Social Sciences A Quarterly Journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Editor-in-Chief: A. Guseynov, Academician of RAS
V. Makarov, Chairman, Academician of RAS
A. Grigoryev, Deputy Editor-in-Chief
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A. Derevyanko, Academician
A. Dmitriyev, Corresponding Member of RAS
V. Lektorsky, Academician
G. Osipov, Academician
V. Stepin, Academician
V. Tishkov, Academician
Zh. Toshchenko, Corresponding Member of RAS
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"Liberals" vs. "Democrats": Ideational
Trajectories of Russia's Post-Communist Transformation
Typical Views, Attitudes and Self-Identifications in Principal
Strata of Today's Russian Society
Jews in Contemporary Russia: Assimilation and Dissimilation
Crisis of the Union State of Russia and Belarus
The Stalin Prizes of Architect Ivan Zholtovsky (1940-1953)
Leo Tolstoy and Non-Resistance to Evil by Violence: The
History and Critique of the "Innocent Victim" Argument
The Logic of Ivan Goncharov's Creative Work: Stating the
"Nestor of Slavic Studies": 125th Birth
Anniversary of Dmitry Chizhevsky
Russia-XXI: A View from the Near Abroad Book Review: Askar
Nursha. Putin's Russia: Geopolitical Revenge or Aggressive Defense? Almaty:
Author: Shabanova, Marina
Author: Marina Shabanova
Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 3-19
The author has relied on the results of the All-Russia Representative Survey (2017, N=2000) to present for the first time information about the level of real and potential involvement of Russia's population in separate waste collection (SWC) as well as varied social-economic practices related directly or indirectly to waste generation. These practices include a reduced use of plastic single-use shopping bags; purchase of goods in recyclable/dissolvable containers, with minimum or without any packaging at all; donating unnecessary items in good condition to others; buying exactly the amount of food that is needed so as not to throw away the excess; avoidance of overconsumption or of buying items that are not really necessary; reducing energy and water consumption. It has been established that the contemporary space of alleviating practices varies where their participants are confirmed; they differ by their social and demographic characteristics, the statuses of the settlements they live in; axiological orientations and attitudes, etc. and by the motives that drive them-either egoistical and/or prosocial. A binary logit-regression model is applied to assess the connection between the involvement of individuals in various practices and their socio-demographic characteristics, education, income, type of the population center, specific value orientations as well as membership in associations, participation in NPOs and civil initiatives. The degree of intersection of participants in various practices as well as their positions on involvement (and non-involvement) in separate collection of household waste has been clarified. It was discovered that the contemporary space of practices related to the alleviation of the waste problem in Russia is fragmented as well as the degree
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Author: Vladimir Baranovsky
A New International Order: Overcoming or Transforming the Existing One
Author: Vladimir Baranovsky
Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 36-59
Abstract. This article questions the thesis about a crisis or even collapse of the existing world order, a thesis that has become an important element of the current international discourse. The world has faced similar challenges before; the question now is which of the current ones create dangerous tensions and to what extent they could be minimized and absorbed within the existing international order. The struggle for a place in the hierarchy of the polycentric world will intensify. Even so, the realistic perspective with regard to the international institutional structure is not its radical transformation, but consolidation of existing mechanisms (albeit with possible adjustments). In the shifting balance between various influence centers in the world arena the most important (if multi-vector) changes have to do with the potential of China, the USA, the West in general, India, Russia and a number of regional states. The ranking in international affairs is kaleidoscopic in character creating potential instability of the world system, but also lending it additional flexibility.
Among the key dividing lines within the system are those between the USA and China, as well as between Russia and the West. Yet the major systemic intrigue stems from the center-periphery relationship. Of key importance will be the challenges emerging at the intersection of the international system and nation-state imperatives (interference in internal affairs, global problems, and sovereign particularism). This article introduces new accents in the treatment of traditional international topics (security, the use of force, the status of territories).
Keywords: world order, international system, bipolarity, polycentrism, balance of forces, international hierarchy, dividing lines in the world arena, international institutions, international actors.
V. Baranovsky, D. Sc. (History), full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences. E-mail: email@example.com. This article was first published in Russian in the journal Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodniye otnosheniya (World Economy and International Relations. 2019. Vol. 63. No. 5, pp. 7-23; DOI: 10.20542/01312227-2019-63-5-7-23).
Assessments of the current political situation are dominated by dramatic motifs. The picture that is painted is often truly apocalyptic: the world is entering a new era marked by the dominance of aggressive nationalism, renunciation of formal and informal imperatives of behavior in the world arena, erosion of deterrents, dangerous brinkmanship, growing uncertainty, universal renunciation of playing by the rules, and, as a result, heightened risks and unpredictability.
While the author is mindful of all the aforementioned dangers, he does not see them as immanent to the modern international system, still less as something that dooms it to inevitable collapse. It is true that some new parameters are emerging, but it is important to look, first, at their content and, second, at their consequences for world development, for the actors in international life and the state of their mutual relationships. Perhaps the international system is indeed in need of replacement, although this thesis has yet to be substantiated and the cost of changes has to be estimated. But perhaps something very different is needed: to identify the vulnerabilities of the international system in the face of the problems that arise and ways to increase its resilience, stability and the ability to solve these problems. Reducing everything to total destruction of things as they are and their total replacement with something that did not exist before is by no means always the best solution.
Occam’s Razor: Entities Must Not Be Multiplied Without Necessity
The annual Munich Security Conference is usually presented with a report analyzing major international political challenges confronting the world. This year’s report begins with a clear statement: today we are looking not simply at the challenges or even a string of crises we may be witnessing the collapse of the existing world order [9, p. 6].
The theme appeared in analytical discourse already two or three years ago . However, today it has been taken up by political heavyweights. The report mentioned above quotes Angela Merkel who, after being elected German Chancellor for a fourth term and especially after announcing her decision to leave her post, is perceived as the guru of European politics: The well-known and tested framework of [international] order is under heavy pressure (der bewährte oder uns gewohnte Ordnungsrahmen im Augenblick stark unter Druck steht) . A still more dramatic picture was painted by her Foreign Minister Heiko Maas:
That world order that we once knew, had become accustomed to and sometimes felt comfortable in that world order no longer exists . It has often been suggested that even if efforts are exerted to rectify the situation it would be extremely difficult to restore the status quo ante. According to the French president Emmanuel Macron, we are looking not just at an interlude in the historical process, we are currently experiencing a crisis of the effectiveness and principles of our contemporary world order which will not be able to get back on track or return to how it functioned before .
In recent times, the idea of the collapse of the former world order has also become dominant in Russian political discourse focused on international problems (including journalism and even scholarly research). True, the emphasis often differs dramatically. The logic of the discourse goes something like this.
A new international system emerges in the wake of major military upheavals as a result of agreements between the main actors who claim a major role therein. This is what happened after the era of Napoleonic wars, after World War I and after World War II. However, no such line was drawn under the old order after the end of the Cold War. The new world has been formed pragmatically but not conceptually, i.e., by addressing specific problems on an ad hoc basis and without any general plan, without achieving a consensus and without keeping a mutually acceptable balance of interests. For that reason, it could not have provided a reliable and sustainable basis for the organization of international life that took shape in practice. It preserves some elements of the Yalta-Potsdam system, yet it is seen as being less and less fit for the new reality which increasingly challenges these elements.
Thus, what is happening in international relations today should be seen as a stimulus for meeting the deferred requirements with a time lag of about a quarter century. It is high time to agree upon the new parameters of shaping the international space, new rules of behavior in it, new mechanisms of determining mutual responsibilities and mutual opportunities. To remove the injustices of the initial period after the end of the Cold War when some countries by force of circumstances had been debarred from developing/adjusting the project of European (and international) architecture. To recognize the legitimate interests of countries stemming from their histories, cultures, geography, economic motives, and security imperatives.1
For all the diversity of views on what constitutes the crisis of the world order [1; 10], there would seem to be ample grounds for dramatic assessments. Looking from Moscow, the first thing that leaps out at you is of course deterioration of the relations between Russia and the West, which have made a U-turn with amazing speed. Recent mutual positive expectations have been replaced by mistrust and vexation, arms control is falling apart before our eyes and geopolitical rivalry is back. The West believes that Russia has launched a counteroffensive, as witnessed by its surge of activity over a large foreign policy perimeter (South Ossetia, Crimea, Donbass, Syria). On our side, the information and political space is dominated by rantings about the West trying to prevent Russia from rising from its knees, trying to push our country to the periphery of the international political system and even wipe it off the face of the earth.
True, even at this stage of reflections one gets a sense of déjà vu: we have faced such situations more than once and in fact fairly recently by the measure of history. Think of the Berlin crisis, the Caribbean crisis, politically motivated restrictions on trade and economic links (Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, or CoCom), boycotts of sporting events (Moscow and Los Angeles Olympics). Not to speak of the arms race. The same goes for geopolitical rivalry in various regions of the world: Vietnam, Angola, Afghanistan (to mention only some) plus the constant explosive situation in the Middle East where in 1973 there was real and not propaganda balancing on the brink of a big war between the two superpowers with nuclear forces in a high state of readiness.
Serious dangers have of course arisen on the East-West (Russia-West) track. They are indeed serious, but there is hardly any reason to consider them something new. Except perhaps by comparison with the practice (still more hopes) of the recent past. And even with this assumption, there is not so much new but rather well (and not so well) forgotten past.
It would be appropriate to recall the argument as to whether it would be right to describe the downturn in the relations between Russia and the West as a new Cold War . Strictly speaking, these discussions are largely terminological, and everything depends on the content invested in the concept of the Cold War.
If one interprets it as a specific form of relationships between the USSR and its satellites on one side and the Western states (above all the USA and other NATO member countries) on the other that existed more than 40 years ago, then parallels with the present time are possible, but there are no serious grounds for equating the former and the latter. The differences in the character of confrontation between the parties are too great on practically all counts, from ideology and political system to the military component.
But if one interprets the Cold War as a broad, although not all-embracing confrontation of the sides (i.e., stopping short of a military clash) then there is a host of such situations in the history of international relations when acute and diversified confrontation arises and persists between states (sometimes for years and decades) but the conflicting parties do not want to see it evolve into a real ( hot ) war. Although the word combination cold war was not used, the essence was precisely this: large-scale confrontation (sometimes on the brink of war) without actual military engagement. In general, bearing in mind past experience would be useful not just to define terminology. Past experience also attests that it is not always possible to disengage from such a clinch by calling for the formation of a new international political system. Cautious minimization of the threat of uncontrolled escalation followed by a gradual reduction of the conflict-prone potential and tension may turn out to be more effective.
Let us go further over the factors that would seem to suggest that the old world is disappearing or must disappear. Until very recently, many of these factors seemed to be absent or marginal. Today, they may appear as shaping a new reality. But the question is to what extent does it replace or erase the old reality?
The rise of China is of course a huge factor. The overriding question is what regional and global consequences this trend would have for the world economy and the system of political relations. However, this factor did not arise today or even yesterday. Back in the 1960s, the impulses emanating from Beijing had a tangible impact on two of three components of the international-political system of the time, the socialist world and the Third World. And in the 1970s, China introduced changes to the world’s bipolar structure and embarked on the path which today is turning the country into one of the three (or perhaps two) main power centers in the modern world.
The Arab Spring (more broadly, the Muslim awakening) was yet another tsunami that swept a huge territory comprising some countries and regions of key importance to the modern international system. The question as to the long-term effect of this phenomenon remains open and no definitive answer has yet been given. Surmises that these developments may generate new trends in the international arena are totally legitimate. But such type of surmises could be legitimately formulated with regard to other phenomena, similar in scope, vigor and depth and which the international system faced more than once.
For example, in the 1960s, there emerged dozens of new states, which had thrown off the colonial yoke. This certainly had consequences for the international political system, but it did not give grounds to consider that the latter was outdated and had to be replaced. Today, going back to the case of Arab/Muslim countries, in some of them the upsurge of social activity and political transformations was more or less successfully absorbed by the wave of reforms whereas the possibility of turmoil spilling over into the international arena was ultimately foreclosed. So, it is unclear whether the old international system has exhausted its potential in this field or whether a new (what new?) system would be more successful?
Brexit: many Eurosceptics feel that it puts into question the prospects of integration within the European Union and its role in the international system. A couple of years ago the same was said about the EU’s suddenly revealed inability to cope with the problem of migration. Another tired mantra that has been repeated year after year has it that the integration community suffers from overstretch, that Brussels has turned into a dictator under whose pressure member countries are languishing. Hence the conclusion about a new international system that would mitigate the abuses of integration and in general throw it into the dustbin of history: either the need for such a system is becoming ever more urgent or it is already marching triumphantly across the continent (the European Constitution has failed, the Brits are jumping ship, etc.).
Without arguing here with these judgments, let us just note the obvious: in its more than half a century history, the European Union has been hearing the death knell many times, but it is still the most successful international political project inherited from the 20th century. Yes, the EU is constantly facing problems, often struggling to solve them with varying degrees of success but in the end, it solves them in a way that gradually strengthens and not dilutes integration, without renouncing the old for the sake of an unclear new. Emmanuel Macron, as mentioned above, seeking to boost his political rating, clearly tries to harness the integration project rather than brushing it aside as an encumbrance.
The list of arguments in favor of the need to form a new international system (or that it is about to come into being, perhaps has already arrived) may be continued. Such a system, like deus ex machina, is expected to miraculously solve all the problems, remove all the questions arising in international affairs.
For example, what line could Washington adopt on international affairs (ranging from isolationism and unilateralism to hegemonism and coercion into partnership) considering the internal political turmoil in the USA? Who can claim the role of new centers of influence and what would be their potential? According to what parameters would the international hierarchy be built? What imperatives (influence, utilitarian considerations, political-ideological empathy, identity, priority of national interests, motives of solidarity, etc.) would guide international actors?
The list goes on and on. In each case, we come upon questions that may be specific, but which have this in common that they present challenges for any international political system. The one that exists today may be ill-suited for the purpose and then it will accumulate potential for crisis. But it also may be directed by its participants toward reacting to these challenges with varying degrees of effectiveness, for example, through modernizing its mechanisms, adjusting and adapting them.
The bottom line is that there is no great need to reflect, let alone argue, as to whether a new world order has already arrived or is likely to arrive in the foreseeable future. Given the wish, this hypothesis may be adopted and even a new name could be given to the new world order (just like George Orwell coined the term the Cold War). However, something else seems to be more important: to scan the existing international political system in order to identify ongoing substantive changes and their possible consequences so that we could better understand present-day realities and be prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.
Between Chaos and Multipolarity
(i) The most popular idea expressed in discussions on this topic  points to the growing chaos in the world arena. And yet until recently some kind of order in the international political system has existed. One may argue whether it was good or bad, but it provided a certain algorithm of the state’s international behavior. The state knew that there are certain limits (formally established or tacitly recognized) that should not be crossed and if they had to be crossed, then only after thoroughly weighing not only the possible gains but also the potential risks (and one’s readiness to pay for them).
According to this logic, the system is becoming more and more disorganized and lacking in order. It is increasingly dominated by the no-holds-barred morality. Carried to an extreme this model of game without rules amounts to total arbitrariness of international political behavior, a readiness to use any means (including pressure and military force) to achieve one’s goals.
It is this kind of vision that underlies the current alarmism concerning the modern international political situation and its future. Of course, there are some grounds for such a vision. Various segments of the international system are obviously in disorder. Some are fraught with eruptions (potentially dangerous for Russia). The situation in some regions is increasingly fraught with conflict.
Norms of conduct that were thought to be internationally recognized are put into question, in words and in practical actions.
However, talk about international relations being less and less manageable has become commonplace. Assessments on this matter should be balanced and weighed. Are there enough grounds for dramatizing the scale of this phenomenon? It has not led to the triumph of the Hobbes war of all against all. Such a war is not thought to be real or inevitable. Even if one proceeds from the most critical evaluation of how existing mechanisms of interaction among states in the world work, it is clear that there is no question of their total collapse. Nor can one see anyone being interested in this happening. For the overwhelming majority of states the unpredictability of development according to that paradigm outweighs any possible gains. Thus, such a full-scale scenario is unlikely (unless one bases all the prognostications on the second law of thermodynamics and the inevitable increase of entropy in the Universe).
Nor should one idealize the degree of governability of the international system in the good old times. Essentially it has always been anarchic even when it seemed to possess more order . Think of the relatively recent era of fierce confrontation between East and West: in spite of the phenomenon of bloc discipline there have been more than enough examples of deviant behavior of those considered satellites expected to toe the line of the leaders (of the USA or the USSR).
Certainly, there is nowadays an urgent requirement to provide the international system with more stability, to modernize its elements that once arose as a response to the no longer existing realities and are irrelevant to the today’s challenges. It has to be stressed that Russia, objectively, is interested in this no less than other countries. However, it would be presumptuous and irresponsible to think that since the existing world order is not organized in full accordance with our interests and aspirations we would gain by destroying it to the ground. We may end up on the losing side.
(ii) Let us suppose for the sake of argument that we proceed from the presumption of the need to oppose the new international disorder. The question suggests itself: in what way? Convincing answers to this question are not just few and far between, they simply do not exist. True, the model of the concert of nations (states) is sometimes mentioned as an attractive alternative. Is it justified?
This half-forgotten word combination goes back to the times of the Vienna Congress of 1814-1815, which determined the European disposition after the end of the Napoleonic wars era. As applied to the present time, this approach means a stable international political system (in various regional contexts and globally) based on agreements among a narrow circle of major powers.
This model obviously reflects objective reality, i.e., the hefty role played in international affairs above all by big, influential, authoritative countries. Such a model would very likely guarantee for Russia a place in the group of the select. However, this kind of mechanism is distinctly oligarchic in character. Who would determine the composition of the concert of nations, what would be its competence, would rank-and-file countries agree to renounce their own role in favor of the grandees?
On the other hand, that major powers are more important players on the world arena is nothing new, it is a reality. Have things ever been different? It is true that there could be different methods of putting this rule into practice more formal rules, patterns of great powers concept, mechanisms of Realpolitik, etc. Meanwhile the interplay between grandees as a rule has an ad hoc character. And it does not take place among all but among those directly involved in a specific problem situation. This brings to mind the concept of coalition of the willing first applied in a somewhat different context.
While a permanent symphony orchestra is the norm it is hard to imagine a similar model of a concert of nations. Part of the problem is that when this idea is articulated in its extreme form it is often married up with the principle of legitimacy. In fact, it posits the need for and justification of supporting only legitimate regimes, which should be the basis of a joint course of major powers. However, there are no universal criteria of legitimacy or illegitimacy of the order established in various countries. Indeed, the experience of the Vienna concert on that count is contradictory. It is possible to tacitly accept such approach on the ad hoc basis, but one can hardly expect key international players to be willing or able to agree among themselves interacting only with the legitimate authorities in any conflict situations arising in the world. And if, in specific cases, there is a consensus on such a matter then there is no need for a concert of nations.
(iii) Among the most popular exercises on the topic is speculation on the number of poles in the international political system what it was yesterday, what it is today and what it may turn out to be tomorrow.2
Until recently, the prevailing notion was that classical bipolarity associated with the Cold War confrontation is a thing of the past. This may be questioned today in the light of the new confrontation on the Russia-West track. For example, it may be argued that the overcoming of bipolarity took place only on the surface or has been nullified by non-cooperative behavior of its main protagonists. One interpretation attributes such uncooperative behavior to Moscow (Crimea, etc.) and the other to Washington and its allies (NATO expansion, sanctions, etc.).
After exit from bipolarity 1.0 followed a brief period of triumphalism of the unipolar world model. Essentially it is a system run by one power acting as an unchallenged hegemon and ignoring the interests of other international actors. Such orientation of international political development could be either proclaimed openly or (more frequently) implied without particular efforts to mask this goal. During the first presidency of George W. Bush, the US sought to organize its relations with the external world on that basis.
However, already in the 1990s the concept of unipolarity was shown to be untenable and was pushed into the background of political-analytical discourse. The election of President Trump breathed new life into the concept. For all the negativity of the country’s establishment with regard to the President Trump, the idea of unipolarity is still running strong in the ranks of extremist champions of American hegemony. It is also referred to in anti-US propaganda for the purposes of its critical exposure. Incidentally the rationale of such policy is not obvious: playing up opposition to the unipolar world unduly attracts attention to this topic exaggerating fears and fueling confrontational mentality.
One variation on the topic of the changing architecture of the international political system assumes the formation of a new bipolarity. Bipolarity 2.0 can take various shapes; the main ones are as follows: (i) the USA vs. China; (ii) Russia + China + anti-Western regimes vs. the US-led West; (iii) liberal capitalism countries vs. state monopoly (authoritarian) capitalism; (iv) status quo countries vs. those interested in changing the international order; and (v) golden billion countries vs. the disadvantaged part of mankind.
Of all these variants, the one that attracts most attention is that which puts the USA and China on opposite sides of the barricades. Its hypothetical antithesis was for a while considered an international duumvirate of those two countries (G2).
Let it be noted in this connection that economic interdependence between China and the USA is indeed growing and is more likely than not to prevent the two countries from sliding into overt confrontation. However, in the dialectics of rivalry and cooperation the elements of the former seem obviously to be in the ascendant. Meanwhile the model of American-Chinese entente cordiale so far looks more like wishful thinking and is not in evidence in real politics or in conceptual studies. There seems to be no serious reason for Russia to be overly concerned about the possibility of such a scenario playing out.
Even so, the scale and dynamics of that trend need to be carefully watched from the point of view of Russian interests. In any case, there are many grounds for believing that the axis of the emerging international system would be the relations between the USA and China built according to the templates of either strategic cooperation or strategic confrontation. It is an open question to what extent this fact would determine the character of the coalitions and divisions around them. From the experience of the previous variant of bipolarity we know that attempts to reproduce it in the entire international political system have not always succeeded.
To Russia, in certain situations and in the short run manifestations of a new bipolarity may at first glance seem attractive. In the current international setting, this applies above all to the second of the above-mentioned variants. To put it in a simplified way, it implies that Russia, China and countries sympathizing with them position themselves against the claims of the US and its allies to hegemony in international affairs. The motives for following that line are obvious, but possible costs must also be considered. In the long run, becoming involved in a new confrontation could have for our country the same socio-economic and other consequences as the Cold War had for the Soviet Union. As we remember, in the case of the Soviet Union it was one of the factors that made the country dysfunctional.
Nor are there obvious benefits to be gained by our state from other options of becoming involved in confrontational bipolarity. In order to be its leader, Russia would have to mobilize massive material and political resources at the expense of addressing other pressing national tasks. Meanwhile playing secondary and supporting roles within this model still further questions the rationale for such a choice.
Strictly speaking, any schemes of new bipolarity put Russia in a difficult position. For example, the US vs. China model should give even greater cause for doubt than the unipolar world because it is fraught with great uncertainties. It is unclear how Russia would be prepared and manage to steer its way between the two poles. The reasons for supporting one of the poles against the other are also dubious.
