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«Russian smile»


DOI Number:

Stefanenko Tatiana G. (2014). The smile and the Russian high context traditional culture. National Psychological Journal, 2(14), 13-18

     Russian culture is a high-context one, where a large amount of connotations are included in the process of informational exchange. This phenomenon is reflected in the special importance of nonverbal behaviour, mostly facial expressions. At the same time, the absence of smiling in Russian nonverbal communication is emphasized in numerous cultural studies and common sense.
     The article makes an attempt to show that the high-context XIX century Russian culture could be described through the importance of a smile in communication. In order to prove this hypothesis, a content analysis of the novel «Anna Karenina» by Leo Tolstoy was carried out. Results of the research demonstrated that Tolstoy used the smile quite widely as one of the elements of nonverbal behavior of Russians (more than 550 words with a root «smile» were detected; it was also shown that more than 80 different characters (of different importance and class) do smile in the novel). Additionally, to describe smiles The Great Russian writer employed a rich range of linguistic tools, often expressing several emotions at once. The main function of the smile for Tolstoy is communion (obschenie ) since the interaction between the characters is not just seen as an informational exchange, but rather an opportunity to reflect feelings. Smiles accompany the speech, and at the same time they are an independent part of communication. They coincide with the most significant events in the characters lives – birth, wedding and even death.
     It is suggested that the lack of a smile, and even the negative attitude of modern Russians toward smiles, is not a traditional feature of Russian culture, but rather Soviet and Post-Soviet ones. The social changes of the XX century resulted in some transformations of the rules of nonverbal expression of emotions – during the years of the Soviet power people stopped smiling and the habit of smiling was gradually lost. The article expresses the hope for the return of a smile to the Russian culture.

Received: 11/20/2014

Accepted: 11/28/2014

Pages: 13-18

DOI: 10.11621/npj.2014.01/0202

Keywords: high context culture; nonverbal behaviour ; display rules; «Russian smile»;

By: Stefanenko T.G.;

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