By Lyubov Tsarevskaya
“Vivid and precise, the Russian language abounds in proverbs. There are tens of thousands of them. They fly from one century to the next, from one generation to another, as if on wings.
“From the depth of time we are reached and touched by human joys and suffering, laughter and tears, love and wrath, faith and unbelief, truth and lie, honesty and deceit, hard work and sloth…,” wrote Mikhail Sholokhov, a classic of Soviet literature, about folk wisdom expressed in Russian proverbs.
Concisely and vividly the proverbs express the national Russian character. Like this one, “Talent without work isn’t worth one grosh (or penny)”.
Russians are richly endowed with a versatile mind, ingenuity, and creative powers; yet it is owing to their hard work and persistence that they have accomplished so much in culture and science and have contributed so generously to the world civilization.
And those of us who are prone to laziness and sloth are reminded by folk wisdom that “Without effort, you can't even pull a fish out of the pond. (which is close to “No pain, no gain.”)
Russians are known for their love of freedom. Russian history is filled with the fight for freedom and independence. However, the Russian soul values the unrestricted inner freedom so much more than the outer freedom guaranteed by society to law-abiding citizens. When you are free to be who you are, free to feel, free to act, then, as the folk wisdom sums it up so well, “As hard as your lot may be, you are free”, or — Freedom to a bird is dearer than a cage of gold”. That is why when fighting for their freedom, Russians did not spare their lives: “Better death in battle than life in the barracks” goes the proverb.
Love of freedom was also expressed in two most important qualities of the Russian national character — patience and endurance, for an ability to endure hardship, suffering, and privation is a victory in itself. There is a proverb to illustrate this, “Put up with it, Cossak, and you’ll become a chieftain”.
Russian hospitality is legendary. Expressed in it is the people’s magnanimity and generosity. A couple of proverbs on the subject: “Not rich yet hospitable”, “The best treat is for the guest.”
The age-old custom to welcome guests with bread and salt is very much alive today. Bread and salt are at once a greeting, a welcome, and a wish of well-being and prosperity for the guest. Without bread there is no life, and no Russian meal. A proverb goes, “It’s a wretched dinner if bread is not served.” And another — “Bread is at the head of everything.”
Kind-heartedness, charity, an exceptional ability to empathize, understand, respect, and accept other ethnic groups the way they are, enabled the Russian nation to create a multinational state in which various ethnic groups live freely side by side. Russians always strive to maintain genial relations with their neighbours. For them, as the proverb goes, “It is bad to offend a neighbour.”
A Russian person is typically devout, even if unconsciously, because of his Orthodox Christian roots. Orthodoxy has played a significant role in shaping the nation as a whole, and this deep-seated trait of the national character has found its expression in Russian folklore.
Russians say, “Conscience is the voice of God”; and, “He who puts his trust in God will never perish.”
Folk wisdom is expressed not only in proverbs but in parables as well. They express profound spiritual truths in an allegorical way. Here is one of them.
“Once upon a time there lived two pots. Their master was a water-carrier. They hung on the ends of a pole the water-carrier put across his shoulder. One of the pots had a crack in it, the other was flawless. The good pot kept all the water poured into it, whereas the cracked pot could only keep half of the water. The defective pot was ashamed of its imperfection. It realized that it couldn’t perform its duty. So one day it shared its concern with the water-carrier.
“Why don’t you throw me in the garbage? Because of my disability you waste your efforts.”
The water-carrier replied, “Look at the path that leads up from the river to the house. What do you see?”
The pot noticed that beautiful flowers were growing on one side of the pathway, whereas the other side was covered with weeds.
“Have you noticed,” asked the water-carrier, “that flowers only grow along the side of the pathway that has been watered through your crack?”
Source:The Voice of Russia