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Marianas Variety: NMC instructor talks about Russia (April 12, 2017)

THAT all rich Russian businessmen are with the mafia is one of the widespread “myths” about the world’s largest country, Northern Marianas College Russian language instructor Andrei Shatilov said on Tuesday.

He said the mafia is usually engaged in the transportation, construction, gambling and show business industries.

However, he added, based on the Forbes 2016 report, the top 10 richest businessmen in Russia were in investment and banking, the oil and steel industries, cargo and logistics, transportation and internet, insurance and gas extracting.

The total fortune of the 10 richest businessmen in Russia was over $111 billion while American business magnate Warren Buffet alone was worth $74 billion, he said.

Shatilov was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Saipan’s regular meeting at the Giovanni’s Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency.

He discussed the many “myths” about Russia and the reality behind them.

For example, he said it’s a myth that Russia is always cold, the reality being that Russia’s average temperature in January in St. Petersburg, for example, is 23°F.

“There are regions in Russia where it is extremely cold, but most parts of the country are not.”

It is also a myth that the Russian population is spread out.

The fact is, he added, three quarters of the Russian population live in big cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Samara and Rostov-na-Donu.

He said the 10 big cities in Russia have a population of over 25 million which is similar to the population of America’s 10 big cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose.

But Russia’s total population is just 143.5 million compared to America’s 318.9 million.

Another myth Shatilov mentioned is that Russia consumes the most alcohol in the world.

However, he said global alcohol consumption based on World Health Organization data in 2014 says otherwise.

In that ranking, he said Russia was fourth among nations with the highest alcohol consumption. The top three were the former Soviet republic of Moldova, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Fifth was another former Soviet republic, the Ukraine.

Based on records, he said Russia’s total alcohol consumption consisted of 51 percent vodka, brandy, whisky and cognac; 38 percent beer; and 11 percent wine.

Shatilov said due to the heavy consumption of beverages in Russia, the death rate of men has increased, life expectancy has decreased, criminality has worsened and there are lots of alcohol-related domestic violence cases.

He said most of the myths about Russia are just myths, but some are real such as those related to heavy drinking and the beauty of Russian women.

“The reality is much more complicated and contradictory than it appears to be,” he said, adding that the best way to differentiate myth from reality is through personal communication. “Don’t trust mass media,” he said.

In an interview, Shatilov said island hospitality is different from Russian hospitality.

“Russians are also very hospitable, but to be welcome guests you need first to overcome the psychological barrier between strangers and Russians,” he said.

In their first meeting, he added, Russians don’t usually smile and greet each other. Once they become close, however, they will be good friends, he said.

On Saipan, he added, when people first meet each other they become friends immediately.

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