A more attractive option, in principle, would be to stay outside the framework of eventual bipolarity. It has to be noted that the above-mentioned report to the Munich Security Conference practically posits the existence of three main poles (influence centers) in the current international system: the USA, China and Russia. That said, the reasons for such a statement may be variously interpreted, for example, within the paradigm of confrontational interaction (or counteraction) of countries possessing liberal and authoritarian political regimes.
(iv) Having designed various configurations of the world order in terms of the existence of one, two or three main centers of power (influence), we can clearly discern a common vector toward multipolarity. This could be a long-term trend which is increasingly apparent in the realities taking shape in the world. It manifests itself in the broadening circle of international actors capable of influencing it and making their contribution to the dynamics of international development.
This is a slow process, but strictly speaking, it can be discerned even within the framework of a bipolar world order. It happened as the cohesion of each of the opposing global blocs (East and West) was diluted and some of its initial participants (for example, the former Yugoslavia and China) dropped out of the confrontational dichotomy.
The fundamental tendency of international polycentrism is developing as an antithesis both to unipolarity, which has failed, and bipolarity, which has receded into the past but is trying to come back in a new guise and with a changed composition of participants. However, polycentric trend proceeds in symbiosis with the elements of the world order being formed according to other templates . This is a fundamentally new quality if one seeks to discern one in the emerging international political system.
The main problem of the polycentric world order is how to organize its functioning. Ensuring effective international governance and minimizing costs is much more difficult in a polycentric world than within the models discussed earlier. For polycentrism does not guarantee world harmony. A polycentric system of international relations is hierarchic and over time this circumstance will have to be reckoned with more and more if its stability is to be ensured. This is no easy task because jostling for a place in the hierarchy would increase in every area economic, scientific-technical, cultural-ideological, and military-political. Nevertheless, the task of establishing order in a polycentric world should not be considered impossible. It is worth looking at the international system today.
Its key institutional element remains and will remain the United Nations. It is under the UN aegis that a large number of various formats of multilateral interaction among states in the world have been created and are functioning. Extra dimensions are added by structures outside the UN both of the general political nature (G7, G20), and of a functional kind.
The regional level of institutional organization of international life is extremely important. It includes several dozen major interstate structures (such as NATO, OSCE, CSTO), integration (or proto-integration) type entities and a relatively new phenomenon of megablocs (some are still more like potential components of the international system).
Finally, the presence of non-state actors is becoming ever more tangible in the international arena. So far, they by no means claim to replace the state as the main protagonist in the world arena, but their participation in a widening circle of events therein is a remarkable phenomenon.
By and large, we can talk not about lack of order in international life, but about its complex institutional structural organization. The latter may potentially deliver a balance of interests, bring to a common denominator various approaches and lead to perception of and response to new challenges.
Meanwhile many analysts and politicians find it hard to resist the temptation of presenting serious claims on that score. However, paradoxically, critique is combined with a lack of any convincing ideas as to the renewal of the existing system, ideas expressing not just good wishes but having a real chance of being implemented.
On the strength of all this it seems possible to take a risk of formulating a thesis directly opposite to what is considered the mainstream modern discourse: there are no grounds for expecting a dramatic change of the structures of international interaction. The realistic perspective is not a radical transformation of the international system but the strengthening of the mechanisms that ensure its functioning, albeit with some adjustments.
Configuration of the System: Positioning of the Actors
The international political system is witnessing a redistribution of the weight of various centers and a change in the character of their presence on the world arena. Substantial changes are taking place in the capacity of actors to exert influence on other states and on the world at large. Many countries which have traditionally been thought to possess considerable potential are seeing this potential reduced although their influence resources are still there. Simultaneously, some new players from amongst successful Asian, African and Latin American states are becoming more noticeable.
Significant changes are taking place in the assessment of the United States as the biggest quantity in the international-political space. It seems only recently that the US projected an image of the sole remaining superpower, but today there is a growing awareness of its gradual relative weakening. This phenomenon is popularly believed to herald the beginning of the end of the America-centered world [18; 6].
(i) Without going into the question as to how justified (or unjustified) such a view is and what time frame should we be looking at, let us be mindful of the fact that the United States still has enormous potential to influence international life. This applies to its role in the world economy, finances, trade, science, and informatics that will remain exceedingly important in the long perspective. The US military capability has no equals in the world, with the sole exception of the approximate strategic nuclear parity with Russia.
Washington’s traditional polemics between those who support isolationism and those who want to see active US involvement in international affairs tends to sharpen from time to time and even to move to the top of the agenda. New colors to this picture have been added by President Trump who said he wanted to reduce American involvement in external situations that do not directly affect American interests, a statement that caused a surge of concern among America’s allies. The question as to how significantly this factor will influence international relations in the long term and whether it will have systemic consequences remains open.
(ii) The assessment of diminishing US international positions is often extended to the West as a whole. Some see it as probably the most fundamental change of the world order in the last five centuries. However, the media often exaggerate the importance of this phenomenon overstating its scale and possible consequences.
There is also another and still more important factor. The surrounding world is simultaneously exposed to various standards and algorithms consumerist, cultural, mental, political-organizational, socio-economic, etc. coming from the West. This is a highly contradictory process which is perceived in different ways in the non-Western world. On the whole, however, the process is accelerating. The world outside the traditional West may generate a negative political and emotional aura in its attitude to the West, but simultaneously (and on a still larger scale) it absorbs the impulses coming from the West. In that sense, it is itself gradually becoming the West.
(iii) Within the international system, the center of gravity is increasingly shifting towards Asia. It is there that the most acute problem situations arise due to the emergence of hotbeds of terrorism, ethnic and communal conflicts, nuclear proliferation and territorial disputes. It also attracts the attention of global economic actors because for them expanding markets, high dynamics of economic growth and the energy of human capital are crucial. The vector of reorientation of Russia’s attention towards the East is a phenomenon within the same category.
The mutual relations among major international players in this huge geopolitical area are fraught with immense potential uncertainties. Broad opportunities are opening up there for constructive interaction but even more so for rivalry and the buildup of tensions. Putting in place cooperative mechanisms as a counterweight to existing or future instability promises to be an exceptionally important task of the international political system in the future.
(iv) One of the key factors of the current international political dynamic is increased Russian activity. Its actions in the Caucasus, Crimea and vis-à-vis Ukraine outline the sphere of its interests within the post-Soviet space and its commitment to act vigorously and aggressively. A new feature of Russian policy (which is clearly not met with universal approval) is its readiness not to make too much of the negative reaction of other international actors. This has irked many of them, but it has increased Russia’s self-confidence. By involvement in the Syrian conflict Moscow has demonstrated its intention to be present in this strategically important region, but even more so its claim to being one of the key actors in world politics.
How and to what extent Russia’s new foreign policy may influence the dynamics of the development of the international system is a topic that merits a separate discussion . At this point let us just note that Russia, paradoxically, presents several faces simultaneously. It is a revisionist power because it breaks the established rules of the game by challenging American hegemony and some traditional norms of the existing world order. At the same time, it is a status quo power displaying as it does a conservative attitude to established realities (for example, by vigorously opposing external interference while denying any such elements in its own actions). And it even advocates a revival of certain past concepts, for example, zones of influence. 3
As a result, Russia has become much more noticeable on the radars of world politics. If this was Russia’s goal, it has been achieved: the message that Moscow has to be reckoned with was energetically delivered to the world. However, it had to pay a high enough price for that, including sanctions, reputational costs, spiraling confrontation with the West, and an uncertain future of strategically important relations with Ukraine.
(v) China and India are two states which have seen the most noticeable change of their status in the international political system. It has already happened to China and is likely to happen to India in the near future. The strengthening of their positions is becoming an ever more important variable in the evolving regional and global balances and in the foreseeable future will often grow exponentially.
There are many open questions there. Chief of them is how stable will the two states be in terms of internal socio-economic and political situation and how they will project their influence in the world. This will prompt the actors in the international system in the 21st century to pursue a cautious and balanced policy but it would simultaneously push them toward competition. Such development would provide for these rising powers and other international actors additional room for maneuver and for coalition building, but it may also bring about surges of tensions based on mutual rivalry.
(vi) Some other states also claim de facto to become part of the nucleus of the international political system. This is an informal claim of course, but it may turn out to be even more important than various official status symbols. An important novel feature of recent times is the broadening circle of such states due to the inclusion of countries that until recently were fairly far away from the center of the international system.
The very logic of the development of the latter engenders this kind of dynamic. The immobilizing effect of bipolar confrontation is a thing of the past, and some regional players have seen an opportunity to position themselves independently in the world, something they could not even dream about before. For a long time, they were patronized (or perhaps controlled) by leading world powers. Today they do not only have a free hand, but a possibility to promote their agendas. And sometimes they claim regional leadership or even hegemony.
The results of such development for the international system are mixed. On the one hand, there arise growth points with potential of becoming new drivers of regional development. On the other hand, the system becomes more fragmented and may experience the tension of competing trends.
Turkey is an example in point. Its more active role in international politics is combined with zigzags in a whole range of areas of its relations with the external world. It also shows that the stakes in the struggle of the grandees for influence on the new players may go up, something the new players have been taking advantage of successfully in recent times.
At the same time (largely due to their not being rooted in the global establishment), their policies may appear to be spontaneous, arrogant and even provocative. And their rivalries among themselves may lead to regional clashes and confrontations. An example is the new conundrum in the greater Middle East with kaleidoscopic zigzags in the alignments of forces within the region (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey) and diversified and often conflicting tasks the external actors set themselves and seek to solve (Russia, the USA and its coalition and potentially China). This territorial area noted for the vagueness of its external borders and internal cleavages has every chance of becoming a new field of the big game and the most problematic zone of the international political system in the 21st century .
(i) A notable feature of the current international system is gradual loosening of its internal hierarchy. Today we see it becoming more diverse and multi-level and prone to various fluctuations. Ranking in international affairs is not determined according to a scheme set once and for all, as was the case, for example, in the unipolar world. A non-rigid system may change its configuration and structure and take various shapes depending on many circumstances. They may depend, for example, on the specific sphere at issue; the balance of forces there (and in other areas); the character of relations between the states involved; and on other external factors.
This is essentially a highly controversial phenomenon because the inner hierarchy forms the pivot and the framework of any systemic entity and its erosion would seem to put it in jeopardy. The kaleidoscopic character of hierarchy in international relations may be a source of tensions creating a potential of instability on the global level and in individual regional segments of the world system. But it also makes the system more flexible helping it to adapt to new problem situations.
It is by no means certain that the emergence of a more flexible hierarchy will become the prevalent feature of the international system. It is unlikely to be an irreversible phenomenon. Most probably two circumstances will be key: the development of more structured international architecture and growing economic and political interdependence.
Of course, it is important not to entertain inflated illusions. Even if the international system becomes more flexible and varied, it is unlikely that the problem situations and dramatic clashes to which it would have to respond will diminish. All the causes that created them before will continue to generate them in the future.
However, looking at this dynamic in the most general way one can imagine that the main intrigue will follow two trajectories. The first is the emergence of a new configuration and balance of forces on the global and regional levels. The second is the center-periphery relationship over a broad spectrum (including technologies, information, resources, financial instruments, human capital, movement of people, security, etc.). The challenge facing international actors today is to put in place the globally balanced system while maintaining a complicated and contradictory dynamic of relations within its regional segments.
(ii) The problems stemming from the current or future systemic international political divisions will not go away. They have already been mentioned above.
The Russia-West cleavage brings together diverse factors, those that attest to mutual dissatisfaction with the course of development after the end of the Cold War, those arising from geopolitical rivalry and those connected with internal politics. The range of issues on which the sides do not see eye-to-eye tends to expand from NATO enlargement to the East, rivalry in the post-Soviet space, events in Ukraine and the situation in Syria. The cooperative part of the spectrum of possible mutual relations becomes marginal and almost a taboo. The chances for its progress are shrinking although they have not totally disappeared. There is little hope that given the wish when a political impulse toward it appears the situation could be rectified quickly and with little effort. Mutual trust is easy to lose and takes a lot of time and effort to regain.4
Another systemic dividing line is emerging between China on the one hand and the USA and its allies (especially Asia) on the other. It may even become a more important marker sidelining the twists of the Russian U-turn in international affairs.
Both types of dissociation may be mutually complementary. If the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and BRICS become involved an economic and political counterweight to the West may emerge. At the same time the underlying logic of this bipolarity is balanced by economic and political imperatives. The SCO leading countries (Russia, China, India) are heavily dependent on economic interaction with the West from where they get investments and new technologies. It is by no means certain that they would be ready to sacrifice this factor in favor of maintaining links with each other. There are contradictions too within the above-mentioned groups (China-India, India-Pakistan, between Central Asian countries), contradictions that are sometimes sharper than between them and the West. So, however attractive the idea of forming an alternative international system may be, a politically motivated wish to challenge the old establishment may not be sufficient.
Finally, let us mention yet another theoretically possible dividing line, i.e., the one that could be generated by counteraction to Islamic radicalism. One may speculate that this line could even bring together Russia, the West and China. But this far-fetched hypothesis is obviously not supported by practice. Although there is widespread fear of radical (extremist) Islamism, its opponents have a long way to go before they can become allies on a tripartite or even bilateral basis.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fear that confrontation with radical trends might introduce inter-civilizational (inter-confessional) rivalry into the international system. The consequences could have a negative impact on the internal situation in some countries (above all European ones) and spill over into the foreign policy sphere. In an extreme case, it may affect the entire range of relations between non-Muslim and Muslim countries. Especially if one takes into account the risk that the wave of populism may sweep away the seemingly strong immunity to risky words or actions in this field.
(iii) Another category of important challenges for the international system has to do with it becoming immersed in internal affairs or rising above the prevailing nation state foreign policy imperatives. Three groups of problems could be indicated here.
The first one focuses upon the question: how internal problems should relate to international relations? Let us recall that there is nothing new in discussions on that score both conceptual and at the level of practical politics. At the same time, one has to admit that the theme itself is acquiring a new urgency. The collisions around sovereignty and color revolutions are especially serious.
On one pole, there is an attitude that interference in the internal affairs of states should be minimal and even non-existent because it may express the aggressive designs of some international actors, their quest of dominance. On the other hand, there is the thesis of growing influence of transnational processes, the deep (and still deepening) connection between the problem situations within a country and the external world and the impossibility, in principle, of building a blind wall to keep these problems at bay.
This may provide the ground for polemical battles sometimes useful and sometimes not very fruitful (like passionate discussions as to whether it is possible to create a perpetuum mobile and how to create it.) However, some conflicts that arise are real (and even bloody).
There is no need to establish a new world order in order to determine ways preventing such clashes. The direction that may deliver a solution has long been indicated. It consists of the state assuming some obligations to comply with certain criteria in its domestic development. The criteria and the obligations to comply may be formal in character, but far more importantly they should represent a code of conduct that is recognized de facto.
Perhaps over time the practice will become more widespread in the framework of international system development according to the liberal algorithm. But today movement in that direction has clearly stalled in some of its segments (or has even reversed). There are many signs to show that this dynamic will characterize the development of the international system for a long time to come.
However even the next change of vector does not guarantee rapid development in the said direction. By contrast, the probability of new conflicts being generated is much higher. Present-day life abounds in such examples. For example, some partners of a strife-torn country may interpret the events there from opposite angles (as in the case of Ukraine and Syria) or no agreement is reached on measures the international community can and must take (as in the case of Libya).
Thus, under present-day conditions, plunging into domestic problems from the international political level may generate conflicts. This throws up another question: would it be true to say that an effective antithesis is elevation to the level of general challenges and global problems? The picture that emerges is highly controversial.
On the one hand, the existence of common problems has traditionally been thought to stimulate consolidation of international community because the imperative of cooperation in areas where it is impossible to achieve meaningful results acting separately is obvious. Indeed, in practice this broadens the area of international cooperation. The list of such spheres is constantly growing: ecology, climate, human health, migration, new technologies but also terrorism, corruption and other forms of transnational criminal activities…
Optimists are convinced that the incentives to cooperation are so powerful that they will soon help to overcome the collapse of the relations between Russia and the West or at least mitigate it. However, skeptics have their grounds for pessimistic assessments and forecasts.
Global problems and shared challenges do not only push the states toward cooperation, but also create new contradictions between them. For example, they may deepen the actual inequality of technological potential (because leaders will always seek to adapt joint decisions to their own interests and are not eager to altruistically share their achievements with the laggards). Or they may relate in different ways in different countries with their other priorities (as is happening today in the sphere of cybersecurity). The considerable body of experience of handling such problems, although certainly positive, has yet to bring about a breakthrough in terms of influencing the international system. For example, the problem of fighting international terrorism contrary to expectations failed to become a powerful driver for joint actions.
Most importantly, the commitment to solve such problems through joint efforts assumes a model of a globalizing world with common values and universally shared interests. In reality an opposite trend is gathering momentum which gives priority only to one’s own concerns. This is the third challenge for the international system.
Let us define it as the phenomenon of sovereign particularism. It refers to ideas and political imperatives that proceed from the absolute value of sovereignty and an equally absolute prevalence of national (country) interests.
Today this mode of thinking and this line of practical behavior seem legitimate and natural to many. Indeed, how else can one formulate foreign policy tasks, economic development goals and conditions for security except by recognizing the unconditional priority of one’s own interests? Many countries are leaning to this side. The preservation, let alone growth, of this attitude may affect the attitude to the external world in general. By placing particular motives at the top and putting on the back burner those that go beyond the framework of nation-state pragmatism, relate to the problems of society in the broad sense or prize solidarity.
The arguments from the national egoism arsenal can be very effective in the propaganda battles because they do not need sophisticated justifications and can easily gain support inside the country. Hence the attractive possibilities of effective legitimization of a corresponding policy. It is also easy to refer to the concept of sovereignty. (We do what we consider to be necessary guided by the national interests and opposing any external pressures).
The consequences for the international system are obvious. The result will be a growing number of prerequisites for international conflicts, greater difficulty in achieving mutually acceptable compromise solutions while the stability of the system itself will come under a severe test.
Traditional Problems: Shifting Accents
The agenda of the world order today and tomorrow is still the same as it was yesterday and the day before yesterday. But some new accents have emerged in the political discourse and they may well attract extra attention. It may be that they would reveal some fundamental parameters that would adjust the world order.
(i) An important novel feature is the broader interpretation of security and all things related to it over the entire range of problems: concerning the threats and security challenges, conditions of security, the methods, means and instruments used, parameters of possible interaction with external partners, etc. Security is a more diverse and multidimensional phenomenon than purely military security; nowadays it often includes the state of affairs in many spheres of social life which previously were beyond the boundaries of this theme.
This is a highly controversial trend. On the one hand, it reflects reality more adequately and on the other hand, it waters down the specificity of the concept of security since it may include any problem. It devalues the criteria of security, reduces the possibility of its proper assessment which may become subject to expediency considerations proceeding from alarmism stoked up with respect to specific situation.
While this approach would seem to be an antithesis of traditional military force thinking, in practice the two approaches often go hand-in-hand. This brings back to life the old algorithms such as the one that describes the classical paradox of security when concern for security for oneself in reality prompts the opponent to step up its military activities. The result may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, which we see for example in the context of re-emerging confrontation between Russia and NATO.
It would be dangerous if this becomes the norm. This is a case when international actors must reverse the trend no matter how it is interpreted (as a result of a new world order or as a legacy of the old one).
(ii) The critical situation in the nuclear arms field is a great cause for the worry . All the concerns that seemed to have been left behind over the past several decades are coming back. There is a danger that the entire experience of the relevant discussions among politicians and official negotiators when official agreements were hammered out and concluded and intensive verification activities took place will be thrown overboard. We see public legitimization of the political use of nuclear weapons as well as their military use, something that for decades would go beyond political correctness and was almost a taboo topic.
One can see serious consequences here for international relations. First, this may create an imperative for military buildup and for launching new spirals of the arms race. Second, the threat of dangerous brinkmanship in a sphere that can quickly escalate into a military clash with catastrophic consequences. Third, a high probability of the nuclear non-proliferation regime collapsing, with prospects of new states acquiring nuclear weapons and the growing danger of nuclear terrorism.
This confronts the international-political system with a truly dramatic challenge. Either to stop the above changes (which may be unrealistic) or focus on reviving nuclear arms control in the future (preferably not too distant future, perhaps from square one, with a different configuration of participants and on the basis of adjusted benchmarks and principles). One can take heart from the fact that international actors have already traversed that path in the past.
A new world order may be formed without arms control. But in that case its effectiveness will be highly problematic (at least in ensuring international security).
(iii) A clear trend in modern international development is a weakening of self-restraint (formal and political) in the matter of trans-border use of force.
Here too, one should not exaggerate things: there are hardly grounds for saying that might is right is becoming the dominant algorithm and that just about everyone is prepared to use force always and everywhere to achieve their international goals. International law still plays a significant regulatory role on that score (although not always and sometimes with virtuoso flexibility in its interpretation). There are other restraining factors, for example, financial, or fear of undesirable reputational consequences.
And yet examples of the use of force externally continue to multiply. There have been many such examples in the past, but the danger today is of banalization of trans-border use of force when it would be considered not something out of the ordinary (or at least not normal), as it is today, but routine practice to which everyone is used and which everyone takes if not as proper, at least as inevitable. Even Moscow in the course of the turbulent events of the past decade departed to some extent from the maximum limitation approach on that score, the approach it has traditionally declared (no use of force outside the country except for self-defense, at the invitation of the official authorities or by the decision of UN Security Council).
An alarmist interpretation of the trend for more active trans-border use of force implies that it may become even broader in terms of territory. It could push into the background discussions as to its legitimacy while bringing to the fore the problem of achieving maximum result within the shortest time at minimal political cost (both domestically and internationally).
What does such development hold in store? Such actions by any country may result in increasingly lightweight decision-making in the future. It may be noted that Russia is by no means the leader in this field, but while over Kosovo and Iraq it opposed the process, its involvement in Syria brought it into the mainstream. Another consequence is that the international legal instruments in situations of trans-border use of force malfunction more and more frequently and are devalued giving way to political and propaganda instruments. One can also trace the connection with the reappraisal of ideas about the relative decrease of the role of the military force which were popular in the wake of the end of the Cold War.
Finally, the distinction between forceful and non-forceful trans-border actions becomes increasingly diluted. The concept of hybrid war that has emerged in this connection distills both the fear of external threat and the potential of influencing others. Both become a complex phenomenon that may include everything from straightforward and black propaganda to the bribing of politicians, from cyberattacks to actions to destabilize the financial system, from organizing separatist movements to special forces actions, etc.
Strictly speaking, all this is not entirely new. History (even biblical texts) bristle with examples of this kind: hybrid wars have happened frequently although they were not called that. However, some circumstances connected with this phenomenon might well be described as new. They manifested themselves in the last 10-15 years. First, the use of corresponding technologies has been tested on an unprecedentedly wide scale flinging the door open for them into the future. Second, the colossal potential of propaganda and political manipulations in this field have been revealed and have turned out to be vastly greater than could have been imagined. Third, there arose the amazing phenomenon of apology of hybrid wars which are coming to be seen as more effective (or more dangerous, depending on the side from which you look at it) than traditional methods.
