Saturday, January 26, 2019

Intelligentsia in Russia has Lost Its Role Even for Those Who are Part of It, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – No social group in Russia has been the subject of as much discussion as the intelligentsia, given that its members are the ones who typically write about social groups and focus first and foremost on themselves.  But developments in the last two decades have changed that, and studies of the current state of the Russian intelligentsia are rare. 

            An exception is a survey of 1450 members of the humanitarian intelligentsia – teachers, medical personnel, and culture workers -- conducted last year and now analyzed by Zhan Toshchenko of the Moscow Institute of Sociology at the Academy of Sciences for Nezavisimaya gazeta (

            He says these groups were chosen because they represent the largest groups among the humanitarian intelligentsia, because that intelligentsia played a critical role in the early 1990s, and because it has typically been a social leader. Consequently, it is important to understand if and how its role has changed in recent years.

            Toshchenko and his team drew eight conclusions from their findings, conclusions that some will find disturbing and that are likely to provoke new debate:

·         First, “it is impossible to speak about the intelligentsia as a single homogenous group” at odds with society given that its values are little or no different from those of society as a whole.

·         Second, “the intelligentsia on many measures has lost the civic and cultural-moral role” it has traditionally played.

·         Third, “it is obvious that knowledge (education) has practically ceased to play a role in vertical and not uncommonly in horizontal mobility.”

·         Fourth, those in this group have lost “the stable worldview orientations and also efforts to connect them with specific behaviors.” 

·         Fifth, such people do not have stable attitudes toward work or toward a specific way of life.

·         Sixth, many in this category display “a high level of anomie – passivity, indifference, inertness, and as a result, withdrawal into personal life or in the best case in involvement directly in ‘small things’ in their organization or institution.”

·         Seventh, like the rest of Russian society, “the intelligentsia to a significant extent does not believe in a positive future even when it hopes for it.” 

And eighth, members of this group are increasingly skeptical that their group in fact still exists. Many deny it completely, while others express strong doubts.

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