russian01Avos [pron: a-vos'] means 'maybe'. It means more than this of course - many Russians would argue that avos defines the essence of the Russian character. It is the philosophy of not caring, or at least resigning oneself to the forces outside ones own sphere of influence.

Avos is the theme of Ivan Goncharov's, Oblomov, published in 1859. (Also a film directed by Nikita Mikhalkov (1980), and a BBC television dramatisation in 1989, with George Wendt as Oblomov, the actor who played 'Norm' in the TV series, Cheers.

Oblomovschchina means a person so overcome by lethargy he/she (usually 'he') is incapable of action or making decisions.

'Russia has made three revolutions, and still the Oblomovs have remained... and he must be washed, cleaned, pulled about, and flogged for a long time before any kind of sense will emerge.…' V I Lenin in a speech in 1922.

avos as the Russian is the philosophy of inertia.
Russian journalist Nataliya Alyakrinskaya (Moscow News) Russian tendency is to put faith in the 'strong leader.' A tendency so pronounced that a poll taken in 2008 to determine 'the greatest Russian figure in history', was about to have dictator Josef Stalin (an ethnic Georgian) placed at number one, until concerned television personalities appealed to Russian viewers to change their minds.

sud'ba - the idea of fate, or destiny or inevitability. Not so much 'God's will' that prevails in the Middle East; rather 'not my will…'


Avos, sudba and Oblomovism are states of mind that can be understood as a Russian-style cynical response to the concept of the Great Russian Soul velikaya russkaya dusha [pron. velli-kie-ya roos-kie-ya doo-sha]. In the literature of Dostoievsky, Tolstoy Gogol, Turgenev - characters are portrayed with an immense capacity for suffering, an intensity of feelings, and actions that may seem illogical, yet driven by an inner yearning of the soul. 'People in the west expect us to behave rationally,' commented former chess master and present day Russian nationalist politician, Garry Kasparov. 'We are Russians. We are not a rational people. We do what we must, and so be it.' Thus the Russian soul defines what is moral and right and just, not by authorities or leaders or the law, but according to the depth of your inner feelings.

the top three historical figures in the 2008 survey, 'the greatest figures in Russian history'? 50 million Russian participants sent in ther votes over a six-month period, by telephone, the Internet and text messages, to conclude the following:

1. Alexander Nevsky (who defeated Swedish and German invaders in the 13th century to preserve a united Russia)
2. Pyotr Stolypin (reformist Prime Minister assassinated in 1911)
3. Josef Stalin (Soviet leader 1924-1953; responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20 million Soviet citizens through forced agricultural collectivism, political purges and labour camp incarceration)

During the television broadcast in which the poll results were announced, Russian film director and actor, Nikita Mikhalkov, leading the studio discussion, shook his head sadly and commented, 'We really have to take a serious look at our society and ask how is it possible that Russian people can place Stalin in so high regard.' It is the same Nikita Mikhalkov who, 28 years earlier, directed the film Oblomov, the archetypal Russian character who personifies avos.