Status of Regions in Russia, The Unbalance of Their Socio-Cultural Functions
Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010
The main problem of the given project follows from the contradictory nature of the
social and cultural realm of modern Russia as a big society. On the one hand, this
realm is a historical whole, which is based on a number of basic criteria. On the
other hand, it is highly differentiated not just vertically, but horizontally. This
is absolutely apparent in an existing conflict between the Centre of the Russian
Federation and its regions, in cross-regional and inner regional conflicts. The purpose
of the project is to specify the understanding of Russian socio-cultural realm, and,
most of all, region (a constituent entity of Russian Federation) as a basic element
of its horizontal structure; to describe its current state and its tendency to horizontal
differentiation; to assess the chances and means of preserving it as a whole.
A lot of research with regard to the given problem is being conducted in a number
of scientific divisions of Russian Academy of Sciences since the mid 1990s. But most
of the outcomes were rather individual and thus incomparable, which was intensified
by a serious lack of content correspondence in the studied subjects.
Both the problem and the subject are social and cultural in their nature, which implies
that a socio-cultural approach should be initially accepted in its further research.
It is apparent that the social and cultural realm is a multidimensional entity. There
are three main dimensions. The first one is symbolical spiritual culture. It is materialized
in values and norms of behavior and in creations of people. Such symbolical realm
has no physical borders and is made of a number of cultures. Its existence is maintained
through interaction inside the cultures, among them and among the existing subcultures.
The second dimension is institutional realm of social relations (economic, ideological
and political relations). There are two things typical for such realm in Russia:
its territorial multivariance and regional closeness (autarky), which is only partly
compensated through administrative verticals. And the last one is the realm of material
culture materialized in various objects, created by people: tools, instruments, cloths,
machines, etc. It is confined to the physical measures of time and space. All of
these dimensions are differentiated horizontally as well as vertically. Their vertical
differentiation is equal to hierarchical inequality of statuses and prestige of their
components as viewed by the people. Horizontal differentiation represents structural
differences in components located on the same level of status hierarchy.
It follows that social and cultural realm has a plural structure. The majority of
Russians are constantly included in different components of this structure, which
are often quite contradictory. The most active individuals and groups (those, who
possess a strong social resource) regard such pluralism as a positive freedom factor,
which allows them to adapt to spontaneously emerging structures, climb up the hierarchy
and exert pressure over other groups and individuals. For the rest of the people
(with weak social resource) such pluralism is the key reason for their shaky statuses
and descending mobility.
In this project the authors chose to concentrate their attention upon the horizontal
differentiation of Russian social and cultural realm. Although that doesn’t
mean they ignore its vertical aspect. They key units of this analysis are regions,
which are defined by the shapes of Russian Federation’s constituent entities.
The latter are the basic elements of Russia’s federal (political and administrative)
structure, its historical territorial entities as well as basic composing cells of
the country’s socio-cultural realm. Regions perform important functions with
regard to the people, who are attached to their territories and are bound by specific
relations of exploration and self-reproduction.
The horizontal differentiation of the Russian social and cultural realm is the subject
of this research project, which realized at the Institute of Philosophy of the RAS
as a part of the program “The Russia in the globalized World”. The analysis
of the data on the components of the human potential development index showed a heavy
misbalance of the social function of the most regions, the subjects of Russian federation;
the detailed region typology is carried out according to this criterion. The regional
heterogeneity of incomes with respect to Russian Federation subjects and Federal
okrugs is analyzed. The composition of the new (since 1980s) Russian religious movements,
the differences in their understandings of their social destinies are shown. The
themes of a social dialogue on the problems of the differentiation of the Russian
social and cultural realms are proposed.
Within this project the authors limited the research subject to four directions of
horizontal (regional) differentiation and integration, which would allow solving
four important problems: 1) what a region is as a territorial community, its status
in Russian society; 2) how balanced/misbalanced its social functions are and how
those differ; 3) the assessment of regional differences in living standard; 4) new
religious movements and their regional spreading.
The results of this research were discussed in a few publications of the project’s
participants. The first two issues were addressed by Lapin N., the third –
by Belyaeva L., the fourth – by Balagushkin L. and Shokhin V. Instead of concluding
remarks the authors suggest a few theses for public discussion of the problems which
were outlined in the given project.