Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Most Russians Today Would Rather Consume than Kill, Making a Revolution Less Likely, Travin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 8 – No one can completely exclude the possibility that there will be another time of troubles or tragedy like the 20 years between 1917 and 1937, Dmitry Travin says; but there is one reason for relative optimism and that is over the course of the last three generations, Russians’ propensity for cruelty has declined.

            Put in crude terms, the European University economist says, Russians over the last century have changed some of their priorities. They are no longer seeking on every occasion to kill or oppress, as more primitive societies tend to be, but are much more interested in consumption and a comfortable life (

                Travin draws that conclusion by contrasting the portrait of Cossack and by extension Russian social life as shown on the pages of Mikhail Sholokhov’s classic novel, The Quiet Don, in which cruelty was a constant in the daily life of people to that of Russians today who simply want to be left alone and allowed to have “the most comfortable existence possible.”

            “Any traditional society is extremely cruel, regardless of the ethnic group involved,” he argues. “One could take as a comparative case the conflicts of Indians with American settlers or the Serbs with the Croatians during World War II.” And Sholokhov’s Cossacks and Russians are of a piece of that.

            After reading his novel, Travin continues, “it becomes clear where the revolutionary cruelty up to the repressions of 1937 came from.  The revolution following the war legitimated force, and the primitive peasant nature also responded to appeals to torture, kill and rape” especially with the justifications offered about saving Russia or the revolution.

            The history of human civilization is a centuries-long process about “restraining natural impulses,” and Russians have been affected as have others.  It remains true, of course, that many Russians haven’t been drawn into all aspects of modernization, but they “have fallen in love with the material values of the consumer society.”

            That alone, Travin says, has served to displace some of the more primitive and violent satisfactions of more primitive forms of existence. And that means something important: if there is a revolution in Russia’s future, it is unlikely to be as brutal and violence as was the one a century ago.

            Some may say that cruelty continues and point to recent excesses in Sumgait, Tajikistan and Chechnya and to “’the soldiers of fortune’” fighting in the Donbass and Syria.  But even there is some basis for hope: Igor Strelkov one of their leaders says that he can’t find enough volunteers to help him fight.  His experience would likely be repeated by others.

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