Old Russian Traditions as the English Saw It


Samuel Collins, an Englishman, who was a doctor of tsar Alexis of Russia (the 17th century) and spent nine years at his court, wrote a letter to his friend, describing in what environment he lived and what weird traditions Russians had back then.

Neither men, nor women dare forget to wear a belt under pains and penalties of heaven.


They do not whistle using their lips (it’s considered to be inappropriate), but do this with their teeth, and that is very strange.


If they are surprised about something, they do not shrug their shoulders, but move their head from one shoulder to another.


In our clock a hand goes round the dial plate, but in Russian ones the dial plate moves around


Russians stand while praying, as they believe that kneeling is not noble and even barbarian, as followers of Latin Church do this.


They think that shaving beards is a sin, because the Polish people do this.


They like pork more than any other meat just because the Tatars hate it.

They believe that going to bed with a Danish or English woman is a great sin, but don’t think that it’s a sin when a harlot (Piccadillo), a Russian prostitute, sells herself to a foreigner, as her offspring would be born in the true Old faith.

Russians like rye more than wheat, and prefer fetid fish to fresh one.

They count their miles not by hundreds, but by nineties.

Now in Russia they have 7060 year anno mundi. They are more likely to believe tales than true and highly probable things.
They like to write on their knees, even when there is a table just next to them.

When they sew, they hold the needle with the sharp end turned to them, so they might be bad tailors.

They are more likely to believe a word of a man who has a beard, than to an oath of another one without a beard.

They believe that only fat women are really pretty.

Their rouge is like the paint we use for our chimneys in summer and which consists of Indian ochre and Spanish whitewash.


They make their teeth black with the same purpose as our women when putting beauty spots on the face: their teeth get spoiled with whitewash and so they turn the necessity into decoration and say that something is beautiful, when this thing is really ugly.

They like low forehead and oblong eyes, and so they tighten their headdress very hard so that they can’t even close their eyes, like our woman can’t raise their hands and head.

Russian know the secret of darkening the whites of the eyes. Little feet and slenderness is believed to be a hideous thing.

Slender women are thought to be unhealthy, and those who are just designed to be skinny, have to stay in bed all day long and drink Russian vodka (which makes for obesity), and then they sleep and afterwards they drink again.

Of course, all of this was more like subjective impressions and didn’t reflect the reality and was exaggerated, but to be totally honest many of these facts were at least half true, and some like nodding his head from side to side when hearing something ubelievable is an actual habbit of an average Russian person.

Photo credits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Anna Rudenko

26 thoughts on “Old Russian Traditions as the English Saw It”

    • Good inside in old Russia from Englishman, haha. Russians musted thinking: “this one is really barbaric, uncivilised and great sinner”. They let him – poor savage – taste some russian prostitute, but they could not imagine them selves having sex with a female of his kind. Haha, pretty racial ..

  1. I don’t know if it’s really true but it was hilarious. Just take the fact that they did all on the contrary that other non-Slav people did, like eating pork because Tatars hated it or not shaving beard because the Polish did it. It’s just priceless 🙂

    • Maybe they did it on contrary becose Tatars-Mongols, and Polish people were only nations that conquered and ruled Russia in some years. From humiliation comes hate, and contrary acting. France and Germany were mighty at some point of history, they tried to conquer Russia, but they could’t. Maybe thats why Russians still like German and French stuff..

    • half of it is not true…russian people eat pork coz they like it and coz they used to think it makes you healthier only,and man don’t shave coz it used to be realy,realy,realy,realy cold in russia so they don’t want their faces to freez—and it used to be “fashionable” ,russian people don’t stand as they pray,””In our clock a hand goes round the dial plate, but in Russian ones the dial plate moves around”” that’s false, and russian people never used to colour their teeth—–it’s just that they never used to brush them…

      and for whistling—-russian people think if you whistle at home– you’re calling “The Evil”….(they still think that) russian people got lost interesting tales really….

  2. [i]Just take the fact that they did all on the contrary that other non-Slav people did, like eating pork because Tatars hated it or not shaving beard because the Polish did it.[/i]

    C’mon man. Poles are Slavish. Maybe we don’t like each other very much, but it’s all in family after all 😉

    • Yes,it’s true, I’ve been thinking about Tatars when I wrote that. I know well that Poles are Slavs too 🙂 And plus we are neighbors. I come from Ukraine to clear that up.
      I just found it really hilarious the way Englishmen described Russians 🙂

  3. It is ridiculous to claim that beard they kept because Poles did shaved it. Russia and Poland became competitors much later – at that time significance of beard has been highlighted in Russian Truth (12th century) laws of Russia.

    I am not surprised that Englishmen was ignorant. But this internet-audience ignorance is really surprising.

  4. Fatness being beautiful is a mark of “more money you got, more you can eat”. And also it did mean fat people were healthy, because sick people get thin very often.

    Hey admin, please find a way to block the trolls, or at least let us mark them as “spam”. Thank you.

  5. The picture of the 6 horses and the sleigh can be find in the Swedish National Archives (kartavd., utan känd proveniens, nr 636) a page from Erik Palmquist’s travel journal from Russia in 1674! The funny with this picture is the text (not published here): “The Russian Court women travelling in winter, they have for their feets in the sleigh an ugly tartarian slave-women so that they themselves could look moore beuatiful”!

  6. so many generalizations! ridiculous! i’m sorry, but i’ve read old Russian books, many of which depict old Russian life. i doubt many people saw shaving their beard to be a sin, most noble men did not have beards after peter the great, and prior to that there where ‘beardless fazes’ or fads the population went through. as for the fat thing… that is just ridiculous, it was a sign of wealth, yes, but look at the women in the pictures!

  7. They prefere Doxa over Timex, specially when it id gold. 1945 Hungary.
    “Malenkij robot” is 5 years in Siberia.


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