Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Russians in Red Emma's

So I was sitting in my favorite anarchist bookstore/coffee shop (with free Wi-Fi, which is a life-saver at the moment in my life where we don't have any electricity in the apartment). A group of very elegant Russian women comes in. They look at the eclectic group of patrons and owners and literally run out.

"Oh, the first Russians this season!" says one of the regulars. "They always come in and run out immediately."

This is funny because my boyfriend (who is Russian) and I (who look very Russian without being it) have been here quite a few times. I wonder why we haven't been identified as such in spite of speaking only Russian to each other.

So in order to prove that not all "Russians" are afraid of an anarchist environment, I started speaking very loudly in Russian on my cell phone.


Anonymous said...


Even if you speak loudly in Russian on the phone, regulars at this coffee shop will fail to identify you as Russian. Do you have any idea why it's like that? A guess? Clothing and wealth define their undertanding of Russiannnes more than language?

Clarissa said...

I'm guessing you've never seen me in person. :-) For some strange reason, I have a "typically Russian" face that people identify from 10 miles away.

I'm not sure what you mean by wealth? Ostentation? Flashy stuff and revealing clothes? If so, I'm trying as hard as I can but I'm still not as "Russian" as I could be in this respect. :-) Kidding.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you are too Russian? Or your Ukranian accent is misleading?

I think it is weird that sometimes people fail to identify your nationality despite all evidence. Even with my very recognizable, local accent, people in my country refuse to believe me when I say I am from the same country as they are. It is surreal. Ohhhh.... I so don't fit!

Anonymous said...

As one data point, I failed to identify you as "Russian" or "Post-soviet" from less than 10 miles away... Probably because you did not have the "Ogonyok" magazine in your hands. :)
On a more serious note, your image is somewhat hippyish, and I have seen very few Russians with hippyish image... I probably have seen more Muslim girls on rollerblades than hippyish Russians...

Anonymous said...

This is very true, V!

Clarissa said...

Nobody has EVER called me hippyish before. I'm not sure I like it, though. :-) Is it the hair? Or the rings?

I feel the American people identify me as "Russian" (in spite of the fact I don't have a single Russian relative that I've been able to identify) because the way I look is associated with the typical view of "russianness" here.

The former chair of my department in my doctoral program always presented me to people as "our Russian" or even more annoyingly "our Russian beauty."