Sunday, February 1, 2009

Countries and Their Cultures

The culture of Bangladesh has a unique history, dating back more than 2500 years ago. The land, the rivers and the lives of the common people formed a rich heritage with marked differences from neighboring regions. It has evolved over the centuries, and encompasses the cultural diversity of several social groups of Bangladesh.
The culture of Bangladesh is composite, and over centuries has assimilated influences of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Islam. It is manifested in various forms, including music, dance and drama; art and craft; folklores and folktales; languages and literature, philosophy and religion, festivals and celebrations, as also in a distinct cuisine and culinary tradition.
Arts and Crafts of Bangladesh
Fine Arts of BangladeshSeveral artists originated from Bangladesh have gained worldwide familiarity for their artistic contributions. The works of painters like Zainul Abedin, SM Sultan, Quamrul Hassan, Shahabuddin Ahmed, Ronobi and Hashem Khan symbolizes the culture of the country.
Handicrafts of Bangladesh Nakshi Kantha (embroidered quilt) is said to be indigenous to BangladeshHandicrafts and cottage industries play a vital role in sustaining the cultural heritage of Bangladesh. The prominent handicrafts in the early and Middle Ages were textiles, metal works, jewelry, wood works, cane and bamboo works, and clay and pottery. Later, jute and leather became the major raw materials for handicrafts. The most predominant features of Bangladeshi handicrafts are the extensive use of individual skill and the interesting design motifs[1].
Nakshi Kantha (embroidered quilt), a very popular form of handicraft, is said to be indigenous to Bangladesh[2]. The rural women of the country put together pieces of old cloth with crafty stitches to prepare these quilts to be used in the winter. Although kanthas (quilts) are utilitarian objects, the vivid patterns, borders and motifs often turn them into attractive works of art. In recent years the interest in ethnic arts and crafts has encouraged a kantha revival in the country. Many people now use these quilts for decorative purposes only.
Several, Bangladeshi organizations like Aarong and Probortona export handicrafts from Bangladesh to all over the world. These organizations have played an important role in preserving the handicrafts of Bangladesh and increasing their popularity at home and abroad.
[edit] Festivals and celebrationsFestivals and celebrations are integral part of the culture of Bangladesh. Prominent and widely celebrated festivals are Pohela Baishakh, Independence day, National Mourning Day, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Muharram, Durga puja, and Language
Movement Day.

Eid ul-FitrMain article: Eid ul-FitrAs the most important religious festival for the majority Muslims, the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr has become a part of the culture of Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh declares holiday for three days on Eid-ul Fitar. People living in towns having their families or parents in villages go to their country homes to meet relatives and celebrate the festival together. All outgoing public transport from the major cities become highly crowded and in many cases the fares tend to rise in spite of government restrictions.
Adult Muslim males in Bangladesh assemble at the Eid Ghah for prayer in the morning of the Eid dayOn Eid day, Eid prayers are held all over the country, in open areas like fields or else inside mosques. In Dhaka, the largest Eid prayer is held at the national Eidgah. All major mosques including the Baitul Mukarram also holds prayers. The biggest congregation of Bangladesh is held at Sholakia in Kishoreganj, where about half a million people join the Eid prayer.[3] After the Eid prayers people return home, visit each other's home and eat sweet dishes called shirni. Throughout the day gentlemen embrace each other. It is also customary for junior members of the society to touch the feet of the seniors, and seniors returning blessings (sometimes with a small sum of money as a gift).
In the rural areas Eid festival is observed with great fanfare. In some areas Eid fares are arranged. Different types of games including boat race, kabbadi, other traditional Bangladeshi games as well as modern games like football and cricket are played on this occasion.
In urban areas people play music, visit each other's houses and eat special food. Watching movies and television programs has also become an integral part of Eid celebration in urban areas. All local TV channels air special program for several days for this occasion.
Eid ul-AdhaMain article: Eid ul-AdhaThe celebration of Eid ul-Adha is similar to Eid ul-Fitar in many ways. The only big difference is the Qurbani or sacrifice of domestic animals on Eid ul-Adha. Numerous temporary marketplaces of different sizes called Haat operate in the big cities for sale of Qurbani animals (usually cows and goats).
In the morning on the Eid day, immediately after the prayer, capable people arrange to slaughter their animal of choice. Less affluent people also take part in the festivity by visiting houses of the affluent who are taking part in qurbani. After the qurbani a large portion of the meat is given to the poor people.
Although the religious doctrine allows the sacrifice anytime over a period of three days starting from the Eid day, most people prefer to perform the ritual on the first day of Eid . However, the public holiday spans over three to four days. Many people from the big cities go to their ancestral houses/homes in the villages to share the joy of the festival with friends and relatives.Pohela BoishakhMain article: Pohela Boishakh Pohela Baishakh celebration in DhakaPôhela Boishakh is the first day of the Bangla Calendar. It is usually celebrated on the 14th of April.Pohela Boishakh marked the start day of the crop season. Usually on Pôhela Boishakh, the home is thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned; people bathe early in the morning and dress in fine clothes. They spend much of the day visiting relatives, friends, and neighbours and going to fair. Fairs are arranged in many parts of the country. Various agricultural products, traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, as well as various kinds of food and sweets are sold at these fairs. The fairs also provide entertainment, with singers, dancers and traditional plays and songs. Horseraces, bullraces, bullfights, cockfights, flying pigeons, boat racing were once popular. All gatherings and fairs consist a wide spread of Bengali food and sweets.
The most colourful new year's day festival takes place in Dhaka. Large numbers of people gather early in the morning under the banyan tree at Ramna Park where Chhayanat artists open the day with Rabindranath Tagore's famous song, Esho, he Boishakh, Esho Esho (Come, Year, Come, Come). A similar ceremony welcoming the new year is also held at the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Students and teachers of the institute take out a colourful procession and parade round the campus. Social and cultural organisations celebrate the day with cultural programmes. Newspapers bring out special supplements. There are also special programmes on radio and television.Prior to this day, special discounts on clothes, furniture, electronics and various deals and shopping discounts are available. Special line of sarees, usually cottons, white sarees with red print/embroidery is sold before this day as everyone dresses up for this day. jasmine flowers are also a huge sale for this event which adorns the women's hair.
Language Movement DayMain article: Language Movement Day Shaheed Minar, or the Martyr's monument, located near the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.Language Movement Day is a unique part of the culture of Bangladesh. Every year on February 21 this day is observed to pay tribute to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to establish Bengali as the official language of then East Pakistan in 1952. The mood of the day is sad and humble.
The celebration of Language movement day goes on the entire month of February. Ekushey Book Fair is a book fair arranged to mark this occasion every year. The fair has also become an integral part of the culture of Bangladesh. Authors and readers in Bangladesh eagerly await the fair each year.
To commemorate this movement, Shaheed Minar, a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre. Today the Shaheed Minar is the centre of cultural activities in Dhaka. On the morning of February 21 each year, people from all walks of life including the national leaders pay tribute to the martyrs by leaving flowers at Shaheed Minar. A very melodious and melancholy song, Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano, written by Abdul Gaffar Choudhury and composed by Altaf Mahmud, is played repeatedly in electronic media and cultural gatherings throughout the month, and especially on February 21. This song, too, has become a symbolic mark of culture of Bangladesh.
WeddingsMain article: Bengali marriageA traditional wedding is arranged by Ghotoks (matchmakers), who are typically friends or relatives of the couple. The matchmakers facilitate the introduction, and also help agree the amount of any settlement.
Bengali weddings are traditionally in five parts: first it is the bride and groom's Mehendi Shondha,the bride's Gaye Holud, the groom's Gaye Holud, the Beeya and the Bou Bhaat. These often take place on separate days. The first event in a wedding is an informal one: the groom presents the bride with a ring marking the "engagement" which is gaining popularity.
Bride's friends and family apply turmeric paste to her body as a part of Gaye Holud ceremony.For the mehendi shondha the bride's side apply henna to each other as well as the bride For the bride's Gaye Holud, the groom's family - except the groom himself - go in procession to the bride's home. The procession traditionally centers on the (younger) female relative and friends of bride, and they are traditionally all in matching clothes, mostly orange in colour. The bride is seated on a dais, and the henna is used to decorate the bride's hands and feet with elaborate abstract designs. The sweets are then fed to the bride by all involved, piece by piece. The actual wedding ceremony "Beeye" follows the Gaye Holud ceremonies. The wedding ceremony is arranged by the bride's family. On the day, the younger members of the bride's family barricade the entrance to the venue, and demand a sort of admission charge from the groom in return for allowing him to enter. The bride and groom are seated separately, and a Kazi (authorized person by the govt. to perform the wedding), accompanied by the parents and a Wakil (witness) from each side formally asks the bride for her consent to the union, and then the groom for his. The bride's side of the family tries to play some kind of practical joke on the groom such as stealing the groom's shoe.
The reception, also known as Bou-Bhaat (reception), is a party given by the groom's family in return for the wedding party. It is typically a much more relaxed affair, with only the second-best wedding outfit being was SportsMain article: Sport in BangladeshMost popular sports in Bangladesh are football (soccer), cricket and kabaddi. Kabaddi is the national sport of Bangladesh. Cricket is a game which has a massive and passionate following in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has joined the elite group of countries eligible to play Test cricket since 2000. The Bangladesh national cricket team goes by the nick-name of the Tigers—after the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The people of Bangladesh enjoy watching live sports. Whenever there is a cricket or football match between popular local teams or international teams in any local stadium significant number of spectators gather to watch the match live. The people also celebrate major vistories of the national team with a great enthusiasm for the live game. Victory processions are the most common element in such celebrations.
Ex Prime Minister even made an appearance after an international one day cricket match in which Bangladesh beat Australia, she came to congratulate the victory.
Also in late 2006/early 2007, football legend Zinedine Zidane paid a visit to local teams and various events thanks to the invite of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus.
Religion in BangladeshMain article: Religion in Bangladesh Khan Mohammad Mirdha's mosque (built 1706) at Atish Khana, in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh.Bangladesh is ethnically homogeneous, with Bengalis comprising 98% of the population. The majority of Bangladeshis (about 90%) are Muslims, and a small number of Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are also in the country.
People of different religions perform their religious rituals with festivity in Bangladesh. The Government has declared National Holidays on all important religious festivals of the four major religion. Durga Puja, Christmas and Buddha Purnima are celebrated with enthusiasm in Bangladesh. All of these form an integral part of the cultural heritage of Bangladesh. foodMain article: Bengali cuisine Panta Ilish - a tradtional platter of Panta bhat with fried Hilsa slice, supplemented with dried fish (Shutki), pickles (Achar), dal, green chillies and onion - is a popular serving for the Pohela Boishakh festival.Bangladesh is famous for its distinctive culinary tradition, and delicious food, snacks and savories. Boiled rice constitutes the staple food, and is served with a variety of vegetables, fried as well as curries, thick lentil soups, and fish and meat preparations of beef, mutton and chicken.
Sweetmeats of Bangladesh are mostly milk based, and consist of several delights including Roshgulla, Sandesh, Rasamalai, Gulap Jamun, Kalo Jamun, Chom Chom. Several other sweet preparations are also available.
Bengali cuisine is rich and varied with the use of many specialized spices and flavours.
Fish is the dominant source of protein, cultivated in ponds and fished with nets in the fresh-water rivers of the Ganges delta. More than forty types of mostly freshwater fish are common, including carp varieties like rui (rohu), katla, magur (catfish), chingŗi (prawn or shrimp), as well as shuţki (dried sea fish). Salt water fish (not sea fish though) Ilish (hilsa ilisha) is very popular among Bengalis, can be called an icon of Bengali cuisine.
[edit] Dress Portion of a sari woven at SonargaonBangladeshi people have unique dress preferences. Bangladeshi men wear panjabi on religious and cultural occasions, lungi as casual wear and shirt-pant on formal occasions. Sari is the main dress of Bangladeshi women. Sari weaving is a traditional art in Bangladesh. Salwar kameez is also very popular especially among the younger ladies. Western dresses of women are becoming increasingly popular in
the cities.



