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Status of Regions in Russia, The Unbalance of Their Socio-Cultural Functions

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010
Мир России. 2006.  Т. 15. № 2. С. 3-41. 
Тематический раздел:
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.
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