She was beautiful then and young, – a woman with blood and milk!
D. N. Mamin-Sibiryak, Wild Happiness, 1884
From Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, describing Lara:
…This frail, thin girl is charged, like electricity, to the limit, with all conceivable femininity in the world. If you come close to her or touch her with one finger, a spark will illuminate the room and will either kill you on the spot, or electrify you for life with her magnetically inductive, whining proclivity and sadness.
Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov about women:
A woman may say that she is able to live without a man, but this is an illusion. She cannot even be happy when she is the head of the family, because she has to carry two carts. A woman can become a woman only next to a man. And when there is no real man nearby, she has to leave her femininity. You can’t be a princess and a draft horse at the same time.
One of the greatest Russian writers ever, Nikolai Leskov, said this:
…she was one of those Russian women who‘ will not be afraid in trouble, but will save you; she will stop the horse at a gallop, and will go up to the burning hut’ – a simple, sane, sober-minded Russian woman, with strength in her body, with courage in her soul, and with a tender ability to love warmly and deeply.
What is a good woman? Before this, we have to ask “what is a woman”? A woman is differentiated from man in her virtues, her attributes. A woman is not only the opposite of a man; a woman embodies the feminine. She is soft, loving; she is not aggressive; she is caring. In the ages of woman, from girl to maiden, mother to old woman, where can she practice these virtues in the most productive fashion? Of course, as a mother. For a Russian woman, motherhood is the culmination of all she has been taught. If childhood, her teen years, her maiden years are to be established as correct, as not years spent in vain, she must be a mother. In Russia, Mary is not called the Virgin. She is Theotokos: Birther of God. Mother of God. It is her maternal aspect that is illuminated and revered.
Within the family, the mother was the binding force. In a society whose literature contains few references to romantic love and no idealized pair of lovers, the mother tended to become an unusually important focus of reverence and affection. She was the living version of the omnipresent icons of Mary “The Joy of all Sorrows” and “Lady of Loving Kindness”… women cultivated the passive spiritual virtues of endurance and healing love. (Billington 20)
When I first came to Russia, I came with my three-year-old daughter. We spent many hours, days with her friends, playing outside, watched and listened to them playing inside. Talking. The Russian woman begins as a girl. This is obvious, but sometimes a man can see a woman so unearthly beautiful, he thinks she came into the world as is. Ah, but they are first babies, then little girls. With white bows, bointiki (those large white bow things, so unlike our bows, a big explosion of white; I first saw on TV a news special about Russians, Red Square, and girls my age, five or so, with these gigantic bointiki, dresses and winsome smiles, my first jolt of Russophilia) in their hair, with dresses, with the elan of little ponies, and the spirits of little ponies. How many times I’d play with stuffed animals with my daughter. She became immersed in the make-believe, usually my Crocodile Gena was the father, her Cheburashka the mother; she’d cook kasha (buckwheat) for breakfast, for the stuffed horse, bear and cat. Grandfather sometimes joined us. Little girls already have the femininity that Russian women are famous for. They watch the women around them, the coquettish laugh of mother, the eyes fluttering of the next door neighbors’ teenage daughter, the sternness of auntie, babushka scolding the local hooligans; they see the women and digest their essences. Especially grandmother. My daughter’s babushka fought with me on a daily basis over control of my daughter. At first I loathed her, then saw all of her friends with their own babushka. I relaxed. Girls here aspire to be beautiful women, like their mothers, like their grandmothers. There is a holiness to this.
Come, come here, my little Western man…
They are all the same: the loud music, the wood bar, the smell, the canned laughter, the simian gestures of attraction, flash of teeth, showing the ear, touching the arm, teeth, showing the teeth. The easy, lackadaisical slipstream from clothes into nakedness and an intimate act with a stranger. It could be NYC, Eureka California, Homer Alaska, Tokyo, Moscow. Moscow, in this regard, is like anywhere else. The urban savagery in each city is in each city on earth. But what if a man doesn’t go to nightclubs, use Tinder, what if he wants to meet a woman the old-fashioned way and have a courtship? If I asked this anywhere in the West, I’d be laughed at, shuffled aside. I came to Russia, married. An Americanized Russian. Everything was easy, so easy. Life became hard. Almost as soon as we landed, we made plans for divorce. My modus operandi had always been: meet a woman, have sex, start a relationship. I realized before coming here, I wanted to try it the old way. I felt I was doing things backwards; the steps to a successful relationship were all messed up.