(iv) Another problem which is as old as the world, and which stands out in bolder relief from the picture of the existing (or emerging) world order, concerns the country status of territories. This includes such issues as change of borders, secession, irredentism, etc. They have never been simple, but they may acquire a new (and dangerous) dynamism under the impact of the rapid and profound changes that are replacing age-old immobility. This is especially true of places where there is a surge of socio-political activity, including the search of identity on ethnic, confessional, cultural-historical, nation state and other grounds.
Contradictions over borders and country affiliation of territories have always been among the key sources of conflicts and wars. That is how these problems were solved throughout most of human history. However, the international community gradually built up a body of experience in resolving such contradictions without the use of force.
This experience shows that it is a daunting task. But it also generates an awareness that one cannot act in a cavalier fashion and in haste, or else one would have to pay a heavy price. This issue has a long history; diverse approaches have been devised (including at the highest professional level by the OSCE). Objectively, it is important to use this potential to minimize the conflict algorithm in addressing the said problems.
Russia solved the Crimea issue quickly and apparently with great efficiency. That it won’t backtrack on this situation is obvious. Similarly, there are unlikely to be attempts to test Russia’s mettle over the Crimea issue. So, while the international legal aspect of the case is likely to be long in limbo, the geopolitical component looks fairly stable.
However, it is far from obvious what conclusions can be drawn from this precedent for the international system. Does it pave the way for playing out the same scenario in other places and by other actors? Should it always be necessary (and possible) to proceed from the unquestioned prevalence of the principle of self-determination (expression of the people’s will) over any other imperatives? What political agreements and understandings can be observed or ignored in the process? How important is the factor of external safeguards or the absence thereof? What are the prospects of gathering lands together based on the principles of ethnic community or political self-identification of the population? How great is the role of change compressed in time (the quick force factor)? How justified (feasible) is the use of force or its projection through hybrid technologies?
The factors that determine the behavior of states in crisis situations like this are concrete and depend on the situation. But they may turn out to be relevant in areas of international turbulence (for example in Africa and in the Middle East) even in spite of the convincingly demonstrated and very high political, reputational and other costs of unilateral actions with a significant use of force. ***
The arguments as to whether the existing world order is good or bad and whether alternatives are possible in these turbulent, rapidly changing times are probably inevitable. In the course of such arguments, analysts should bear in mind three key characteristics of the world order: its stability, effectiveness and maturity. The stability of any world order is guaranteed by its successful functioning. The key indicator of effectiveness is the ability to adequately respond to challenges arising in the process of international political development. The sign of maturity is the ability of participants to minimize the problems that do not lend themselves to solution, to avoid panicking on this ground and to be committed to constructive interaction for the sake of maintaining international stability.
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1 Russia, according to Fyodor Lukyanov, did not recognize the post-USSR realities as immutable… [It] never fully agreed to the existence of a new world order which the West took for granted, although it has tolerated it as a given from the mid-2000s [8, p. 74].
2 In the context of the issues dealt with in this article the concepts of center of force, pole of influence and similar terms and word combinations are used interchangeably. One can find differences between them but here we are concerned only with the conventional use of words. The same applies to the terms multipolar, multipole and polycentric, unipolarity and unipoleness etc.
3 By analogy with the terms revisionist state and status quo state let us call the state with such type of behavior plus quam perfectum state.
Trust between Russia and NATO countries has been totally lost, according to a recent joint report of the Russian International Affairs Council and the European Leadership Network. Nevertheless the report formulates this mobilizing recommendation: …to see how the existing relations of mutual deterrence can be rendered more stable [12, p. 6].
Translated by Yevgeny Filippov
Author: Elena Zubkova
Soviet Life as a Subject of Historical Reconstruction
Author: Elena Zubkova
Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 21-35
Abstract. The author has offered the “Soviet life” concept as an integral model of future studies of the social history of Russia/the USSR. Development of historical knowledge and response to the challenges of post-Soviet nostalgia and collective memory of the Soviet past are impossible without methodological and subject synthesis in the studies of the “Soviet” phenomenon. This article is an attempt to provide adequate answers to the questions about the criteria most suited for construction/reconstruction of what is called Soviet life, and about the extent to which the past experience of constructing integral models of Soviet socialist reality proved to be successful/unsuccessful. How do they help us assess the prospects of the studies of the “Soviet project” on the whole? This article is an invitation to discussions of the future of the social history of Russia.
Keywords: Russia/USSR, social history, Soviet life, history of everyday life, post-Soviet nostalgia.
E. Zubkova, D. Sc. (History), chief researcher, Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was first published in Russian in the journal Rossiyskaya istoriya (The Russian History. 2019. No. 5, pp. 3-14; DOI: 10.31857/ S0869568700006372-0).
The Soviet project in all its manifestations attracted and continues to attract experts in historical studies, political science, sociology, and culturology. Social history, which reached incredible historiographical heights in the late 1990s, is developing at a fast pace into the branch that studies the phenomenon of the Soviet. Its popularity is explained not only by the wide scope of its subject but also by its receptivity of interdisciplinary methods—highly logical (even if frequently diverging) coexistence of macro- and micro-history, even if it becomes “omnivorous” so to speak when it comes to the source base. The years of rapid development of the social history of Russia of the Soviet period created an impressive body of historiographical works; their comprehensive “inventory” is a separate task. Today, however, it has become clear that its generalization is not enough. It should become a launching pad for new studies needed to accumulate our knowledge of Soviet reality and verify the offered models of its explanation. From this it follows that methodological and subject-related synthesis is the main road of the development of social history of the Soviet.
The importance of strategies of integral research is not limited to the 20th-century social history of Russia. It was back in the late 1990s that Lorina Repina who studies the trends and tendencies of world historiography arrived at a conclusion that an interdisciplinary synthesis as a new orientation of studies of social history was indispensable . Much has been written on the subject (see, for example, [28; 51; 53]); the suggested ideas have been successfully realized by the studies of specific subjects. At the same time, the experiments with subject-related synthesis based on integral subject models used for the studies of the “Soviet” phenomenon remain exceptions rather than a rule. In this context, I deem it necessary to point to three books very different where their conceptions, methodologies and styles are concerned. Aleksey Yurchak  relied on the model of synthesis to reconstruct the life of one post-Soviet generation. Yury Slyozkin  did practically the same in a wider scope of The House on the Embankment as a microcosm of the Soviet; Natalya Lebina [34; 35] has offered her readers a building set of sorts to create one’s own Soviet world. Today, having agreed that the Soviet should be constructed1 and that its fragments should be gathered together into a single whole, we are living through a period of searching for the ways and means needed to close the gap between the idea and its realization.
This article does not formulate the problem. It is an impulse or even a challenge that offers the Soviet life phenomenon as an integral research model. The idea was born some time ago when the next volume of the Dokumenty sovetskoy istorii (Documents of Soviet History) dealing with Soviet everyday life of the postwar years was prepared for publication. The logic of the source led the collection beyond the usual boundaries of the history of everyday life, while its content offered a much more adequate and multisided picture of social reality of the time—the conditions and the strategies of existence of the country’s citizens. This was how a new term—Soviet life—appeared . As could be expected, this suggested the following questions: To which extent can this concept be conceptualized? Which criteria make it possible to construct/reconstruct Soviet life? To which extent were the previous efforts to create integral models of Soviet social reality successful/unsuccessful? How do they help us assess the prospects of the studies of the Sovietness phenomenon?
Challenges of Post-Soviet Nostalgia
The current experience of collective studies of the Soviet past has supplied us with a weighty argument: the concept of “Soviet life” should be used to define the subject of historical studies in the context of which post-Soviet nostalgia occupies one of the prominent places. Historical science and collective memory are different formats and different methods of “work.” At the same time, “the historian should keep in mind that the past she is rebuilding was somebody’s “present” [57, p. 5]. The Soviet period is a special territory of cognition in which the past remains so far closely connected with the present; in which recollections are still “hot” and are actively involved in building up the images of retreated reality.
As a rule, they brim with positive meanings. At the turn of the 2000s, sociologists of the Levada Center who studied the attitude of the Russians to the Soviet Union’s disintegration registered the nostalgia for the USSR as a consistent phenomenon. In the early 2000s, the share of those who regretted that the union state had disintegrated was 68-75%. Nearly twenty years later, in November 2018, 66% of the polled gave similar answers (an increase from 58% in the previous year). Today, an “index of nostalgia for the USSR” is used to measure this phenpmenon in different age groups. The causes, rather than the fact that nostalgia exists, are much more interesting. The set of answers offered by the Levada Center is not wide enough and, therefore, dynamics are registered on the basis of earlier polls. At the same time, there is an obvious and typical trend: the share of political (loss of the great country to which Soviet people belonged) and economic (destruction of a single economic system) motivations is slowly but steadily decreasing while the share of arguments related to living conditions and personal relationships is on the rise. Nostalgia remains mainly statist, yet in the picture of Soviet reality as it is constructed in collective memory, the image of state is gradually fading away: yearning for the great power is replaced with yearning for meanings . This probably explains why people who positively assess the Soviet period of history, including their personal histories, do not try to go “back to the USSR.”
This trend is much clearer in the Russian blogosphere; information technologies made the Internet practically the main platform on which images of the Soviet past are created and transmitted; where shared memories tie people into communities [1; 16]. In the virtual space, museumification of the Soviet past was materialized in the form of “people’s museums” [2; 3; 67]. This process is inevitably connected with the selection of the chronological period, events and symbols of the past. In the majority of cases, Internet communities and “people’s museums” concentrate on the 1970-1980s—the territory of the reminiscences of the last Soviet generation. The improvised expositions are steadily increasing, another specific feature of nostalgic museumification. According to Roman Abramov, the enthusiasts are driven by the desire to “identify and describe the typical features of the epoch reflected in everyday life of common Soviet people” [3, p. 4].
The Museum of Socialist Lifestyle, opened in Kazan in 2011, is one of the first and most interesting realizations of the “people’s museum” project. Housed in a former communal apartment, it is an impressive collection of artifacts of the 1970-1980s: objects of everyday use, clothing, toys, perfumery, musical instruments, etc. The founders are convinced that this collection makes it much easier to understand what drove the vast multinational country with the proud name of the USSR. Those who set up a similar project in St. Petersburg have written: “Our aim is not to boast of the achievements of the Soviet period but stir up warm feelings and positive emotions” . The expositions are absolutely true to this: despite the invitation “to tour the bright past,” they are not ideologically charged and are not alien to irony/self-irony: a tunic made of Young Pioneer scarves or a jacket out of covers of Communist Party cards are two examples.
The “people’s museums” as reconstructions of Soviet life are not so much a form of sacralization of the past but, to use Svetlana Boym’s definition, a “common place” of our memory  and an exhibition of the reified Soviet world. The names of museums “of socialist everyday life” do not completely reflect the intentions of those who started them and the content of their collections. The English name Museums of Soviet Lifestyle is much more to the point. Even if collections are obviously about the Soviet style/lifestyle, these exhibitions are closer to “old curiosity shops” where visitors can satisfy their curiosity and their interest in “antique objects,” rather than to a more or less complete picture of social reality (about the specifics of “people’s museums” and their virtual analogues see ). Their organizers, who are not professionals, never posed themselves this task. Historians are another matter. There is every reason to look closer at this highly interesting phenomenon: in the final analysis, not infrequently a social order of sorts takes shape in the sphere of collective reminiscences that creates a promising objective sphere of historical studies.
This means that the cognitive potential of nostalgic sentiments should be used for a professional response to the challenge of nostalgia; this is not about following the fashion and adjusting history to it. There is no shortage of publications that turn the past into a “favorite Park of Culture and Rest” [13, p. 295]. In one of her works about the “future of nostalgia,” the author suggested that the theory and practice of “prospective” rather than retrospective nostalgia should be developed when “love of ruins is combined with the quest for freedom while the unrequired past will open new roads in future” . The trajectory of cognition of “perspective nostalgia” in mastering the “unforeseen past” frequently avoids commonly accepted conceptions, methods and, in the first place, binary oppositions.2
Leonid Parfyonov’s media project called Namedni (The Other Day) is one of the first attempts to overcome the binary perception of Soviet social realities. As a response to the “nostalgic challenge,” it outstripped professional historiography. Started in the late 1990s as series of TV films and continued in book and digital variants, it is a “collection of phenomena of the Soviet period and an attempt to identify the main features of this civilization.” The films are based on editing events, people and phenomena selected in full conformity with the specifics of the genre of journalism (“everything without which it is hard to imagine, let alone understand us”) and the format of presentation on TV (“telegenic”) . This means that the project cannot and should not be assessed as a scholarly project. This reconstruction, even if not fully thought through, is much more inclusive and multisided than the majority of historical works.
This is explained by a combination of different optics of perception and presentation of the Soviet: “big” and “small” history, politics and everyday life, inner life and the world context. In fact, combination of different formats of reality, synchronization of processes and phenomena of different dimensions are typical of the picture of the world and life strategies of a “common” man. He treats the next “historical” congress of the Communist Party or a next international crisis as the background of his own life burdened with problems and filled with joys. As a rule, historians and experts in culture discuss Namedni in the context of the nostalgic discourse even if it is defined as a reflexive (or ironic) nostalgia [13, pp. 301-302; 14, 4, p. 56; 16, pp. 68-69; 22]. We are interested in this project, first and foremost, as an experiment of reconstructing social reality based on synthesis and synchronization.
The attempts at media reconstruction and presentation of “life in the USSR” were made in Soviet times as well. They were exclusively ideological: the Soviet media (the press, radio and TV) spared no effort to create and transfer positive images of our country for the audiences inside and outside it. The Soviet Life journal is the brightest example. It started as The USSR English-language journal in 1956 based on an agreement between the Soviet and American governments; in the 1960s, it changed its name and content to fit the interests of the American audience, who was not so much interested in “big politics” as in the real life of the Soviet people. The “Soviet life” word combination became part of the international vocabulary and led to a comprehensive “exported” image of Sovietness.
Words and Meanings
Today the word combination “Soviet life” is used as a figure of speech (at best) or as a common turn of phrase. When building up a conception of their studies, experts prefer other concepts, “Soviet everyday life” being their favorite. It was chosen by the participants in one of the most interesting recent projects, The Soviet in Everyday Life Past and Present (co-directors: Laura L. Adams and Gulnara Aitpaeva), designed to elaborate integral teaching courses (model kits of sorts) to help students “understand the diversity of Soviet life” (!) [5, p. 5]. Despite the title, its content goes far beyond the frameworks of the history of the routine of everyday life.3
Natalya Lebina uses the concepts “Soviet everyday life” and “trivial life”; Aleksey Yurchak has recreated the integral model of Soviet life as applied to a specific period of history based on the experience of one (the late Soviet) generation. Having elected the concept “Soviet system” (or “system”) as a conceptual framework, he filled it with a different content. He treats the “system” as an intricate combination of relationships, institutions, identifications and meanings that together form the “living space of citizens” [35; 72, pp. 36-37].
Whence is the rejection or even fear of the term “Soviet life”? There are several plausible explanations: it is ideologically burdened, its meaningful borders are vague while its mundane perception allegedly deprives it of any “scholarly value.” It is not easy, however, to find a meaningful and ideologically neutral construct (system being an adequate example). Despite the skepticism of its critics and the vagueness of its borders, the history of everyday life has been developing quite successfully. The problem of lack of scholarly meaning of a concept is merely (or in the first place, to be more exact) the problem of language. The language of scholarly studies is not so much the words but the meanings which we put into words. Time has come to move from words to meanings.
In the 1960s, when sociological studies were resumed in the Soviet Union after a period of more than three decades, Yury Levada [37, p. 15] insisted on a systemic approach to social studies. In his lectures on sociology (later described as “seditious”) that produced a strong echo, he spoke of the need to study social life as a system of relationships while its spheres as parts (or attachment points) of this structure. “We all know that nobody lives and acts only in the sphere of labor. Nobody, irrespective of profession or occupation lives only in the sphere of legal or moral relationships in society. Each and every one lives and acts in the production sphere and also in the normative, legal, moral, aesthetic and other spheres.” In the same way, life cannot be divided into public and private, into work and leisure, the spiritual and the material. It is not locked in the mundane: it is in everyday experience and a breakout from it when the usual order of everyday practices is replaced with new experience, impressions and emotions. This explains why specific studies of the history of Soviet everyday life frequently go beyond the frames of everyday life proper.
In an effort to reconstruct Soviet life, we should change, first and foremost, the optics of our perception and move from details to the system. In this case, we are talking about a system in which Soviet society, its groups and individuals lived, and about certain regulated (predetermined) and spontaneous conditions that demonstrated sustained features (consolidated by everyday practices and rituals) and, at the same time, mobile and changing. The system is built on the principle of trans-objective, intercrossing problem fields—spaces/places, practices, subjects, attributes and symbols. They have configurations of their own, which are fairly complicated: spaces are presented by public, private and “third” spheres, common and local formats. There are consumer, labor, leisure, educational, parental, selective (inclusion/exclusion), ritual, control, “normal” (prescribed) and deviating practices. The circle of subjects depends on the criteria of social identification and the methods of studies (demographic analysis, gender approach, generation history, etc.). Elite and marginal groups, women and men, people of different ages (children, the youth and the older generations), members of different peoples can be selected as subjects.
The multitude of spaces, practices and subjects makes it possible to register not only the common features of the conditions and quality of life in the Soviet Union, but also their social, gender, national, cultural and geographic specifics. Life in the capital differed from life in the periphery, as did urban life from life in the countryside, while those who lived in Soviet Uzbekistan and Soviet Estonia existed in different dimensions. The specifics of gender roles and stereotypes determined behavior of the individual at work, in the family and on vacation as well as specifics of communication and outlined the “male” and “female” spaces. Unequal social and economic statuses meant different access to material resources and benefits. It is highly important not to lose in this melee the focus of studies that makes it possible to mark the Sovietness of Soviet life (sic!).
The term “Sovietness” became part of scholarly vocabulary in the late 1990s yet, as Mikhail Guboglo has pointed out there is no more or less clear understanding of it [23, p. 9]. It is used in different contexts, its use determined by different methodological principles.4 In the majority of cases it is used to describe socio-cultural identity—applied either to a general category of “Soviet man” or in a narrower context to the supra-ethnic community of people (the “Soviet people”) and the description of interethnic relations in the USSR and across the post-Soviet space [33; 7; 18; 48]. Yury Pivovarov has offered a systemic analysis of the category “Sovietness” in the historical context of continuity of the institutions and relationships of power, property and society in the USSR and in contemporary Russia [45; 46; 47]. His interpretation of this category perfectly suits the tasks of reconstruction of Soviet specifics: Sovietness as a combination of the corridor of possibilities and limiting frameworks.
Not always conceptually articulated, Sovietness (Soviet specifics) is invariably, even if implicitly, present in the studies of Soviet everyday life. In the 2000s, historiography concentrated mainly on the studies of reified world, symbols (brands) of the Soviet, clothing and fashions [34; 35; 39; 64; 8; 74; 73]. Timothy Johnston  has made the question of what it meant being Soviet the title of his book about the Soviet society of the 1930-1950s. Juliane Fürst used the tem “Sovietness” in her monograph on the last Stalin generation . The fact that the authors of all reviews of Johnston’s book [15; 27; 32] paid particular attention to his identification of the specifics of Sovietness and deviations from it looks interesting.
At the same time, the conceptual frameworks of Sovietness have not yet been used as a qualification marker of the system of everyday life—Soviet life. The first sketchy attempt to tie together the concepts of “Sovietness” and “Soviet life” belongs to Valery Tishkov. In the context of his deliberations of the ethnography of Sovietness, he has written: “Much was suppressed in Soviet life, civil freedoms and respect for human life in the first place. On the other hand, social collectivism, professional culture and education were encouraged, while inefficient economic management and bad administration made personal wealth, comfortable environment, adequate everyday culture and spatial mobility unattainable” .
In reconstructions of Soviet life as an object of studies the concept “Sovietness” fulfills a dual function—socio-cultural as an identification marker and instrumental than makes it possible to build up a system of coordinates of life activities (“corridor of possibilities and limiting frameworks”). Sovietness fixes the specifics, this much is clear yet its nature is more complicated: it registers the “norm” and, at the same time, permits deviations. What has been said and written about the exclusive nature of Soviet life, its spheres and subjects as totally controlled and manageable and about its complete isolation from the main trends of modernity are nothing but historical anachronisms. The development of the sphere of private life in the USSR5 that for a long time was believed to be destroyed in its immanent Sovietness is totally correlated with the evolution of privacy in the West. The post-Soviet perspective gave us a better view of the specifics of Sovietness. It turned out that the frames of Sovietness in public and private life were fairly flexible and penetrable to the extent that they allowed citizens to adjust to the new post-Soviet reality. “It seems that at least a certain segment of public life unfolding within the state-socialist dictatorship helped people adjust to these changes,” concluded the authors of the book about the development of the public sphere in the Soviet Union [65, p. 10].
At the same time, the Soviet Union’s disintegration made it abundantly clear that Sovietness was not dissolved in post-Soviet social realities: it has survived and regularly betrays itself. The level and quality of life have changed considerably while the behavior models, habits and communication formats in many cases remained the same. Sociologists of the Levada Center were the first to identify the trend. For many years they studied “the Soviet man” in its dynamics. The authors of the project, devised in 1988 to register the “vanishing scenery,” had to admit after several decades of studies that “the scenery has not vanished” . The “Soviet man” is reproduced in post-Soviet generations. He no longer stands in queues; no longer hunts for deficit and no longer even seeks consolation at his friend’s kitchen but in many other respects he lives according to the “Soviet patterns.”
Each historical phenomenon has certain chronological limits. The question is, when did life in the Soviet Union become Soviet? I agree with Pivovarov on this point as well [45, p. 61]: Soviet life became “normal,” that is, sustainable, approximately in the mid-1950s. What can we say about the earlier period? The Soviet man as the main subject of Soviet life was an earlier project. Sovietness is inseparable from extreme measures, emergencies and mobilization strategies that remained dominant for a long time. This means that it is historically correct to divide Soviet life into the “extraordinary” (Stalin) and “normal” periods.
Soviet Life: Subjects, Spaces, Tactics
Everyday life of the Soviet citizens had its specifics. Here I want to outline lacunae in historiography, which remains highly choosy. This is true of the chronological periods, subjects and stories. In the last few years, its focus has been shifting toward the postwar and late Soviet period, but the mainstream is still concentrated on the 1920-1930s. “Female” and “child” stories are the main subjects of the studies of Soviet life.6 There is a highly specific historiographical age-ism: the life of the older generations is practically ignored.7 Soviet life is a story of generations in the socio-cultural, rather than demographic, context: post-revolutionary, those who fought in the Great Patriotic War, postwar, the so-called “generation of the Sixties” and the late Soviet generation, each with its own history and its own Soviet life .8
The spaces of Soviet life have been studied in the same highly “choosy” way which is true of the public, private and third sphere (“third places” for Ray Oldenburg ). The latter played an extremely important role in the conditions of strictly controlled public and private life. As a special place of communication, it had started with “Blue Danubes” of the postwar years, the last shelter of the war veterans; it continued as youth cafes of the “thaw” period and was reformatted into mini-spaces—“kitchens,” “garages” and “weight-lifting gyms.” Aleksey Golubev  has pointed to the role played by these mini-places—courtyards, entrance halls and cellars of apartment houses. Much has already been written about the communal apartments that for a long time shaped the Soviet lifeworld as well as about “Khrushchevkas” that replaced them [20; 36; 40; 69; 12; 19; 42; 50]. The majority of the mini-places, however, so far remain outside the spheres of historians’ interest.
