Friday, May 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Infantilism on the Rise among Russians, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 16 – Recent shifts in public opinion in the Russian Federation concerning the country’s political system are “testimony to social-political infantilism” among Russians, their failure to understand the relationship between the political system under which they live and their own well-being, according to the editors of “Nezavismaya gazeta.”

            In a lead article today entitled “On the Growth of Social-Political Infantilism in Russia,” the editors of the Moscow paper review recent poll results which show among other things a decrease in support for democracy, human rights and markets and a rise in the share of those who are indifferent as to what kind of state they live in as long as they and their families are well off (

            That there should be a decline in support for Western models of state and society is no surprise, the editors say. It reflects the Ukrainian events or “more precisely their treatment in the government and pro-regime mass media” and the tendency of Russians to evaluate other countries primarily on the basis of their policies toward Moscow rather than anything else.

            But the editors suggest that the more important trend is “the sharp increase in the share of the systemically indifferent citizens who want personal well-being.”  Such “indifference,” they say, reflects “the infantilism” of Russians who “do not see” their well-being as linked to the way in which their country’s political and economic systems are organized.

            Such people, the paper continues, view “the rules of the game a given” rather than as a mechanism and contract. And consequently, their “demands to the authorities” and their views about “the type of state” reflect a “child-like” or even childish character. Essentially what they are saying is “’make me happy’” regardless of how.

            This “lack of understanding of the role of procedures” has had the effect of opening the way for the acceptance among Russians of “declarations of ‘a special path’” for Russia without a clear understanding of what that might mean.  Unless such things are specified, they add, coming up with and imposing an “alternative” model to the West will be “extremely difficult.”

            But they conclude that the real consequence of this infantilism is “in essence,” the return “of the society to the Putin ‘social contract:’ well-being in exchange for [the loss of] political freedom.”  And that contract is accepted by many Russians because they lack any understanding of the relationship between the procedures of the state and their own lives.

            And that in turn explains, the editors of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” conclude, “why the Russian state and society historically go in circles, returning again and again to one and the same problems and crises.” Only if Russians learn the importance of state procedures for themselves and are willing to make choices will the country be able to escape this vicious circle.

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