Thursday, January 3, 2019

Collectivism of Russians is a Myth, Sergey Medvedev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 3 – One of the most frequent claims of Russian nationalists is that the Russians are collectivist in nature, a view that is also one of the most widely accepted axioms of analysts of Russian society past and present.  But Sergey Medvedev, a historian and commentator, says that the entire notion of the collectivism of Russians is a myth.

            In the course of a roundtable discussion at Radio Liberty he chaired (, Medvedev made the following points in support of his view:

·         First, “polls show that collectivism, ‘communalism,’ and ‘communality’ of Russians are a myth and that in fact Russians are among the greatest individualists in the world.”

·         Second, Russians “do not believe in collective action, often are not capable of reaching agreement with each other, and prefer to solve problems individually.”

·         Third, “the individualism of Russians is manifest in their low level of trust and the absence of altruism.”

·         Fourth, “the communalism characteristic of the Russian people in the past was suppressed by collectivization and the ensuing actions of the Soviet authorities.”

·         And fifth, “in recent times, there has arisen a certain demand for collective action and voluntarism but for this to happen are needed institutions and social structures” which are lacking. 

Those who want to argue that Russians are collectivist in nature must present evidence that contradicts all or most of these points. That is something they have not done and, in Medvedev’s view, cannot do because Russians are not as those people imagine but something quite different – and that must be taken into account by both analysts and activists. 

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