The specific nature of Soviet life was graphically represented in Soviet practices: the rituals of admittance to Young Pioneers, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol) and to the Communist Party; selection of candidates for trips abroad; Komsomol and Communist party meetings. Purges, an inevitable feature of the Communist Party life in the 1920-1930, survived in different forms (reprehensions of “amoral behavior”) as part of the mechanism designed to preserve (or imitated preservation of) social order.
Consumer practices constitute a subject of studies in their own right. To which extent and to which periods is the “Western” term consumerism applicable to Soviet realities? Was the Soviet man a “consumer” in the sense which Jean Baudrillard had in mind in his works? (see [9; 10]). Was homo soveticus a homo consumens, and to what extent? Alexis Berelowitch [11, p. 64] has written in this respect that in the 1970s, Soviet society “had resolved the problem of physiological survival to become if not a consumer society than a society that wanted to consume.” Consumer society in the context of deficit is another phenomenon the studies of which have hardly begun.9 On December 24, 1953, Soviet newspapers informed their readers that Lavrenty Beria had been executed and that GUM, the country’s main department store, had been opened. This coincidence spoke volumes, which the foreign press did not miss. Several years later, German weekly Der Spiegel wrote about the “road to GUM” as a message of the “thaw,” that is, return to “normality” .
The Soviet leisure spaces and practices of the late Soviet period, in the first place, are another terra incognita of sorts. Work and leisure were tied together: the access to many leisure, let alone recreational, facilities depended on the person’s achievements at work and, to a much greater extent, on personal contacts. Stephen Lovell [38, p. 149] offered time as another parameter of the Soviet: “If you want to understand leisure, you should also investigate how your historical subjects understood work … how they divided up their time … what you find is not smooth switches between work and leisure, but a complex interplay between many different senses of time.”
Soviet life constitutes part of personal experience for some people and is terra incognita for the post-Soviet generations. In any case, this means that we should look more closely at this highly interesting phenomenon.
In Lieu of a Conclusion
For two years, I taught the course Soviet Life: Spaces, Subjects, Practices for MA students of the Higher School of Economics. Conventionally, my audience was divided into those who studied the history of not necessarily Russia up to the 20th century and those who made history of Russia of the 20th and 21st century the subject of their studies. At our seminars, I noticed that the latter found it much easier to analyze, while their colleagues who studied earlier periods much better coped with synthesis of the past and making whole out of components. As could be expected, those who studied Russia’s history of the 20th and 21st centuries were more familiar with historiography, but having already analyzed Soviet life in detail, has not yet offered a reconstruction strategy. The first group, not burdened by “details” of professional historiography, was much freer. Both groups learned a lot from family friends and relatives who shared with them their personal experience of Soviet life. We tried to put together bits and pieces of this construction set and partly succeeded and partly failed: the project was highly ambitious and highly unpredictable.
This article is not an analysis of what has already been written on the subject and not assembly instructions. This is an invitation to a discussion of what looks like an important and prospective problem.
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42. Obertreis J. Tränen des Sozialismus: Wohnen in Leningrad zwischen Alltag und Utopie 1917-1937. Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2004.
43. Oldenburg R. The Third Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2014. (In Russian.)
44. Parfyonov L. G. “Our History Is Rich…” Interview. Otechestvenniye zapiski. 2004. No. 5. Available at: http://www.strana-oz.ru/2004/5/nasha-istoriya-bogata.
45. Pivovarov Yu. S. “...And the Century Lies in Ruins.” Politicheskiye issledovaniya. 2011. No. 6, pp. 52-77. (In Russian.)
46. Pivovarov Yu. S. On the “Soviet” and How to Overcome It (first article). The Soviet über alles. Politicheskiye issledovaniya. 2014. No. 1, pp. 60-82. (In Russian.)
47. Pivovarov Yu. S. On the “Soviet” and How to Overcome It (second article). What is to be Done? Politicheskiye issledovaniya. 2014. No. 2, pp. 31-60. (In Russian.)
48. Popov M. Ye. Metamorphoses of Supraethnic Identity: Sovietness, Ethnicity and the Russian Civilian Nation. National Identity of Russia and the Demographic Crisis. Moscow: Nauchniy ekspert, 2007, pp. 607-617. (In Russian.)
49. Raleigh D. J. Soviet Baby Boomers: Post-war Generation Talks about Themselves and their Country. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2015. (In Russian.)
50. Reid S. E. The Meaning of Home: “The Only Bit of the World You Can Have to Yourself.” Borders of Socialism. Private Spheres of Soviet Russia. Ed. by L. H. Siegelbaum. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, pp. 145-170.
51. Repina L. P. “New Science of History” and Social History. Moscow: LKI, 2009. (In Russian.)
52. Repina L. P. The Change of Cognitive Orientations and Metamorphoses of Social History. Part 2. Social History. An Annual 1998-1999. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 1999, pp. 7-38. (In Russian.)
53. Repina L. P. New Research Strategies in Russian and World Historiography. Moscow: GU VShE, 2008. (In Russian.)
54. Romashova M. V. “Deficit” of Grans: Soviet Discourse of Old Age and Scenarios of Ageing. Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie. 2015. No. 5, pp. 55-65. Available at: http://magazines.russ.ru/nlo/2015/3/6r.html. (In Russian.)
55. Romashova M. V. World History of Ageing: From Antiquity to Our Days. Vestnik Permskogo universiteta (Herald of Perm University). 2017. No. 1, pp. 189-197. (In Russian.)
56. Rozhkov A. Yu. Among Contemporaries. The Lifeworld of a Young Man in Soviet Russia of the 1920s. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2015. (In Russian.)
57. Savelyeva I. M., Poletayev A. V. Knowledge about the Past: Theory and History. Vol. 1: Constructing the Past. St. Petersburg: Nauka Publishers, 2003. (In Russian.)
58. Sedov L. A. Nostalgia for the USSR. Available at: https://www.levada.ru/ 2007/12/23/l-a-sedov-nostalgiya-po-sssr. (In Russian.)
59. Slyozkin Yu. The Government Building. The Saga of Russian Revolution. Moscow: Corpus, 2019. (In Russian.)
60. Smirnova T. M. Children of the Soviet Country: From State Policy to the Realities of Everyday Life. 1917-1940. Moscow; St. Petersburg: IRI RAN; Tsentr gumanitarnykh initsiativ, 2015.
61. Somov V. A. Phenomenon of the Sovietness. Historical and Cultural Aspect. Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya. 2015. No. 2, pp. 12-20. (In Russian.)
62. The Soviet Everyday Life. Available at: https://sites.google.com/site/soviete verydaylife. (In Russian.)
63. The Soviet Life. 1945-1953. Compiled by E. Yu. Zubkova, L. P. Kosheleva, G. A. Kuznetsova, A. I. Minyuk, L. A. Rogovaya. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2003. (In Russian.)
64. The Soviet Things: Friends, Enemies, Betrayers. Available at: https://www. nlobooks.ru/magazines/novoe_literaturnoe_obozrenie/143_nlo_1_2017/. (In Russian.)
65. Sphären von Öffentlichkeit in Gesellschaften sowjetischen Typs: Zwischen partei-staatlicher Selbstinszenierung und kirchlichen Gegenwelten. Hrsg. G. Rittersporn, M. Rolf, J. Behrends. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2003.
66. Die Straße zu “Gum.” Der Spiegel. 1957. No. 29, pp. 28-35.
67. Timofeyev T. Yu. Museumification of the USSR. Labirint. 2014. No. 5, pp. 25-33. (In Russian.)
68. Tishkov V. A. Ethnography of Sovietness. Algorithms of Humanity. An Experience in Anthropological Studies. Comp. and ed. by M. N. Guboglo. Mos-cow: Institut etnografii i antropologii RAN, 2018, pp. 32-44. (In Russian.)
69. Utekhin I. Sketches of Communal Life. Moscow: O.G.I., 2001. (In Russian.)
70. Utopian Islands: Pedagogical and Social Design of Post-War School (1940-1980). Ed. by I. Kukulin, M. Mayofis, P. Safronov. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2015. (In Russian.)
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72. Yurchak A. This Was Forever, Until It Ended. The Last Soviet Generation. Moscow: Novoye literaturnoye obozrenie, 2014. (In Russian.)
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75. Zubkova E. Yu. Private Life in the Soviet Epoch: Historiographical Rehabilitation and Prospects of Further Studies. Rossiyskaya istoriya (The Russian History). 2011. No. 3, pp. 157-167. (In Russian.)
76. Zubok V. Zhivago’s Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia. Cambridge; London: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2009.
1 Since 2007, the European University at St. Petersburg has been organizing annual conferences within the project “Building up the Soviet? Political Consciousness, Everyday Practices, New Identities.” What is especially important is the fact that the project attracts young post-graduate students and young academics born and socialized in post-Soviet Russia and for whom Soviet experience is no longer a territory of “personal” history.
2 More on criticism of binary oppositions used to describe Soviet reality see [72, pp. 38-44].
3 The project can be found on The Soviet Everyday Life website .
4 For the survey of the man positions on the subject see [23; 61].
5 For more detail of historiography of private life see .
6 I deem it necessary to point to the following books on “child” history, which I consider most important [70; 60; 31; 33].
7 Publications by Maria Romashova (in particular [54; 55]) stand aside.
8 So far, the books that present Soviet life as histories of different generations are few and far between: [71; 49; 56; 72; 26; 17; 76].
9 Anna Ivanova has written one of the most interesting works about this .
Translated by Valentina Levina
Author: Lyubov Borusyak
Young Intellectuals: Why Are They Leaving Russia and Do They Plan to Come Back?1
Author: Lyubov Borusyak
Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 50, No. 3, pp. 4-23
Abstract. This article is based on the results of a pilot online survey of 115 young well-educated Russians who left Russia and are now living abroad. The study has shown that a considerable number of them will not come back. They do not want to change their identity; they identify themselves mostly with Russian or world culture rather than with the culture of the country of residence even if they do not like the sociopolitical and socioeconomic situation in Russia.
They actively communicate with their families in Russia; they have friends in the new country, many of them Russian speakers. They value Russian culture, yet the social institutions, democracy, security, professional growth and quality of life in the new country are much better. Many of them do not agree with Russia’s policy and refuse to feel responsible for it; they resolutely separate themselves from the state. Definition of their own status (expat, emigrant, etc.) is of no importance; they pay no attention to it as a leftover of the old, non-globalized world.
Keywords: young Russian intellectuals, emigration, education in Russia and abroad, identity, self-identification, culture, language, ethnicity.For a long time, the subject of the new wave of emigration from Russia remained on the margins of sociologists who chose to discuss its scope [7; 8; 5; 1]. The results of local studies of life of Russian emigrants in various countries (France, Israel, Finland, etc.) were published with special attention to their adaptation and self-identification [2; 4; 9]. Recently, the subject of brain drain from Russia has moved to the center of the academic and public discourse. Fundamental studies appeared in quick succession after a long period of inattention: the monograph by Sheila Puffer, Daniel McCarthy and Daniel Satinsky, Hammer and Silicon: The Soviet Diaspora in the US Innovation Economy  and the report by John Herbst and Sergey Erofeev, The Putin Exodus: The New Russian Brain Drain published under the aegis of the Atlantic Council . The academic community, the press and social networks actively discussed the results of the All-Russia public opinion poll carried by the Levada Center in December 2018 : 17% of those who live in Russia would like to emigrate; the share is much higher (41%) among the younger generation. These figures do not change much in the course of time: in 2012, the share of potential emigrants was 20%; in 2015, 16%; a year later, 19%. The Gallup Institute, which carried out its own poll in December 2018, got the more or less similar figures—20% of those ready to leave Russia .
Even if these sentiments did not change much compared with the previous years and more that 1% of Russians are making practical steps, according to Denis Volkov , these figures suggest the term “population exodus.” It seems that this assessment of the situation stirred up the number of studies and publications. The authors of The Putin Exodus have pointed out: “For instance, in 2017, the United States hit a twenty-four-year high of Russian asylum applications. At the same time, the level of brain drain has been quoted as doubling during 2015-2017” [3, p. 7]. The number of Russian citizens who take part in Green Card Lottery increased by 4.3 times between 2010 and 2018 to reach the figures of 434 thousand, or 0.3% of the total population [10; 11; 12]. The authors, however, preferred to ignore the fact that these figures were much lower than in other post-Soviet states: in 2018, 441 thousand citizens of Moldavia (with the total population of 3.55 million); 1,450.5 thousand citizens of Ukraine and 2,114.5 people from Uzbekistan took part in Green Card Lottery. In fact, in these countries with considerably smaller populations than in Russia the number of potential emigrants is much bigger. Mikhail Denisenko, chair head at the Institute of Demography, National Research University—Higher School of Economics, pointed to this in his report at a seminar: “In Russia, the number of permanent resident cards issued in the United States remains the same. The number of such documents issued to Ukrainian citizens demonstrated a huge growth; they are issued mainly in one country (Poland). There are no more or less important changes in Russia” [1, p. 10].
It seems that the term “exodus” as applied to current emigration from Russia is an overstatement even if its real dimensions are unknown. According to some sources, 10.6 million have already left post-Soviet Russia  which is an obvious exaggeration; other sources quote the figure of 4.5 million  while the report quoted above spoke of 1.6 to 2 million [3, p. 1]. The official figures supplied by the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) are frequently criticized as false. There are no, and cannot be, exact figures since a huge amount of Russians who leave the country to study or work abroad carry their Russian passports for a long time even if they do not plan to return. Not all of those who leave the country intend to stay abroad forever; there is a great number of those who are not sure at all about their plans. Are they emigrants? On the other hand, the number of those who having received foreign citizenship remain citizens of Russia and continue living in Russia is steadily growing. The second citizenship it nothing more than an alternate airfield so to speak, and it is acquired to either leave that country if the political situation becomes unbearable or for visa-free travels around the world. There are no and cannot be reliable information; all quoted figures are nothing more than assessments. As Denisenko said in his report: “Much has been said and written about emigration yet the subject and its details remain vague and enigmatic partly due to the fact that the published assessments are frequently highly contradictory” .
The current wave of emigration (no matter how the word is understood in this context) is justly described as highly educated, successful and caused not so much by economic but by political reasons. “Unlike the 1990s wave, this Exodus has not been caused largely by economic frustration. And in contrast to earlier waves, it takes place at a time of open borders” [3, p. 1]. S. Puffer and coauthors [6, p. 140] have pointed out that the emigrants of this wave “had already been successful in their home countries.” Let me point out that they live in the age of the Internet and other high technologies what are making the world increasingly global.
We decided to poll the better educated part of the young Russian emigrants to find out why they left the country; to ask them about their self-identification and culture, to ask whether they actively communicate with the Russian-speaking community in their new country and with their relatives and friends in Russia; and what faults and advantages they left behind in Russia and what they have discovered in the new country of residence. This group looks the most interesting in the context of what has been said and written about brain drain: the fact that the better educated and active young people are leaving Russia in huge numbers cannot but cause concern: the future of Russia is endangered. We use the terms “young intellectuals” and “elite” with a certain share of conventionality because they enrolled in graduate schools of the world’s top universities—Harvard, MIT, London School of Economics, etc.—in stiff competition with hundreds of rivals from America, Britain and other countries or were employed by the leading world companies, which is not easy at all. Upon graduation, they will be able to count on professorship in the most prestigious universities of Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, etc.
Description of Studies and Sampling Specifics
Our online questionnaire of 45 open questions was the first step; we asked young people who either belonged to the target group or had friends among its members, viz., graduates of the best Russian universities who continued their education in or were employed by the top universities of the United States and Europe. We got 200 addresses on Facebook, sent references to our online-questionnaire with an invitation to take part in the poll and asked them to mail these references to friends and acquaintances. We expected the snowball effect and we got it.
In view of this method of sampling and the small number of the respondents, the methodological status of our poll and its results is especially important. The above has made it clear that it is not a massive public opinion poll, which makes the usual question about the representative value of sampling irrelevant. We did not pose ourselves the task of building up a sampling representative in relation to any or general entity nor to carry out any statistically important measurements and assessments.
The nature of our poll can be described as a pilot cultural research project that is qualitative in its aims and in the nature of obtained information. Our aim was to find out was happens to the values of members of one of the sub-elite groups who left Russia, fell out of Russian everyday life and were submerged into the Western academic environment; how these values changed into configurations and meaningful constructs in the minds of these young people. The main conclusions suggested by the results of our poll are related to certain basic patterns of Russian culture, which can change when in contact with an alien culture or oppose changes.
In total, we got answers to all questions from 115 people (44% of men and 56% women); 19% of whom left Russia not more than two years before, 29%, 3-4 years, 18%, 5-6 years, 16%, 10 years and more. Two-thirds of our respondents were not older than 30; half of the polled were married, 30% had children. More than half of the respondents described their political views as liberal; other spoke of themselves as neutral or as supporters of other political ideas.
The majority of them graduated from Moscow State University, HSE University (Higher School of Economics), Moscow Physical-Technological Institute (MPTI), New Economic School (NES), St. Petersburg University and Novosibirsk State University (NSU),2 that is, from the top Russian universities. There are two or three graduates from the Russian State University for the Humanities, Financial University, the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia and Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University). Thirty-five percent of them received humanitarian education in Russia, 27%, economic; mathematicians, physicists and IT specialists comprised 28% in total, etc.
Over half of them (57%) went to other countries (the USA, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, etc.) to enroll in graduate schools; others arrived to find employment or for other reasons. Our respondents were attracted by the same countries that attracted young intellectuals from all other corners of the globe, which means that they have successfully integrated into worldwide processes.
The majority of the interviewed were of high opinion of education they received in Russia: 38% spoke of it as excellent, 26%, as very good (which means that two-thirds were quite satisfied), 30% assessed their education as good, and only 6% spoke of it as of an average quality. Nearly three-fourths of the respondents were convinced that best of the Russian universities provided education of the world level and that there was not many of them in the country (mainly those enumerated above). The highest assessments came from people with mathematical education, education in natural sciences and IT technologies. This was typical of Soviet times as well. The high assessment of education in economics is a new phenomenon. In post-Soviet times, the list of universities that provide high quality economic education appreciated abroad consisted of the Higher School of Economic and the New Economic School. The number of graduates from the European University at St. Petersburg and the Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences was too small to be involved in the project. In Soviet times, graduates of economic universities had practically no chances to move high on the career ladder at American firms and universities (they are not mentioned in Puffer’s survey). Today, economic education at top Russian universities is highly appreciated: some of the Russian universities stand high in the rating by subjects. For example, the HSE University occupies a place in the second half of the first hundred in the university ranking by Economics-Econometrics ; the NES and Moscow University occupy places in the first half of the second hundred. Moscow University is 34th in the world ranking by subject Mathematics; St. Petersburg University belongs to the second hundred in the same ranking; Moscow University occupies 26th place in the world ranking by subject Physics; the Moscow State Physical-Technological and Moscow Engineering Physics Institute belong to the top hundred.
Practically all those who do not assess their education as excellent or very good, graduated from either second-rate universities or studied humanities (mainly women) or sociology. An absolute conviction of the high quality of their education is very important for the members of this group: it adds confidence and conviction of their right to enroll in graduate schools of top universities or be employed by biggest companies. “I am here by right!” this is what all respondents said: they do not suffer from a social inferiority complex.
Why Did They Leave and Do They Plan to Return?
We all know that, unlike in the 1990s, this wave of highly educated emigrants is weakly connected with economic reasons. Puffer and her coauthors and the authors of The Putin Exodus deemed it necessary to point this out. Our respondents, likewise, were not driven by money; more than half of them wanted to continue their education in best graduate schools. They were convinced that baccalaureate and, partly, master’s programs of the best Russian universities trail behind where the quality of education supplied by the top universities of some other countries (the United States in the first place) was concerned. PhD and master’s diplomas of good foreign universities widen the territories of employment at universities or in business, which makes the world much more accessible. The desire to work in a big transnational firm came second among the answers. Others wanted to see the world, to acquire new experience and new impressions; still others married foreigners: “We are a family and we emigrated not because we did not like the situation in Russian economics but because we wanted to live in a different country, widen our horizons and acquire new experience.”3
Few of the emigrants left Russia for political reasons; the majority of them did this after 2014. Before that, politics was not of such importance. In this respect, our information differs from what the authors of The Putin Exodus wrote. They are convinced that 2012 became the turning point and refer to the mass rallies in Moscow and other cities. “This emigration sped up with Putin’s return as president in 2012” [3, p. 21]. From that time on, annual emigration topped the highest figures since the early 2000s. This might be true for other groups of emigrants but the dynamics of applications for green cards does not confirm this: the number of applicants increased some time later. While in 2015 the number of applications increased by 25% against 2013, their number increased by 58% between 2016 and 2018. Some of the respondents, the majority of them liberal-minded people who had taken part in protest actions, were convinced by the reunification with Crimea and the Ukrainian developments that emigration was the only option. The events of 2012 were important, but not the decisive factor. Few of our respondents wrote that they had decided to leave the country when the protest actions of 2011-2012 had brought no results. At the same time, many of the respondents wrote that they had emigrated for other than political reasons. Their desire to remain in a different country was heated by the reunification with Crimea. “I left for purely academic reasons; the political situation merely tipped the balance in favor of staying.” “I left Russia not for political reasons. When thinking about the situation in Russia you become aware that you will never return, not even for big money.” Having pointed to the fact that at the moment of departure they did not think it was a final decision, they added that after 2014 they changed their opinion and do not want to come back.
Only 36% said that they had left Russia for economic and/or political reasons. One out of six left partly under pressure of these factors; practically half of the emigrants never associated their decision to leave Russia with either economic or political situation. Those fed up with economics spoke about the volatility of exchange rate, poor state of the financial sector, low wages in the sphere of science, badly equipped laboratories, etc. They were displeased with many things in the political situation: lack of “basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly”; “The political situation was boring (I did not have my own representatives either in the State or the Moscow Duma)”; “The stuffy political atmosphere”; “No freedom and the steadily shrinking possibilities to express independent opinion. Political risks,” etc.
The majority, however, had no bad premonitions about their future in Russia: 60% of the respondents gave a positive answer to the question “Do you think you will be able to realize your abilities in Russia and be successful?”; 20% answered that they were not sure of their future or gave negative answers. One out of five was firmly convinced that success in any sphere was possible only outside Russia. Other believed that they would be successful in science and in business, consulting, finances and the IT sphere. Some of them went ever further: they pointed out that high competition in science and business in the West meant that it was much easier to become successful in Russia. Those who wrote that they could be partly successful specified that their chances in Russia were not bad at all, especially in science, but the wages were considerably lower.
