Slavs exhibit an interesting cultural trait, which varies to a degree depending upon region, but is present across eastern Europe. Individually and collectively, they operate better in hardship then during times of peaceful prosperity. A tradition of pessimism and a collective memory of having nothing left to lose in a fight for survival—a reflection of long historical experience of difficult periods—has equipped them to confront crises and conflicts with considerable self-confidence.
As a crisis grows in magnitude so does their self-confidence; the current crisis is understood as just another stepping stone in continuous history of struggle. This behavior can be entirely counter-intuitive to people from some other culture, who may perceive Slavic confidence to be little more than attempts at faking and posturing.
Slavic men’s confidence genuinely increases in times of crisis. A Slav is not actively seeking conflict and can show considerable restraint at first, but once the gloves are about to be taken off he is ready to go all-in. And if the end result is a total carnage so be it.
[Slavic confidence, however, does not necessarily correlate to military or other measurable strength. Their actual strength in conflict may remain unchanged since the beginning of crisis, but this does not prevent them from taking on a disproportionately stronger opponent.]
Prior to total carnage, the crisis-induced Slav’s confidence correlates to the frequency of his cynicism against his opponents, which progressively increases as Slav’s respect for the opponent takes a nosedive. At this stage he believes that—as a result of his perception of the opponent’s unwarranted inconsistency and disrespectful behavior—the line of return to normalcy has been crossed. Once all the respect is lost, the pre-crisis conditions of mutually-respectful and meaningful dialogue, resulting in concrete achievements, are extremely difficult to resurface.
[Cynical: believing that people are only interested in themselves and are not sincere; used to say that someone’s feelings or emotions are used to your own advantage (Cambridge Dictionary)]
The foregoing described behavior has lately been increasingly noticeable from the current Russian political leader, whose reputation for carefully weighing every statement he makes is well known. A recent example is an episode from the meeting between the Russian President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, and the United States’ National Security Advisor, Mr. John Bolton, in Moscow.
Putin: “As far as I remember, the US coat of arms features a bald eagle that holds 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in another, which is a symbol of a peace-loving policy. I have a question. Looks like your eagle has already eaten all the olives; are the arrows all that is left?”
Bolton: “But I didn’t bring any more olives.”
Putin: “That’s what I thought.”
Their conversation may be perceived as a harmless joke. Combined with Mr. Putin’s facial expressions and his general demeanor during the exchange, however, the “joke” was relaying a much more serious message. It was actually a measured statement, for public consumption, about the vanishing respect he and his people have for their opponents.
In normal circumstances, statements like the “joke” would be seriously evaluated by the recipient, but we do not live under normal conditions any more. For that reason, let me repeat again that a Slav can show considerable restraint at first, but once the gloves are about to be taken off he is ready to go all-in; if the end result is a total carnage, so be it.