Friday, February 10, 2017

Generational Changes in Russia Don’t Bode Well for Country’s Future, Gontmakher Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 10 – The values of the generations born in Russia in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s are fundamentally different and do not point in a positive direction, Yevgeny Gontmakher says, because the last is the most indifferent to the fate of Russia even though its members will soon come to dominate the scene.

            Generations, the Moscow economist and commentator says, are formed as a result of the collective experiences of their members in the first years of life.  And given the rate of change in Russia over the last 75 years, the three major generations are as one would expect quite different one from another (

                Those born in the 1950s who are now in their late 50s or 60s came into a country which still was animated by “the great communist project.” Moreover, Khrushchev’s thaw and Gagarin’s space flight suggested that they could hope for a bright future.  Stagnation killed off this but those in this cohort recovered their hopes during perestroika and in Yeltsin’s times.

            Now, this generation once again is miserable because “nothing remains from its romanticism” and because at the personal level its members have not been able to achieve their hopes personally or for the country as a whole, Gontmakher says. But its members still feel a sense of responsibility for what happens in Russia.

            The next generation, those born in the 1970s or even early 1980s, had their first, defining experience in the era of stagnation.  Their parents didn’t believe anything and they communicated this to their children.  And this group felt little of the romanticism of its elders during perestroika or Yeltsin’s time.

            Instead, money became the measure of all things, and a belief that the ends justify the means became widespread.  There was a sense among its members that no norms needed to be followed if violating them would get you ahead. And there was also a recognition that earlier social elevators no longer worked, something that led to despair or worse.

            And finally, the third generation, those born in the 1990s, a generation almost completely indifferent to politics and the fate of the country. That’s a major reason why participation even in elections let alone protests is so low, Gontmakher argues.  And it is why indifference to surrounding life and the country as a whole is so common.

            This third generation will in ten to fifteen years be the one to take power, and they will be doing so at a time of ever greater challenges.  Uniting around a leader is hardly enough; people need to care about each other and about their country. Those are not qualities that this generation displays, and that is a cause for serious concern, the economist says.

            As in any generation, Gontmakher concludes, there are exceptions, but the real question now is will these exceptions be enough to counter the attitudes of the overwhelming majority. He is clearly pessimistic but would like to be proved wrong.

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