A friendly kiss, a romantic one, a kiss according to the etiquette or depending on a ritual, has always accompanied the process of communication in many countries and cultures. But as part of the etiquette, a kiss only lives by specific rules and laws, which can be unique to certain cultures and incomprehensible to others. This means that у каждой страны есть свой, национально специфичный поцелуйный ритуал (each country has its own specific national kissing). And kissing in Russia is an interesting tradition.
Россия – страна с широкой душой и добрым сердцем (Russia is a country with a generous soul and kind heart). Many foreigners, visiting Russian cities centuries ago, noticed that in Russia people were kissing a lot and often, в горе и в радости (in sorrow and in joy), при встрече и при расставании (when meeting and when parting). Kissing according to the etiquette of communication has always been connected with the manifestation of good relations towards a person: a guest, a new member of the family, a child, a relative, etc.
It is not a coincidence if the word “поцелуй” (kiss) is related with the words “цел” and “целый” (as a whole). Therefore we can say that kissing in the Russian tradition это символ гармонии, цельности и здоровья (is a symbol of harmony, wholeness, and health). We often wish good health when kissing. In Russian fairy tales, kissing has всегда был главным оружием против зла (always been a major weapon against evil). Up to this day, the tradition of kissing a child where he hurt himself, as to let the pain goes, has survived.
In the Russian tradition, kissing when meeting a person has always been способом отметить собеседника (a way to distinguish the interlocutor), to indicate his importance or social status and prestige, and to show him respect. In the Slavic culture, the long-lasting tradition of two men exchanging a kiss on the lips when they met was a sign of respect and friendly intentions.
At the same time, a welcoming kiss on the hand, leg or arm was to show уважение перед старшим (consideration to elders) or to a person belonging to the elite. For example, a man with a lower social position will kiss a superior on the shoulder to emphasize the difference of their position, while a person with a high position will kiss his inferior on the top of his head.
But the kiss is also символ прощания (the symbol of farewell). To say goodbye to a person before a long separation means прощать ему все грехи и обиды (to forgive his sins and offenses). The farewell kiss was to reinforce the friendship between two persons. Every spring, on the last Sunday before Великий Пост (the Great Lent), Russians are kissing each other as a sign of forgiveness. This day is called Прощёное воскресенье (Forgiveness Sunday). Slavs have also a tradition to kiss a relative or a friend who has died. In this case, the kiss is a sad farewell symbol before the eternal separation.