Ivan the Fool and Russian Character
Ivan the Fool (Иван Дурак) is a fictional Russian character who sleeps on a Russian stove* and without doing anything smart achieves a lot of success. His quiet and easy-going personality is still reflected in modern Russian character peculiarities, even though the new generations in Russia are under a strong influence of the western and businesslike world now.
In most Russian fairy tales, Ivan the Fool is the third (youngest) son in a big rural family who has nothing else to do but to tend grazing cattle and play a fife. He listens to his heart, rather than his mind. He can easily forget offense and always helps the others even at his own expense. His naivety and simplicity help him fight Baba-Yaga**, make friends with animals, win princess's heart and be rewarded with half a kingdom at the end of a fairy tale. However, his two elder brothers who are smart and businesslike – not typical of the Russian character – are unkind and unfair. So they fail and lose everything because they can only think about their money and profit. That is how a none-too-clever character unintentionally defeats the clever ones.
Some researches of Russian culture, however, do not believe that Ivan the Fool was supposed to be stupid. According to one theory, Ivan the Fool was not a fool at the beginning when this character was created. At that time the Russian word “дурак” or “другак” (fool) didn't have any negative connotation and was used to call the youngest son in the family. Later it obtained a new meaning and this caused the confusion.
However, Russian people do believe that even unreasonable and irrational, but unselfish and kind actions may give one happiness and prosperity.
*A Russian stove is the kind of stove which was used for cooking food, heating the house and sleeping on.
** Baba-Yaga is a witch in Russian folk tales.