But what of my libido? I had never been able to control it, to keep it in check. I was soon single in a land renowned for its beautiful women. Seven women to every man. Was I insane? Maybe. I saw it as a trial, a test. I was 48 and had an army of ex-lovers behind me, faces and bodies, faces and bodies – I wanted to meet someone and NOT have sex first, not even in three months or six, a year at least. Maybe forever. I decided to stop, let my God decide. I had made enough decisions, and they all were wrong.
I wanted what our ancestors had. In this era of OnlyFans, Pornhub, escorts, easy sex and desires run rampant, I wanted out of the game. I had reached the peak of emptiness. First, I decided to stay out of bars and clubs. I went on occasion and saw the same as I had seen everywhere else. I was tempted but did not give in. Instead, the more I went to these places, the less I wanted to return. The more I wanted what I had never had.
An Alien Comes to Moscow
They arrive, at the end of the work day, find any metro entrance, find the center. I’ve been at almost every central Moscow subway station at 5, 6, 7, 8 for many years. For some reason, if you stand outside Tsvetnoy Bulvar and Novokuznetskaya, Paveleskaya, pretend you just came to Earth, like I did many times, make believe, just stand and watch, you can count, every half-second to second a woman, age 18-50, not just beautiful but fairy tale gorgeous. The gene pool here, the genetics! Oh, the Viennese painter was so wrong, so utterly mistaken. The bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, the blondest, almost white hair, grey eyes, green, brown, hazel eyes with the Asiatic fold, big eyes, shades of brown, mahogany to beige, ebony wood, night. Every shade of every color. The cheekbones high, the flit of eyes, they dart at you, maybe, be quick to see them see you, nanoseconds, no Western stare, no masculine woman approaching you with fistfuls of misplaced fat and a Lakers baseball hat to say she wants you.
All dressed in nice, spotless shoes, pants, dresses, some with make-up and many with only mascara, they walk like herds of deer, seeing my rack, my 48-year-old self, ignoring me. I stood at the mouth of the subway exits and watched them pour out, a river of lithe, glorious Slavic women, and Tatar women, and Yakut, Buryat, Mari, Chuvash, Bashkir, Finnic, Germanic, mixes of all the above, a few native-born African-mix women with the cultural awareness and identity of Russians. I stood and imagined that the earth was birthing them now. This Russian earth was gushing the most beautiful women I had ever seen. I was in awe. In shock, I still am. Ten years later, I still can never believe that women can be so majestic, so graceful, so smart and so beautiful.
Blood in the Milk
I’ve seen this in many women here, whether Muslim, Orthodox, Buddhist, atheist, Slavic neopagan: an ability to blush, to feel not shame but modesty, not meekness but modesty. And what is modesty? The opposite of immodesty. It’s the ability to think of yourself not as a goddess, even if you really are, it is to be unpretentious. And, so, when something is said about you, your beauty, your character, it creates red in your cheeks. You are embarrassed. You only half believe that you are what they said about you. The blood in the cheeks is also a sign of health. Blood in the milk, as the Russians say. This quality is missing in the West. Modesty, constraint, humbleness, these are extremely rare in the land of the Holy Individual.
I had a friend, a Perun-worshiping film director, a man I cannot name. When we first met, he told me a man and a woman should be married before engaging in sex. This, from a pagan. In all my experiences with pagans in America, it is the opposite that is desirable and encouraged: have sex with anyone. The more, the merrier. Courting, whether you are pagan, Muslim, Christian, whatever, this is how we have done it for eons, he said. This is what the gods want. This is what your God wants. Of course, courtship, wooing the woman, hunting her with flowers, dinners, excursions and conversation, this will be easy, I thought.
