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People that were doing community work were given benefits (free or discounted travel, ability to buy deficit goods, ability to receive a better apartment from the government for free etc) - remember, there was no private property until Perestroika, everything used to belong to the state, which was controlling distribution and would award the most active citizens.Unfortunately the system of volunteering was broken with Perestroika but Russians still have that great community spirit (which sometimes goes to the lengths a westerner would consider as infringement). The power of an individual in Russia is much less than in the west and most deals are pushed through family, friends and acquaintances.I think it was an excellent system since people had the opportunity to attend theatres from the early age, starting from attending performances in a Muppet theatre, then moving to the Youth Drama Theatre, then to Drama, Musical and Opera, according to their age.Also attending performances in a company is always much more fun, which contributed to the popularity of theatres.When Russian people talk about movie theatres, they will usually say "cinema"; if they talk about "theatres", they mean live performances.During Soviet times there was a well developed system of community work and in every group (class at school, department at work etc) would be also a person responsible for sport, education, political information of the group etc.
Since both education and culture facilities used to be widely available, Russians can be considered a highly cultured nation.
In my life, a few times I ran into dead ends where there was nothing I could do in the straightforward way; the people were right to refuse me, according to the official rules.
But once I could find people who knew someone inside the system, a month wait would turn into just a few hours wait or they would find a place for me where they said the rules would not allow them to give me one.
At the same time the majority of Russians don't have what you call in the west "good manners". Russia is quite a tough country and Russians usually do not hesitate to say what they think in a way that doesn't leave room for any misunderstandings.
During the Soviet period having "good manners" was considered as a bourgeois survival. When they meet or phone each other, they seldom spend time on questions like "How are you? They are not rude, it's just a way of doing things. Russia has the highest educational level in the world (more than 40% of the total population have college or university degree).
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On the entrance exams at universities and colleges only questions from the general course of the secondary school can be asked.