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The Russians' mass consciousness during the period of social transformation: reality versus myths

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 14-06-2011
Мир России. 1996.  Т. 5. № 2. С. 75-116. 
Тематический раздел:
The analytical report commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation has been written by a research team of the Russian Independent Institute of Social and Nationalities Problems. The team drew upon material made available by A.Avilova, L.Byzov. N.Davydova. M.Mchedlov (research staff). The model of the sample was developed and sociological data were collected under the direction of Ph.D. F.Sheregy.The paper relies on the results of a national sociological study titled "What kind of society will we live in?" conducted by the RIISNP in September and October 1995. A total of 2017 people above the age of 18 were polled in 14 typical administrative regions or republics of the Russian Federation. They represented the main social and occupational groups of population. The poll was conducted by interview in a two-stage sample.The investigation calls attention to the problem of definition of the type of society that has emerged in Russia after ten years of perestroika and the subsequent market-oriented reforms. The problem has a considerable divergence of views on the matter among political scientists, historians and sociologists alike.The most straightforward approach would be to describe today's Russian society as one undergoing a transition or transformation short of Irving to give an in-depth definition of the end points of that transition.The mass consciousness of a transitional society, on the one hand, reflects the contradictions and discontinuities of the social practice, and on the other, amplifies them. A greater part of the intellectual elite has proved unable to explain the stark discrepancy between the proclaimed objectives and the intermediate results of the reforms, or propose acceptable ways of dealing with the systemic crisis. The authors made an attempt to analyze those features of the Russian mass mentality which supposedly make it impervious to democratic values and the non-totalitarian forms of social advancement. But is that really so? Has this interpretation more to do with the real or mythical?The objective of the analysis undertaken is exactly to reveal the principal qualitative features of the Russian public mass consciousness contemporary state. Understandably, the seeds of authoritarianism, let alone totalitarianism, can grow only if appropriate massive change in the public mental set-up has taken place. The authors proceeded from the premise that the subject of the analysis should be those features and manifestations of the mass consciousness which are not subject to swift change, but rather lend to derive their stability from the basic interests and existential orientations of the Russians.Here are the basic questions that this study sought to answer: does the historical tradition of Russia influence the choice of the type of political leader by the Russian people? What is prevalent in the current mindset of the Russian people, democratic values or a longing for the rule of the iron rod? Are there any ethnic, economic, psychological or ideological prerequisites in Russian society today for the emergence of a totalitarian or authoritarian regime? Is the society ready to accept possible restrictions of rights and liberties in exchange for a higher standard of living and enforcement of law and order? Is the Russians consciousness intrinsically insular or open to the outside world?  The results of the study reject a number of common stereotypes about the nature of the Russian mass consciousness concerning the paternalistic nature of the system of values, the dominance of an egalitarian approach to social differentiation, the unwillingness of the Russians to live in socially stratified society, the profound crisis of the values system and the loss of national identity.The undertaken study make possible coming to some general conclusions:-    the current state of mass consciousness in Russia is extremely contradictory and fragmented. The democratic and authoritarian tendencies prevail over others. The social bases for the two tendencies display a very complex structure;-    the authoritarian tendencies largely derive from the social stratification of the Russian society and the threats arising from the economic and political instability and the setbacks suffered by the economic reform;-    on the whole the Russians perceive democracy positively above all as a proclaimed value. Their perception of democracy as a combination of institutions, rules and procedures is clearly inadequate. At the same time, the disappointment with the democratic reforms" of the 80s and 90s generated a notable longing for the "strong hand" in society;-   the buck of population do not support violent means as the only method of overcoming the crisis. The price to be paid for social stability, order and higher standard of living in that case would be far too high from the democratic point of view. Recognition of democratic values even as icons remains a barrier on the way of society totalitarian transformation, although it is a fragile barrier;-   the extent of the power harshness which the Russians are in general prepared to accept corresponds to a moderately authoritarian system of government In that sense authoritarianism acts as an alternative to a totalitarian transformation of power and society perceived in the present circumstances as a development that is more likely than the strengthening of democratic institutions;most Russians view their country as a great power relying on the historical component of national awareness and assessment of Russia's contribution to world culture. A desire to assert the right to the status of a great power in the world community is alien to an overwhelming majority of the Russians. There is a general consensus that the principal means of increasing Russia's standing in the world community today should be economic advancement and the strengthening of genuine democracy.