ALTERNATIVE NAMES"Aussie" is a colloquialism that was used during World War I to refer to Australian-born people of British or Irish ancestry. Initially used to describe a happy-go-lucky character capable of battling through hard times, the term was employed after World War II to distinguish those born domestically from "new" immigrants from western and southern Europe. The term continues to have meaning as a label for Australians representing their country. Among some sectors of society, "Aussie" is regarded as Eurocentric and anachronistic in a nation officially committed to ethnic and racial inclusiveness.

dentification. The name "Australia" was formally adopted and popularized in 1817 by the British governor of the colony of New South Wales. The title was suggested in 1814 and derives from the Latin terra australis incognita ("the unknown south land") which had been used by mapmakers for centuries before European colonization.
Since its days as a British colony Australia has developed a complex national culture with immigrants from many parts of the world as well as an indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The strong sense of societal and historical distinctiveness among the different states and territories has not developed into major subcultural diversity based on geographic regions.
For much of the nation's history, there has been a focus on assimilating different cultural groups into the dominant British Australian traditions; however, in the early 1970s a more pluralist policy of multiculturalism came to prominence. In 1988, bicentennial events were promoted officially as the "celebration of a nation." A commitment was made to the idea that Australia is a collectivity of diverse peoples living in a relatively young society. However, the divisions within the nation continue to find expression in public life, arising from social differences in race, ethnicity, social class, and gender.
Location and Geography. Australia is an island continent in the Southern Hemisphere, lying between Antarctica and Asia. It is surrounded by the Indian Ocean to the west; the Timor, Arafura, and Coral Seas to the north; the Pacific Ocean to the east; and the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean to the south. Much of the continent is low, flat, and dry. The area of the continent is 2.97 million square miles (7.69 million square kilometers).
Although the impact of environmental variation is highly evident in the traditional cultures of indigenous Australians, it has not been as strong a factor in immigrant cultures. The most significant lifestyle differences are affected primarily by variations in climate.
Australia has six states (Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, and Queensland) and two territories (the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory), whose capital cities are, respectively, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, and Canberra. The majority of the population lives in urban areas around the coast.
The capital city, Canberra, is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ACT was created in 1909, and the city of Canberra was designed by an American landscape architect in 1912. The Commonwealth Parliament relocated there from Melbourne in 1927. Canberra has a population of over 300,000 and is the largest inland city.
Demography. According to the 1986 census, the total population was just over 15.5 million. By 1992 the population had risen to 17.5 million, and
Australia in 1996 it reached 18.3 million. In the year 2000, that number is expected to reach 19 million. In 1997, 4.3 million (23 percent) residents were born overseas. Roughly 2 percent of the population consists of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, descendants of the original inhabitants of the continent before European colonization. This sector of the population has a higher birthrate than do the others, but also has a higher mortality rate and lower life expectancy. In 1996 the population self-identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander was 372,000, probably about the same as in 1788; many of those people have both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestry.
Linguistic Affiliation. The dominant language since colonization has been English, with little multi-lingualism among the majority population. Nevertheless, both the diverse Aboriginal groups and many immigrants continue to use languages other than English.
Before the European invasion there were around 250 Aboriginal languages, most of which probably had distinct dialects. Perhaps ninety of these languages are still spoken, with around twenty being spoken fluently by indigenous children. The decline in the use of Aboriginal languages is due to the effects of colonization. Among some Aboriginal groups, especially in parts of the north, a number of distinctive creole dialects mix Aboriginal languages with English.
Apart from indigenous languages, some twelve major community languages are spoken at home by at least fifty thousand speakers. These are, in order of the number of speakers, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Serbo-Croatian, Arabic, German, Vietnamese, Spanish, Polish, Macedonian, Filipino languages, and Maltese. Melbourne is the most multilingual city. Migrant groups want their languages to be maintained through government policies such as the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) program in secondary schools.
Australian English probably originated as a combination of British regional dialects used by groups of convicts and others who came to the colonies. Australian English is different from British and American English but does not vary much regionally. Various social factors affect accent and style, including social class, education, gender (women tend to use the cultivated variety more than men do), and age.
Symbolism. The flag is dark blue with the British Union Jack in the upper left corner, the seven– pointed white Commonwealth star below the Union Jack, and to the right five white stars representing the Southern Cross constellation. The national animal emblem is the kangaroo, the floral emblem is the golden wattle tree, and the national colors are green and gold. The national coat of arms is a shield supported by a kangaroo and an emu amid branches of wattle. Until 1984 the national anthem was the British "God Save the Queen," but it was changed to "Advance Australia Fair" as part of a movement toward asserting greater separation from the legacy of the colonial power.
These formal symbols have assisted in the establishment of a national consciousness. A highly symbolic national event held annually is Anzac Day which marks the landing and subsequent gallant defeat of Australian troops at Gallipoli during World War I. Throughout the country war memorials and monuments acknowledge the achievements and sacrifices made by Australians in that and other wars.
Flora and fauna native to the continent, such as the kangaroo, koala, emu, and wattle, are symbols of the national ethos, especially in international and national contexts, although this is also the case for unique buildings such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. The beach is recognized as a symbol of the national culture.

Emergence of the Nation. Australian began as a British penal colony in the eighteenth century, and its national character has formed predominantly through the mechanisms of immigration and race relations. Other factors that have shaped the national culture include the early small female population relative to that of men, which is said to have laid the foundations for a widespread ideology of mateship. The involvement of Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) troops in World War I has been characterized as the symbolic birth of the nation.
A further impetus for the formation of a national culture was the myth of the rural bushman, which developed around early phases of the historical establishment of pastoral and agricultural industries. The "bush" mythology has continued to influence conceptions of the national character despite the fact that the population has always been concentrated in urban coastal centers. The relatively sunny climate has facilitated an image of a sporting, outdoor, beach-loving culture represented by images such as the bronzed Aussie surfer.
National Identity. After the invasion in 1788 by British colonists, the indigenous population was dominated by force. Aboriginal societies across the continent experienced violence and disease. After colonization a general history of discrimination and racism was mixed with a range of more benevolent policies. Of lasting effect was the policy of assimilating Aboriginal people into the mainstream culture. The historical stress on assimilation had its most dramatic impact on the children of mixed Aboriginal–European descent who, especially in the first half of the twentieth century, were taken from their Aboriginal parents so that they could be "civilized" and raised in "white" society. These individuals have become known collectively as the "stolen generations" and public acknowledgment of their plight is an important part of the process of reconciliation between Aboriginal peoples and other Australians.
The ideology of assimilation permeated relations not only with the indigenous population but also with immigrants. The early British Protestant
The Sydney Opera House, one of the most readily recognized buildings in Australia. colonists were bolstered by the arrival of Irish Catholic settlers who eventually (through their involvement in the development of a Catholic education system and their representation in government) became incorporated into the dominant cultural group. Since that time Australia has been defined as an Anglo-fragment society in which British or Anglo-Celtic culture was and remains dominant. However, immigration over the last two centuries has created a nation that is among the most culturally diverse in the world.
The intergenerational reproduction of minority ethnic identities has produced a national culture that is multicultural, polyethnic, and cosmopolitan. Since the 1970s this diversity has been encouraged through progressive equity legislation that promotes recognition of difference and tolerance of diversity. Nevertheless, multicultural policy has been dominated by a culturalist philosophy in which linguistic and lifestyle (food, dress) diversity has been recognized more readily than have the structural economic difficulties of some immigrant groups. Despite the focus on cultural diversity, the Anglo-Celtic heritage continues to dominate most institutional aspects of society, including the media, the legal system, public education, and the system of health care.
Ethnic Relations. The first migrants were Chinese, attracted by the 1850s and 1860s gold rushes. Fear of miscegenation and xenophobia and the consequent race riots resulted in restrictive legislation against the importation of Pacific and Chinese labor. However, immigration was viewed as important; a well known catch phrase was "populate or perish," reflecting the rationale that population growth would aid both defense and economic development.
The Federation of States in 1901 coincided with the implementation of one of the most influential governmental policies affecting the development of the national culture: The Immigration Restriction Act. This "White Australia Policy" was aimed primarily at combating the perceived "yellow peril" represented by immigrants from neighboring Asian countries. Throughout much of the twentieth century, migrants were selected according to a hierarchy of desirability that was broadened as preferred sources dried up. The British were always at the top of the list, and a number of government subsidies and settlement schemes were implemented to encourage their immigration.
Immigration thus can be defined as a series of waves, with the British dominating until the 1940s, followed by northern Europeans (including displaced persons from World War I), southern Europeans (predominantly in the post–World War II period), and eventually, after the White Australia Policy was abandoned in 1972, Asians. Immigration has declined since the 1980s, and it is now difficult to gain entry. The number of migrants has become an issue of debate, particularly in regard to uninvited refugees.
Australia's long history of immigration and the increasing ethnic diversity of its population have spurred debates about the definition of an Australian. Many Aboriginal and Asian citizens still experience a sense of alienation and exclusion from acceptance as "real" Aussies and in difficult economic times often become political and social scapegoats. However, concerted efforts have been made to present these groups in a positive and inclusive light.
New Zealand is the national culture related most closely to Australia. New Zealanders have special entry rights, and there have been large population flows in both directions. Australians and New Zealanders compete energetically in areas such as sport but cooperate closely in international relations.

