Wednesday, February 19, 2020

‘Soviet Children have Become Post-Soviet Adults,’ Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – A disposition toward authoritarianism among Russians and their support for authoritarian leaders are the product of social rather than genetic causes, the impact of the ways in which children are raised in families and the values they acquire as a result, according to Kseniya Kirillova, a Russian journalist who lives in the United States.

            That can be seen in what are two exceptions to this pattern among Russians, among Russians who grow up in the West and among those whose parents reject the traditional child-rearing patterns of most members of that nation, she continues. And that gives hope that the pattern can be changed and this vicious circle broken (

            This family experience is not so much that of violence or drunkenness, Kirillova says. Rather it is about “the humiliation, neglect and lack of respect” that many Russian children experience in their interactions with their parents.  In such an atmosphere, “there is no place for the respect of the personality and thus no place for freedom.”

            In an important sense, the parents who behave in this way are not so much making bad choices as reflecting the way in which they were raised and the times in which they came of age. Moreover, in Russia as opposed to many other countries, this set of family experiences is reinforced rather than undercut by other social institutions.

            “Soviet children have become post-Soviet adults,” Kirillova points out. “They have applied to their offspring the very same methods of child rearing they experienced, “ and thus there should be little surprise that the values they possess will be reproduced in their children whatever the broader society proclaims.

            To be sure, the journalist writes, there is at least one “plus” in this: Russians become stronger, more independent and socialize more rapidly than do many Western children because they are “less autonomous and egoistic” than Western ones and are accustomed to searching for a surrogate to the love they do not get at home.

            But even that plus has a downside. In such situations, most quickly identify with those who are stronger, “and it is possible that in this lies the source of the sympathy many Russians have for Putin. People accustomed to a cult of strength and natural find it difficult to respect” those who don’t behave in that way.

            “Is it strange that adults accustomed from childhood to physical punishment, havin become adults, approach the cruelty of the siloviki?” Or that those who have been denigrated are more than ready to denigrate others, including whole categories of people and will be disposed of they will be prepared to accept similar destruction of others in a Stalinist state?

            Laws against family violence, however important and welcome, won’t solve the problem, because they won’t touch the attitudes but only the behavior of some parents, Kirillova says. Parents have to change their attitudes toward children, and some Russian parents have. But “the force of inertia is very great” for most.

            And at least for now, few Russian parents are prepared to turn to psychologists for help, leading to a situation in which “unrecognized problems continue to migrate from generation to generation, passing through inheritance the cult of force and lack of respect – that means of unfreedom as well.”

            This pattern can be broken, Kirillova concludes. That is the good news. The bad is that it will be very difficult and take a long time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Fewer Ethnic Conflicts in Russia than in Kazakhstan Because of Weaker Consolidation of Russians than of Kazakhs, Savin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – The clash between Kazakhs and Dungans in villages near the Kyrgyzstan border has sparked a broad discussion among experts in both countries about the causes of these violent episodes. A large number of explanations have been offered, but perhaps the most intriguing comes from Igor Savin, an ethnographer at Southern Kazakhstan University.

            Like most participants in this discussion, Savin points to the weakness of local officials, the denial of the central government, the uncertainties of transition, the failure of diasporas to integrate, and the self-confidence of many in Kazakhstan that they have avoided danger because there have been few conflicts with ethnic Russians (

            A major reason for the absence of conflicts between Kazakhs and ethnic Russians has been that the Russians have generally chosen to run rather than fight, to leave Kazakhstan and return to the Russian Federation, the ethnographer says.  The Kazakhs can see this and therefore see no reason to push their luck by challenging the ethnic Russians.

            But Savin’s most intriguing observation may be his reflections about how inter-ethnic conflicts are different in Kazakhstan as compared to in Russia.  On the one hand, Moscow has focused far more on the problem than have the Kazakhstan authorities and have taken “preventive measures.”

            However, he says, “there is yet another important factor: the significantly lower level of ethnic solidarity among ethnic Russians in Russia compared to that of the Kazakhs in Kazakhstan. And this is rally important” in explaining why today Kazakhstan has more problems in this regard than does the Russian Federation.

            “Kazakh society, especially its more traditionalist strata,” the ethnographer says, “are characterized by a high level of ethnic consciousness.” They have reacted sharply to cases of discrimination and mistreatment of Kazakhs in China whereas Russians in Russia have often ignored the way in which Russians are treated abroad.

            Moreover, in the first post-Soviet Kazakhstan constitution, adopted in 1993, it was asserted that the country was “a state of the Kazakh nation that had achieved self-determination.” That phrase disappeared in later editions, but “the policy of ethnocratization has been conducted consistently and actively.”

            The same thing is not the case in the Russian Federation, although some Russian commentators and officials would like to change that, at least at the level of declarative language in the constitution. But what Savin’s words suggest is that if they do, Russia will face more ethnic clashes, not fewer. 

With Long Sentences in ‘Network’ Case, ‘FSB Wants to Sow Fear among Young Russians,’ Svetova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – Many Russians have been shocked by the long sentences the courts have handed down against members of the now-banned “Network” organization especially since there was already so much coverage of the way torture was used to extract the confessions of many of them.

            But they shouldn’t be, Zoya Svetova, a Moscow rights activist and commentator, says because the sentences had a very specific purpose: to sow fear among young Russians that the FSB will pursue them and ensure that they are put behind bars for years as a means of discouraging others from protesting (

            Before our eyes, she continues, is “really being repeated what was the case in Soviet times, albeit in a different form. This was a falsified case, the goal of which is clear: the FSB wants to sow fear among young people,” to show that “even for falsified dissent, they can be punished” and will be tortured even before the sentences are handed down.

            Torture became the norm among Russian siloviki. Sometimes police are caught and tried, but this doesn’t happen with the FSB. Indeed, Svetova says, the organs now torture even those who are not involved in political crimes but simple murders or narcotics offenses. Using torture has become normalized.

            The only way that those sentenced in this particular case would be the appearance of a massive social movement. If thousands of those who are now protesting online go into the streets, the authorities might back down. That is a long shot, but if there are no protests, those sentenced will likely remain in prison as long as the current regime is in place.