Staunton, February 28 – Many are
inclined to believe that Russians strongly hold “abnormal” values; but in fact,
sociologist Ella Paneyakh says, the values they hold are quite normal but they
are only weakly attached to them. As a
result, there often occur sudden and otherwise apparently inexplicable changes
in the goals and directions Russians take.
And because Russians’ attachment to
these values are relatively weak, the St. Petersburg scholar says, they are
even more profoundly affected by the institutional arrangements that those in
power may impose and go along as a survival strategy rather than seek to assert
themselves on the basis of their own value systems (ehorussia.com/new/node/12119).
values Russians have, Paneyakh says, are well within the range of the universal
values other nations have; but “the problem is that [these values] are weakly
held” and thus far less likely to be the basis for action if those in power
demand that Russians act according to other values.
bases her conclusions on the cultural map of the world produced by Ronald
Inglehart and his team on the basis of the World Values Survey that has been
conducted since the early1980s, a survey that found that Russia “however
strange this may seem” is a secular society similar in that regard to Hungary,
Belgium and France.
survey showed, however, that Russians were significantly less attached to “self-expression
values” than people in developed countries. Instead, as tended to be the case
with less-developed countries, they were more attached to what Inglehart and
his colleagues called “survival values.” But in neither case were they complete
outliers, Paneyakh says.
for example, Russians displayed far lower levels of trust in others than most
more developed countries; but they had roughly the same level in this regard as
the French, the Hungarians, and the Poles. According to many analysts, the
sociologist says, “a high level of trust arises in those societies where there
are developed legal systems.”
explanation for that is very simple, Paneyakh says. “if institutions function poorly,
people do not trust one another and consequently there does not arise
sufficiently effective economic cooperate and economic growth is restricted.”
regard to self-assertion, she continues, “it is surprising but a fact that
sociologists who have conducted corresponding measures have found that Russians
value self-assertion even more than the British do, but at the same time, they
highly value stability” – and that affects the manifestation of what they value
when institutions are weak.
this, Paneyakh draws the following conclusion: Russia isn’t being held back by
some kind of “’incorrect’” values that don’t work with well contemporary
economic ones but rather by something else. And that is this: the values of
Russia are quite normal but they are weakly held and do not feel that they can
act on them under existing conditions.
gives as an example of this the case of judges who in Russia are part of the
bureaucracy rather than an independent agency. Consequently, they behave
according to the rules of bureaucratic life rather than according to the
principles of law, something that makes each case different and eliminates the
predictability people need to act on their principles.
draws three “practical conclusions” for her findings. First, Russians have “completely
ordinary values” common to European civilization. Second, these values are
manifested or not depending on Russian circumstances and thus will become more
often displayed if the circumstances change.
third, any change in the political, social or economic system in Russia to be
meaningful requires not just the change of individuals in roles that now exist but
a change in the system of roles as a whole. For European values to be manifest
in Russia, Russian institutions must be replaced by others.
concludes that this may have a positive consequence for Russia: If institutions
are radically transformed, Russians will be able to accept that without serious
conflicts because they are not as attached to these institutions as tightly as
many assume and because their values are what they are.