We asked the control question in the form of a projective question: “Do you agree with the fairly widespread opinion that today highly educated young people cannot fully realize their abilities in Russia?” The answers were divided into three approximately equal groups: 33% gave negative answers; 38% answered partly negatively, and 29% agreed. About one-third of highly educated respondents believe that they had no chances in Russia and that they left it for this reason; 28% thought that their career and prospects were much better than of their friends in Russia. Others thought that they were living perhaps in equal conditions and their Russian friends had their advantages and their share of problems. More often than not, this is explained by the fact that a well-educated person can be successful and tap his talents to the fullest everywhere, including Russia where such people are rare: “There are such chances in Russia as well yet the share of talented young people is very small. Those who graduated with me had problems with employment; those who graduated from second-rate universities had problems of that sort. In other countries these problems are practically unknown.” The respondents pointed out repeatedly that in Russia rivalry in all spheres was lower than in the West and that people with good starting characteristics (level of education) had no real rivals. On the other hand, business in Russia is a dangerous occupation, which equalizes the chances: “In Russia lower competition is a big advantage, yet you have to work with poorly motivated people. The United States offers more chances for self-realization in many spheres yet you are aware of your rivals every day; they all are capable and well educated people from all corners of the world.”
Only one-fourth of those who left Russia were convinced that they would never return. By the time of our poll, the situation was different: the number of those who did not want to come back doubled; half of the polled said that their return was either impossible or hardly possible, mainly because of political changes. The share of those who will not return under any circumstances is approximately equal to the share of those who said this on their last day in Russia—30%. Today, there are 20% of those who say that they will contemplate this possibility if the political situation in Russia changes but they do not believe that it is possible. “If regime changes and the new government is oriented toward democratic principles and development of higher education.” “When all Cheka men are convicted.” “When there is progress in the political situation (rotation in power, political competition), reform of the judicial system and a lower share of the state in economics.” “Regime change is necessary,” “Change of people in power is necessary,” etc. “Regime change” as a factor that will give a chance to go back was the most popular but looked practically unrealizable.
The less politicized part of the respondents might be attracted by favorable economic circumstances: “I think that I probably would come back for a couple of years [the words “for a couple of years” were italicized by the respondent—L. B.] if offered a really good job”; “Yes, if offered an interesting and well-paid job in Moscow”; “Yes, I’ll come back in a couple of years when I get American citizenship and if there are conditions for realization in Russia”; “If the career chances are equal (a purely hypothetical situation) [the author italicized words in brackets—L. B.] I would prefer Russia”; “I might come back if the working and living conditions in Moscow are the same as now in the United States.”
These people might come back if offered good or better conditions than abroad but they do not look at this as the final variant. In the same way, many of them do not look at the country they live in as the terminal point: having lived in one country and never thinking of themselves as immigrants they do not think of Russia as the country where they will go to stay forever. After quite a while in another country, the majority of them do not think that spending one’s life in any country (including Russia) is a norm. Possibilities and the market of attractive proposals look limitless. In this sense, they can be called people of the world; the freedom of choosing the country and occupation are highly important. There were several respondents (nearly all of them women) who said that they had left Russia temporarily and would come back.
What Can We Call You? The Term Emigration Has Become Too Vague
When talking about emigration we normally mean that people move from the country where they lived permanently (motherland) to another. This concept is similarly treated in scholarly writings. In the global world, this concept has become vague. Only one-fourth of those who left Russia to study or work in another country are convinced that they will never return. The rest of the answers are divided into two equal parts: half of the respondents believe that they will return, while the other half do not think about the future.
In the globalized world, the market of education and professional activities for the young intellectual elite is much wider than national borders. This has nothing in common with the past, when emigrants burned bridges, so to speak. The answers of those who never wondered whether they were leaving Russia forever are especially interesting. Indeed, when making what looked like a fateful decision—the change of the country, language, way of life, etc.—they never thought of this as the most important decision in their lives. To quote one of them: “I should say that the move from Moscow to Berlin was not that different from moving from Moscow to Novosibirsk. But the conditions in Berlin are much better.” There were people who had been much more agitated by their move from their native city to become a Moscow student than by moving to the United States or Netherlands. Moving to Moscow, they left behind their homes for the first time in their lives and had to learn how to live on their own. They changed countries as adults and, therefore, the change of country did not come as a major shock to them. There were problems caused by inadequate knowledge of everyday languages (the knowledge of academic tongue was adequate to say the least); they had to cope with everyday problems and different mentalities but this was not scary. The main thing is that many of the highly educated young respondents did not perceive the change of the country of residence as an event of great importance but rather as one of many events in the normal course of life full of grieves and joys. The world is global—this is a norm. This means that today young people no longer think of emigration when moving to another country: it is part of normal life for any member of their social group.
I have already written that half of the interviewed insists that they left Russia not because self-realization was next to impossible or because the economic and political situation in the country left much to be desired. They wanted to continue their education in one of the top universities, to find a more interesting job with good career perspectives. They think that while the borders remain open there is no need to look far into the future—there is always time to do this.
Since their new status needs no assessments, there is no need to deliberately complicate the issue, which means that no definitions are needed. The traditional self-identification “emigrant” sounds obsolete and related to the distant (from their point of view) times when those who crossed the border lost their relatives and friends, and could no longer correspond with them, much less meeting them. These people found themselves alone in a new and incomprehensive world. Today, the situation is different. First, the absolute majority of our respondents knew that they had a job or a place at a university; some of the women went to their foreign husbands. Second, they knew that they would live on modest (especially in case of PhD students) yet adequate incomes. Third, by the time of departure many of them had registered themselves in Russian-speaking communities on social networks and had already acquired information on how to rent housing and cope with other everyday problems. Fourth, the majority went to the places (universities and big companies) where there were enough Russian speakers. Fifth, contemporary technologies allow them to stay in contact with relatives and friends in Russia if they wish. This does not fit the habitual Soviet image of an emigrant, which explains why the majority do not think of themselves as emigrants. One-fourth of the interviewed applied the term emigrant, immigrant and expat to themselves: some of them are young men who left Russia for political reasons or women married to foreigners or school graduates who had moved to another country together with their parents responsible for the decision.
Some of the respondents do not talk about themselves as emigrants for formal reasons: they can live in another country for a long time while remaining citizens of Russia; they have no residence permit (this applies to PhD students). Having completed the course they should think about the country of their future residence. One of the respondents, a PhD student who did not complete the questionnaire, said: “My home is where there is work.” Few of the respondents speak of themselves as emigrants because they know that they can return to Russia; not attached to any country they prefer to preserve their national identity as an anchor of sorts.
One-fourth of the respondents (mainly men) spoke of themselves as students or professors or said that they were temporarily settled outside Russia; women defined themselves as temporal residents. Nearly half of the respondents never asked themselves who they were or could not define their status, hence a variety of answers: “I am a representative of the global labor market. I can work anywhere while keeping my Russian passport”; “I joked when calling myself an emigrant. There are no strict borders in the academic world. I am a Russian scientist based in the US/Canada”; “A young specialist of the international level”; “citizen of the world”; “We are Russians who live abroad. Emigration suggests loss of contacts with the country you have left, which does not apply in our cases”; “I do not look at myself as an emigrant; none of my friends in Russia or in other countries use this word. I am a Russian student in France.”
Interestingly, there are many who do not name themselves at all, without problematizing their status. “I cannot determine myself by any term. Moving from one city to another or one country to another for employment is nothing out of the ordinary; we do not need a special term.” This means that terms as markers are necessary if the norm is overturned; “nothing out of the ordinary” means that the norm is in place.
The respondents who had reached the highest professional status as quoted by Puffer and her coauthors4 were clearer about their identities even if the question proved to be far from simple even for them. Some of them identified themselves through their ethnicity (mostly Jewish: the emigrants from the Soviet Union and partly those who had emigrated in the early 1990s). For obvious reasons our respondents are different: intellectual emigration is no longer ethnically tinged and stems from common reasons.5 Others point to mixed (Russian-American or American-Russian) identity; there are people who call themselves Russians (citizens of Russia) after many years in the United States: “I am Russian… I will be Russian by nationality and identity” [6, pp. 324-270, 334-337, 339].
Nobody of our respondents spoke about complete blending of their identity with the country of residence, probably because they had not lived in the new country long enough to obtain a new identity; many, however, did not want this. One of the expats said in an interview: “I do not need their culture, I have my own.” However, identity is connected with cultural affiliation as the beginning and end of identity. Language and culture, rather than nationality and religion, are the cornerstones of the identity of our young respondents, even if not all of them were ethnic Russians: the ethnic factor was dismissed as unimportant.
One out of seven respondents (mainly women, some of them married to foreigners) spoke of their mixed identities: “I think that it is 50/50. I speak Russian, which is a great part of Russian culture”; “70/30”; “Culture is a great word. I mark the New Year as earlier, but Catholic Christmas also. I speak Russian to my child and English to my husband. I am Russian but I am absolutely comfortable to be a citizen of this country”; “I am split, which is good and probably bad in certain respects”; “I am no longer this or that. I am aware of a strong influence of both cultures, and I deliberately try to select the best from both. This is a process.” Slightly more respondents (18%) spoke of themselves as citizens of the world or insisted that Russia was part of Europe and that, therefore, there was a common European culture: “Both are European cultures. I cannot say that their values differ greatly”; “I changed many countries and I am cosmopolitan”; “I am a bearer of a contemporary international liberal (as opposed to conservative) culture”; “I was and remain a European,” etc.
An absolute majority (nearly 70%) looks at themselves as bearers of Russian culture, basing their identity on it and not rejecting it. The majority cherishes it and wants to preserve it. “I am a representative of Russian culture even though I read American books, listen to American music and watch American films. I, however, pay a lot of attention to what is going on in Russian society; I read Russian books and listen to Russian music.” “I am connected only with Russian culture. My heart responds to Russian literature and Russian music. I am aware of my place in Russian society.” “I am and want to remain Russian.” “I am Russian and will remain Russian my approach to work and creativity is Russian and this is a great part of my success here.” “I am bearer of Russian culture and do not plan to change this.” “I am a bearer of Russian culture in the first place because I speak Russian, because of my education and upbringing in Russia, because of my attitude to my work, family, other people, money, wealth, happiness, etc.”
By the time of our poll, half of the respondents were married mainly to compatriots. When asked whether it was better to marry Russians or local people, the absolute majority answered that this was not important and that love was all that mattered; one out of five (mainly men) said that marriage with compatriots was preferable because of common mentality, a factor of great importance. Some men said that it was much harder to start a family in an alien country; they wanted their children (born and still unborn) to speak Russian and be familiar with Russian culture. Many of them think that otherwise there will be a socio-cultural gap: “I want my children to speak Russian and know Russian culture, so that I will be able to communicate with them freely and they will understand me better”; “Yes, I want to; I can’t imagine parents who do not want their children being like them”; “I would like my children know the language and culture of their parents (to a certain extent, this is the duty of parents).” Some respondents went even further: “If I have children I want them to become Russian people.” They wanted not only to preserve their basic identity but also to transfer it to their children, who would probably never settle in Russia.
Others think that Russian culture is valuable and that, therefore, it should be transferred to children who otherwise will lose a lot: “I wanted them to have ideas about Russian culture as a precious part of world culture”; “I will do my best to teach my children Russian, teach them to appreciate great Russian culture”; etc. Some were more pragmatic: belonging to two cultures created certain advantages for children. All of them, however, are fully aware of the fact that children living outside Russia will be assimilated, whether they want this or not.
One of the respondents admitted that having moved to another country, she realized that she was Russian and a bearer of Russian culture. For young and highly educated expats, this is more important than thinking of themselves as emigrants, expats, etc. Moving from one country to another, they preserve their identities, which boost their confidence together with good education they received in Russia. Their belonging to Russian culture is another factor. For the absolute majority the importance of these anchors cannot be overestimated. The same can be said about communication with Russian-speaking friends in the country of residence, with relatives and (to a smaller extent) with friends in Russia. The authors of The Putin Exodus wrote that the polled emigrants demonstrated intensive ties with the country of exodus. They use the latest communication media to remain in contact with families and friends [3, p. 11]. Puffer and coauthors, likewise, pointed to close ties with the families in Russia and the Russian-speaking diaspora in the United States preserved for many decades [6, p. 368].
Ties with Russians and Ties with Russia
The predominant Russian identity presupposes personal contacts with compatriots and communication through IT technologies. Many of those polled (62%) said that they remained in active contact with compatriots in the country of residence; 13% assessed their contacts as not very active; 20% as not active at all; only 5% attached no importance to this. The high share of those who communicate with compatriots in the country of residence in Russian is explained by the specifics of this group of emigrants. They are either university students or employees of big companies; in both cases, there are emigrants from different countries, including Russia.
Those who described the degree of their communication with Russians as not very active or nonexistent are mainly young people who found themselves outside the Russian-speaking diaspora: “There are practically no Russians”; “Not a lot, because there are no Russians around. I am always very glad to meet an interesting Russian-speaker. My English does not allow me to use the wide variety of deep meanings as I can do in Russian. I miss this very much.” They would like to talk to compatriots but have no chances. This is especially true of women married to foreigners and living in small European towns.
A quite small group deliberately avoids Russians: “I practically do not communicate with Russians and do not seek their company. I do not think that this is important. In fact, every time I meet Russians I am confronted by what I wanted to leave behind in Russia. I do not understand why these people move to another country if they start building Russia around themselves.” This marginal position is typical of those who left Russia for political reasons or were forced to emigrate; they speak of themselves as emigrants who left the country forever and want to part with their identity.
On the other hand, there are people who outside the university or the office communicate predominantly or even only with Russians, thus building a “small Russia” around themselves: “Normally I socialize with Russian speakers in my free time”; “Emotionally rich communication is possible only with Russian speakers”; “I communicate practically only with Russians.” This is a psychologically comfortable position even if tinged with escapism: these people are not ready to accept a new culture and a new lifestyle and integrate into them; that is, they use the bonuses of living in another country but do not change themselves. Certain respondents were open: “I have become fully adapted to the life in a different country, but I don’t feel part of its fate and its society”; “I have integrated, there is no doubt about it, but I can’t say that I am part of life of the country I live in. I am still much more bothered by news coming from Russia than the news from the United States; I am more concerned about Russian problems and I understand them better than the problems of the United States.”
They obviously want to divide their lives abroad into private (like the one they left in Russia) and professional. This is obvious at the level of language: everyday Russian is combined with professional English (another language, depending on the country of residence). To different extents, everyday communication in Russian is typical for the majority of the polled: this is one the anchors that keep their original identity in place.
The majority remain in active communication with Russians in Russia and other countries through IT technologies: three-fourths of the respondents said that they actively communicated with near and dear ones living in Russia on social networks, Skype, WhatsApp and other messengers. As time goes on, the ties with relatives remain strong and communication active. On the other hand, communication with friends in Russia survives, yet according to many of our respondents it withers away with time. People find new friends in the country of residence yet frequently keep in touch with the closest friends despite the distances; they are consolidated if expats visit Russia from time to time. Personal meetings revive, to an extent, old friendships. Relationships with relatives remain, despite the distances, even if the personal meetings are rare. If the family relationships are close and warm, young expats visit Russia as frequently as possible. Young women miss their families more than young men do. This probably means that ties with grandparents are much stronger than friendly contacts, since relatives are irreplaceable.
Identities and contacts with the motherland are supported by an interest in everything that is going on in Russia. The absolute majority (three-fourths) of the respondents are very interested in what is going on in Russia and closely follow all relevant information; one out of six follows the news from time to time. For some people, events in Russia preserve their relevance for a long time as much more important than the news about the country of residence. To a certain extent, weak interest in the news about the new country is caused by an absence of a firm conviction that they have come to it forever. Largely, however, this is determined by the dominant Russian identity that pushes the news about the new country aside. It is no wonder that some respondents publish on social networks their assessments and analyses of events in Russia intended for their friends in Russia and to Russian-speakers in other countries, a virtual diaspora of sorts. Sometimes they share their opinions about soccer matches of the Russian Premier League. They acquire knowledge about life in Russia through the Internet-media. The majority of the respondents are liberal minded, and they prefer the social networks where they correspond mainly with likeminded people. These are YouTube (and Navalny Live) and Meduza. Some of them watch TV Dozhd, read news feeds and certain papers: “I closely follow the news mainly in the social media and read Meduza, MediaZona and RePublik”; “I read Meduza, Vedomosti, Kommersant”; “I open Meduza every couple of days; watch YouTube”; “I read Meduza and watch Dozhd.”
Responsible for Russia?
Practically all our young respondents live in the United States and European countries as the relationships between these countries and Russia are deteriorating. On the one hand, the majority disagree with Russia’s policies; on the other, they love Russia and its culture and are aware of themselves as part of Russia. This is a far from simple situation: if you do not reject your Russian identity, you should decide whether you are responsible for its policies or not. According to the poll, the respondents keep their attitudes to Russia and its domestic and foreign policies and Russians strictly apart. This explains why many of them who find Russia’s policy scandalous do not feel and do not want to feel themselves responsible for it. They are convinced that they represent the country and society, but not the state. Some of them deemed it necessary to stress this point in the questionnaire.
This explains why 70% of the interviewed answered that they were not ashamed of coming from Russia: “No, I do not feel personal responsibility for the sins of my state” (man who lives abroad speak of Russia as “my state”—a point of special interest). “Only idiots feel ashamed of their countries”; “No, citizens are not responsible for what political leaders are doing”; “No, I never identified myself with the state”; “No, I love my country very much,” etc. There is another reason why they do not feel responsible for the state and its policies, do not feel shame or guilt as people who came from Russia; few of them were aware of negative feelings of others because of their Russian origin—12% assessed such cases as rare, 6% as frequent: “Have you heard about Russophobia?” (respondents from the UK and the Netherlands).
This is probably explained by the special status of the majority of the interviewed: they are mainly PhD students and students of the world’s top universities, or employees of the biggest international firms. People from all over the world here study and work next to them, so long ago there were rules of communication that do not discriminate against people from any countries: “No, there is multiculturalism everywhere”; “No, I have no contacts with the contexts where this is possible”; “No, I have never encountered that. I think that many educated people try to live without prejudices and assess people by their actions rather than by gender, nationality and other things”; “Never. Bad relationships belong to big politics; there are no negative feelings at my personal level. There are only jokes about Russian spies and Russian mafia”; “Never, people keep politics and people strictly apart”; “No, but I think that there are people who have negative opinions but they never betray them in personal communication. This is bad manners.”
Those who are sometimes ashamed of being Russian (there are 30% of them) are divided into two groups. Members of the smaller group say that they are ashamed when witnessing far from decent behavior of Russian tourists abroad. This means that they are ashamed of people, not the state: “Not all Russian are aware of decent behavior. It is so unpleasant to see drunken Russians in the streets”; “I feel ashamed when I see compatriots behaving inadequately.” These are more or less common lamentations; those who say this do not apply them to themselves.
The second and bigger group of the “ashamed” assumes responsibility for state politics and feels ashamed. “It is not shameful to come from Russia; I feel ashamed of what its leaders are doing”; “This is all about Russia’s aggressive policies”; “I feel ashamed of doping at the Olympic Games; of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and support of Assad”; “Yes, I was ashamed when they poisoned Skripal and when later a chance victim of Novichok died.” Here is a typical comment: “At first I felt ashamed of being Russian but later I was relieved to realize that nobody blamed me as a Russian. I was mainly ashamed of political decisions made in Russia.” In other words, if others do not blame you, you have the right not to feel responsible.
The majority of the respondents pointed out that they are frequently asked about the country from which they arrived. People want to know what they think about political issues, sometimes are interested in Russian culture, cuisine, climate; two-thirds of the questions are about the president. This is the main subject: “What I think about Putin, what people in Russia think about Putin”; “They want to know what I as a citizen of Russia think about Putin”; “Is Putin popular?”; “People want to know what Putin thinks and what I think about him”; “They want to know what I think about Putin, whether he is a tyrant who kills people and the richest man in the world”; “Could Putin influence elections?”; “Sometimes people (not Russians) say that they like Putin, which makes the talk a bit unpleasant because I do not share these feelings,” etc. Sometimes our respondents feel that people in other countries know little about Russia, that the country is associated with Putin. This explains why people are worried by interference in American elections and the Skripal poisoning; sometimes this is discussed casually like the weather: indeed, what else can you discuss with a Russian? Many of our respondents do not like this: they would like to move away from the state and its politics; they appreciate Russian culture but nobody asks them about it.
What is More Important: Russian Culture or Western Institutions?
The old and new countries were equally attractive for the young educated expats who took part in the poll, yet the advantages they discerned were fundamentally different and mutually complementary (see table).
In the new country, the highly educated respondents appreciate, first of all, the sociopolitical and socioeconomic factors, their own chances and prospects of high quality of life and housing. When talking about sociopolitical factors they point to freedom, democracy, smoothly functioning institutions and respect for laws. “Freedom” is the most frequent word, followed by “democracy” and observation of the “rules” by the state (“Here all people are respected in everything—be it good roads or fair trial”) where people feel confident and secure: “Here I have no feelings of being devoid of rights and I am not afraid that the state machine will squash me”; “Here I feel more confident and much calmer.” The young respondents are fully aware of their career advantages; they know that they will be adequately paid and that their lives will be comfortable. People are rarely discussed; normally they are described in general terms—polite, welcoming; sometimes the respondents talk about new, including Russian, friends. Politeness and welcoming are more related to confidence and security than to communication. The most frequent response to the question about what they do not like most of all in the new country is “people”—they are cold and egotistical. A young man who lives in Britain wrote the following: “Here I like everything except people.” In the group “other” our respondents included cuisine, nature, multiculturalism and the fact that homosexuals were not persecuted.
When talking about Russia, they pointed to emotional and sociocultural factors as things that they appreciated more than anything else. Russian culture, which they love and value highly in all its forms, is on the top of their appreciation scale. There are practically no detailed answers about culture; the respondents do not hold forth about favorite authors or painters. The answers are either very short or contain lists of favorite genres: “Culture, great people, history”; “Culture, literature, painting, cinema”; “Our literature and science, history and the Russian language”; “The Russian language and culture”; “Architecture and culture”; “Culture, literature especially”; “Culture—language, music, poetry, literature, church culture and Petersburg that I love.” The answers are short mainly because “everybody knows what this is all about”; values do not need specifications. The majority spoke of literature, which was very typical of a literature-centered culture, but many respondents also mentioned music, theatre, museums, architecture, etc.
More than a third of our respondents spoke of very important feelings that could be called nostalgia and that were very hard to put on paper: “This is the only country that I can call my motherland”; “Snow in winter. This is hard to describe”; “Memory of my past”; “Some vague feeling of the motherland that I have discovered having spent several years abroad”; “Absurdity, madness, unpredictability and the feeling of fullness of life”; “This is my home.”
Over half of the answers testify that the respondents cherished people (“common people” and, of course, relatives and friends), more than anything else in Russia.
