Stanton, August 5 – Since the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, Novaya gazeta journalist Galina Mursaliyeva says, have been dealing with “the unbearable situation of their own powerlessness” to define their position relative to that action and to the outside world which blames their country for it.
She interviewed Academician Aleksandr Asmolov, a leading Moscow psychologist, who discussed this situation and concluded that “in the world today, the psychological deportation of Russia is taking place, and you and I all together have become hostages of this situation” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2014/08/01/60558-psihologicheskaya-deportatsiya-rossii).
Also participating in the discussion was the academician’s son, Grigory, who was visiting Moscow for a few days. He is currently working on his doctorate in communications at the London School of Economics. He shared not only his academic expertise but also his experiences living among Russian expats in Britain.
The academician said that the shooting down of the Boeing jet divided the world. Before then, people in the West could talk about Russian barbarism and Russians could respond; but after that event, people in the West took what they saw as an act of barbarity personally and began to treat Russians as “untouchables.”
Because ordinary people in the West came to that conclusion, their leaders, who are much more dependent on popular attitudes than are Russian ones, could not fail to respond to the situation by taking an ever harder line. Many people now talk about an information war, but what we are seeing, the academician says is “a psychological one.”
And in that war, Russians have used “practically all the mechanisms of psychological defense” – including projection, rationalization, and compensation Russians must recognize that they are in a difficult situation but also that they are becoming “the product of manipulation … from the most varied sides.”
Grigory Asmolov says that in his experience Russians are transferring this personalization of the conflict into their own relations with other Russians. Before the shoot down, there was “a certain distance between the media and personal communications.” But that has broken down, and it is splitting families and friends even in social networks.
“In recent months,” he continues, “we observe an enormous number of breakdowns in social links, among friends, classmates, and colleagues. This is connected with distancing friends in social networks.” But it is leading to a situation in which “people are ceasing to comment on anything.”
“Some are simply closing down their Internet pages,” Grigory Asmolov says. “This is a heavy socio-psychological trauma and its impact will be longer than the conflict itself. The breakdown of the social structure is a dangerous trend, which is chock full of far reaching consequences.”
His academician father agrees. The shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner whatever the ultimate facts of the case prove to be has led to the “psychological deportation” of Russians from the rest of the world and left them “hostages of this deportation.” Overcoming that is going to be difficult and take a long time.
To move forward, he says, Russians must “vaccinate” themselves by developing critical thinking and showing that they are capable of responding to each situation. Otherwise they will be reduced to the status of “irresponsible” zombies.
At present, the academician concludes, the shooting down of the Malaysian plane has “cast doubt on the myth that a civil society has arisen in Russia. We have become victims of collective affect. The bell today is ringing over the embryo of civil society in Russia.”