There has always been a high concentration of urban and suburban dwellers, partly because the harsh physical environment has encouraged people to remain close to the fertile coastal areas. In 1991, 70 percent of Australians lived in thirteen cities that had more than 100,000 people and 39 percent of the population lived in Sydney and Melbourne. Notions of national identity have long been framed around a distinction between the city and the bush, with urban and rural dwellers articulating different economic and social interests.
The cities are characterized by low–density housing and dependence on private cars. In recent decades there has been increased inner–city redevelopment aimed at attracting locals and tourists to central public shopping and recreational areas.
Across cities and towns, significant icons in public spaces include war memorials, sporting grounds, and prominent structures such as the new Parliament House in Canberra. Also of great importance are the "natural" icons such as Uluru, a huge sandstone monolith in Central Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches down the east coast of northern Queensland. Major development projects are celebrated as national achievements, especially the Snowy Mountains and Ord River schemes, which were constructed from the 1950s to the 1970s to bring irrigated water to agricultural areas. The Snowy Mountains project generates hydroelectric power and is regarded as the nation's greatest engineering feat.
Personal home ownership is a common goal, and the nation has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. In recent decades homes have become larger with more bedrooms and bathrooms, designs have created greater internal spaciousness, and more elaborate fittings and household possessions have been obtained. The quality of private dwellings, however, varies considerably with a household's level of income. Since the 1960s housing has been more diverse in style and size, but the conventional single–story separate house remains predominant.

Food in Daily Life. Before colonization, Aboriginal peoples were sustained by a diverse range of flora and fauna. The early settlers primarily consumed meat (at first native animals, later beef and mutton), bread, and vegetables, particularly potatoes.
Nearly all regularly eaten foods—except seafood—were introduced after European settlement. However, there have been considerable changes in food preference patterns. In the 1940s meat consumption began to decline, poultry consumption increased dramatically after the 1960s, and there has been a doubling of seafood consumption since the 1930s, in addition to a steady increase in fruit and vegetable consumption since the 1950s.
Since World War II the diet has become highly diversified. Each wave of immigrants has had an impact, including German, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Jewish, and Southeast Asian foods and cooking styles. Olive and vegetable oils have replaced dripping and lard, and items such as garlic and Asian condiments are used more commonly.
Australian chefs are known worldwide for their "fusion cuisine," a blending of European cooking traditions with Asian flavors and products. Nevertheless, certain foods are recognized as national emblems, including Vegemite (a yeast extract spread), Milo (a powdered base for chocolate milk drinks), Anzac biscuits (oat biscuits sent to soldiers in World War I), and damper (a wheat flour-based loaf traditionally cooked in the ashes of a fire by settlers).
Australians are among the world leaders in fast-food consumption. Burger and chicken chain stores are prominent in the suburbs, having displaced the traditional meat pies and fish and chips. While Australians were long known as tea drinkers, coffee and wine have become increasingly popular.
A shearer cuts the wool from a sheep in Stawell, Victoria. Before World War II Australians drank about twenty times more beer than wine; beer consumption remains high, but wine drinking has increased at a much greater rate, and the country has become a significant exporter of wine.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. No foods are reserved for special occasions, although the religious traditions of some ethnic groups include ceremonial foods. Easter and Christmas are observed by most of the population. Christmas usually is celebrated as it is in Britain, with roast turkey, ham, and roast vegetables followed by a steamed fruit pudding. However, there is an increasing tendency for Christmas to involve a light seafood meal, and barbecues are becoming popular as well. Instead of pudding, many people have ice cream cakes or cold desserts such as pavlova (made from egg whites and sugar). Some people celebrate "Christmas in July," using the coldest month of the year to enjoy the hot dinner of a traditional Christmas.
Special meals are eaten among ethnic groups to celebrate Easter or Passover. Molded chocolate products (Easter eggs) are given to children at this time.
Basic Economy. After forty years of settlement, when there was little scope for industrial or commercial enterprises, the pastoral industry became a key force in economic development. In particular, growth in the wool industry was associated with advances in the rest of the economy. Gold surpassed wool as the nation's major export in the 1850s and 1860s, resulting in a rapid expansion of banking and commerce.
From federation until 1930 there was some expansion in manufacturing industries, and with the onset of World War II, the manufacturing sector was developed to respond to the demand for war materials and equipment. Some industries expanded and new ones were developed rapidly to produce munitions, ships, aircraft, machinery, chemicals, and textiles.
After the war exports consisted mainly of primary commodities such as wool, wheat, coal, and metals. High tariffs and other controls were imposed on most imported goods. Although many of those controls were lifted in the 1960s, effective rates of protection remained high. The government continues to be involved in the operation of some public enterprises, including railways, electricity, and post offices and telecommunications. There remains a government interest in the Commonwealth Bank.
A move toward privatization at the state and commonwealth levels of government has been gaining momentum since the early 1980s. Some states, such as Victoria, have embraced this move much more than others have. Australia is highly integrated into the global capitalist economy. Since World War II, much trade has been redirected from Britain and Europe to the Asia-Pacific region, especially Japan. A related trend has been the growth of mineral exports since the mid–1960s.
Land Tenure and Property. When the British took control of the continent in 1788, they deemed it terra nullius (land that was not owned). According to British law all Australian land was the property of the Crown. In the last two decades of the eighteenth century, land grants were made to emancipated convicts, free settlers, marines, and officers. Land was available to anyone prepared to employ and feed the convicts who were assigned to it as servants. In 1825 sale of land by private tender was introduced.
Land is held as freehold (privately owned through purchase), leasehold (pastoralists and others are given special usage rights for a specified numbers of years), national parks, and Crown Land, which effectively remains under the control of the government. In 1992 a new form of rights in land was legally recognized—"native title"—as a form of continuing Aboriginal and islander connection with the land. To the extent that a system of indigenous customary law can be shown to have continued from the time of European establishment of sovereignty, these groups can make claims to their traditional lands.
Commercial Activities. The economy is strong in the service sector in relation to goods-producing industries. Those industries, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, manufacturing, construction, and energy, contributed around 31 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the mid-1990s, while the services industries contributed 60 percent. Goods-producing industries provided around a quarter of employment, with the rest provided by service industries.
Service industries include distribution industries (wholesale trade, retail trade, accommodation, cafés and restaurants, and transport and storage) and communication and business services (communications, finance and insurance, and property services). Other service industries are government administration and defense, education, health and community services, and cultural and recreational services.
Major Industries. In 1996 and 1997, manufacturing was the most significant sector. Wholesale trade was the only other industry to contribute over 10 percent of GDP, manufacturing accounted for 12 percent of total employment, behind retail at 15 percent. Another major contributor was the property and business services industry. Primary industries in mining and agriculture are of key economic importance. The development of large mines in some remote regions has been associated with the establishment of towns and increased employment.
Trade. In order of economic significance, Australia's current major trading partners include the United States, Japan, China, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, and New Zealand. Australia is one of the world's largest exporters of wool, meat, and wheat and a major supplier of sugar, dairy products, fruits, cotton, and rice.
Major imports include passenger motor vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and crude petroleum oils.
Division of Labor. There has been considerable upward socioeconomic mobility, but there is some inequality in the distribution of work. Unemployment has been a problem in recent years, and for some people only part-time or casual employment is available. Youth unemployment is a major problem in some regions.
Australia is increasingly shifting toward an information economy that relies on a high-skill base. Thus, the workers most at risk of unemployment are laborers, factory workers, and those who learn their skills on the job. Highly skilled managers, medical practitioners, teachers, computer professionals, and electricians have the lowest risk of unemployment.
There has been a widening gap between rich and poor over the past fifteen to twenty years and the household income gap between the poorest and richest neighborhoods has grown considerably. A substantial number of people live below the poverty line.

