Saturday, August 1, 2020

Income Differentiation Far from the Only Inequality Angering Russians, Mareyeva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – Russians are increasingly concerned about growing inequality in their country, but because of Soviet arrangements in which access often meant more than income, they view social inequality as being about far more than differences in income, although income leads in in the ranking of concerns about inequality, Svetlana Mareyeva says.

            In an article published two years ago in the Vestnik Instituta Sotsiologii but now summarized on the portal, Mareyeva, head of the Center for Stratification Studies at the Higher School of Economics, describes this pattern ( summarized at

            In Soviet times, Russians viewed inequality primarily in terms of access and as an unacceptable side effect of the system under which they lived. Now, they are more concerned about it because it has grown and has come to be viewed as a fundamental feature of post-Soviet reality, Mareyeva says.  

            The increasingly radical differentiation is seen as both illegitimate and wrong, she continues, with “far reaching social consequences” including “the generation of social tension, the worsening of the socio-psychological state of Russians and the creation of bases for the de-legitimation of the powers that be.” 

            According to polling data she cites, 84 percent consider income inequality the most serious kind for Russian society, with 64  percent of the sample saying that it is the most sensitive for them personally, an indication that while income inequality is viewed as the most important form, differences in access remain especially important at the individual level.

            The top five bases for concern among Russians about inequality for their society as a whole are income, access to medical care, living conditions, good working conditions, and access to education; the top four concerns for Russians personally are the same except for the fifth where access to recreation outranks access to education.

            According to Mareyeva, Russians are increasingly concerned about access to medical help and education, with figures between 2015 and 2018 rising from 59 to 70 percent in the first case and 40 to 48 percent in the second, yet more evidence that Russian concerns about inequality remain far broader than concerns about income alone.

            These figures also show that “the problem of inequality not only is not falling to a secondary concern but even is beginning to be felt more sharply because the main changes concern assessments of the situation in   one’s own life and not the situation in society as a whole. And that means that inequality adds to social tension. 

            Her data also show that “the majority of the population considers that the causes of both poverty and wealth lie not in personal qualities or efforts of the individual himself or herself but as the result of the impact of ‘external’ factors” and that the government either directly or indirectly is responsible for this growing divide.

            And 75 percent – three Russians out of four – believe that the government must take steps to reduce inequality in society not only in terms of income but also in terms of access and say that fighting inequality broadly conceived is more important to them than combatting poverty as such. That implies that bringing down the rich is more important to them than lifting up the poor.

No comments:

Post a Comment