Russians feel nostalgic when it comes to the USSR

Russian population is accostumed to being guided by the leader's ruling firm hand

Soviet flagRecent sociological research shows that Russian population feels more and more nostalgic about the Soviet past. However,by full-fledged socialism they mean not a political regime but rather a system that presupposes government's responsibility to provide decent life to the citizens.

Getting rid of the communist past is not about rewriting history textbooks and changing the names of the streets. Confusion in people's heads caused by galloping capitalization still impedes them from using their suddenly acquired rights and performing their new civil responsibilities efficiently. The habit of relying upon the government in everything makes Russian society passive and unable to change anything.

American economist Alberto Alesina has recently studied the moods in the united Germany. According to the professor, the main remnant of the communism still characteristic of the eastern Germans is nothing but a user attitude towards government. In this case people consider government some kind of supernatural charity organization that takes care of its citizens as if they were children. The surveys showed that eastern Germans more often than western ones support the idea of government's intervention into income redistribution and social security. However, these attitudes tend to change. This made the authors of the study conclude that Germany will be free of communist prejudices in 20-40 years. Applying the results of the study to the Russian environment Alesina claimed that the same process would take more time here.

According to the American scientist Russia will have to pass through a generational change in order to get rid of the communist heritage. However, Russian experience shows that the death of the contemporaries of an epoch and their next descendants does not necessarily mean the ideological transformation of the society. Russian population has been renewed by 20 per cent since 1990. A new social class – businessmen – appeared (their number exceeds three million people), private property became firmly established. Nevertheless, the attitude of Russian towards the Soviet period has not become worse than, for example, 15 years ago. Quite the contrary. Isn't it a paradox?

Looks like there is a simple explanation to this paradox: the worse the present is, the better seems the past. In other words, the country will get rid of its communist past depending on the way it will construct capitalism and on what will be the result of this construction. Until 2003 pensioners were the main supporters of the Russian Communist Party. However, when the government provided them with them with regular pension payment and indexation, they suddenly started favoring the ruling party and the communists failed at theDumaelections. Seems like it is the household that determines political consciousness.

There is nothing overstated and communist behind the demands of the Russians to the government. Russian citizens want same thing that were achieved by the Belgians and Danes long time ago. The problem is that as a result of the total governmental control that lasted so many years people lost any desire and ability to change social situation. They use their right to vote without any enthusiasm. They are not interest in any kind of self-administration. And they do not want to participate in trade union activity hoping for leader's ruling firm hand. This is probably the main remnant of the socialism. To be precise, of the USSR socialism. Socialist model works in a number of countries fully approved by the citizens who participate in the life of their countries. In Norway government redistributes income, taking away from 25 up to 55 per cent of the tax bearer's income. The population considers this practice to be fair. According to the Russian standards Norwegian magnates are poor. On the other hand there are no people who are really poor in Norway. Norwegian government succeeds in fighting poverty with the help of fishery and oil-extracting enterprises. Government control continues being a locomotive for Thai economy as well. Thus, economic and social progress depends rather on the participation of the citizens in governmental activities than on the way government participates in the economy of the country.

Recent survey by the All-Russian Center for Studying Public Opinion showed that 62 per cent of the population thinks that the situation will become better. However, their answers to more specific questions do not seem so optimistic. Reprivatization was approved by about half of the Russians. However, the supporters of this new redistribution of the property are sure that it will mainly fall into the hands of the bureaucrats, political parties and foreigners. Only seven per cent of the respondents believe that the redistribution will provide talented Russians with jobs and will improve the economic situation. Sociologists think that such attitudes are formed because of the so-called elite, an active minority of people who inherited a belief in omni powered innocent leader. This image seems to be still popular among the Russians. However, Russia is not an isolated country anymore and people start to understand that nothing is done without any efforts.

There are several criteria that determine civil consciousness apart from the attitude towards government. They change at a different speed. Russians are at another crossroads and are afraid to take hold of their own future. However, there is some hope that this hesitation will pass after generational change.

Vasily Reznichenko

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Author`s name Olga Savka