Classes and Castes. The three main social classes are the working class, the middle class, and the upper class, but the boundaries between these groups are a matter of debate. The wealthiest 5 to 10 percent are usually regarded as upper class, with their wealth derived from ownership and control of property and capital. The growing middle class is defined as individuals with nonmanual occupations.
Nonmanual workers typically earn more than manual workers, although upper-level manual workers such as tradespeople earn more than those in sales and personal service positions. The professions, which include such occupations as accountants, computing specialists, engineers, and medical doctors, have been one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Since the 1980s the number of manual workers has been in decline.
Manual workers form the nucleus of the working class; 20 to 40 percent self-identify with this category. Class consciousness includes the acknowledgment of class divisions, but there is also a broad commitment to an ethic of egalitarianism. Australians commonly believe that socioeconomic mobility is possible and exhibit a basic tolerance and acceptance of inequality associated with social class.
Symbols of Social Stratification. The upper-class can be signified by expensive clothes, motor vehicles, and homes. In particular, the economic value of housing and other real estate properties varies greatly across different suburbs in all cities.
However, class is not always evident from clothes, cars, and living circumstances. Middle-class people from economically wealthy backgrounds
An Australian aborigine wears traditional face and body paints and plays a didgeridoo for tourists and commuters at Circular Quay. may mask their prosperity according to fashion, choice, or participation in particular subcultures. Young people such as students may dress to mimic imagined styles valued for their symbolic rejection of wealth, and some working-class families go into debt to purchase expensive cars and other commodities.
Patterns of speech, consumption patterns associated with entertainment and the arts, and participation in certain sports may be useful indicators of class.
POLITICAL LIFEGovernment. Australia is a parliamentary democracy based on the British system of government. Federal, state, and territorial elections are held every three or four years. Voting is compulsory at the federal and state levels but not at the local government level. There are two houses of the federal and state parliaments except in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory.
Core features of the political party system derive from early twentieth-century arrangements that followed the federation of the states into a commonwealth. There are two major political parties: the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal Party. The National Party (formerly the Country Party) allies itself with the conservative Liberal Party. The other large political parties are the Australian Democrats and the Green Party.
Since federation, the constitution has been changed only reluctantly through referenda. In 1999 there was a vote rejecting the proposition that Australia become a republic, ceasing to have an office of governor-general as a representative of the British monarch and thus as the titular head of state. Some argue that the society is already a de facto republic since the constitution has entrenched the primacy of popular sovereignty. The British Union Jack on the flag is for some people an acknowledgment of historical ties with Britain, while for others it is a reason to change the constitution to emphasize the independence of the nation.
Leadership and Political Officials. There are three levels of government leadership: the prime minister in the federal government, the state premiers, and the mayors in local government. All officials are elected democratically. At the federal level the governor-general is appointed by the government, as are governors at the state level. Federal and state/territorial governments operate through departments that are organized bureaucratically
An opal miner working in a field near the South Australian outback town of Coober Pedy. Mining is one of the most important industries in Australia. and hierarchically. High-ranking officials are important in the administration of policies and laws.
Social Problems and Control. In the legal system authority is divided between states and territories and the commonwealth. The judicial system is based on the common law of England. The criminal justice system consists of the state and commonwealth agencies and departments responsible for dealing with crime and related issues. The federal criminal justice system deals with offenses against commonwealth laws, and the state systems deal with offenses against state laws. Criminal law is administered mainly through the commonwealth, state, and territorial police forces; the National Crime Authority; and the state and territorial corrective or penal services. Crimes such as stealing are more common than crimes against individuals, such as assault.
Military Activity. The defense forces operate according to three basic priorities: defeating attacks from outside the country, defending the nation's regional interests, and supporting a global security environment that discourages international aggression. Australia has a volunteer army reserve but no national service requirement. There is a navy, an army, and an air force. Twelve percent of regular service positions are held by women.
The nation's strategic stance is broadly defensive, with the expectation that armed force will be used only to defend national interests. The Defence Force has been called on frequently, to assist in international security and humanitarian crises in the Middle East, Namibia, and Cambodia as well as in humanitarian crises in Somalia and Rwanda. The most recent military activity has been peacekeeping in East Timor. The Defence Force also has played a key role in responding to major floods and fires, and its services are called on in search and rescue missions.
SOCIAL WELFARE AND CHANGE PROGRAMSThe approach to social welfare is based on the notions of "a fair go" for all and egalitarianism. Since the 1970s, legislation has promoted equity and equal access to services for all citizens, often to improve the chances of the disadvantaged. This history of helping "the battler" has been challenged by notions of economic rationalism.
Pertinent social welfare issues include rising unemployment, an aging population, child care, assisting people from diverse cultural backgrounds, assisting people in remote areas, and poverty. Approximately two million people live below the poverty line.
A host of social welfare provisions have been enacted throughout the nation's history. Australia was one of the first countries to give women the vote. It also was the first country to legislate a forty-hour working week (in 1948).

The government maintains continuing relationships with many large and small Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are active in human rights and community services (Amnesty International, Australian Red Cross, Defense for Children International, and International Women's Development Agency). NGOs provide relevant needs-based community services and welfare and promote changes in government policies and activities. Most not-for-profit NGOs were created by religious organizations to meet perceived needs or by community members to deal with a specific problem (Salvation Army, Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence, Care Australia). The government encourages the existence of charitable NGOs through tax exemptions and liberal laws of association and incorporation. Often, NGOs are established in response to immediate or emergency social problems. The government will intervene when resources are not being used efficiently and when services are being duplicated.
NGOs, particularly those in the nonprofit sector, are major providers of welfare services and significant contributors in the health, education, sport, recreation, entertainment, and finance industries. The bulk of their revenue comes from government grants, private donations, and service fees.
GENDER ROLES AND STATUSESDivision of Labor by Gender.

British ideas and practices involving gender were imported with colonization. Women tend to be associated with the private sphere, unpaid work, and the home, while men tend to be associated with the public sphere, paid work, and the larger society. This division was particularly pronounced in the early years of settlement, when free settler women were seen as homemakers who brought civility to the male population. Migrant women have been valued for their ability to create settled families and generally have entered the country as dependents.
Traditionally, occupation has been sex-segregated, with women predominating as domestics and in the "caring professions," such as teaching and nursing. However, sex discrimination and affirmative action policy since the late 1970s has been directed toward promoting gender equality in all spheres. As a consequence, there have been increases in women's participation in secondary and higher education as well as in the general workforce and an increase in the availability of child care.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Many areas of social, economic, political, and religious life remain gendered, generally to the disadvantage of women. Women are underrepresented in scientific occupations, managerial positions, and the professions and overrepresented in administrative and clerical positions. Women earn on average less than men do and spend more time than men doing unpaid domestic work.
Women's right to vote in federal elections was included in the constitution of 1901. Nevertheless, the progress of women in entering public office was
A traditional pearling lugger is loaded with supplies at Streeter's Jetty. slow. In 1995 women's representation in local, state and federal government was around 20 percent. Although women are more likely to spend time on religious activities than men, the majority of religious ministers are male.

Marriage. Most heterosexual couples marry for love and to confirm a long-term emotional, financial, and sexual commitment. Arranged marriages occur in some ethnic groups, but are not considered desirable by most people. Marriage is not essential for a cohabiting relationship or child rearing, but nearly 60 percent of people over fifteen years of age are married. The law grants members of de facto relationships legal rights and responsibilities equivalent to those of formally married couples. Homosexual couples are not recognized by law as married regardless of a long-term relationship. Marriage occurs with a civil or religious ceremony conducted by a registered official and can take place in any public or private location. The ceremony usually is followed by a celebration with food, drink, and music. Guests provide gifts of household goods or money, and the parents of the couple often make substantial contributions to the cost of the wedding. No other official exchange of property occurs.
Divorce has been readily available since 1975 and involves little stigma. It requires a one-year separation period and occurs in approximately 40 percent of first marriages. Upon divorce, the husband and wife agree to divide their mutual property and child-rearing responsibilities; law courts and mediators sometimes to assist with this process. Remarriage is common and accepted. A significant trend in family formation is a dramatic increase in the proportion of marriages preceded by a period of cohabitation.
Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is widely considered the norm; the most common household unit in the 1996 census was the couple, followed closely by the couple with dependent children, then the one-parent family with dependent children, the couple with nondependent children, and other family groups.
A pervasive myth is that the extended family does not exist and that society is composed of nuclear families cut off from extended kin. While most people live in couple-only or nuclear family households, the extended family is an important source of support for most people. Blended families and stepfamilies with children from former marriages are becoming more common.
Inheritance. Citizens have "testamentary freedom" or the right to declare how they wish their property to be distributed after death. With this freedom, individuals can legally enforce their cultural practices. They also can choose to remove relatives from the will and pass their property to a charitable organization or an unrelated person. If an individual dies without a valid will, the property is distributed to the spouse, then the children of the deceased, and then the parents and other kin. If there are no relatives, the property goes to the Crown.
Kin Groups. Broad kin groups are not a significant feature of the national culture, but extended families exist across households and are the basis for emotional, financial, and social support. Many minority ethnic groups recognize kin networks of considerable breadth. Aboriginal cultures encompass principles of traditional kinship in which large networks of relatives form the significant communities of everyday life.

Infant Care. Child rearing varies considerably with the country of origin, class background, the education and occupation of the parents, and the religious group to which a family belongs. While most practices are aimed at developing a responsible and independent child, Aboriginal and many migrant families tend to indulge young children more than do most Anglo-Celtic parents. Some ethnic groups supervise their young more strictly than the dominant Anglo-Celtic population, encouraging them to mix only with family and friends, be dependent on the family, and leave decision making to the parents.
Child Rearing and Education. Mothers are the preferred primary caretakers, although fathers are taking increasing responsibility for child care. In the past mothers were not as isolated in their child care responsibilities, receiving help from older children, extended kin, and neighbors. The reduction in family and household size in recent years has meant that the burden of care falls largely on mothers. There is significant variation in ideas about good parenting, reflecting the diverse cultural values and traditions of parents' ethnic background. Practices justified by recent scientific research usually are considered the best. In the past the values most prized in children were obedience and deference, but today good parenting is commonly associated with having assertive and independent children. There are no formal initiation ceremonies for the "national culture," although the twenty-first birthday often is celebrated as a rite of passage into adulthood.
Access to high-quality education is considered the right of all citizens, and the government provides compulsory primary and secondary schooling for children between ages six and fifteen. Most schools are fully funded by the government. The remainder are nongovernment schools that receive nearly half their funding from fees and private sources such as religious associations. Attendance at nongovernment schools has been increasing since the 1970s because it is felt that independent schooling provides better educational and employment opportunities. Preschool centers are available for children younger than age six. Nongovernment schools are mainly Catholic. Education is aimed at providing children with social and workplace skills. Educational methods vary depending on particular requirements; for example, education for children in remote rural locations relies heavily on advanced communication technologies. Guidelines have been established in all states for dealing with children with special educational needs, such as those with disabilities and those who are intellectually gifted. Some schools with a high percentage of Aboriginal and/or migrant pupils have special language policies that include instruction in languages other than English.
Higher Education. Higher education is considered to offer the best employment opportunities. Consequently, tertiary education has become more widely available and is undertaken by an increasingly larger proportion of the population. It is available in two forms: universities and institutions of technical and further education (TAFE). In 1992, 37 percent of women and 47 percent of men received post-school qualifications, and 12.3 percent of the labor force held university degrees in 1993. Universities also attract substantial numbers of overseas students. The government is responsible for funding most universities and institutions, with increasing contributions being made by students in the form of fees and postgraduation tax payments.

predominant image among Australians is that they are very casual, easygoing, and familiar. First names are used commonly as terms of address. An ideology of egalitarianism pervades, with men, women, and children treated similarly. Attempts at appearing superior to others in terms of dress, manners, knowledge, and the work ethic are discouraged. A handshake is the most common way to greet a new acquaintance, and a hug, a kiss on the cheek, or a verbal greeting the most common way to greet a friend. The colloquialism, "g'day" (good day), is considered the quintessential greeting.
There is an easy friendliness in public places. Personal privacy is respected and staring is discouraged, although eye contact is not avoided. Eye contact during conversation is considered polite among the general population; averting the eyes during conversation is considered a sign of respect among Aboriginal people. When a line is forming, new arrivals must go to the end. In museums and exhibitions voices are hushed. In performance contexts the audience is expected to be silent and attentive. Service attendants consider themselves equal to their guests, and usually are not subservient. Australians also resist being "served." Food may be eaten in the street, but meals usually are eaten at a table, with each person having his or her own plate and eating utensils. Bodily functions are considered inevitable but are not discussed or performed in public.

Religious Beliefs. The constitution guarantees religious freedom, and while there is no official national religion, Australia generally is described as a Christian country. British colonists brought the Anglican belief system in 1788, and three-quarters of the population continues to identify with some form of Christianity, predominantly the Catholic and Anglican faiths. Until recently almost all businesses closed for Christian religious holidays.
Extensive immigration has made Australia one of the most religiously diverse societies in the world. Almost all faiths are represented, with significant numbers of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus. Many indigenous Australians have embraced Christianity, often as a result of their contact with missionaries and missions.
Religious alternatives such as spiritualism and Theosophy have had a small but steady presence since the 1850s. A growing set of beliefs is represented by the so-called New Age movement, which arrived in the 1960s and evolved into the widespread alternative health and spirituality movement of the 1990s. This has opened the way for an interest in paganism and other aspects of the occult among a minority of citizens.
Religious Practitioners. There has been an increase in lay religious practitioners in the Christian churches in recent times as a result of decrease in the number of people entering the clergy. Most religious institutions are hierarchical in structure. Religious specialists participate in pastoral care, parish administration, and fund-raising for missions. Many also maintain a host of institutions that deal with education, aged care, family services, immigration, health, youth, and prisoner rehabilitation.
Rituals and Holy Places. Every religious denomination has its own places of worship, and most expect their followers to attend religious services regularly. There has been a decline in regular church attendance among the younger generation of Christians, who tend to be critical of church policy and practice. Places of worship are considered sacred and include locations that hold spiritual significance for believers. Among certain ethnic groups shrines are established in places where saints are said to have appeared. There are many Aboriginal sacred sites, which are generally places in the landscape.
Death and the Afterlife. The law requires that deceased people be dealt with according to health regulations. A vigil over the body in the family home is practiced in some religious and cultural traditions. Funeral parlors prepare the body of the deceased for cremation or burial in a cemetery. Funerals are attended by family members and friends and often include a religious ceremony.

Most medical health care is subsidized or paid for by the government, for which a small levy is paid by all citizens. Public hospitals often provide free services. People can select a private general practitioner, usually in their neighborhood. The general practitioner provides referrals to specialist doctors where necessary, and payment is usually on a feefor-service basis. Health professionals may work privately or in a hospital setting. In recent years there has been an attempt to increase the level of private health insurance coverage among citizens.
Prevention of illness is a high priority of the government, with several programs such as vaccination, public health warnings about smoking and AIDS, public education campaigns on nutrition and exercise, and public awareness campaigns regarding heavy drinking and illicit drugs. Individuals are held to be responsible for their own health problems, and most investment goes to individually oriented, high-technology curative medicine. In the 1970s community health centers were established to focus on groups with special needs, such as women, migrants, and Aboriginal people. These centers provide more holistic care by addressing personal and social problems as well as health conditions.
Increasing numbers of people combine Western medicine with traditional and New Age practices. This may include Chinese herbalists, iridology, and homeopathic medicine. These alternative forms of medical treatment generally are not subsidized by the government.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service provides emergency medical assistance to those in remote areas. It was founded in 1928 and is funded by government and public donations. The service also provides emergency assistance during floods and fires.
SECULAR CELEBRATIONSProbably the most significant national secular celebration is Anzac Day on 25 April. This is a public holiday that commemorates the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps landing at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. However, the event now encompasses participants in all wars in which Australia has been involved. Dawn services are held at war memorials and there are well-attended street parades. On Remembrance Day (11 November), which is not a public holiday, a two-minute silence is observed in remembrance of Australians who fought and died in wars.
Australia Day is celebrated on 26 January to commemorate British settlement, and many capital cities host a fireworks event. Boxing Day occurs on 26 December. The Boxing Day cricket test match is an annual event watched on television by many residents. The day also is treated as an opportunity to extend Christmas socializing, with many barbecues taking place in public parks or at private homes.
Labour Day is a public holiday to commemorate improved working conditions and the implementation of the eight-hour workday. It is celebrated at different times of the year in different states. A significant celebration occurs on Melbourne Cup Day, an annual horse-racing event in Melbourne. Many people attending the race dress formally, and employees in workplaces gather to watch the event on television.
New Year's Day and New Year's Eve are celebrated. Royal Easter Shows and Royal Show Days with annual agricultural shows are held in capital cities with exhibits, competitions, and sideshows highlighting the rural tradition. On Grand Final Days, the annual finals to the national Australian Rules and Rugby League football competitions, large crowds gather to watch the game and friends congregate to watch it on television in homes and public bars. Most states have public holidays to commemorate the founding of the first local colony, and there are annual arts festivals that attract local, national, and international artists as well as multicultural festivals. Some states have wine festivals.

Support for the Arts. Most people who participate in the arts depend on other professions for their primary income. Full-time arts practitioners are usually highly dependent on government funding. The sale of work in graphic arts, multimedia, and literature earns a substantial income for many practitioners, while the performance arts, in particular dance, do not tend to generate enough income to cover their costs. The Australia Council funds artistic activity, provides incomes to arts workers and projects, and is the primary source of income for dance and theater. The film and television industries receive substantial government support and tax incentives. There is government funding for schools of the performing arts. Approximately 10 percent of large businesses provide some form of support or funding to the arts or cultural events.
Literature. Since the 1890s a national literature has been developing with a distinctly Australian voice. This tradition, which is focused largely on the bush as a mythic place in the Australian imagination, has been challenged recently by a new suburban focus for literature. Increasingly, Aboriginal and other authors from diverse cultural backgrounds are having work published and appreciated. Australian authors have won many international awards, and Australians are claimed to be one of the leading nations in per capita spending on books and magazines.
Graphic Arts. Painting was dominated by the European tradition for many years, with landscapes painted to resemble their European counterparts until at least 1850. The Heidelberg school was influential in the late nineteenth century. Social-realist images of immigrants and the working class were favored as more "Australian" by 1950. Since 1945, images of the isolated outback have been popularized by artists such as Russell Drysdale and Sydney Nolan. Aboriginal artists were acknowledged in 1989 with a comprehensive display of their art in the Australian National Gallery. Their work is becoming increasingly successful internationally.
Performance Arts. Each state capital has at least one major performing arts venue. Playwrights have been successful in presenting Australian society to theatergoers. Indigenous performance has been supported by a number of theater and dance companies since the early 1980s. Women's theater achieved a high level of attention during the 1980s. The styles of music, dance, drama, and oratory vary significantly, reflecting the multicultural mix of the society. Annual festivals of arts in the states showcase local and international work and are well attended, in particular by the well educated and the wealthy.
Music styles range from classical and symphonic to rock, pop, and alternative styles. Music is the most popular performance art, attracting large audiences. Pop music is more successful than symphony and chamber music. Many Australian pop musicians have had international success. Comedy and cabaret also attract large audiences and appear to have a large talent pool. Ballet is popular, with over twenty-five hundred schools in the early 1990s. The Australian Ballet, founded in 1962, enjoys a good international reputation.

The sciences are well served in a number of leading fields, including astronomy, chemistry, medicine, and engineering. Funding is provided by a combination of government and industry. Most universities provide scientific programs. The social sciences are not as well funded mainly because they tend not to produce marketable outcomes. Nevertheless, there is a strong representation in disciplines such as psychology, history, economics, sociology, and anthropology in universities. Social scientists work both in their own country and overseas. There is a tradition of social scientists from certain disciplinary backgrounds working in government and social welfare organizations.

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Identification. "Rus" may derive from the name of a tribe that gained political ascendancy in Kiev and other Slavic towns and lent its name to the language, culture, and state. Some scholars believe this to have been a Varangian (Viking) clan from Scandinavia, and others hold that it was a Slavic tribe. Some historians believe that "Rus" derives from an ancient name for the Volga River.
People ethnically identified as Russians have been politically and culturally dominant in a vast area for five hundred years of tsarist and Soviet imperial expansion. However, despite repression of their cultural autonomy, minority cultures have survived within the Russian Federation; including the peoples of the North Caucasus, numerous indigenous groups in Siberia, the Tatars in the Volga region, and the East Slavic Ukrainians and Belorusians. The last three groups are widely dispersed throughout the federation. All but the youngest citizens share a Soviet cultural experience, since under Communist Party rule the state shaped and controlled daily life and social practice. Much of that experience is being rejected by Russians and non-Russians who are reclaiming or reinventing their ethnic or traditional pasts; many communities are asserting a specific local identity in terms of language and culture. There is a broad cultural continuity throughout the federation and among the millions of Russians in the newly independent republics of Central Asia, the Baltic region, and the Caucasus.
Location and Geography. In addition to being the largest, the Russian Federation is one of the world's northernmost countries. It encompasses 6,592,658 square miles (17,075,000 square kilometers), from its borders with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine on the west to the Bering Strait in the far northeast and from its borders with Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China in the south to the Arctic Ocean in the north.
European Russia, the most densely populated, urbanized, and industrialized region, lies between the Ukraine-Belarus border and the Ural Mountains. Seventy-eight percent of the population lives in this area. Two large industrial cities are located above the Arctic Circle: Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula and Norilsk in Siberia.
The great plains are divided by six ecological bands. In the northeast, above the Arctic Circle, lies a huge expanse of frigid, occasionally marshy tundra, a nearly unpopulated region where much of the land is permanently frozen and little grows but moss and shrubs. Below that is the taiga, a vast expanse of coniferous forest, which gradually blends with a band of mixed coniferous and deciduous forest to cover half the country. The capital, Moscow, is in the center of this region, where much agriculture has been located despite the thin, poor soil. A line of mixed forest and prairie with more arable soil characterizes the central areas, followed by Russia's "breadbasket," the black earth belt that constitutes less than a tenth of the national territory. Below that, the relatively arid steppe, with grasslands and semidesert and desert regions, runs along the northern edge of the Caucasus Mountains and north of the Caspian Sea beyond the Volga River basin into Central Asia.
The climate of much of European Russia is continental, with long, cold winters and short, hot summers. In the northern areas, winter days are dark and long; in the summer, the days are long and the sun barely sets. With the exception of the black earth belt, Russia has fairly poor soil, a short growing season, low precipitation, and large arid steppe regions unfit for agriculture except with extensive irrigation. These factors limit agricultural production and account for the frequency of crop failures; what is produced requires substantial labor.