In my first years here, I kept quiet and watched. Look, I said, do not touch. Your masculinity does not need a woman’s body to exist. Look, listen. I have met many Orthodox women, a few Baptists, many agnostics, pagans, Muslims, Buddhists, one Jew. After the intense physical beauty, it is the soul of the Russian woman that is equal to her physical beauty. No, I’m wrong, her soul usually surpasses her intense physical beauty. Think about that. A woman is so beautiful, your own soul runs back to childhood when grandpa told fairy tales of magical princesses and you honestly believe that this woman before you IS a magical princess; she has stepped from myth itself. Then? She talks…she pours her soul out slowly, meekly, and you realize her soul is much more beautiful than the mere physicalness of her. And you are awestruck. Time stops. It did for me. Many, many times and none so hard as when I met the woman who would be my wife.
Her: brunette, tall, lithe, graceful, spiritual, a co-religionist, soft-spoken, smart, meek, a woman who doesn’t seek conflict, who does not see herself as my superior, my better. We are not equal; I’m no better than her; we have different roles. Yet, we complement each other. We understood this. We dated for over a year and a half before becoming physical. We put a foundation down first; a couple cannot put the roof on first; the foundation must be something other than mere skin-on-skin contact, mere entwining of libidos. We married; we had a son, and it was then that I saw her fully flower, the gorgeous creature I fell in love with. She was still here, and now she was a mother. When I’m losing my mind with his cries, his wailing, she is calm; she is caring and softly attends to him. There, there is a real beauty, beyond the physical.
In Russia, the maternal supersedes the sexual. A woman who is a mother is an ideal woman. Girls still play with dolls and pretend to be mothers. In Russian Orthodoxy, it was the maternal aspect of Mary, not the virginity of her that was and is most important. In folk Russia, the rural peasants prayed to Mother Damp Earth; she had her own feast day; in some churches there was an icon of earth. For the peasants had a saying, we have three mothers:
The first mother is the mother above
the second is the mother below, Mother Damp Earth
The third mother is she who suffered (Fedotov 83)
Russia itself is seen as a maternal figure, Rossiya Mat.
Sinyavsky says, “Russian Folk belief is largely a religion of motherhood.”
Who are the people of Russia today? They are the folk and they still are a rural people; in summers the cities are dead; the city dwellers have fled to their dachas, with their babies, banyas and birch trees.
And, babushka. The last stage of a Russian woman’s life is old age. In Russia, babushka is revered. They will tell you stories, feed you until your belly bursts, walk with you, comfort you; they are eternal; some of them, many of them, most? are wise. It seems that Russian women have distinct phases; the traipsing smiling bubbly girls with bows in the hair give way to gorgeous maidens and beautiful mothers and these in turn give way to babushki. Inches are erased from the height of a middle-aged woman, pounds added to her; her face is rounder; she is the archetypal old woman; she is wisdom itself. My own mother-in-law, she is quiet, speaks softly; words are never wasted in Russia, let alone with my mother-in-law. Her eyes are joyful, but calm; wise, but not arrogantly so… and they watch every single thing. She is all love to her grandchildren, and all children to every Russian babushka are somehow her children. I’ve seen it too many times: devushka (young woman), walk slower, be careful crossing the street. The countless babushki who upbraided me as I wandered Moscow with my daughter or my son. Why is she not wearing a proper jacket? She looks hungry. And you’re a father? Foo! Where are his socks, didn’t you feel the cold? The ancient ones who produce an Antonovka apple or piece of candy for a crying child, a child they have never seen but know anyway.
Babushka rewards and instructs, even Baba Yaga, the archetypal crone. If you read all the stories, she never eats one child; she warns, threatens, instructs, do as you are told, she says. Be a good little girl, a good woman; do it,or else…
Russian literature is rife with images of Russian grandmothers, Pushkins, Lermontovs, Gorkys. I challenge you to find one Russian author who has not spoken of a grandmother in an admiring manner. Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Goncharov, Platonov, Bunin, Gogol, Tolstoy.
