Monday, December 12, 2016

Aggression among Young Russians Must Be Condemned or It Will Spread, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 12 – A new study by three sociologists at the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg says that unless the aggressive actions of a minority of young Russians in any social group are condemned, they are likely to spread and be accepted as the new normal by others.

            The three, Valeriya Ivanoyushina, Daniil Aleksandrova and Vera Titkova, do not make the obvious extrapolation of their argument to adults and to the leaders of countries; but it is inescapable. Unless aggression by such people is condemned, it too will rapidly come to be viewed as the new normal and spread to others.

            The study, at and summarized today at, is nonetheless interesting in its own right. It found that in classes where young people and teachers condemn aggression, there is less of it because few believe it will solve their problems.

            But in those places where it is not condemned and condemned on a regular basis, the aggressive behavior of minorities increasingly comes to be viewed as something entirely normal rather than exceptional and is picked up by others who read the failure of leaders to condemn aggression as a signal that it is appropriate behavior.

            “It is no secret,” the authors say, “that the most cynical youths not infrequently turn out to be the leaders of the collective,” especially in places infected by hostility and rudeness. In such groups, many see being friends with the aggressive as “profitable” to themselves because it makes it less likely they will be attacked by others.

            The popularity of aggressors, the authors say, is “an extremely dangerous thing” because “it leads to the spread of cruelty” and to bullying by those who see it as the new norm.  And as a result, many young Russians see avoiding aggression as a violation of the rules of the game as established by the more aggressive.

            The share of those in Russian youth groups who are aggressive is roughly the same as in other countries, but there are some differences. In Russia, young people who are aggressive are more likely to be popular than is the case in many other places, the result presumably of the failure of teachers and others to denounce cruelty and thus allow it to be viewed positively.

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