Monday, June 12, 2017

Generation Putin - Why Russian youth has disappointed hopes for democratic change. By NATALIA ZORKAYA

Two generations of post-Soviets: Most people perceived the changes of the 1990s as forced, imposed, incomprehensible and lacking in positive goals. This determined people’s most common type of adaptation – namely downwards adaptation, which amounted to a struggle for survival. Roughly speaking, only one-tenth of all respondents felt that the changes opened up new opportunities for using their strengths and abilities for personal development and success. This meant that, on the whole, short-lived hopes for rapid, large-scale improvements were replaced by much more limited aspirations concerning the resolution of everyday, routine problems.

Most people survived the dramatic changes of the 1990s by turning to Soviet ideas, proclivities and behavioural patterns. The elites were weak and unprepared for serious social and political transformations and failed to implement democratic reforms in politics and the public sphere. In most people’s eyes, the state consigned its citizens to their fate. The only experience that the generation of “parents” was able to pass on to their children in this era of change was that of individual survival and passive adaptation. In post-Soviet society, unlike in the West, a value-based conflict of generations never arose. A “working through” of such a conflict could have become a means of genuine social transformation. But all manner of problems inherited from the Soviet past remained unreflected, which made the alteration of Soviet mentality difficult.

The collapse of the Soviet institutional system, meant that the welfare state ceased to function; that educational, healthcare, science and media institutions deteriorated; that power became increasingly arbitrary and that corruption increased; and that the legal system and courts became more and more reliant on the authorities. Under these conditions, a significant responsibility for the new generation’s socialization and adaptation to the changing reality fell on the family. One of the family’s main challenges was to ensure the possibility of a “better life” for children. At the same time, the passive adaptation to changes by “adults” themselves, by lowering their own demands and expectations, led to a general narrowing and simplification of the notion of “the future” and a focus on everyday problems. The wellbeing of children was, as many years of polling have shown, seen as compensation for what generations of parents felt they had lacked in terms of material security and relative freedom from everyday burens.

Values, self-perceptions, prospects: Surveys of young people in the mid-2000s and 2010s show that youngsters growing up in the post-Soviet period tended to regard personal success (understood primarily as material wellbeing and status) as a priority and to seek entry into the power hierarchy, but cared little about social recognition of personal achievements, the desire for self-improvement, social and civic responsibility and political more: