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Who is he — an inhabitant of St. Petersburg?

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 25-04-2011
Мир России. 1994.  Т. 3. № 1. С. 134-168. 
Тематический раздел:
The research group which has been working on the project "The Quality of St. Petersburg's population" within more than a year presents in this article its first results.1. The object of study.Our country is now involved in the irreversible process of constructing a new social order; it will either achieve or fail to achieve democracy and a market economy in the foreseeable future. The outcome rests upon as yet undetermined characteristics of its human resources and their "vital energy", the analysis of which represents the core of the new theoretical and applied research in which we are now engaged.This transitional period has already produced unsuccessful ventures, waves of social despair, and manifestations of social pathology. The crisis has changed the relationship between creative and destructive forces in social life, exposing clearly the connections between social conditions and the moral and intellectual characteristics of the population, and aggravating their existing weaknesses (those which are innate as well as those which are the products of socialization).Our object of study is the population of St. Petersburg, a city with unique historical and cultural characteristics. The city's growth has always been due in large part to im�migration from other ethnic regions as well as from rural areas. The majority of these migrants have always brought with them patriarchal values and traditions; this fact remains true at the present time. Among another group of migrants (primarily from small and midsized cities), these traditional attitudes and behavior patterns are somewhat eroded. Nonetheless, both of these types of migrants represent rather conservative (utilitarian and instrumental) values. At the same time it is our contention (subject to verification) that there remains in St. Petersburg a stable indigenous population with a different, more western orientation, at the foundation of which are individualistic norms and values. Thus, the population of St. Petersburg in terms of its mentality and many of its social institutions (e.g., family), is a social mosade. If "conservative" elements predominate, then the reforms which are based upon uncovering individual human potential will fail. If, on the other hand, the alternative hypothesis is supported ("that the population of St. Petersburg is more Europeanized than most of Russia's population"), this will represent a serious basis for optimism.We intend to pay special attention in our research to the role of cultural factors and historical events, to confirm the importance of those peculiar features of Russian culture which are clearly influencing the transition to a democratic society with a market economy. We also take into account social and psychological realities, the traditional mentality, religious factors and the ethnic traits of city residents, who are, first and foremost, members of the population of Russia.2. A brief description of some of the significant research findings for 1992.Economic characteristics. Over the course of the past two years there has been a rapid differentiation of the population along new lines. At present, wealth and poverty, rather than shared social and professional attributes, tend to unite or separate people. Thus, for example, the distance between "rich" and "poor" scientific workers or "rich" and "poor" workers is greater than the average difference in salaries between those two categories of workers. The level of family and personal income determines consumer behavior, life style, values, cultural attitudes, and even individuals' self-perception.Under the influence of the transition to a market economy, there has been significant change in the structure of economic activity. According to the results of a survey conducted in September of 1992, the most widespread forms of such activity are: economizing of family resources (money and possessions) (82%); intensification of labor at respondent's primary work place (6% increase per month); search for or resumption of supplemental work (51%); living on credit (25%) and sale of personal belongings (14%).Political activity. The population of St. Petersburg has recently been exhibiting increasing alienation. It is true that this trend does not affect all segments of the population equally. Students have been less engaged in politics than other groups, and this is becoming more characteristic of unskilled workers as well. The highest levels of political activity have been exhibited by managers and members of the military. Level of political activity tends to be correlated with individual outlook. As a rule people who expect an improvement in their own material well being (individual optimists) and a rapid improvement in the economic conditions in the country as a whole (social optimists) are more interested in politics than those with opposing views (individual and social pessimists).Ethnic relations. Ethnic minorities (Jews, Tatars, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, etc.) are growing more secluded. In 1990 as much as 20% of the Russian population exhibited some degree of anti-semitism. In 1992 during a period of local conflicts 80% of the Russian residents of St. Petersburg (including a significant proportion of the intelligentsia) expressed negative attitudes towards members of ethnic groups from the Caucasus region. The appearance of "ethnically sensitive" Russians suggests that the attitude of tolerance toward "outsides", which has traditionally characterized St. Petersburg, has the potential to change.Deviant behavior. A worsening of the status of the population with regard to deviant behavior has been evident since the late 1970s and early 1980s at which time the rate of increase of serious crimes in the city began to exceed the rate of increase for the nation as a whole. The rates of alcoholism, drug addictions, and suicide offer evidence of a rise in anomie, the presence of an existential vacuum, and the devaluation by individuals of their own self worth. Detailed data about deviant behavior have been collected and analyzed for the past ten years.Family and family relations. By contrast with the previous form of activity, which depends in large part upon occasional peculiarities of social development, the family more quickly is subject to laws of civilization. Secondary analysis of data concerning "successful" families leads to the conclusion that the basic type of family in St. Petersburg is the child-centered family, a type which is characteristic of the evolution of families from patriarchal to egalitarian. The characteristics of this type of family are evident not only in intact stable families, but in all other forms as well (single parent families, teenaged families, etc.) And at all stages of the life-cycle (from courtship to marital dissolution).Health. The health of the population of St. Petersburg has been examined from two perspectives. First, there has been a detailed analysis of morbidity, mortality and causes of death for the multi-million population of the city. These data have already made possible the introduction of corrective measures into programs based upon presumed growth in the productive capacity of the urban population. Social characteristics of health have been examined as well. The results of a survey of a representative sample of the population of St. Petersburg have revealed that the qualitative health status of the city's population is not high. This is explained, on the one hand, by certain distinctive characteristics of urban residents (limiting the quantity and quality of food consumed, highly stressful daily lives, inattention to desease states, reduced motivation to seek medical attention) and, on the other hand, by a tendency to attribute responsibility for health to external agencies rather than to one's own efforts.In order to validate previously analyzed data and to test a series of interim hypotheses about both the qualitative characteristics of the population and present-day urban residents' perceptions of those characteristics two representative telephone surveys (N=1075 and N=1045 respectively) were conducted in November of 1992. The results indicate that 65% of city residents believe that the population of St. Petersburg is qualitatively different from the population of other Russian cities. Our research group has contracted to carry out research in the near future which will examine a whole series of theoretical assumptions. Some of this information will be translated into English in order to help locate interested foreign collaborators and to give the project a comparative dimension.3. Future directions for the "Saint Petersburg population quality" project.According to our research proposal, the fundamental theoretical and empirical work on this project will be carried out during 1993 and the first half of 1994. This includes the collection and analysis of new empirical data based upon controlled representative sampling.The capabilities of the research collective will enable us to move beyond these boundaries and simultaneously conduct supplementary research in the following areas: analyses of changes in consumer behavior; studies of survival strategies during conditions of rapid inflation; examination of the growth of poverty and resulting destabilizing tendencies; comparative analyses of ethnic identification, characteristics of the self-perception of Russian urban residents and inter-ethnic relations; further investigation of the health characteristics of the population; estimations of the losses suffered by the population of Leningrad-Petersburg as a result of the social catastrophes of the twentieth century; comparative analyses of the demographic characteristics of the indigenous urban population and immigrants, etc.