Staunton, October 17 – A survey of more than 6,000 Russian university students finds that many of them believe their country is unjust in its distribution of resources among classes and regions but that few are prepared to take action to change things. Instead, the study says, they believe that this is the responsibility of the government.
The authors of the study, Valery Kasamara, Marina Maksimenkova and Anna Sorokina, say that it is clear that the students are overwhelmingly against injustice as such but have not thought deeply about it and express themselves in the most general terms rather than focusing on specific problems that might be addressed.
(Their research, which involved surveys at 109 higher educational institutions and focus groups in 12 cities, has been published as “Justice in the Views of Russian Student Youth” (in Russian), Obshchestvennyye nauki i sovremennost, 4 (2020): 20-30 at publications.hse.ru/articles/398140107iq.hse.ru/news/407824855.html).)
Students talk a great deal about justice and injustice, the authors say; but most of their remarks are superficial. They treat the Soviet past as a model of a just state because it provided students with support and jobs after graduation and the “wild 1990s” as a classical case of injustice because it didn’t. Russia today is somewhere in between.
Very few believe that they can do much about the injustice of their society, its corruption, radical income differentiation, and falsified elections. Instead, the authors say, the students believe that these are things that the state itself must address. Seventy-five percent say such reforms are needed, but few say they will work toward achieving them.
What this survey suggests is the recent focus on Russian interest in justice may be overstating the extent to which such concerns will lead to action. If young people who typically are the most ready to act on such convictions are not, as this study suggests, then the powers that be may reasonably conclude that the concerns won’t lead to actions challenging the Kremlin.