Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Feelings of Aggressiveness Higher Among Russians Now than in the 1990s, Sociologists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 9 – Never over the last decade have Moscow sociologists found such a high level of aggressiveness in Russian society as they do today, according to a new study, a reflection it says of the growing frustration many Russians feel about the situation they find themselves in and their own inability to influence it.

            Such feelings lie behind events like those in Pugachev and elsewhere, the Tolkovatel blog says today, but what makes them so dangerous is that their growth means that they can break out almost anywhere in response to almost anything, thereby feeding on themselves and likely pushing frustration, anger and aggressiveness to new heights (ttolk.ru/?p=17761).

                Nationalism, it continues, “is only the occasion for such outbursts of aggression,” the basis of which is found in “the depths of the frustration of the people” and the anger that leads to. To support that, the blog cites the findings of a recent book by the Moscow Institute of Sociology on “The Socio-Cultural Factors of the Consolidation of Russian Society” (in Russian, 2013) (www.isras.ru/files/File/INAB/inab_2013_01.pdf).

            In order to measure the extent of aggressiveness in Russian society, the sociologists who prepared that book asked respondents how often they felt the desire to “shoot everyone responsible for the way life is now.”  Thirty-four percent said they felt that way “frequently;” 38 percent said “sometimes;” and 28 percent said “practically never.

            On the basis of these and other poll results, the sociologists conclude that “in Russia society in recent years has grown the spread of negatively colored social feelings, a sense of injustice concerning what is taking place, shame about the current situation of the country, the impossibility of continuing to live as before, and the sense of powerless regarding changing what is happening.”

            Such feelings, they continue, are now found “in all groups and strata of society and they are ever more tightly connected with one another,” meaning that concerns in one area lead to concerns in others in a reinforcing way.

            That in turn suggests, the Tolkovatel blog says, that “an ever greater role in their spread” is played by “macro-level factors” such as “non-acceptance of ‘the rules of the game,’ institutional limitations, and the like.” That combination thus is “fraught with serious risks for the consolidation of Russian society.” 

            In support of their contention that aggressiveness is increasing among Russians, the sociologists provide the following longitudinal data concerning the level of agreement with three propositions: “people of my nationality have lost much over the last 15 to 20 years,” “all means are good for the defense of the interests of my people,” and the expulsion of those of different nationalities from where the respondents live is appropriate.

            In 1995, 45 percent of the sample said they frequently felt that way, while 24 percent said they never did.  In 2000, these figures were 54 and 18, and in 2008, they were 55 and 16. But now those saying they frequently think that way outnumber those who never do by 34 to 28 percent.

            Thus, the Tolkovatel blog concludes, “a sudden outburst of aggression may take the forms of nationalist actions, although at the base of this will lie entirely other causes. And not accidently, among those who frequently experience feels of injustice of what is taking place and shame for the country and who also feel that one can no longer live as at present, 64 percent frequently feel a desire to shoot all those responsible for the way their lives are.”
            There is a particular danger of explosions in Moscow “where almost two-thirds [of those polled] frequently experience a desire ‘to shoot everyone’ and only 17 percent never feel such feelings,” the sociologists found, and it is quite low in places like Arkhangelsk oblast where the corresponding figures are 18 percent and 36 percent.”

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