Many great rivers transect the country, such as the Dvina, Don, Oka, and Volga in the European heartland and the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena in Siberia; most of these rivers are linked by subsidiary waterways. Until the advent of railways and roads, the rivers were the only efficient way to travel, and they remain a significant form of transport for people and materials. Limited access to year-round seaports has always been a military and commercial problem. A lack of natural borders has meant vulnerability to invasion, a danger offset by the size of the country and its harsh, long winters.
These environmental factors have affected the demographic profile and shaped cultural, social, and political institutions, influencing colonizing projects, settlement patterns, household configurations, village politics, agricultural systems, and military technologies. Bold defiance of these natural limitations include Peter the Great's founding of Saint Petersburg on northern swamplands in 1703, and the twentieth-century plan to reverse the northerly flow of some of Siberia's rivers to facilitate the movement of natural resources. Equally important is the ability of rural and urban dwellers to survive challenging conditions of land, climate, and politics. Tens of millions of families depend on food they grow for themselves.
Demography. In July 1999, the population was estimated at 146,393,000, a decline of more than two million since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. The current figure includes several million immigrants and refugees from newly independent former Soviet republics. Since 1991, a stark drop in the birthrate has combined with a dramatic rise in the mortality rate. Average life expectancy for both men and women has declined since the 1980s.
This population decline is expected to worsen in the next decade. It is largely the result of the economic and social upheavals of the postsocialist period, which have impoverished the population and caused a decay of social services. Growing unemployment, long-term nonpayment of wages and pensions, paid wages that are below the poverty line, unsafe working and road conditions, the spread of infectious diseases, and the impoverishment of public health care systems have caused stress, depression, family breakdown, and rising rates of alcoholism, suicide, homicide, and domestic violence. Circulatory diseases, accidents, and suicides attributable to alcohol abuse are the leading causes of death among men. Malnutrition, disease, industrial pollution, poor health care, and reliance on abortion for birth control have reduced fertility rates and increased maternal and infant mortality.
In 1999, Russians accounted for 81 percent of the population and were the dominant ethnic group in all but a few regions. Other major ethnic nationalities are Tatars (4 percent), Ukrainians (3 percent), Chuvash (1 percent), Bashkir (1 percent), Belarussian (1 percent), and Mordovians (1 percent). Dozens of other ethnic nationalities make up the remaining 8 percent. There has been a significant rate of intermarriage between ethnic populations.
Until the twentieth century, the population grew steadily. The population of Rus' in the twelfth century is estimated at seven million. By 1796, Russia had a population of thirty-six million, to which territorial annexation had contributed greatly. In the 1850s, the population was sixty-seven million. The abolition of serfdom, accompanied by urbanization, industrialization, and internal migration in the second half of the nineteenth century, led to significant population growth, and by 1897 the population was 125 million. By 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, the population had grown to 170 million. Famines, largely caused by civil war and the Soviet collectivization of agriculture, decimated the rural population in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1941, the population was around two hundred million. World War II caused the deaths of more than twenty million Soviet citizens. After the 1940s, population growth was slowed by the gender disparity and devastation of infrastructure caused by war.
Linguistic Affiliation. Russian is one of three East Slavic languages of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the most widely spoken Slavic language, with 1.39 million people speaking it as their native language and tens of millions more using it as a second language. Many people in non-Russian ethnic groups speak Russian as their native or only language, partly as a result of tsarist and Soviet campaigns to suppress minority languages. The collapse of the Soviet Union opened the way for linguistic revival movements in many ethnic communities.
There are three major dialects (northern, southern, and central), but they are mutually intelligible. Russian has been influenced by other languages, particularly Greek (Byzantine Christian) in the Kievan period, French in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and English in the twentieth.
The Cyrillic alphabet was brought to Kievan Rus' along with Christianity in the tenth and eleventh centuries by the followers of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, who invented the first Slavic alphabet, Glagolitic, in the ninth century. Along with Old Russian, Church Slavonic was the primary literary language until the early eighteenth century, when it was reformed as part of Peter the Great's westernization and secularization campaigns. Many important texts were written in Church Slavonic and the more vernacular Old Russian, including historical chronicles, epic poems, folklore, and liturgical and legal works.
Symbolism. A popular visual symbol is Moscow's Saint Basil's cathedral with its colorful cupolas. Images of Saint Basil's and those of hundreds of other churches and cathedrals are key symbols of the country's long Orthodox history. Calendars, posters, and postcards with images of Orthodox churches are common in apartments and offices.
Bread symbolizes key aspects of the national self-image. It is the mark of hospitality, as in khlebsol ("bread-salt"), the ancient custom of welcoming a visitor with a round loaf with a salt cellar on top. This tradition can be observed at political and diplomatic events when a host receives an important guest. In broader terms, bread is the symbol of life; in times of hardship it is the primary food, and being "without bread" signals starvation. Other foods are also important symbols: black caviar, which signifies luxury and plenty as well as the bounty of the rivers and seas; mushrooms and berries, the gifts of the forest and dacha; bliny, pancakes served before Lent; the potato, staple of the diet; and vodka, a symbol of camaraderie and communication.
Forest plants, creatures, and objects are widely used in symbolic ways. The white birch conjures the romance of the countryside; the wolf, bear, and fox are ubiquitous in folktales and modern cartoons; and the peasant hut izba signifies the cozy world of the past. Inside the izba are three other cultural symbols: the plump clay or tiled stove; the samovar, and the Orthodox icon in its corner shrine. While most people live in urban apartments images of traditional life still have great power and meaning.
Everyday conversation is filled with metaphors summarizing a highly complex view of shared cultural identity. Russians talk of soul dusha to refer to an internal spiritual domain that is the intersection point of heart, mind, and culture. True communion depends on an opening up of souls that is accomplished through shared suffering or joy. Communal feasting and drinking also can help open up the soul. Soul is said to be one of the metaphysical mechanisms that unite Russians into a "people" narod. Stemming from ancient Slavic words for clan, kin, and birth, and meaning "citizens of a nation," "ethnic group," or simply a "crowd of people," narod is used to refer to the composite identity and experience of the people through history. It often is invoked by politicians hoping to align themselves with the population. Leaders of the Soviet Union, trying to unite ethnic groups under a single multinational identity, ritualistically employed the term "Soviet people" (sovietskii narod). People still speak in terms of belonging by "blood"; a person is seen to have Russian blood, Jewish blood, Armenian blood, or a mixture of ethnic bloods. Nationalist discourse uses this concept to stress the purity of one's own people and disparage those with "foreign" blood.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the calendar of national holidays was altered. The compulsory celebration of the Great October Revolution (7 November) was diminished in scale, although it is still officially marked. The Day of Victory (9 May), the Soviet capture of Berlin that ended World War II, still provokes strong feelings. Cemeteries, parks, and public places are filled every year with people gathering to memorialize the war, and the media celebrate the heroism of the Soviet peoples. Even though these tributes are tempered by revisionist history, a core of patriotic feeling remains. A new political holiday is Russian Independence Day (12 June), marking the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991. New Year's Eve is the most widely observed holiday. The observance of Christmas and Easter and other Orthodox holidays has grown since the end of the Soviet repression of religious observance.
Emergence of the Nation. The area now called Russia has always been multicultural. The Eastern Slavic tribes, the ancestors of modern Russians, traditionally are thought to have originated in the Vistula River valley in what is now Poland and to have migrated eastward in the seventh to the ninth centuries. Other evidence suggests that Eastern Slavic pastoral peoples were widespread in the central and eastern portions of the plain that stretches across the northern half of the Eurasian continent a thousand years earlier, coexisting with Finnic and Lithuanian tribes to the north and enduring recurring waves of conquest.
For more than a millennium, people sharing cultural traits, social structures, and religious beliefs have occupied present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Belorusia. Eastern Slavic society was culturally distinct and highly developed in terms of agriculture, technology, commerce, and governance by the tenth century. By the eleventh century a huge expanse had come under the nominal rule of the Kievan princes; at that time, the city-state of Kiev on the Dniepr River in present-day Ukraine was rivaled in size and splendor only by Novgorod far to the north. Prince Vladimir I, who ruled Kievan Rus' from 980 until 1015, brought Byzantine (Orthodox) Christianity to Kiev in 988 and sponsored the widespread baptism of the peoples of Rus'. A gradual process of the melding of pre-Christian practices with those of Orthodoxy consolidated the population under one political and cultural system. An intricate written code of customary law, the Pravda Russkaia, was in place by the eleventh century.
Wars after the death of Prince Yaroslavl the Wise in 1054 caused the gradual disintegration of Kievan Rus' until 1240, when Kiev fell under the domination of the Mongol Empire. The fall of Kievan Rus' and the political fragmentation that followed divided the Eastern Slavs into three distinct cultural-linguistic groups: Ukrainian, Belorusian, and Russian. The Mongols destroyed many cities and towns, and created a complex administrative system to exact tribute from its peoples and princes; Mongol control lasted until the late fifteenth century, although with less impact after 1380. The political power and territorial control of Muscovy expanded greatly under the four-decade reign of Ivan III, who died in 1505 after routing the Mongol armies. From that time on, the Russian state developed and expanded, with Moscow at its center. Ivan IV (the Terrible) was the first to crown himself tsar in 1546. He ruled in an increasingly arbitrary and absolutist fashion, brutalizing the aristocratic boyars in a decade-long period of terror known as the oprichnina. The century's end brought the "Time of Troubles"—fifteen years of political instability and civil and class strife that resulted in widespread impoverishment and famine, enserfment of the peasantry, and waves of migration of peasants to the edges of Russian territory.
Under Peter the Great, the Romanov tsar who ruled from 1682 to 1725, Russia began a period of imperial expansion that continued into the Soviet period. Peter attempted to modernize and westernize the country militarily, administratively, economically, and culturally, often through the use of force. His reforms changed society irrevocably, particularly through his introduction of new military and agricultural technologies, a formal educational system, a tight system of class ranking and service, and the founding of the European-style city of Saint Petersburg. Peter moved the capital from Moscow to Petersburg, where it remained until after the 1917 revolution.
After Peter's reign, Russian imperial rule expanded southward into the Crimea, southeast along the Volga River, and eastward across the Siberian forests to the Pacific Ocean. Through further expansion during the Soviet period (1917–1991), Russians achieved political and demographic dominance over a territory equal to one-sixth of the world's land surface. After 1991, Russian geopolitical power declined, but the federation remains the largest country in the world.
National Identity. Russia has had a thousand-year history of growth and contraction, political consolidation and disintegration, repression and relaxation, messianism and self-definition, and varying forms of socioeconomic interdependence with other nations. This history has had far-reaching effects on the other populations of Eurasia as well as on every aspect of the national culture.
For many centuries, the question of whether Russian culture is more "eastern" or "western" has been a burning issue. Situated at the crossroads of important cultures and civilizations in every direction, the Slavic groups and other peoples of Russia have profoundly influenced and been influenced by them all in terms of trade, technology, language, religion, politics, and the arts.
Ethnic Relations. Inter-ethnic relations are fraught with tensions spawned over centuries of Russian and Soviet colonial domination and activated in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet state. Most conflicts are multidimensional, simultaneously involving struggles for political control, rights over natural resources, migration and relocation, and the revitalization of national or ethnic cultures, religions, languages, and identities. Soviet policies—which compelled the use of the Russian language on all peoples, organized massive changes in livelihood and lifestyle for tens of millions, forcibly moved whole populations (such as Crimean Tatars and Meshketian Turks), installed ethnic Russian political elites and managers in non-Russian regions, and extracted the wealth from local production into central coffers without sufficient economic return to the peripheries—have set the stage for the conflicts of today.
Conflicts over resources are heated in parts of Siberia and the Far East. The Sakha (Yahut) are trying to claim rights to some economic benefits from the vast diamond, oil, gold, and other mineral wealth in their republic. This struggle to reap even marginal benefits from their own territories has long been blocked by Russian central control over the resource extraction industries, and by the strategic relocation of tens of thousands of Russians to Yakutia in the Soviet period. This battle over resources is associated with a growing nationalist movement. Other Siberian peoples are engaged in similar struggles over oil and gas revenues, and rights to traditional fisheries, forest products, and reindeer-grazing lands. Environmental issues play a significant role, too, as people fight to prevent or reverse the spoiling of rivers, lakes, and soils by the oil and mining industries.
Occupation of the North Caucasus has been a cause of conflict for three centuries. Russia waged devastating wars with Chechnya from the mid-1990s on, attempting to repress local independence movements, stem a pan-Islamic movement from taking hold there, and maintain access to the oil wealth of the Caspian sea. There are few signs that this conflict will be resolved peacefully, and relations are characterized by intense hatred, prejudice, and propagandizing on both sides. Roots of this conflict lie in a long history of violent repression and impoverishment in Chechnya.
Internal migration and displacement has contributed greatly to ethnic tensions and prejudice, as several million Russians have returned from newly independent states in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Baltics, feeling themselves unwanted guests in those places, or in some cases (Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) escaping civil wars. Border regions between Russia and former Soviet republics, which often contain highly mixed and intermarried Russian and non-Russian populations, present a significant problem.
In general, unflattering and insulting stereo-types of Siberian natives, Koreans, Central Asians, peoples of the Caucasus, Ukrainians, Jews, and other ethnic nationalities are widely shared among Russians and circulate unimpeded in print media. One effect of the wars in Chechnya has been constant police harassment and public suspicion of the Caucasian residents of Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other cities.

