Magazine article Russian Life

The Best Dandruff Cure

Magazine article Russian Life

The Best Dandruff Cure

Article excerpt

If you want to know who will be Russia's next president, just watch the hair. Or lack thereof.

Throughout the 20th century, Russian leaders with hair and without have alternated: Nicholas II had a good head of hair; Vladimir Lenin was bald; Josef Stalin had thick hair; Nikita Khrushchev was [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (bald as a knee); Leonid Brezhnev had [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (thick hair); Yuri Andropov was balding; Konstantin Chernenko had thick gray hair; Mikhail Gorbachev had a big [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (bald spot), and Yeltsin had a nice [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (gray chevelure); Putin is balding, and so the next Russian leader will have hair by definition. It's all so simple, this kremlinology ...

Hair--[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--is becoming almost as important to Russians as it is to Americans. We worry about dandruff, though time was (in Stalin's time) we fought dandruff as per the French proverb: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the guillotine is the best dandruff cure). Actually, there is a similarly dark Russian proverb: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (when you've lost your head, it's no sense worrying about your hair). It's all about perspective.

Russians have long been prejudiced against their bald countrymen--the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] were the butt of many jokes and funny proverbs. Of someone who is bald or has bad hair, one would say [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("you can't hear one's voice from each piece of hair--so rare it is"--here comparison is made to rare trees in a forest, but it is mostly a funny rhyme). And when someone has been unjustly ignored (not invited, not been given something, etc.) this person could retort, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Am I bald or something?"--the equivalent of the English, "What am I, chopped liver?!").


Ironically, today the stereotypical bald-shaven New Russian has a positive connotation (at least among younger generations). Yet back in the 1970s, when I was a teenager, we boys all dreamed of having long hair. We fought with our tutors and teachers over the right to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (wear our hair long), so that we could try to look like our rock star idols. The older generation denigrated us for our [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a pejorative for "long hair"), and long-haired youth were called [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

Back then, Dal's old proverb--previously applied only to women--was used on men with long hair: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (longhaired but short on brains). …

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