“Trust, but verify!”

History has taught Russians the value of sticking with their clan, for better or for worse. It’s also important to know for sure who you really can trust.

In Russia, we have a proverb, “trust but verify”. I live in Moscow, and at my place it’s a very important piece of wisdom.

Flocking for survival

Lives of Russians are typically built around a tight-knit network of trusted friends and family. No man is an island—that’s the existential principle at our place. As the great proletarian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky once said: “A single creature, who needs it? / Its voice is a tiny mosquito’s peep / Who’ll hear it—maybe the wife / Just pray she’s not out shopping”.

This need for mutual trust involves a lot of testing each other. Ladies are more proficient at doing it continually. While guys tend to rely more on the last time the relationship test was successfully performed (typically the last stag party), and the general feel-good feeling when spending quality man-time together.


If you like numbers, here are some about trust.

In Moscow, just about 1% of people think people generally deserve trust. About 85% distrust people they personally know beyond their closest friends and family. In the high-rises and multi-story condominiums that define the residential market in Moscow, more than 80% don’t know their neighbors (proof link in Russian), because they don’t feel either the need or capacity to build a relationship with those people.

home party in the late 1940s USSR
Photo: a home party in the late 1940s. Most of men and women around this table would’t have made it through the WW2 calamity without help of their closest friends and family.