Age Stereotypes in Russian Society

The FSU (Former Soviet Union) countries, though very diverse and even hostile to each other today, still bear amazingly many commonalities in lifestyles, social behavior, and mentality. One of the common traits of the former Soviet people is the tendency to stick to the old stereotypes, which were developed by previous generations and still remain unbreakable today. The age and gender stereotypes seem to be the strongest of all. Millions of the former Soviets continue to observe the rules of age-appropriate behavior in treating friends and relatives, working relations, household traditions, fashion, etiquette, general manners, and speech. Age discrimination at work is still quite common, and gender differences are not only accepted, but welcomed by both sexes.

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A very sad and, unfortunately, prevalent sign of life in all post-Soviet republics is the attitude to the older generation. People over 65 are literally thrown out of life. Very few of them take part in any social activities, their only occupation is taking care of grandchildren and doing household chores, while their children work and pursue careers. It is typical for people of this age to spend years in and around their homes; very few of them can afford to ravel, and statistically less than 1% of elderly people ever go to movie theaters, eat out, or attend any entertainment events.

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There are several explanations to this fact, such as declining health and decreased income (average monthly pension in Russia in 2016 is $200, and about $150 in Ukraine), but beyond that is the old, sticky stereotype: “Everyone else lives like this, so why wouldn’t I live this life, too?” Among average population, it is considered inappropriate for an elderly person to attended rock concerts, ride a motorbike or do a lot of sports. So, the majority does “the appropriate” stuff like spending time with grandchildren, taking care of home, jam making, knitting, or watching TV. This stereotype sits deep in people’s minds, depriving them of the fun and leisure which they deserved during the long life of hard work.

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Another area in which age stereotypes are mostly subconscious, yet strong is the way people tend to dress and look. Only certain clothes are considered appropriate for each age group. When you are in your 40s, 50s, or older, wearing make up, short skirts and shorts and youthful hairstyles may cause misunderstanding of others, so an older person will rather refuse from wearing them than risk it, because average citizens of the former Soviet world still care what other members of the society think about them.

Middle aged people have hard time finding jobs. Though any discrimination against applicants is prohibited by law, people who reached the age of 40 or even 35 are of little interest to employers. If the age requirements are not listed, the candidates over that age still have slim chances to get a job. The main reason for this is incompetence of HR managers (who are usually very young people) and lack of research that would show that companies miss out when they discriminate candidates and employees by age. Employees over 40 are experienced, mature and it is likely that they don’t have as many personal distractions as the younger workers do.

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Younger adults, especially students and recent graduates, have their own stereotypes within their age group. Though these stereotypes are erasing little by little, but still the idea of getting married before you hit 25 (mostly among women, though it is not disregarded by men, either) is commonly accepted. Many young people, even the well-educated graduates of good universities, have difficulties finding their first jobs. This also happens largely due to a common stereotype of seeing university graduates as very inexperienced people – almost children – who are not ready to enter the working relationships. As jobs are difficult to find, the large percent of young people never have any experience of working until they graduate from universities (usually at the age of 22-23). Overwhelming majority of young people enter universities right after finishing high schools, and there, during the whole time of study they depend completely on their parents, who support them financially under the only condition that they should study hard and obtain the higher education diploma.

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Jerry Jay Carroll

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