In 1851, 92 percent of the population lived in rural villages, and at the time of the 1917 revolution, the population was more than 80 percent rural. The Soviet period brought movement to the cities as people tried to escape the harsh conditions on state-run collective farms. More than half of the rural population today is over age 65, because young people continue to migrate to the cities. Although there are still tens of thousands of small villages, many are disappearing as people die or depart.
By 1996, 73 percent of the population was urban, with most people living in high-rise apartment blocks constructed after the 1950s. Much of the urban population retains strong material and psychological ties to the countryside. Many people own modest dachas within an hour or two of their apartments and on weekends or in the summer work in their gardens, hike, hunt or gather in the forests, and bathe in lakes and rivers. Many other people retain ties to their natal villages or those of their parents or grandparents.
The largest cities are Moscow, nine million people; Saint Petersburg, nearly five million, Nizhnii Novgorod and Novosibirsk, 1.4 million each; Yekaterinburg, 1.3 million; and Samara, 1.2 million. After the end of the communist era, many places were rededicated with their prerevolutionary names.
Cities such as Moscow, Novgorod, Pskov, and Yaroslavl grew around the old fortresses (kremlins) and monasteries that formed their centers and near the gates where artisans and traders peddled their goods. The old cities reflect their complex and often violent histories through the coexistence of multiple styles. In the European regions, Byzantine churches from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries stand in the shadows of modernist high-rises, with Renaissance, Baroque, or Neoclassical architecture nearby. These variegated cityscapes may be covered with grime, reflecting the proximity of industrial enterprises and the lack of funds for maintenance. In the wealthiest city centers, the post-Soviet years have brought varying degrees of urban revitalization.
Other cities were built almost from scratch and reflect a passion for grandiose urban planning. Saint Petersburg was built to secure access to the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. Catherine the Great saw to it that Petersburg became a European city, with streets, avenues, and plazas, designed in an elegant Venetian style. In the Soviet era, ambitious building projects led to the founding and construction of industrial cities such as Magnitogorsk, Russia's "Steeltown," in the 1930s.
The central parts of most cities have important governmental, commercial, and religious buildings. Intermingled with these edifices are multistoried nineteenth-century town houses now used for commercial purposes or housing, and neighborhoods of walk-up apartment blocks. Farther out from the center stand rows of white apartment towers dating from the 1960s. Reaching from ten to thirty stories, these mammoth buildings house the majority of the population in small apartments. Although they are often distant from city centers and industrial areas, these apartments have provided privacy and security to millions of families. They are spacious compared to the barracks or communal apartments in which many families lived until the 1950s. Almost all the cities share this general layout, although some have avoided the fires and demolition campaigns that destroyed millions of traditional wooden structures in the past.
A modern grandiosity characterizes the state buildings constructed in Soviet cities from the 1930s to the 1950s. As the capital, Moscow was virtually transformed, but other cities were also reshaped by Stalinist architectural projects, which juxtaposed monumentalist neoclassicism with revolutionary modernism and industrial futurism. In the 1930s, subway systems were constructed beneath the largest cities, including the vast Moscow Metro.
Immensity in architecture and wide boulevards and plazas often result in inhospitable urban spaces. In the Soviet period, many amenities were unavailable or overburdened. Commercial venues were organized in a top down fashion through state planning, and shopping was a challenge. Some goods and services were located in distant neighborhoods, although day care centers and schools were always close. The commercial privatization of the post-Soviet years has brought new stores, restaurants, and cafés that offer a variety of food and manufactured goods. This has occurred to a lesser extent in provincial towns and villages, many of which have experienced a decline in public services.
An important element of urban life are the enormous public parks and forested areas within or adjacent to city boundaries. The result of this prerevolutionary and Soviet urban planning remains a source of pleasure and recreation. People spend hours strolling or sitting on benches to talk, smoke, play chess, or read. Smaller urban parks sometimes center on a statue of a writer or political leader; ten years after the end of communist rule, statues of Lenin still anchor parks and plazas. Statues often serve as meeting places, and a park may have a special identity as the gathering place for a subcultural group such as hippies, punks, gays, or literati.
The huge public plazas in many cities have been central to political life for centuries. Moscow's Red Square and Manezh are historically significant spaces used for government ritual, revolutionary protest, parades, concerts, holiday celebrations, and state funerals.
Until recently, when new wealth has allowed a small proportion of the population to build private homes and mansions on urban fringes, domestic existence has meant living in small apartments. Because of limited space, the largest room serves as living room, bedroom, and dining room for many families. Domestic furnishing is highly consistent, in part because until the 1990s all furniture was purchased from state stores, where variation was limited. Among the characteristics of Russian taste are functional furniture, of oriental-type carpets on the walls, and large wardrobes instead of closets. The bath and toilet are commonly located in small separate rooms side by side. Narrow balconies are used for storage, tools, laundry, and sitting.
Family members spend much of their time at the kitchen table, eating and drinking tea while talking, reading, watching television, cooking, or working on crafts. When guests come, all sit around one table for the entire gathering, which may continue for hours. Wedding parties usually take place at the home of the family of the bride or groom, and everyone squeezes around an extended table.
Although public spaces within and around apartment blocks are often decrepit and dirty, the threshold to a family's apartment marks a crucial transition zone to private space, which is clean and tidy. Shoes are remain just inside the doorway to keep dirt from the interior of the home.
FOOD AND ECONOMYFood in Daily Life. The most common food is bread. Potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and beets are the standard vegetables; potatoes are a staple. Onions and garlic are used liberally, especially in soups, stews, and salads.
Russians generally love meat. Starvation means having no bread, while poverty means going without hard sausage kolbasa. Sausage, pork, beef, mutton, chicken, and dried or salted fish are widely available and relatively cheap. Only some can afford to buy delicacies such as veal, duck, sturgeon, and salmon. Traditional aristocratic fare included such fancy foods, many of which are popular among the newly wealthy classes today.
For most people, breakfast is a quick snack of coffee or tea with bread and sausage or cheese. Lunch is a hot meal, with soup, potatoes, macaroni, rice or buckwheat kasha, ground meat cutlets, and peas or grated cabbage. This meal may be eaten in a workplace cafeteria at midday or after people return home from work; a later supper may consist of boiled potatoes, soured cabbage, and bread or simply bread and sausage.
People eat a wide range of dairy products, such as tvorog, a kind of cottage cheese, and riazhenka, slightly soured milk. These items can be purchased from large shops or private farmers' markets or made at home. In provincial cities and towns, unpasteurized milk is sold from tanker trucks, although bottles and cartons of pasteurized milk are available everywhere, as is sour cream. Hard and soft cheeses are also popular.
Fruits are widely loved and cultivated. In late summer, fruits and berries are harvested and made
Two Russian shoppers walk along the Moika Embankment in Saint Petersburg. Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia, with about five million people. into preserves, compotes, cordials, and concentrates for the winter months. Mushroom picking is an art, and many people can identify edible local varieties, which they salt, dry or can. Cabbage, cucumbers, garlic, and tomatoes are preserved by salting or pickling.
Russians are connoisseurs of tea. Coffee has grown in popularity and is often served thick and strong Although wine, beer, cognac, and champagne are popular, vodka is the most common drink. Home-brewed vodka is a mainstay and serves as a crucial form of currency in rural areas.
Restaurants were not highly developed under communism, but the post-Soviet period has seen an explosion of restaurants, cafés, and fast-food places in the cities. The majority of people never eat out, for economic reasons and because they feel that restaurants do not provide food as good as that prepared at home. Restaurants and cafés cater largely to the new business classes. Workplace cafeterias and buffets still serve rudimentary midday meals for workers, but even these inexpensive meals are out of reach for many people.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Communal feasting is central to marking birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, achievements, significant purchases, and major public holidays. The table is laden with salads, appetizers, sausage and cheese, and pickled foods, followed by hot meat, potatoes, and pirozhki (meat or cabbage pies). Vodka and wine are drunk throughout the meal, which may last six to ten hours. Although table manners and hosting rituals are complex, the most important concern the rituals around vodka drinking. Toasting is elaborate and can be sentimental, humorous, poetic, ribald, or reverential. Vodka is always drunk straight, accompanied by a pickled or salty food.
Many people observe Lenten fasts, at which they consume no meat, butter, or eggs and occasionally do without vodka. Easter provides an opportunity for a fast-breaking celebration with special foods.
Basic Economy. The Soviet command economy provided a secure living standard for the entire population. Production systems were highly developed, technologically specialized, and spread strategically throughout the country. Almost all consumer and industrial products were produced within the nation or in the Soviet bloc countries. With the end of state support in 1991, many production enterprises declined or collapsed, and imports of higher-quality products reduced the market for domestic goods. This is true of consumer goods such as electronics, fashion, housewares, and automobiles as well as industrial, scientific, medical, construction, and agricultural equipment. As a result of collapsing markets,poor management, and ill-conceived privatization processes, many factories sit idle, while others have been dismantled and sold off. Some sectors, such as the food processing and distribution industries, are staging a slow comeback through modernization and a commitment to providing affordable local products.
The chronic shortages of the Soviet era led many people to produce for themselves. The current impoverishment has increased the importance of this practice, with a significant portion of the population partially dependent on their own produce. Many rural people raise food products for sale, and up to 80 percent of the vegetables consumed are produced in small private plots. The major crops grown by large agricultural enterprises are grain, sunflower seeds, and sugar beets. Livestock production has declined because of reduced government subsidies for feed and falling demand.
Land Tenure and Property. Under communism, all land, enterprises, and urban housing were state property, although there were several different forms of state control and individuals could hold long-term and inheritable use rights to land and apartments. The postcommunist period has seen an ongoing struggle over privatization and the commodification of land. While family apartments can now be privatized, legal reform of land ownership has been held up in the parliament (Duma), because of opposition by communist politicians. Some regions have instituted local land reform, and there is pressure to legislate coherent federal land reform to improve agricultural efficiency. Traditional views that land and natural resources cannot be owned but are collective resources have complicated the privatization process. This view is strengthened by many people's experience of watching privatization benefit only the existing elites.
Commercial Activities. Russia still manufactures a large range of consumer products, including food, clothing, automobiles, and household durables. The construction, banking, publishing, telecommunications, transport, and computer service industries are highly developed.
The unofficial economy, which grew out of the black market of the Soviet period, is huge and intricate and may account for over 50 percent of total economic activity. This shadow economy includes whole industries owned or controlled by organized crime, unreported trading activity, wages paid under the table to avoid taxes, wages and interenterprise payments made by barter, and rent-seeking and bribery schemes on the part of government officials. Attempts to end these entrenched systems have been ineffective.
Major Industries. European Russia was semi-industrialized by 1917, and Soviet modernization campaigns fully industrialized the country and spurred the development of mining, energy production, and heavy manufacturing. The Soviet Union was a major extractor of oil, natural gas, coal, and ferrous and nonferrous metals and a large producer of steel, chemicals, and paper products. Along with the automotive industry, the Soviet aircraft, truck, shipbuilding, railway, agricultural, road-building and construction machinery, military, and space industries produced for exportation as well as domestic use, although quality was often not up to world standards and plants were inefficient. Production levels in all these industries have declined significantly since 1991 as domestic and international demand has dropped, state subsidies have diminished, and new capital investment has been scarce.
Trade. Fuel and energy products constitute the major exports. Imports of foodstuffs, machine equipment, computers and other electronics, and chemicals are substantial. Major trading partners are the countries of the CIS (former Soviet republics, especially Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan) as well as Germany, Italy, Poland, the United States, the Netherlands, Britain, and Japan.
Division of Labor. Under the Soviet system, training for professional, academic, artistic, management, and other "intelligentsia" careers was highly developed in universities. Working-class students were taught the necessary skills in specialized institutes. The system was designed to ensure an adequate supply of workers in all sectors of the economy, and one of its results was a well-trained and stable workforce. Many aspects of this system have collapsed as whole industries have declined or shifted away from Soviet-era priorities. Huge numbers of personnel have left their original fields for careers in banking and finance, advertising, marketing, commerce, tourism, telecommunications, and security. Regions that offered steady employment for millions now house outdated, stagnant industries; high levels of unemployment in these areas force people to migrate or hunt for jobs.

