The Russian word for friend is ‘droog.’ However, there are significant cultural differences between Americans and Russians as to what that word really means.
To quote Lynn Visson’s “Wedded Strangers”:
“The intensity of Russian relationships surprises Americans. Russians share everything with their closest friends. They share each other’s sorrow. They commiserate and help each other. A male friend is a brother, a drinking companion, a soul mate, and a bulwark against the outside world.”
“To a Russian woman, a girlfriend is a confidante with whom she shares things she may not share with her husband or mother. The women see each other as comrades in arms against weak men and a hostile world. Russian émigrés are even closer because they have their own problems and difficulties in coping with life in their new country.”
“In Russia, friends were there to help you when the system got in the way, to help you get a job, to fix your car, or lend you money. Few Americans have the time or patience for relationships requiring such commitment and loyalty. These relationships are very demanding.”
“To Americans, these types of relationships are smothering. Russian friendship is more similar to a type of war camaraderie than the social relationships that Americans have because for Russians life has been somewhat of a war.”
“Friends were trusted implicitly during the Soviet era because an improper remark could wind you up in a Gulag. A friend was someone who could be trusted absolutely and would never betray a confidence.”
As an aside, one Russian acquaintance of mine told me that her grandfather spent ten years in prison for telling an amusing anecdote about Stalin. Another Russian woman told me that her grandfather was shot during the Stalin years.
“The closeness and caring nature of Russian friendships can be very appealing after the me-first attitude of many Americans. Americans are used to moving frequently, making new friends. They live in the present and future. Russians associate everything with the past.”
“Americans use the word ‘friend’ to describe everyone from someone they see frequently at the fitness center to a co-worker they chat with at the water cooler.”
A Russian has three different terms for friends that proceed out in concentric rings. They would refer to those types of friends described above as acquaintances, the outer concentric ring. The closest concentric ring would be their closest friend, or ‘droog,’ in the Russian language.
Russians take their relationships very seriously — much more seriously than Americans. When you get involved with a Russian woman, her friends and her family will be an ever-present part of your life.