In “people in general” they appreciate “emotionality,” “openness,” “sincerity,” “warmness,” “staunchness,” “fortitude and delicacy”; “the speed and method of thinking”; intelligence was also mentioned as one of the values. The respondents demonstrated strong feelings when talking of relatives and friends. When talking about Russians expats quoted the most popular clichés. Living in Russia, they would have selected other words, they would have been less nostalgic, less warm and less banal. They would have spoken less frequently about people as a special value. This means that the expats translate common and banal ideas about Russians and foreigners: some are good at a distance (polite) while others, at close contacts (emotional and sincere).
In the minds of the respondents, the merits and faults of Russia and of their new country of residence are balanced: law, order, democracy and freedom in the new country and culture in Russia. Nobody mentioned culture when talking of the new country. This is explained by the desire to preserve identity, which explains, in turn, the lack of readiness or desire to feel and accept the culture of the new country. They talk of Russia with warmth, and they sound rational when talking about the new country; they talk of Russia with love, and of the new country with respect.
In the context of open borders, young emigrants can preserve inner harmony. They live in favorable sociopolitical and socioeconomic conditions, they are free, they respect the state they live in, they move higher on the career ladder, they live in comfortable conditions while preserving their belonging to their basic culture and staying in close contact with relatives and friends in Russia. This makes life in other countries preferable for the majority of expats.
1. Denisenko M. B. Emigration from the Former Soviet Union in the Last Quarter Century. Report at an academic seminar at National Research University “Higher School of Economics” 24 April 2019. Available at: http:// www.liberal.ru/articles/7357. (In Russian.)
2. Grunt E. V., Zhuravleva-Leenaf O. V. Cultural Identity of Russian-Speaking Immigrants in Contemporary France. Izvestiya Ural’skogo federal’nogo universiteta. Seriya 3. Sotsial’nyye nauki (Proceedings of the Ural Federal University. Series 3. Social Sciences). 2015. No. 4, pp. 145-153. (In Russian.)
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8. Ryazantsev S. V., Pis’mennaya E. E., Lukyanets A. S. et al. Modern Emigration from Russia and Formation of Russian-Speaking Communities Abroad. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodniye otnosheniya (World Economy and International Relations). 2018. No. 6, pp. 93-107. (In Russian.)
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1 I want to thank Grigory Frangulidi, Kirill Levinson and Kirill Borusyak for their assistance in setting the project going.
2 I should say that the most successful emigrants from the Soviet Union and Russia (their interviews can be found in the monograph by S. Puffer and her coauthors), as well as many of our respondents are mainly graduates of Moscow State University, St. Petersburg University, Moscow Physical-Technological Institute and the New Economic School and remained loyal to them for the rest of their lives. The Physical-Technological Institute for example was worth a chapter in the monograph. In post-Soviet times, this list was extended only with the HSE University and the New Economic School.
3 Here and elsewhere the quotes are italicized.
4 Puffer and coauthors discuss identity of emigrants in Chapter 9, Part II of their monograph.
5 Those of our respondents (there were few of them) who immigrated to Israel were not driven by ethnic or religious reasons.
Translated by Valentina Levina
Author: Nikita Pokrovsky, Uliana Nikolaeva, Julia Demidova
Phenomenology of the "Life World" of Urbanites in the Extra-Urban Space in the Russian Near North: Home and Domestication
Authors: Nikita Pokrovsky, Uliana Nikolaeva, Julia Demidova
Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 51, No. 1, pp. 20-31
Abstract. This article attempts a phenomenological reconstruction of the "life world" of urbanites who buy houses in the countryside for recreation and who then begin to create a different, non-urban model of existence focused on the rural house. The empirical frame is based on the so-called "distant dachas." These are houses bought by urbanites in the villages in the outlying rural areas located more than 500-600 km from the major cities of Moscow or St. Petersburg. This process is accompanied by the formation of a special "life world" (in terms of phenomenology) among urbanites, with associated mental structures such as "home," "hearth," "possession," "historical past," "world of belongings of previous owners," "abandonment in space," "seclusion," "significant other," "archaica," etc. In the Near North of Russia, specifically in the villages of Kostroma Oblast, among the urbanites-summer residents and downshifters-one can observe a special approach to organizing everyday life, involving the individualization of their living space, prioritizing intangible values that fit into the context of preserving the socio-cultural space of what they see as the ideal Russian village.
Keywords: de-urbanization in Russia, reverse migration (megalopolis to rural areas), "dacha" migration, life world of citizens in rural communities, phenomenology of housing, everyday rural life.
N. Pokrovsky, Dr. Sc. (Sociology), professor, National Research University "Higher School of Economics"; senior research fellow, Institute of Sociology, Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences. E-mail: email@example.com. U. Nikolaeva, Dr. Sc. (Economics), associate professor, senior research fellow, Lomonosov Moscow State University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. J. Demidova, graduate student, History Department (Ethnology and Anthropology), Lomonosov Moscow State University. E-mail: email@example.com. This article was first published in Russian in the journal Sotsiologich-eskiye issledovaniya (Sociological Studies. 2019. No. 12, pp. 71-80; DOI: 10.31857/S013216250007752-0). The article was written as a part of a study supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation, Project No. 19-18-00562.
Present-Day Reality in Rural Russia
In recent years, the future of Russian rural space has loomed large in public discussions. The question discussed at all levels is, "Where do we go from here?" It applies to thousands of rural communities whose prospects of survival hang in the balance because of the loss of the agricultural economy. Studies reveal a steady trend of depopulation of rural areas in the majority of regions of the Russian Federation and rapid contraction of developed space outside megalopolises. This applies particularly to the Near North regions [18; 16; 3].
However, the picture is not all that simple. The opposite trend has been gaining momentum: increasingly, the citizens of Moscow and St. Petersburg spend their time-from several summer months to a whole year-at so-called "distant dachas," which enable them to become immersed in the world of nature and Russian villages. Perhaps we are witnessing signs of completion of the urbanization cycle and a transition to mass redevelopment of extra-urban space at some distance from the megalopolises. Counter-urbanization migration is observed mainly within a radius of 500-600 km around megalopolises and is structured unevenly in the shape of new settlement clusters. They are formed in accordance with certain geographical and social principles. The growing popularity of "distant" dachas in recent decades is a direct consequence of the fact that the dacha development areas close to the cities-"suburbia"-meets recreational needs less and less. In the context of a "liquid modernity" (Zigmunt Bauman), diverse mobilities (John Urry) and universal "McDonaldization" of society with emphasis on super-consumption (George Ritzer), citizens clearly miss contacts with pristine nature, with unobscured historical memory in the shape of rural homes that have been built over the course of centuries.
By becoming immersed in a different world and environment, in rural "archaics," the owners of a village log house often distance themselves from the stereotypes of urban life. The result is a "hybrid" model: urbanites try to combine the achievements of modern civilization with the benefits of life away from the city, most notably a good ecological situation. The availability of the Internet makes it possible to work from a distance using information and communication technology while only making occasional trips to the megalopolis. Owing to its current economic stagnation, contraction of the economy and depopulation, the Near North, paradoxically, attracts urbanites because it offers vacant or abandoned social spaces at low prices for rural housing and land and a relatively favorable environment. This contributes to the formation of clusters of settlements of urbanites [14; 13]. The pessimistic outlook for the Near North is intertwined with an optimistic prospect due to the promise of revitalization in the process of "internal colonization" of the region in the near and more remote future.1
The "Life World" of an Urbanite in the Village as the Focus of Phenomenological Study
In Russia studies of de-urbanization began comparatively recently: the topic was brought to public attention by the joint efforts of sociologists and socio-geographers who have, since the beginning of the 2000s, been conducting studies of outlying rural areas in Russia's Near North as part of the interdisciplinary Ugry Project, under the aegis of the regional non-governmental organization, Community of Professional Sociologists [18; 17; 9; 15]. Along with analysis of economic and demographic statistics, researchers based their conclusions on systematic observation and questionnaire surveys of rural dwellers, expert surveys of representatives of the administration, urban and rural services, and interviews according to the method of qualitative studies of dacha owners and local inhabitants.2
This article introduces a new dimension into the study of the theme by revealing the subjective reasons of de-urbanization decisions of city dwellers, motivations and rationalization of the purchase of village houses; it describes the perception of the village and village home space and reconstructs the peculiar "life world" of urbanites in the village-all the aspects that are in need of phenomenological description and socio-cultural analysis.
One intriguing aspect is mental accommodation of the urban population in the process of "exodus" from the megalopolis to rural space, the study of internal motivation of the people who take a decision that radically alters their former urban life and leads to the emergence of a special "life world" of urbanites in the village. This approach implies a kind of "disenchantment of the world" (Entzauberung der Welt-Max Weber) in the framework of understanding sociology, i.e., identification of value-rational disposition toward social action on the one hand, and the stressing of phenomenological and existential everyday characteristics that inform the concept of the "life world" of new settlers. Simultaneously, the veil of magic mystery is removed from those who act in a seemingly illogical and strange way, setting up permanent spots for life and leisure at a large distance from the urban home.
In phenomenological tradition, true sociality consists not in objectivized and reified forms of interaction among subjects, but in the contact of living worlds at the microlevel, worlds that are at arm's length from each other. Alfred Schütz, developing classical ideas of Edmund Husserl, proposed to use consciousness structures as the basis for social construction of reality that creates its own life world, the day-to-day world and genuine "humanity." The researcher's strategy in this case involves immersion in the world of man filled with concerns not only of a general nature, but also about the minutiae of life, interpretations of daily life, which adds up to an organic symbiosis of the "lofty" and the "low." The phenomenological researcher reveals existentially significant meanings in quotidian life, uncovers the natural orientation toward direct ("face-to-face") attitude to the world, reconstructs inter-subjective superimposition of mutual perspectives and projections of individuals and recreates their life worlds. In modern Russian sociology, Zhan Toshchenko proposed his vision of the phenomenological concept of the "life world" .
The "life world" and value orientations of the urban settler in the village is a multilevel mental construction that includes various components. It is the experience of being spatially removed from the megalopolis, an attempt to escape from civilization into a world of seclusion, of being "abandoned" in the world, the search for a better environment, indulgence of the aesthetic feeling that arises at the sight of pristine natural landscapes. Finally, an acquisition of a "home" in every sense of the word, including awakening of the historical memory: reconstruction of local houses, preservation of domestic objects and documents and reproduction of traditional day-to-day practices.
The pivotal role in reverse dacha migration belongs, as studies have shown, not to the skimming of the surface in the context of the trendy "rural/agrotourism", but "striking root," attachment to a particular location, to land, the search for a constant dwelling, a home and a hearth. Village homes used for temporary or more prolonged living acquire an existential meaning of their own. While, initially, urbanites may perceive village homes as mere analogues of country dachas with corresponding behavior patterns, over time new houses "capture" and "enrapture" the new arrivals, making them change their behavior patterns and becoming a kind of a phenomenon of consciousness in its own right [8; 2; 22].3 One can talk about "archaics" as a resource component of the urbanite's picture of life in rural localities which in a certain way sublates, reduces the accretions of the era of consumption and universal digitization, bringing out the intransient truths of being as opposed to the futility and skimming of the surface characteristic of life in large cities.4
"I am sick of living in the city, of family life. The dacha near Moscow was half-built, I was unhappy about it because every plot in the village was fenced off from other plots. I wanted a totally different horizon. I was never a lover of rural life and I am not one now. What attracted me was nature and the opportunity of seclusion. So I bought an abandoned home in a village" (Moscow professor, aged 68).
The Meanings of "Home" in the Broad Sense and Feelings
The concept of "home" gives rise to multiple connotations, including "dwelling," "refuge," "place of rest and repose," "an area of independence," of "privacy and inviolability," etc. "The home is a starting point as well as a terminus," A. Schütz emphasized. "It is the null-point of the system of co-ordinates which we ascribe to the world in order to find our bearings in it ... The symbolic character of the notion 'home' is emotionally evocative and hard to describe" [21, pp. 107-108]. The home, the dwelling, is one of the key universal symbols of culture. "The home" is an existential category, an area of symbolic sensualism, a search for transcendence and an ontological-aesthetic phenomenon. (See the works of Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Lévinas, Alfred Schütz, Martin Buber, Albert Baiburin.) The concept of "home" can be understood phenomenologically not only in a logical-rational way, but through bodily experience and psychological perception. Living in a home, it is important to "experience" and "feel" it physically, sense its texture, its physicality, its smells and sounds. Bodily perceptions are interiorized and combined with phenomenological images of "place" [1; 12].
The range of semantic points of interiorization includes the exterior and interior of the home, including symbolic elements of peasant life that become part of the world perception of the new owners. The process can be called revitalization and domestication of the former peasant log cabins. Running one's hand over a wall made of logs an urbanite experiences a gamut of previously unknown feelings that fill his value world. A symbiotic reaction arises in experience, a combination and interaction of historical layers of memory of the "here and now": memory of the past life of the home connected with the peasantry and symbolized by the surviving material objects, and the modern life as represented by the new owners with their modern city environment.
"I can gaze endlessly at these huge wooden rows of logs, the cut surfaces, these patterns that never repeat themselves, the moss used to fill the chinks. All sorts of images float through my head. The forests, the centuries-old pine trees, nature, and an enormous amount of human labor. All this was made with little more than an axe, without electricity, without chainsaws. Unbelievable. The home is a living thing, it remembers a lot although the people who built it are long since dead. Now we live in this home" (biologist, Moscow, aged 47).
The house as an architectural complex is one of the system-forming categories of the world of objects, its main component. It is an intermediate space, as it were, between man's subjective world and the world of nature. The architecture of the home turns out to be a model of phenomenological contemplation and of investing the space being created with meaning [11; 4; 10].
The exterior look of the houses in the Near North is subjected to gradual restructuring by the new owners. The houses were built of massive logs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The new owners tried to preserve the external and internal setting while adjusting the rural home to themselves and their needs to create a relatively comfortable and cozy space.
Every village home, unlike a standard urban apartment, has its "spirit," its "temper," its own engineering and architectural planning; it was built to suit the needs of the first owners. Thus, revitalization of a complex village home is always an individual project and simultaneously a kind of new text, which is easily read even at first glance.
"After acquiring property there was a surprising surge of energy and motivation. Then the house had to be rebuilt, raised and restored. I had no idea how to go about it. When I was buying the house, I did not know that the logs in the lower part were touched with rot.
"The house is located in a hollow. So the lower level of logs had to be replaced. I decided that I would not blindly copy village habits, village culture or become a kind of ethnographer. While preserving the authentic exterior without building any annexes, I would do everything European-style. Preserve the exterior while changing the interior. This was my concept" (Moscow professor, aged 68).
"Extensions" of the house include the backyard, the garden, the cultivated field, the local landscape, even the layout of the traditional village that fit into the environment as if professional architects and interior decorators and not just peasants were at work here. The category of landscape in turn is linked with a certain topos, or place. The cultural landscape is the life environment of a fairly large (self-sustaining) group of people, but only if this space is at once integral and differentiated, if it has been put to utilitarian use and has been "cultured" (not abandoned) .
The landscape complex, in addition to being a source of livelihood, also performs the "protective" function. In this context, there is a notion of "happy" settlement, a kind of "genius of the place," i.e., happy positioning in the natural and social environment. The architecture and layout of rural villages, as a rule, took advantage of being located on radiating slopes so that the prevailing winds were directed across the horizontal lines of the relief . "It's a wonderful place, so high and open... So much sky, air, space, you find nothing like it in the city... the horizon is visible from any spot" (scientific worker, Moscow, aged 49).
It is not by chance that the concept of "home" in historical-philosophical and cultural-anthropological interpretations is a symbol of cosmos and ordered space, a repository of tribal wisdom as the basis of existence, the process of creation and finally a constant in the situation of cultural crisis (Heidegger, Lévinas, Buber, M. Eliade and others). It is the problem of cultural crisis that we encounter when turning to the experience of our respondents. This experience is prompted by the wish of urbanites to find a home not only in the narrow sense (with the exception of isolated cases of downshifting, the owners of distant dachas use them primarily during the summer months). We are looking at a home as a larger category, as a resource thanks to which one can acquire seclusion and a support point in the globalizing world.
The "Second Home" Phenomenon: Distant Dachas as a Way to Overcome the Inner Crisis
With the purchase of a village home, the urbanite's life changes; a new locus, a new material object appears: a new social-psychological space, new practices, new experience, a new range of responsibilities, and a new "life world" come into being. In the existential sense, the decision to own a "second home" in a distant village is an attempt to overcome an inner crisis connected with the city. We are dealing with a case of escapism: a person migrates to a harsher, sometimes uncomfortable environment passing through and experiencing a process of being cleansed from the "overabundance," "self-indulgence" and "filth" of the city.
Studies may interpret the process of owning "a second home" by introducing a concept of "two worlds," "living with two homes," "in two dimensions" [7; 9; 23]. The "second home" gives people what they do not have in ordinary urban life and what superficial tourism also fails to provide. On the one hand, it is communion with nature. "When we could afford it, we also bought a village house. It was very good for the kids' health to be here. The climate is very healthy here and the environment is very clean. They can bathe in the river and go to the woods. One can live here during the whole summer and even the beginning of autumn" (biologist, Moscow, aged 47).
The main effect of the "second home" is a chance to turn over a new leaf, to live a full life opening up perspectives of fulfillment and diversification of life worlds [20; 23].
"I don't know how to put it... Here you come to live a real life. You see the sky, the grass, the woods, inhale the smells, listen to the birds and grasshoppers. Your body feels different. In the city it's a rat race, such that you don't understand whether you are coming or going. You are stressed out all the time. Here it's as if you retrieve yourself. Two or three days is enough for the city to let go of you. Sometimes they try to reach me from my work but-ha, ha, you are far away, they can't reach you... Communication by cell phone is erratic, nobody can reach you" (Moscow professor, aged 72).
The system of values of the urban respondents owning two homes is often (though not always) based on the values that include concern for the state of local rural communities, compassion and a sacrificial attitude combined with the prevalence of spiritual concerns. All of these are traditional traits of the Russian intelligentsia. A city intellectual does not just buy a home in the village, he embarks on the project of "revitalizing" or "reviving" a wooden giant, often perceiving the home as an almost living creature. The city guy has sympathy for the local rural population, often greatly romanticizing it and trying to improve its life5 [14; 17; 15].
Owning a rural home does not bring any tangible pragmatic benefits and is often seen by public opinion as a city guy's leisure activity. "Initially my purchase of a home was seen as a whim, a bit of fooling that put my sanity into question" (university professor, Moscow, aged 68). The action does indeed have an element of an ethical-emotional decision and a manifestation of a kind of escapism. The purchase of a village home in a half-abandoned village can be compared with the de-urbanization practice of building houses in the forest (an example is the initially American and now international project, "Innermost House").6
Domestication and the Meanings of the Village Home Space
The process of rebuilding a home and its domestication can be described as a personal creative project, which involves the process of reconstruction and change of the existential environment: an abandoned peasant cabin turns into living space and is invested with new meanings. It would seem that a village cabin is an existential opposite of the modern ideal of a dwelling. It is old and desolate, a reminder of the distant past and past generations. However, the new owners see deep meaning in the preservation of the home in its pristine shape: the cabin becomes a symbol of eternity and continuity of generations. These are examples of the "eternal present," which is invested with new meaning to accommodate modern needs.
"What is preserved in a village house? The 'red corner' and also our house has icons, although we are not religious, and blinds; the rings on which cradles were suspended also remain. The stove is the main thing that survives. If the home is repaired, everything is built back as it was before. The front is made from one board fixed over another. There is the axial board. Everything connected with the house always remains..." (retiree, a geologist who lived in Moscow and now lives permanently in the village, aged 60).
More often than not the new owners come into possession of the objects that the original owners had for decades: the farming utensils, glass kitchenware and containers, family photos, letters, collective farm membership cards, utility payment receipts, certificates of merit issued by the collective farm management. From these one can reconstruct the past life world of a family, get a glimpse of it and feel the continuity of history. Digging into the bygone family life is a truly exciting, moving and sad experience.
Fundamental external restructuring of a peasant cabin is the exception rather than the rule. The interior may change several times and mainly take the form of removing later accretions and restoring the original state. "With the help of local carpenters, I removed all the screens in the living part of the cabin to clear the living space. Initially, as a rule, the log walls are shaved with a jack plane and filled with moss to keep the cold air out. At this point a big problem arises: the villagers loved to paint the walls with oil paint of the most incredible colors. Sometimes they used wallpaper... This is the moment of truth, all the walls had to be scraped clean because nothing is more beautiful than unpainted wood. I tried to do it with a jack plane, then with sharp metal tools, chisels and pallets. I tried to burn the paint off with building heat guns, which char the paint. The paint wouldn't go away. The best way to get rid of the paint is to use metal brushes mounted on a drill or angle grinder... The local guys curse this work, but they do it. There is no other way. It is also necessary to open and clean all the window panes of which there are usually ten or eleven" (university professor, aged 68).
In rural areas urbanites try to preserve the authentic features of the physical world of the past displaying ingenuity and creativity. "In a village home we left everything as it was before-the benches, the table, though the original one was a bit smaller. The table is from the same home, handmade. We prize it greatly. There are iron beds and that is about all. This wonderful sofa was absolutely battered. It is a sofa from the master's home which was burnt down in its time. The peasants must have looted the furniture. I had a hard time persuading people to restore it, but no one bothered. Then this carpenter from Ugry was doing some repairs; he is a cabinet maker by training and I asked him if he could do at least something. He did a wonderful job of it. It is a pre-revolutionary piece. I also had a Viennese chair, but the back was beyond repair and only a pouf could be made out of it. Otherwise, here was a long chest. Everything is as it was before. We made a minimum of changes, we don't like to make anything new" (biologist, Moscow, aged 47).
When building back a cabin, as a rule the traditional heating system is preserved. There is a Russian stove and a second "cooking" stove, otherwise known as the "Dutch stove." "Heating is by a stove. Every home has a Russian stove and a small heating stove. The Russian stove was initially for cooking food and steaming feeds for the cattle. Using the Russian stove to heat the house is futile. The Russian stove is seldom fired in winter. They use the small heating oven. In a stove, the chimneys must taper towards the top. You can fire the stove in spring and also in the summer when it's cold" (retiree, a geologist who lived in Moscow and now lives permanently in the village, aged 60). The stove and everything connected with it has a symbolic significance in the eyes of the urbanites. Although an electric stove and a gas canister have been bought, the stove is still used. The stove is a symbol of warmth and coziness; the cooking of food, the magic of crackling fire, this is real life. The concept of "comfort" in anthropology is an ethical-aesthetic phenomenon based on juxtaposing the world of order on the one hand and the irrational and unpredictable world on the other. One is keenly aware of it in a village cabin. Fire is a major threat because you can lose your house to it in 20 minutes. There are a lot of such incidents every year. The stove is a phenomenological construction both of life and mortal danger.
In addition to the home, there is also the bath house, a small wooden structure, typically with a low ceiling, an extremely important part of a house property. The toilet in a peasant home was traditionally located in the cowshed on the hayloft, the second level over the cowshed where a hole was made, protected by a guard. Now the urbanites usually build outhouses similar to those that they have at their dachas. Some have toilets inside in a separate compartment. In one of the houses, for example, we saw a toilet with a shower, a full range of urban sanitary-hygienic paraphernalia with the letters WC, a sign of globalization. Some village folk reluctantly and mistrustfully borrow the practice of building a toilet in the warm part of the house.
