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Russian Gestures and Their Origins

Russian Gestures and Their Origins

Have you ever thought about origins of gestures? According to numerous research, people receive most information thanks to gestures and facial expression. Every nation has their own national gestures. In this article, we are going to tell you about Russian national gestures and their origins.

Tearing the front of a shirt

Originally, this gesture was supposed to be the improvisation of an oath. According to one hypothesis, in the past Russians used this expressive gesture to display a cross on their chest and to demonstrate their loyalty to the Orthodox faith. It is also known that during executions or corporal punishment, the executioners tore the tops of the person’s shirt.  Therefore, voluntarily tearing your clothes indicated a willingness to ascend the scaffold in the name of truth.

Scratching the head

A Russian person scratches his head if he is thinking about something. According to one version, the gesture comes from folk magic: this is the way our ancestors summoned the help of a forefather.

Scratching the head

Throwing a hat on the ground

This gesture is also very expressive. When a person threw his hat on the ground, he articulated a really desperate decision. For a Russian man, his hat was a symbol of his dignity and integration into society. If a person took off his hat in public, it was considered to be shameful. When a person took off his hat and threw it on the ground voluntarily, he was demonstrating a willingness to take an insane risk in which the price for failure would have been expulsion from society.

Beating one’s chest

When a person beat his chest, this way he demonstrated his loyalty, repentance, or he tried to convince someone in something.  The gesture originated in the time of nomads and integrated in Russian culture thanks to the Tatar-Mongols who came to Russia. In religion, the chest was a symbol of humility, sorrow, repentance, and punishment.

Beating one's chest

Flicking a finger on the neck

In modern Russian culture flicking a finger on the neck is interpreted as an invitation for a drink. There are a lot of versions of the origin of this gesture. It is believed, that in the 15th century Russian Tsar wanted to reward a talented craftsman and asked him what he had wanted to receive as a reward. The craftsman asked for the right to have a free drink in any pub. So, he received a tattoo on his neck which confirmed his right for a free drink. The gesture confirmed “the document”.

The “fig”

This gesture is common across many cultures. Russians most likely picked it up from German travelers who used it as a vulgar gesture in an attempt to seduce Russian girls. In Russian tradition, the gesture was transformed into a symbol of absolute and final refusal. Eventually, it became a means of defense against evil spirits.

Now you know some facts about the most common Russian gestures and their origins.

The "fig"

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