have a cultural trait that sees it get bored with a party if it has been in power for 10 years or more. The frequent change of governing parties has a way of preventing excess corruption by federal politicians.

Women

In any group of women there will be a diversity of personalities. Cultural homogeneity tends to occur as a result of cultures creating stereotypes of how "good" women should act, which some women subsequently conform to in order to gain an identity as women or escape the ridicule of others. When the west was having its women liberation movements in the 1970s,  Russian women were still being told to uphold the ideal of women portrayed by Communists. Ironically, this ideal was quite similar to some of the ideals promoted by western feminists in that women were expected to strong, masculine and sexless.

When Communism fell, many Russian women seemed to embrace a pre-women’s liberation conception of femininity. In short, they expected men to pay for meals and open doors for them. In addition, they embraced high fashion to make themselves more beautiful.

Soviet Women

Soviet posters defined an ideal woman as strong, masculine and sexless. The stereotype is very different to how most Russian women present themselves today.

The Australian female identity is a bit more nuanced than the Russian version. During the 1970s, Australian feminists like Germaine Greer asserted that beauty products were designed by multinational companies to make women feel inadequate about themselves. Many of Greer's views filtered into the general population and shaped behaviour. Although they didn't eliminate the desire for beauty products, they reduced the perceived necessity of them and made Australian women more relaxed as a consequence. That said, Australian ladies can be quite complex. They will put on make-up, wax their legs, maintain their bikini line, shave under the arms but then get angry if a "superficial" man appreciates them for anything other than their personality.

Men

Russian men are expected to be strong, both physically and emotionally. In addition, there are expectations that they be chivalrous to women by opening doors, pulling out chairs, and paying the bill. They in turn expect women to cook, clean and look gorgeous.

In Australia, it would probably be fair to say that, just as the elaborate feathers and dance of the male peacock have evolved in response to the desires of the female peacock, the role models of the Australian male have developed in response to the desires of the Australian female. In more simple language, Australian females have worn the pants when defining the male gender identity.

Some of the female agency in the shaping the male identity is revealed in the type of males that females have elevated to sex symbol status. Specifically, most male sex symbols seem to have a heavy dose of testosterone. The first man who could be defined as a sex symbol was a Tasmanian bushranger named Matthew Brady. As a chivalrous outlaw, Brady endeared himself to the women of the colony by showing consideration to their plight. Women showed their appreciation by bringing baskets of flowers, fan letters, fruit and fresh-baked cakes to his cell prior to his hanging. In a community where there were about 5 men for every 1 woman, stories of the cakes and flowers no doubt influenced the behaviour of other men.

The same kind of male is arguably the defining feature of successful Australian actors. For example, Mel Gibson endeared himself to the ladies by playing: a larrikin in Gallipoli; a leather-clad-rogue-cop-family-man in Mad Max; and an outlaw with a propensity for mooning in Braveheart. Other sex symbols have included actors like: Jack Thompson, Russel Crowe, and Hugh Jackman. Aside from the actors, sports stars have proved popular with the ladies.

As for the male poets, dancers and visual artists, if they have had much success with the ladies, they certainly haven't had enough to be featured in female magazines as particularly eligible bachelors. With so few ladies publicly desiring them, it is perhaps understandable that male poets, dancers and visual artists in Australia are often stereotyped as gay. If poets, artists and dancers started being profiled in Dolly, Cosmopolitan along with questions about the type of woman they like, perhaps the stereotypes would change.

In many ways, the celebrated Australian male is similar to the Russian male except they are far less likely to pay the bill, open doors or expect women to look gorgeous.

Mathew Brady

In the acting world, Australia tends to produce the rogue.

 

 

 
"Australia's culture has always been characterised by someone trying to make rules to live by, and someone else trying to break them."