‘Russia Now is a Fascinating Place to Study in Terms of Business Ethics’
Ryan Berg, a specialist in business ethics at HSE, has talked to the online magazine The Village about living and working in Moscow.
In my early childhood I was impressed by stories of the Soviet Union. They amazed and frightened my conservative family in Nebraska. I never imagined then that I would come and live here. In 2011 I defended my dissertation on business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. I met some professors from the Higher School of Economics at one of the conferences and then I got a job offer from HSE and decided to say yes to an adventure. My wife and I moved to Moscow four years ago. It took us quite a while to adapt, the first two winters were particularly hard with bad weather and it was so dark. We also lived in terrible apartments. Before we came to Russia I had some experience of living abroad - I’d spent some time living in Spain and Chile but Russian reality proved to be something else altogether.
It’s hard to get used to life in Russia because you don’t know how to do the simplest things. You feel really ignorant and unable to speak, nothing works the way you expect. Even simple problems become a serious challenge. I remember for example how we went to the store to buy vegetables but we didn’t know that you have to weigh them yourself, stick a price tag on them and then go to the check out. Little by little we got used to most things and learnt to speak the language a bit. I still speak Russian badly - badly enough to get myself into trouble. Although I know my way around better now. After four years in Russia I’ve dropped all the stereotypes. You might see drunks in the street but you also meet lots of people who don’t drink at all. People never look at each other in public transport and their faces don’t show any emotion, but as soon as you visit them at home, in their kitchens that apathetic expression vanishes. When you get to know people personally they are much more open and fun loving. Living here, I see how different Russians can be from each other.
I teach two subjects at the HSE Faculty of Business and Management — Business Ethics and Environmentally Sustainable Development — both in English. Of course the students sometimes stumble over terminology but generally they manage pretty well. Business ethics in Russia is still in the development stage. That’s because democracy is a new thing here. In the Soviet Union Marxist ideology portrayed business in a dim light, as a negative influence on society. Russia now, however, is a fascinating place to study in terms of business ethics. People are finally beginning to think that business can bring benefits to society.
The full story (in Russian) is available here.
Daria Polygaeva, The Village.
Photo by Yasya Fogelgardt