The concept of living space is closely linked with man's experience of his identity, selfhood. The experience is inseparable from everyday practices and occupations. It is worth noting that many urbanites who have settled in the village take to carpentry and joinery, deriving great pleasure from it, something they never do in the city. At the same time, purely "intellectual" pastimes, such as reading, various creative activities, visiting with neighbors, discussions on "serious topics," and contemplation of nature are common. Most of the urbanites have no television; a very popular occupation is gazing at the starry sky, watching the sun rise and set, noting natural phenomena such as migrating cranes who alight on the edge of the property for the night. Those who are at the dacha in early spring will be impressed by the sounds of the melting snow flowing in streams and the breaking of ice on the river, which drown out all other sounds...
The surrounding natural and material world, along with village practices and customs, form the value content of the concept of a "wooden home," the complex of existential experiences that define the urbanite's de-urbanization choice.
What of the Future?
The modern world is witness to a trend of dehumanization of everyday life, social practices and dwellings, particularly noticeable in a modern megalopolis that sprouts high-rise ghettos in which the personality is leveled out and reduced to a unidimensional and unidirectional managerial function. The Near North region has huge ecological and social-cultural potential. There are still many historical monuments on its territory, and these include northern Russian villages. Along with the process of "desertification" and the dying out of villages, a reverse process of revitalization of rural space is underway. Peasant cabins are bought by city folk to get a second lease on life. The renewed villages naturally form themselves into clusters of those who try models of existence that are an alternative to the city.
The majority of respondents are city dwellers whose life is dominated by an anti-consumerist philosophy, the cult of simplicity. The "architectural feeling" of lovers of archaic village life who seek to bring it into the modern world is based on organizing life in its pristine, authentic, holistic, and reliable shape. Phenomenological analysis makes it possible to reconstruct, understand and feel the inner world of new settlers more deeply and in many dimensions.
The data presented in this article and interpretations may be of practical interest. In the context of the growing process of de-urbanization and dacha migration, "lifting the charm" from the world of urbanites who move far away from the cities gives an insight into their inner world, and reveals their life priorities and values. This is an important step towards discovering untapped factors of sustained development of small regions and rural communities. Dacha migration is a serious matter.
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1 The term "internal colonization" of previously developed Russian territories introduced by Alexander Etkind means economic development of vacant outlying Russian lands . From our point of view, the term is loaded with negative historical associations, which deters its wide use in scholarly literature.
2 The body of data has been collected in sociological expeditions (August 2017, July-August 2018, June-August 2019) in the Manturovsky district, Kostroma Oblast (the villages of Ugory, Vypolzovo, Karkovo, Leontyevo, Usolye, Shilovo, Anosovo, Khlyabishino, Medvedevo), in the Babayevo district, Vologda Oblast (rural settlement of Borisovo-Sudskoye). This article draws on a sample of answers by respondents belonging to the intellectual professions with a high level of reflection, which, in our opinion, best corresponds to the tasks of phenomenological interpretation.
3 The socio-linguistic problem is that in Russian the term "dacha" is associated with something secondary, something strictly recreational, not serious, idle, unconnected with the exigencies of daily life. An adequate term to express the meaning of a remote extra-urban dwelling of an urbanite has yet to be found.
4 It is notable that the American writer and philosopher Henry Thoreau in his time largely formulated this position setting it forth in his classical work Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854).
5 The traditional Russian intelligentsia, having lost its bearings in the modern megalopolis, is the advance party of settlers developing outlying parts of the Near North. This is to some extent escapism, ("Go away, go away from the world! There is no truth in it!"- Aleksey Tolstoy, "Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich"), but it is also the creation of a new life environment that is relatively but tangibly independent of total bureaucratic management in the city .
6 See https://www.innermosthousefoundation.org.
Author: Vladimir Gel'man
"Liberals" vs. "Democrats": Ideational Trajectories of Russia's Post-Communist Transformation
Author: Vladimir Gel'man
Source: Social Sciences, Vol. 51, No. 2, pp. 3-24
Keywords: political ideas, post-Communist transformation, Russia, liberalism, democracy, market reforms.
V. Gel'man, PhD (Political Science), professor, European University, St. Petersburg; University of Helsinki. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was first published in Russian in the journal Mir Rossii (Universe of Russia. Vol. 29. No. 1, pp. 53-79; DOI: 10.17323/1811-038X-2020-29-1-53-79). The article was published as part of the University Partnership project of the National Research University Higher School of Economics to support the publication of authors at Russian educational and research institutions.
What is the role of ideas in modernization in general and in post-Soviet modernization in particular? There is no consensus among experts on the contribution of ideas to the building of new institutions and practices in various countries in various historical periods. They answer differently the question of whether ideas cause transformations or the other way around. However, when it comes to political, economic and social transformations in post-Soviet Russia, the prevailing view is that ideas were secondary to the interests of key players . Does that mean that the role of ideas in Russia in the late 20th and early 21st century has been negligibly small and that political analysis should focus on the activities of opportunists-politicians and businesspeople driven exclusively by selfish motives, who achieve or fail to achieve their goals regardless of ideas, or using them solely for manipulative purposes? Although post-Soviet Russia offers many examples of this sort [37; 17; 7], it would be wrong to reduce the processes of economic and political change in the country to the struggle between opposing interests and to ignore ideas: in the course of transformations, these dimensions complement rather than supplant one another.
Meanwhile, ideas and ideologies (elsewhere these terms will be used interchangeably) in modern Russia differed markedly from ideas in a number of post-communist countries which, during the same period, faced a similar "dilemma" of simultaneous political and economic transformations . In the East European countries, the ideas of building democracy (here and elsewhere referred to as democratic ideas) and a transition to the market economy (here and elsewhere referred to as liberal ideas) mutually complemented each other in the process of post-communist transformation from the fall of the former regimes until accession to the European Union , facilitating the solution of key tasks in a relatively short time. By contrast, in the 1990s, Russia liberal and democratic ideas (and their proponents) clashed. The notion that the country's path toward economic prosperity could and had to do without democracy, which could hinder, if not reverse, economic reform, prevailed in public discourse and indeed influenced political decision-making. As a result, the ideas of building democracy were first excluded from the list of political priorities, then sacrificed to the ideas of the country's economic modernization, and in 2000-2010 were dropped from the list of the ruling elite's agenda altogether. By contrast, the ideas of building an effective market economy dominated the official narrative of the ruling groups and provided an important benchmark in charting the political course in the 1990s and 2010s, although their traction was diminishing over time. Finally, in the 2010s, they were stricken from the political agenda, such that today their influence on the political processes and the political course of Russia is insignificant.
How does one account for the "divorce" of democratic and liberal ideas in post-Soviet Russia that occurred in the 1990s and their subsequent decline in 2000-2010? Was the present-day decline both of democratic and liberal ideas due to that divorce? The search for answers to these questions calls for a reconsideration of the role of ideas in Russia's modernization and the trajectories of democratic and liberal ideas over the past three decades. These ideas were promoted by their proponents-politicians, analysts and journalists (here referred to as "democrats" and "liberals")1-whose role in the late 1980s and early 1990s can hardly be overestimated. This article seeks to state the problems of the genesis and evolution of these two ideological trends of Russian modernization in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the contradictions between them, the cleavages within the ranks of their supporters and the impact of the ideas of post-communist modernization on the progress and results of social transformations in Russia.
I maintain that the "divorce" of democratic and liberal ideas in 1990s Russia was not predetermined from the start; but the weakness and inchoate character of reformist ideas by the time of perestroika, the contradictions between the 60s and 70s generations, as well as false assumptions and expectations against the background of sweeping change, made an indelible imprint on the ideational trajectories of "liberals" and "democrats" and exacerbated the contradictions between them.
Ideas and Modernization: The Case of Russia
The works devoted to Russia's post-Soviet political and economic development proceed from the assumption that ideas played a limited role in these processes. Thus, Henry Hale believes that in their bid to gain and hold power, the authorities relied on mobilizing the patron-client networks while demand for and supply of ideas was low, due to the dominance of the client-patron policy over a programmatic idea . Stephen Hanson, comparing the ideological landscape of post-communist Russia to that of Weimar Germany and the emergence of the Third Republic in France , noted that in the case of Russia ideas were insufficiently well formulated and structured which, in his opinion, stymied the formation of the party system in the country. This writer largely shared similar opinion, pointing out that after the collapse of the USSR ideas had little impact on the transformation of Russia's political regime, whose outcome hinged on the character of the power struggle among the elites .
Does it mean that we can neglect ideas in analyzing post-communist modernization in Russia? Such a verdict would throw the baby out with the bathwater. Ideas have always been important in setting political priorities and state building in the country. They are very important at "turning points," when politicians make a strategic choice in favor of this or that option of the country's development. Indeed, the very fact that ideas have little influence on the process of change in the country calls for an explanation. If ideas influenced the behaviors of members of the elite and the masses in the course of modernization in other countries and were an important driver of change during perestroika when various ideas of reform were hotly debated in the USSR [71; 53; 59; 61], why was it that in the following decade and later, the significance of ideas plummeted?
To determine the place of ideas in Russia's modernization, one first of all needs to clarify the concepts. In this article, the author considers ideas in an instrumental way, that is, not as a set of political doctrines but as a way of perceiving problems. Ideas matter for the modernization process owing to their positive and normative functions. They help the elites and the masses to formulate their notions of the desired social system and ways of achieving it [49, p. 49], to assess to what extent the status quo matches these notions and minimize the amount of information required for making decisions (which is particularly important under conditions of uncertainty). Thus, ideas enable the actors to form and support a picture of the world in accordance with which they act after receiving information. This was the approach Vadim Radayev used to analyze the change of economic ideologies in Russia in the 1980s and 1990s [52, pp. 276-306], and the team of authors, including this writer, used to analyze the ideology of reforming local government in Russia .
Such interpretation of ideas suggests that in routine conditions, there is little demand for ideas: the elite and the masses can follow former schemes for a long time, and the generators of ideas-politicians, experts and independent intellectuals-can repeat earlier judgments, modifying them only partially. However, in periods of rapid change characterized by radical transformations, like that of Russia in the 1980s and 1990s, demand for new ideas soars. They arise and are promoted by their producers and popularizers, who try to sell them to the elites and the masses and gain support in the market of ideas by ousting and/or taking over rivals. Sometimes it takes several decades for new ideas to be formed and promoted (as with Neoliberalism in the West) ), but sometimes they experience a boom much faster. Some ideas arise spontaneously and endogenously while others are imported from political and intellectual contexts and are modified by their recipients in line with their perceptions, often undergoing metamorphoses in the process. The combination of changing dynamics of demand and supply of ideas along with the impact of the activities of various agents aimed at promoting them go a long way to determine the outcome of the ideological struggle in periods of radical change.
The ideological situation in the Soviet Union as it entered the period of transformations in the second half of the 1980s was rather peculiar. For decades, the market of ideas had been monopolized by the dominant official version of Marxism-Leninism, while alternative ideas penetrated this market in a roundabout way, facing the dogmatism of the establishment, which sought to suppress dissent [58; 14]. The official Soviet dogma was so outdated that in the period of "the long 1970s," it was unable to perform positive functions: the life of Soviet society was in stark contrast with official norms, and knowledge based on official ideology could not offer valid answers to the country's problems or possible solutions. In the absence of conditions for the development of social and human sciences, which could provide an intellectual environment for the development of new ideas for transformation, discussions of options for the country's development were confined to narrow circles at the level of informal groups and seminars [62; 8; 16].
The USSR was immeasurably less exposed to external ideological influences than the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. The key figures of post-communist transformations, such as Vaclav Klaus and Leszek Balcerowicz, regularly traveled as exchange scholars or to attend conferences at US and West European universities long before the start of reforms. Young Soviet economists had to secretly read articles by their Eastern European colleagues at restricted access libraries, while foreign travel for most of them was not allowed until the start of perestroika [62; 72]. That is why Soviet specialists had only fragmentary knowledge of the foreign experience of modernization and their contribution to international discourse was all but non-existent. As a result, the views of Russian intellectuals on the problems of political and economic development of their country and the world were, with few exceptions, inconsistent and prone to change in accordance with circumstances. Having been isolated from the international environment over many decades, Russian intellectuals embraced the idea of Russia's "special way" and the uniqueness of its past, present and future, an idea, which to this day is prevalent in Russian social thought . These trends manifested themselves in the rejection of the import of some ideas. Joachim Zweynert, who studied the struggle of economic ideas during the market reforms in Russia, came to the conclusion that in the 1990s, many Western ideas met with such fierce opposition within Russia that here (unlike Eastern Europe), they failed to take root in the decades that followed .
Small wonder that the collapse of the former monopoly on the Soviet market of ideas in the late 1980s was a "big bang" against the background of the rapidly changing situation in the country. The bans were dropped as demand for new ideas on the part of the elite, which was looking for ways out of the mounting crisis, and on the part of the public, soared [68, ch. 1]. Public debates among intellectuals took center stage while the discredited official dogmas were losing ground.
The resulting vacuum in the market of ideas was filled spontaneously: import of ideas from abroad quickened interest in their ideological heritage and fashions for ideas and their labels changed at a dizzying pace, while critical reflection on the ideas was often wanting. The sky-high barriers for entering the market of ideas dropped dramatically, paving the way for marginal ideas ranging from Eurasianism to geopolitics . Those who produced and/or promoted these ideas had no difficulty gaining a foothold in the market to exert not one-off but systematic intellectual influence on political decision-making and on the hearts and souls of fellow citizens.
As the transformations in the country gathered pace, demand for new ideas diminished. Moreover, the range of problems changed dramatically: what was discussed in the late 1980s ceased to be relevant in the mid-1990s. The political agenda came to be dominated by the clash of group interests as ideas had less and less influence on political decision-making. After the authoritarian regime dug in in the 2000s, the Russian authorities, if they needed ideas at all, were interested in the political and technological aspects. Modern Russian authoritarianism is not anchored in a dominant ideology , and its leaders can pragmatically use various ideas to further their ends. The public, which responded enthusiastically to ideological struggle at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, was paying less and less attention to ideas and their proponents, who were also evolving. The monopoly on the market of ideas was supplanted by pluralism so that in today's Russia, one can easily find advocates of the most diverse ideological trends. Unlike in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they tend to ignore one another and exist in parallel, rather like people in a restaurant sitting at separate tables with separate menus for different categories of clients , with nothing like an efficient dialog. Even so, ideas are an important filter for the perception of problems by the Russian elites and political leaders, who transmit their perceptions to fellow-citizens [63; 66], and the legacy of the ideological battles of the 1980s and 90s is still relevant to understanding the logic of this perception. Indeed, the ideological trends of that period are still on the Russian political map: they change over time but the experience of the 1980s and 90s is still an important reference point for understanding the current problems and trends and for recipes of further changes (or lack of them). Many producers of ideas were themselves involved in or witnessed transformations, knowledge which made a big imprint on their perception of the country's current problems.
Vadim Radayev notes that within a space of less than ten years (from the middle of the 1980s to the middle of the 1990s), the country saw a succession of four dominant ideological paradigms: from socialist to democratic, then to liberal and conservative [52, pp. 276-306]. Each of these pivots followed changes in the political arena: attempts to renew the Soviet economic system (1985-1987/88), glasnost and democratization in the USSR (1987/88-1990/91), crisis and collapse of the Soviet system and the launching of radical economic reforms (1990/91-1993), and reforms running out of steam followed by post-revolutionary stabilization (after 1993). However, one should not see the transformation of the ideological landscape solely as the projection of current political and economic transformations in the USSR and Russia. Each of the critical junctures of the 1980s and 1990s and their consequences were the results not only of the struggle among interest groups (significant as it was) but also of the struggle of ideas. This warrants a closer look at the ideas, which were oriented toward political and economic reform and envisaged the building of democracy and a market economy in the country. Such analysis is called upon to explain why (unlike in many East European countries) ) in Russia the ideas of democratization and market reforms were in many ways juxtaposed, which had a serious impact on the outcome of political and economic transformations [6; 27].
Speaking about the clash of ideas in post-communist Russia, researchers paid considerable attention to communist and nationalist trends [74; 21; 16; 41]. At the same time, works devoted to democratic and liberal parties in Russia, which promoted the various ideas of the country's modernization in the 1990s [34; 28; 75], merely scratched the surface of their ideologies. Critical reflections of the "democrats" and "liberals" themselves [59; 62; 8], although they contain a fair amount of valuable data, only partially discuss the causes and consequences of the "divorce" of these two ideological trends. We therefore need to trace their genesis and mechanism of evolution against the background of tectonic changes in Russia.
From the start, let us make it clear that the "liberals" and "democrats" in Russia were rather like overlapping sets: the same politicians, analysts, journalists and other producers of ideas sometimes were at once "liberals" and "democrats" and even publicly identified themselves with one or the other camp, and some of them switched sides. However, in the framework of this article the two categories are identified for analytical purposes as ideal typical specimens which helps us to gain an insight into the logic of the ideological landscape of post-communist Russia.
"Democrats" without Liberalism: Lost Illusions
The main advocates of democratic ideas during the Soviet perestroika were active members of the 1960s generation, especially intellectuals and public personalities whose political views and professional and public careers were shaped in the period between the 20th Congress of the CPSU and the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968.2 Khruschev's Thaw and the hopes for successful development of the country it generated shaped or substantially changed the world-view of the "men of the 60s" . However, subsequent stagnation under Leonid Brezhnev stymied the careers of many members of that generation and rendered irrelevant many ideas formed during the Thaw: the Sixties generation was "frozen" for twenty years [80, ch. 9]. When the "men of the 60s" moved to the forestage of social and political life during perestroika, it was as if the Soviet Union was briefly back in the Thaw period. "The children of the 20th Congress" moved into leading positions in the government structures, dominated the media and proposed the main ideas for society's development. Those who joined the "democrats" in many ways took the cue from the "men of the 60s" and to some extent still adhere to the intellectual and ideological traditions they had established.
For the perestroika "democrats," the main goal was to carry on the Thaw program: political pluralism in the media and in decision-making, condemning political repression, broader freedoms and lifting of the many Soviet-era bans (censorship, foreign travel restrictions). Initially, the proposed plans were modest , while the changes turned out to be too sudden: democratization and free elections quickly whetted appetites, and it briefly seemed that it was enough to remove the remaining barriers for Russia "to become Europe," as one perestroika herald put it . However, faced with real transformation problems, the "democrats" proved to be unable to formulate meaningful and realistic positive alternatives to the rapidly deteriorating situation [20; 59]. Their reading of the situation in many ways reflected the system of coordinates set by the collective experience of the Thaw, with all its good and bad characteristics. That system envisaged gradual and partial changes of the Soviet political and economic relations (with the former put above the latter) and not their total revision or replacement, something many "democrats" turned out to be unprepared for. It did not take account of the changes that had occurred in the country and the world since the times of the Thaw: "men of the Sixties" entered perestroika like the last battle of a (past) war, equipped with notions that were in many ways outdated. Not surprisingly, they eventually lost that battle and the ideas they proclaimed were discredited. Their experience and worldview made them unfit for using the opportunities perestroika offered for transforming society.
What was holding back the evolution of the ideas of the "men of the Sixties" was above all lack of opportunities for translating words into deeds. The discussions about the transformation of the USSR, which had been conducted from the mid-1980s led nowhere. Articulating their position, setting forth their views and communicating them to a narrow circle of readers were becoming an end in itself. Disseminating ideas became more important than putting them into practice. "Men of the Sixties" probably never seriously thought about implementing their ideas because that seemed to be a very remote perspective. So they directed all their energy, talent and passion into outwitting the Soviet regime in order to air their views. When the hour of reform struck, many "democrats" failed to come up with a viable alternative to the course pursued by the country's leaders, still less to implement it. Moreover, by no means all the "democrats" were ready to assume personal responsibility for making and implementing key decisions. Thus, for example, in 1992, looking for an authoritative figure to replace Yegor Gaidar as Prime Minister, members of the Yeltsin team turned to Academician Yury Ryzhov. A brilliant 1960s intellectual, appointed Russia's ambassador to France in 1991, he turned down the offer, not wishing to trade his exalted position for the hard slog of taking the country out of its crisis . Although many rank-and-file activists among the "democrats," especially in the provinces, obviously fell short of the standard required for taking part in the making and implementation of important decisions [20; 43], the more capable of them later learned a lot and acquired considerable managerial experience (such cases though, were few and far between).
Experience of the Thaw and the collapse of the suddenly bestowed and later withdrawn freedoms engendered various complexes and syndromes. It was not only that perestroika "democrats" sought to solve problems by petitioning the authorities and rightly or wrongly were afraid to be deprived of freedoms. Many of them shuddered at the thought of any actions by radical communists and/or Russian nationalists, even though these trends had little support in the then nascent market of ideas. Presenting their ideas to the public the "democrats" reproduced the binary opposition of "the CPSU nomenklatura versus democracy," prompting many critical remarks to the effect that they perceived democracy as the power of the "democrats" . Although democracy was presented as the necessary condition for eliminating the current challenges, the "democrats" had a very vague idea of how to go about the job. For example, they proposed to solve the nationalities problems with a "let's all be friends" attitude without a serious effort to understand the causes of these problems . The slogan, "Russia is one, but it is divisible" put forward by Yury Afanasyev, one of the democratic leaders,in the fall of 1991 in response to the challenge of separatism, puzzled even the activists themselves .
The economic agenda of the "democrats" was marginal in their worldview. While supporting the country's transition to the market economy (on the principle "for everything good against everything bad") the "democrats" for the most part had a vague idea about how the problem should be tackled. That is why they sometimes looked to outdated models (like Hungary's "goulash socialism" or Yugoslavia's workers' self-management) and/or proposed a combination of incompatibles, and, taken as a whole, their perception of the mounting economic problems in the country could not stand up to criticism . Thus, the program of the Democratic Russia bloc in the 1990 campaign to elect the People's Deputies of the RSFSR combined calls for equality of all forms of ownership and the demand to freeze retail prices during the period of transition to market. According to Viktor Sheinis, one of the authors of the program, it was basically a compilation of the proposals put forward by various democratic candidates [59, vol. 1, pp. 255-259] without as much as a hint of the mechanisms of implementing it. The unrealistic character of such proposals even then met with justified criticism, but it was not discussed seriously. History has no use for the subjunctive mood and we shall never know what economic policy the "democrats" would have pursued if they had come to power levers back in 1991, but one has to go along with the claim that the "democrats' " ideas of economic reform (and not only that) were based on wishful thinking .
In fact, the "democrats'" political program was fulfilled in August 1991, and not so much through their own efforts as due to unintended consequences of ill-thought-out actions of the Soviet leadership under Mikhail Gorbachev. The collapse of the former leadership, which came out of the blue, put the "democrats'" ideas into question. The majority of them were obviously not equipped to work out a new agenda [53; 59, vol. 2]. Some "democrats" were deeply disenchanted with the first steps of the post-communist Russia , and the developments in the wake of 1993 pushed them in the direction of hardline opposition to the Russian regime . Ideological leadership was snatched from the "democrats" by the representatives of the other trend, the "liberals," whose baggage, priorities and approaches to cardinal problems differed from those of their predecessors: the Sixties "fathers" were replaced by the Seventies "sons."