Classes and Castes. For centuries, the aristocratic and merchant classes were nearly castelike, with endogamous marriage, a strict social hierarchy, and highly codified behaviors. Peasants and serfs constituted a largely impoverished rural population. After emancipation in 1861, as Russia developed slowly along capitalist lines, peasants migrated to factories in urban areas, where they formed an impoverished industrial working class. Strikes and protests and the radicalization of the intelligentsia led to the revolution of 1905, which prompted limited constitutional and social reform along with a reactionary crackdown on political opposition.
Widespread destitution, the ravages of World War I, and ineffective political leadership set the stage for the revolutionary activity of February 1917 in which the government was overthrown; this was followed by the political revolution of October 1917, in which the Bolsheviks took power and introduced communist ideology and social transformation. In the civil war of 1917–1921 and under Stalin in the 1930s, aristocrats, merchants, and well-off peasants were killed, imprisoned, exiled, or forced to emigrate and their property was confiscated.
The Soviet Union was supposed to be ruled by councils (Soviets) formed from the working masses. The creation of social and economic equality was the goal of early communist ideologues. However, Soviet society evolved into a class-stratified and class-conscious state where communist elites and some professionals had special access to goods, services, and housing. Bureaucratic workers and shop clerks used their control of services or goods to benefit themselves through a set of practices known as blat. However, education, health care, and other social services were available to all.
Although they had special privileges, most Communist Party officials did not accrue wealth. Postsocialist privatization has allowed many of them to build large fortunes, by parlaying their political status into direct ownership of state resources and industries. A new entrepreneurial class has developed, some of whose members have become fabulously wealthy. More slowly, a middle class is emerging in the cities, formed of intellectuals newly employed in business ventures and midlevel management and service personnel. Most of the population is impoverished, because of industrial collapse, inflation, financial crises, and privatization structures that benefit only the powerful. In 2000, 37 percent of the population lived below the minimum subsistence level of $34 per month. In some regions of Siberia and the Far East, the provision of critical services such as heating, fuel, and water has collapsed. Coal miners and industrial workers have faced severe shortages of critical supplies such as soap, long-term wage arrears, and the collapse of medical clinics and schools.
Symbols of Social Stratification. "New Russians" are all presumed to drive late-model Mercedes or Jeeps, live in fancy new red brick dachas, dress in designer clothes, speak on cell phones, and wear heavy gold chains and rings with diamonds. There is some truth to this image, which reflects a popular sense that wealth is vulgar.
Government. The years under Boris Yeltsin (1991–1999), were characterized by the reorganization of governmental structures and functions, with conflict over the balance of power between the president and the parliament, and between central and regional powers. A constitution approved by referendum in 1993 provided for a democratic federation with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The parliament is divided into upper and lower houses. The lower house is the Duma, with 450 elected members; the upper house was to consist of local governors and legislators from the eighty-nine administrative regions, although the newly elected president, Vladimir Putin, replaced the governors with centrally appointed members, giving the president greater control over that house. Putin also changed the electoral and party system to remold the structure and power of the Duma. Economic issues have been at the heart of many political conflicts; battles over fiscal policy, privatization, control of key resources, tax collection, and social welfare provisions have been fierce and sometimes violent.
Leadership and Political Officials. The state has always been prone to authoritarian rule with censorship and strong government control over the media; oppression of political opposition, partly through the secret police; bureaucratic centralization; and legislation by decree. In the Soviet era, political purges killed millions and sent millions more to hard labor or internal exile. Although overt repression ended with Gorbachev and democratization has become a proclaimed political value, the mechanisms of democratic practice are far from universal.
With the end of communism, control over enterprises and whole industries was up for grabs, and top political leaders secured state resources for themselves, their families, and their colleagues, leading to cynicism among the public. Cronyism, bribe taking, inside deals among political and business leaders, a lack of transparency in decision making, and contradictory legislation have further alienated the populace from the political process.
There are over twenty-five registered political parties, although only five are substantial in size. Political fragmentation has been a problem, and coalitions between parties have been unstable.
Social Problems and Control. The rate of violent crimes grew steadily after the end of Stalin's repressive regime. The ubiquity of state authority in the form of the KGB, the police, the Communist Party, and the military created an atmosphere of surveillance and control. Drug abuse was relatively low because of the strong control of border regions, although it increased during the war in Afghanistan (1979–1989).
Economic crime, corruption and bribe taking, black market activity, and theft of state property were normal daily practice for many citizens and officials. An informal culture of networking facilitated the exchange of favors, access, and information and allowed many people to accrue privileges and material benefits. These activities were illegal but rarely prosecuted. One effect of widespread participation in shadow networks and black marketeering was a general disdain for legality.
The economic and social liberalization of the late 1980s set the stage for an explosion of criminal activity. Extortion through the offering of "protection" services became a fact of life for businesses and financed the expansion of mafia activity. The mafia has infiltrated every branch of industry: up to 70 percent of all banks may be mafia-owned, and organized crime plays a substantial role in raw material exports. In little more than a decade, the mafia created vast local and international networks for drug trafficking, prostitution, arms smuggling, nuclear materials smuggling, counterfeiting, money laundering, and auto theft. Mafia-organized contract killings have become common in the cities, and thousands of political leaders, businesspeople, and journalists have been murdered. Because law enforcement is weak and corrupt and because the mafia has close ties with government and business leaders, efforts to reduce its influence have been ineffective. Weak legislation, a judiciary that is underfunded, overwhelmed by cases, and plagued by corruption and overcrowded jails has created a society whose regulatory mechanisms cannot deal with the current conditions. Most people see no point in appealing to the law for assistance or protection.

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