Children, known as "dyetski" in Russian, are treasured and fiercely protected by their families. Regardless of social standing or economic status, Russian parents do their utmost to provide their offspring with treats, special gifts and loving attention. The Russian mother plays the primary role in raising, teaching and caring for children, and most mothers regard this as a near-sacred duty.
Mother Knows Best
The phrase "helicopter parent" is frequently used in the United States to describe a parent who hovers over her children, staying involved in all aspects of their lives and never straying far from their sides. This phrase describes many Russian mothers as well, who display fierce dedication to their children. The mother-knows-best approach leads to displays of overprotectiveness, particularly in public, but seldom in a bossy or smothering way. Russian moms typically dote on their children and make it their life's work to provide their children with the best clothing, best music lessons and frequent tasty treats.
While many U.S. children wait for Santa Claus and Dutch children for Saint Nicholas, Russian children eagerly anticipate the visit of Father Frost, who brings an abundance of gifts for them on Jan. 7 each year. Gifts range from traditional Russian hand-carved toys, many of which have movable parts and jointed limbs, to more modern electronics, sports gear, and the latest in music or video games. Christmas is primarily for and about the children in Russia. New Year's is also a very child- and family-focused holiday, centered around games and celebrations with the children at the center of the action.
The State as Nanny
From 1918 through about 1990, Russian socialist theory held that child-rearing was a job of both the family and the greater society. As such, parents provided the love and personal attention, while the state, in the form of schools and children's political clubs, provided the approved physical training and academic education. The state typically also determined children's career paths and opportunities for advanced education. With the fall of the Soviet Union, this approach began to diminish, but vestiges of this approach remain in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
Religious and Social Influences
Throughout the Soviet era, religious practices were all but forbidden, although many families retained some vestiges of traditional Russian Orthodox beliefs. Children typically did not receive religious education or training. Instead, they were focused on strenuous academics, vigorous sports and physical training and mandated participation in age-specific political indoctrination and programs. Today, in religiously observant families, children do participate in Sunday school and can be baptized by their teen years.