The dividing line between these generations was tenuous and although 1968-the crushing of the Prague Spring and the end of the Thaw in the USSR-was an obvious watershed, the shaping of personal priorities took a long time and was neither linear nor unambiguous, and the views of many Russians changed substantially over time . Among the "men of the Seventies" there were some politicians, analysts and journalists whose perception of the world and the corresponding system of coordinates were closer to those of the "men of the Sixties" (the reverse happened much less frequently). The generation gap played a considerable role in further divergence of the trajectories of the Russian "democrats" and "liberals."
"Liberals" without Democracy: Politics without Illusions
"Men of the Seventies" came of age during the "long Seventies," the period between the collapse of the Thaw and the start of perestroika transformations. This period was noted not only for the deficit of meaningful transformations in the USSR, the wish to preserve the status quo in politics and economics, but also for a lack of hope for "a bright future" characteristic of the youth of the "men of the Sixties." The new generation had to learn to live by the moment according to the ground rules set by the country's leaders, which bred pragmatism and sometimes cynicism. Against the background of apathy and/or disdain of official communist ideology, pragmatism took diverse forms, and it was necessary not to dream of improving or worse, transforming the Soviet system, not to build "castles in the air," but to achieve concrete results "here and now." Very often a high-level skill set and successful career went hand-in-hand with indifference to the communist ideology [78; 32].
However, the fact that the "men of the Seventies" were indifferent toward official ideology did not mean that they were insensitive to all ideas. Simply, they perceived ideas through the prism of pragmatic interests, i.e., not in the normative but in the positive way, not as abstract benchmarks for the whole society but as a means of furthering their own ends. So, while the rhetoric of the 1960s "democrats" tended to juxtapose the authorities and society , the 1970s "liberals" barely mentioned society in their memoirs [62; 8]. They were concerned about the economy, while politics at best was seen as a set of conditions and obstacles for the conduct of policy, and at worst attracted no interest at all. A pragmatic perception of ideas determined the attitude to the transformations under perestroika: unlike the "men of the Sixties" with their ungrounded expectations, many "men of the Seventies" had no illusions from the start.
The "men of the Seventies" supported market reforms because they saw them as a way of getting rid of the inefficiencies of the Soviet economy and boosting living standards: these priorities along with acquired knowledge in the economic sphere made them "liberals." The economic agenda dominated their discussions during perestroika [62; 72] and remained at the focus of debate in the decades that followed . For the "liberals," the rest of the system of coordinates (including but not limited to politics) was almost entirely linked with the categories of economic efficiency [40; 52, pp. 276-306]. Meanwhile, the ideas of democracy that had moved to the foreground in the late 1980s were seen in a strictly instrumental way and or at least with some reservations, which partially reflected the general trends of post-communist neo-liberalism . While they approved of political liberalization as a means of lifting the more egregious and irritating bans (lack of access to information, restricted foreign travel), the "liberals" had mixed feelings about the ideas of democracy as the power of the people, the separation of powers and protection of the interests of minorities. Moreover, against the background of the worsening crisis of the former system during perestroika, they perceived the rambling and sometimes fruitless discussions on general political matters as a "gabfest" and many of the Soviet leadership's economic policies as profoundly disappointing [5; 47].
In the late 1980s, differences over priorities (politics for the "democrats" versus economics for the "liberals") caused an ideological rift. The "democrats" saw a clash of "good" and "bad," seeing perestroika as a confrontation between its ideological supporters and enemies . The "liberals" stressed the struggle between "bad" and "very bad," that is, the straggle between the reluctance to change anything about way the economy and the country were ran, on the one hand, and incompetent attempts to fix the situation by half-measures, which merely worsened the crisis, on the other . While the "democrats" saw the surge of social activism during perestroika as a sign of democracy, for the "liberals" it was a sign of "chaos" and a source of risk for the economy and state governance . These different perceptions prompted the "liberals" to look for alternative solutions in the realm of politics. It is no accident that some "liberals" took up the idea of the need for market reform under a tough authoritarian regime as opposed to the "simultaneity dilemma."
The idea that authoritarianism was necessary and even desirable as an instrument of reforming the Soviet system was introduced into the public domain by Andranik Migranyan (his joint interview with Igor Klyamkin published in Literaturnaya gazeta under the tell-tale headline "Is an Iron Fist Needed?" ). That discussion (like other episodes of the public debate of the time) did not have a meaningful impact on the political agenda and it would be an exaggeration to see it as a harbinger of an authoritarian pivot in Russia after the break-up of the USSR . However, the taboo on discussing authoritarian decisions of the country's problems was broken: while the 1960s "democrats" who had experienced Stalinism and saw it brought down during the Thaw, rejected authoritarianism in principle because it was associated with repressions, the 1970s "liberals" saw it as one of the possible options for implementing economic transformations.
In 1989, Sergey Vasilyev and Boris Lvin noted the widening gap between the pressing need for drastic and painful economic reforms and the intention of the authorities and the democratic public opinion to extend this process in time using soft and ineffective measures. In their opinion, the Soviet leadership was increasingly tempted to resort to authoritarianism for the sake of reform whereas the Soviet republics might be pushed toward democratization under nationalist banners . In terms of policy recommendations, similar ideas informed The Memorandum on the Concept of Transition to a Market Economy in the USSR prepared in March 1990 by the Association of Social and Economic Sciences3 . The authors of that document proposed a wide range of authoritarian measures designed to prevent the danger of a populist economic policy and mass protests under anti-market slogans. They assumed that authoritarianism for the sake of market reforms was inevitable and had no alternative. This was not a combination of political and economic conditions characteristic of the majority of post-communist countries: authoritarianism had almost nowhere contributed to market successes [36; 23], as witnessed by the experience of market reforms in Eastern Europe unfolding before the "liberals' " eyes [62; 8]. It is also worth noting that the authors of the Memorandum saw the transition to a market economy as a one-off leap with a binary outcome (either success or total failure) while intermediate and/or compromise variants were not even discussed.
By that time, the models the "liberals" sought to emulate had begun to change. As early as 1989, Vitaly Naishul suggested that in implementing market reforms, the USSR should emulate the examples not of Hungary and Yugoslavia, and not even of Western Europe with its over-regulated economies but rather the experience of the United States . The search for models to emulate also inspired the trip of Russian "liberals" to Chile organized by Naishul in April 1991 (crowned by a meeting with Pinochet who by that time had been forced to resign under the pressure of democratization). Numerous positive references to the success of Chilean reforms reinforced by photos in the company of the former dictator went a long way to change the perception of Pinochet. In the eyes of the Soviet propaganda, the former villain turned into the chief reformer, while in reality, the Chilean experience was complex, multi-faceted, and in many ways, an exception from the rules [18; 69, pp. 587-600]. Although critics claimed that after the trip to Chile, future Russian reformers sought to use Pinochet's experience in practice , it proved to be a passing fad to the extent that years later those who went on that trip recalled it without much emotion [62; 44]. However, the myth about Pinochet as a "model" reformer (and similarly about the "Chicago boys" as a role model for Russian "liberals") acquired a life of its own. Russian "liberals" did not forget the brief infatuation with Pinochet and later some of them tried to detect the desired traits of a strongman-reformer in Vladimir Putin.
It would be no exaggeration to say that by the time of the start of economic reforms in Russia in the fall of 1991, the Russian "liberals" had an adequate idea of how to go about reform, what kind of economy was to emerge as a result of reforms and what political system was necessary and desirable. They saw democracy not so much as an obstacle in the way of market reforms as a luxury Russia should defer, while the inherent "defects" of democracy-reliance on elections, risks of a populist policy and a hamstrung government-were thought to be incompatible with market reforms. Subsequently, many "liberals" [70, p. 8; 15] retained and even strengthened their view of politics that prevailed on the eve of the collapse of the USSR. Moreover, that perception, which boiled down to the formula, "a firm yes to liberal economic reformism, generally yes to democracy in politics but not now and not as a priority," surfaced in numerous programmatic documents of the Russian authorities (Strategy-2010, Strategy-2020, etc.) to which "liberals" contributed extensively.
Two Roads toward the Edge of One and the Same Cliff
The year 1991 marked the start of a generational change in Russian politics. Gaidar's reforms elevated many Seventies "liberals" to leading positions in government and in the public sphere while the Sixties "democrats" were going downhill, and not only because of age. The "democrats'" agenda seemed to have been fulfilled while the "liberals" appeared to be just the right people to solve the tasks of transformation. Without going into the argument as to whether the 1990s offered other options of economic and political reforms and whether they could have been implemented more successfully than did the Russian "liberals," it has to be noted that many traits of the Seventies generation left a significant imprint on the vector of transformations. While lengthy debates gave way to concrete measures, they chose priorities and means of achieving the aims based on a pragmatic agenda: ideas of what was desirable and what was possible, short-termism in planning, flexibility and a penchant for compromise were combined with an ability to get things done. Besides, the failure of the Sixties "democrats" who missed the last chance of transforming the former system during perestroika sent a clear signal to the Seventies "liberals" about how not to act. In this situation, the approaches of the "fathers" and "sons" could not but be diametrically opposite, including on the issue of prioritizing economic and political system transformations: the "liberals" sacrificed democracy for the sake of market reforms.
In late 1991, when Russia "froze" all the political institutions and the national state system, the number one priority for the political elites (and the public opinion) was implementing economic transformations. The "liberals," who backed these moves, hoped that radical economic reforms would, within a relatively short span of time, rescue the country from its crisis, whereupon the turn would come of democratizing the political regime . But these hopes were not destined to come true: the Russian government failed to bring about an early financial stabilization, economic reforms were greatly extended in time and the transformational decline of the economy was full of dramatic twists and turns and ended in default and devaluation of the Russian currency. The political context of economic transformations in 1990s Russia bore little resemblance to the experience of post-communist reform in Eastern Europe . The difference was partly due to the state's military and distributive potential in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union while the decline of production turned out to be more serious and prolonged than in the neighboring ex-communist countries.
Subjective factors, which had to do with the political tactics of reforms carried out by the "liberals" and their allies , also played a considerable role. It was effectively a series of tactical agreements not with the losers at the first stage of reform, but on the contrary, with those who benefited from it and were therefore not interested in further change , i.e., the oligarchs, regional leaders and other rent-seekers. The Seventies "liberals" (unlike "the men of the Sixties") were prepared to adapt themselves to the changing circumstances and, if necessary, easily made compromises to achieve what was possible having in mind short-term tasks rather than starry-eyed dreams of "a bright future."
This circumstance partly accounted for the phenomenon of 1990s Russian reforms noted by specialists and actors themselves [62; 8]: on a number of key issues of economic reform, the Gaidar team easily surrendered its positions, hoping to gain a tactical advantage from compromises and seeking to gain the desired result in other spheres. Thus, yielding to the pressure of powerful lobbies, it agreed to give up its anti-inflation policy arguing, among other things, that it needed to hold its ground on the issue of privatization of enterprises. However, the course for privatization  was also compromised, as a result of which the biggest beneficiaries, compared to the initial intentions, were insiders-the work collectives and directors of enterprises . "Appeasement" of the narrow interest groups that sought to collect rent  led to high political costs of reforms (both for reformers and for the country as a whole), while subsequent change of the government's policy in the 2000s prompted a revision of some results of transformations [76; 24]. In other words, the course the "liberals" pursued in the 1990s in many ways ran counter to their own ideas formulated before the start of economic reforms.
Part of the reason for such inconsistency was that initially, the "liberals" themselves assumed the role of reformer-technocrats and not independent actors on the Russian political scene and stayed out of the public struggle for power, which made them vulnerable . When, in the course of 1993 parliamentary elections, they finally assumed a more active role, they discovered that their ideas and leaders had limited support, while facing competition on the part of the "democrats" who, in the wake of 1991, seemed to have been written off. Things came to a head in September-October 1993 when political polarization in the country, which had been mounting since 1990, reached its peak . The "liberals," who approved of Yeltsin's actions, actively supported the dissolution of the Russian parliament and the use of force to suppress it because they felt that these measures removed the obstacles in the way of reform. At the same time, the "democrats," if not openly condemning Yeltsin's actions, dissociated themselves from them.
The ideological rift between the "liberals" and the "democrats" spilled into politics in the shape of differences between Russia's Choice bloc and its successor, Russia's Democratic Choice and the Union of Right Forces, on the one hand, and Yabloko on the other. Russia's Choice, which was formed by leading "liberals" and made a bid for power in the course of 1993 elections, managed to make use of the organizational resources of the former democratic movement but did not do very well in the elections ; after some of its representatives lost their posts, the bloc transformed itself into Russia's Democratic Choice. It was a typical "semi-opposition" , combining as it was moderate criticism of aspects of the government policy with unreserved support of the Kremlin on key issues while its representatives kept important posts in government. In the unfavorable economic context of the mid-1990s, such a strategy held no promise of dividends, and the costs were considerable. Not being able to influence key decisions, the "liberals" were seen by the electorate as being responsible for the government's failures, and their influence in the corridors of power waned. By contrast, Yabloko, initially a motley assemblage of politicians, managed to get across its programmatic principles and attitudes and attract a small but noticeable number of voters. Subsequent efforts by Yabloko's leader Grigory Yavlinsky and some other members enabled it to become a full-fledged political party [34; 75; 28].
Thus, the "liberals" and "democrats" became political rivals and their relations became strained. This happened because institutional and political incentives toward a coalition policy for the Russian parties were small even for ideologically close parties: the only option for coalition-building was "unfriendly takeover" of small entities by larger ones . The difference of potentials of Russia's Choice-Russia's Democratic Choice-Union of Right Forces and Yabloko was not sufficient for such a takeover, and the claims of the pro-Kremlin RDC, which had clout to trangle Yabloko in its embrace, met with fierce criticism on the part of "democrats" . If one looks at the way the two parties positioned themselves on the more significant issues, their approaches differed cardinally. During the December 1993 Constitution referendum, the "liberals" backed the Presidential draft of the constitution and actively supported Yeltsin's re-election. The "democrats," on the contrary, refused to back the draft Constitution [59, vol. 2], and in the 1996 elections, Yavlinsky himself ran for president. In the second round, Yabloko refused to back Yeltsin.
As regards strategic positioning, Yabloko "democrats" were torn between drawing closer to the "liberals" and distancing themselves from them. Sporadic attempts to shift Yabloko toward the "democratic left" niche never met with support from the "democrats." Yabloko failed to clearly formulate an ideological alternative to the "liberals" as regards the political course. The party's position on the whole was somewhat to the left of the rival "liberals," especially on the issue of privatization . These differences, however, were not always understood by the members of both trends or by rank-and-file activists, which is why the differences between the "democrats" and the "liberals" were perceived by observers as signs of personal conflicts. "Liberals" for their part were not a monolithic bloc; frictions in their ranks increased over time: today it is hard to imagine that Sergey Glaziev, a statist and advocate of the "Russian world" concept, and Andrey Illarionov, a radical critic of the policies of the Russian authorities, were both members of the "Gaidar team" in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even when the "liberals'" programmatic positions remained more or less unchanged on economic policy they did not always follow their basic principles in practice.
Although the RDC suffered a debacle in the 1995 Duma elections, the "liberals," far from dropping out of Russia's political elite, increased their influence because they took an active part in the motley pro-Yeltsin coalition in the 1996 presidential elections and subsequently held a number of government posts [7; 22; 37]. After the 1998 financial crisis, which was blamed on the "liberals," they managed to rally and form a new coalition, which did well in the 1999 elections as The Union of Right Forces. It is worth noting that by that time, the "liberals" had made a strategic decision to renounce the legacy of the "democrats" and positioned themselves as the Right throwing their weight behind Putin during the election campaign. Thanks to the Kremlin's support, they managed to get back into parliament and score a crucial victory over the Yabloko rivals. The "democrats" in turn faced a profound internal crisis: Yabloko opposed the Kremlin's initiatives, systematically refused to choose "the lesser of two evils" and ended up becoming an opposition that was, in principle, unable to take part in government, which hindered its efforts to broaden its electoral base. In the eyes of its supporters, Yabloko did not look like a party capable of implementing its plans. Attempts to reverse the situation failed and its poor performance in the 1999 elections demonstrated that the "democrats" electoral prospects were illusory .
As a result, in 2000-2003, both the "liberals" and the "democrats" were reduced to the status of a "semi-opposition" For the "liberals," it meant that the Kremlin only needed them as allies for tactical reasons, while the dividends from the claims to a junior partner of URF were insignificant. Yabloko's crisis grew worse during the same period. Several prominent Duma deputies and regional activists resigned from the party, the demand for the "democrats'" former ideas dropped and no new ideas were offered. Against this background, the URF, which was the engine of the new wave of liberal reforms in the early 2000s and seemed to have perked up, made several attempts to strangle Yabloko in the embrace of the "democrats." During the 2003 Duma elections, the "liberals" sought not so much to garner votes as to get Yabloko rivals out of the way. The latter responded in kind, which undermined the positions of both parties to the conflict. Indeed, these elections were the "swan song" of both parties: the "liberals" and the "democrats" failed to win seats in the Fourth State Duma, which led the chief of the President's staff Vlaldislav Surkov to declare that these two parties had exhausted their historical mission in Russia.
Subsequent events demonstrated a dramatic decline of both political camps: the "liberals" split into "systemic" Kremlin loyalists and "non-systemic" critics of the Kremlin who drew closer to the "democrats," who in turn became more and more marginalized politically as authoritarian trends in the country increased. Over time, their confrontation became less and less important in the public eye, especially as a new generation of opposition politicians was emerging . And yet, the causes and mechanisms of the ideological struggle between the "liberals" and the "democrats" in Russia, as well as its influence on the trajectories of transformation of the country and the prospects of reformist ideas in the future remain unclear.
In Lieu of a Conclusion: The Rise and Fall of Reformist Ideas in Russia
Why do some ideas make an impact on the processes of social change and others do not? The answer to this question can be gleaned through the prism of demand and supply in the market of ideas. The demand grows in the periods when the situation in this or that society is perceived by the elites and by public opinion as one of crisis, but as uncertainty disappears, it may fall leaving those who produce and disseminate ideas out of a job. From that point of view, the rise of reformist slogans during perestroika, the decline of the "liberals" and "democrats" in the 2000s can be explained as the consequences of the dynamics of demand for ideas. Before the start of perestroika, interest in alternative ideas was artificially restricted, and after the post-communist transformation, as the new political and economic system in Russia took root, demand for liberal and democratic ideas disappeared. A new groundswell of demand in the market of ideas in the 2010s brought to the foreground concepts far removed from modernization while democracy and market reforms could find no niche in this market.
However, in the analysis of the struggle between various reformist trends, the study of demand in the market of ideas has to be complemented by an assessment of supply, not only in terms of the content of these ideas but also of the actions of those who produce and disseminate them. Although supply of concepts is not always directly linked with their impact on the current agenda , one can hardly speak of the impact of concepts without articulated programs and active efforts of various agents. Supply on the part of "democrats" was too general and poorly articulated while its producers and disseminators were not equipped to meet the sudden surge of demand. The demand on the part of the "liberals," although more coherent, focused on just one key aspect of the post-communist transformation (the building of a market economy) and was geared to one-off application in the concrete context of reforms. The "democrats" and even more so the "liberals," both in the supply of ideas and their implementation, had in mind not the broad masses but rather narrow interest groups, which lost them the trust of the elites and of society. Although the "liberals" were able, due to a favorable concatenation of circumstances (change of generations amid disaffection with the democratic narrative), to score a tactical victory in the market of reformist ideas in the early 1990s, both the "liberals" and the "democrats" suffered a crushing defeat in the medium-term perspective.
Another important lesson of the Russian experience in the late 1980s and early 2000s was that what matters in the struggle is not only or largely the concepts as such, but their acceptance/non-acceptance by the elites and the public, multiplied by the perception of the figures of the producers and disseminators of these ideas. The Sixties "democrats" lost to their younger, better educated and more modern rivals, the Seventies "liberals." However, they too failed to become the intellectual beacons of large groups of intellectuals, not to speak of the broad public (although some of them influenced the positions of the Russian elites in the 1990s) even though they played no small part in the preparation and adoption of significant decisions (the "liberals" still have some traction but only on a small scale).
The defeat of the "democrats" and the "liberals" does not mean that their ideas proved to be useless for Russia's transformation in the late 20th century. The fact that Russia managed to build a market economy and proclaim itself to be a democracy, declaring (but not putting into practice) the principles of political and civic freedoms, was to a large extent the result of the promotion of reformist programs. Although the producers and disseminators of these ideas in the late 1980s and early 1990s would hardly find signs of implementation of their ideas in the 2020s Russia, the reformist ideas helped our country to come out of the impasse in which it found itself at the start of perestroika and helped to make this result irreversible. However, this fact in itself does not guarantee against new impasses in the future and neither the "democrats" nor the "liberals" were prepared for such a turn of events by the beginning of the 20th century.
By the early 2020s, the "men of the Sixties" had left the stage and even their successors, "men of the Seventies," are unlikely to propose anything new in the market of ideas. But what can the new generations of "democrats" and "liberals" bring to the struggle of ideas that is distinct from their predecessors? Will their programs be met with demand in the foreseeable future, and if so, what will be their main thrust? The answer to this question is anything but obvious. Granted, after the debacle of the 2000s, the "democrats" more or less successfully switched to human rights activities to preserve the core of their producers and distributors. But the "niche" character of their slogan, although making it possible to reproduce the former ideals, objectively leaves little chance that if fresh demand for democratization arises in Russia, the "democrats" will be in demand in this capacity. Attempts to transform the "democrats'" ideas by grafting populism from Aleksey Navalny  in the 2010s are questionable. Although these attempts are called upon to stimulate fresh demand in the market of ideas, it remains unclear to what extent supply will be integral and successful, or whether it will end up as another political technology ploy in the struggle against the current regime. It is more difficult to assess the prospects for the Russian "liberals" whose ideas (and proponents), after short-lived success, were in many respects (justly or unjustly) discredited in the eyes of the Russian public. The advent of the new generation has not changed the landscape in this political camp, and the new slogans need to be better articulated if they are to seriously battle for the hearts and minds of Russians.
Be that as it may, the programmatic ideas for the Russian modernization proposed by the "democrats" and the "liberals" in the late 20th century should not be thrown into the trash can. In the future, new attempts to move forward will need reform programs, which of course will differ from those that were prevalent 20 or 30 years ago. Their success in the market of ideas will go a long way to determine the agenda of the new round of Russia's transformation, which is why the experience of the "democrats" and the "liberals" remains relevant in terms of Russia's prospects.
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1 Here and elsewhere the terms in quotation marks are self-appellations. Whether the views and actions of the Russian "liberals" and "democrats" correspond to the respective doctrines is a question beyond the scope of this article (see critique in [40; 43]).
2 Here and elsewhere the materials of an article published earlier are used .
3 Founded in 1989 and headed by Anatoly Chubais.
Translated by Yevgeny Filippov