In Gorky’s autobiography of pre-revolutionary Russia, My Childhood, a life drenched in suffering, in violence, only his grandmother dried him with her love, her stories and wisdom.
Before her, it was as if I was sleeping, hidden in the dark, but she appeared, woke me up, brought me into the light … and immediately became a lifelong friend closest to my heart. (Gorky, My Childhood)
The Russian grandmother embodies a Dionysian love, a wild, free, wise love.
“Babushka is Russia itself in its deepest folk religious essence. To renounce Grandma means to renounce Russia itself. And if Grandmother is truly Russia, then everything that he says about himself and about her is more than a story about his life, and even more than a confession, it is a sermon, a prophecy about where Russia is going. The manifestation of the Spirit is Holy Flesh, Holy Earth, Eternal Motherhood, Eternal Femininity,” writes D. Merezhkovsky in “Not Holy Rus’ (The Religion of Gorky)” about Gorky’s grandmother, but really about all Russian grandmothers, women, girls, from beginning to end; the Russian Feminine, the Female is alive and well in Russia. All eras are represented: before the 19th Century, bigger women were the ideal, after thinner women were; during the Soviet era the kholkoz (collective farm) woman, not too thin, not too fat, was top. Today, little girls still wear bointiki and smile and often walk alone to get ice cream in summer. Teenage girls move from Cheburashka to make-up, young women shoot like birches dressed in summer dresses, the mothers still beautiful, still a girl, the babushki that are everywhere, like a special arm of the FSB, a more loving, more scolding arm that will make you the best borsch, and smile, sometimes like a little girl, even in her nest of wrinkles, still there is blood in the milk.
G. Fedotov, Stikhi dukhovnye (Russkaya narodnaya vera po dukhovnym stikham), Paris, 1935
Andrei Sinyavsky, Ivan the Fool, Editions Albin Michel, Paris, 1990
Dmitri Mereshkovsky, Не святая Русь (Религия Горького), Moscow, 1916
James Billington, The Icon and the Axe, New York, 1966
This is eye-opening insight. Unrelated, but the mention the author is working on a Baron Ungern screen play has me at the edge of my seat…
Eastern European women are still special. I hope IG and other tactics don’t change them. Here in Serbia in a few years they have obviously become more Americanized, which is probably due to mass social media exposure.
This is refreshing. All of the MGTOW on the Right needs to be tempered with the knowledge good women still do exist.
Among Russian chicks? Seriously?
Ahaha is this for real? Russian federation is a borderline feminist, matriarchal state. The russian women are the most libertine in Europe with single motherhood and out of wedlock birth are comparable to american blacks. Russia has the highest abortion and divorce rate with abortions paid by the state. Also most amateur port stars are russian, by the way. “Modesty” is not about russian women.
You live here? If so, been away from the nightlife? Where did you get your stats? You invented them? There are no Western ngos here to falsify the numbers. Next time you come here stay away from the escorts and bordellos,
Really insightful article, Richard! The ‘Russian feminine’ is glorious.
I just reread with the new post. Great article from Richard.
I associate Russian women with soulless strippers and sex workers. It seems like the ones who come to the USA and Europe are mostly materialist trash. Some are beautiful though.
Yeah, in my opinion, usually the ones in the west have adapted , theyre trashy. I expected same when I got here, they are at clubs, but Russians dont all go to pubs clubs, etc…
I think Richard’s observations are valuable having seen Russian women in the west and in Russia itself. These are really two different kinds of people.
I traveled from America to Russia and immediately noticed a distinct difference between Russian and American women. The majority of Russian women I saw, dressed way better and were definitely more modest, feminine and family oriented. Some women in particular had such beauty I couldn’t help but stare… and I’m a woman! I was quite impressed.
In this article I also found a lot of confirmation to my own long time observations regarding the “princesses” and the “draft horses”.
After ten years, it never gets old. Unearthly sometimes, and modest…