Staunton, August 29 – Many analysts have focused on the ways Komsomol activists from the late Soviet period became political leaders in post-Soviet Russia, a succession which reflected not only generational change but also the values, including some new ones they acquired then and have applied more recently.
Now, Roman Abramov, a sociologist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, has focused on a slightly different group of people: the Young Pioneers of Soviet times who have become businessmen in Russia today (“Driving Out the Soviet,” Interaktsiya, Intervyu. Interpretatsiya 11:18 (2019): 80-103 at inter-fnisc.ru/index.php/inter/article/view/5860/5686; summarized by Olga Sobolyevskaya at q.hse.ru/news/303681679.html).
According to Abramov, five factors have “helped the Soviet generation of the 1970s achieve success in business” in the years since the collapse of communism: leadership qualities, changing values in society, more alternatives, management schools, and the translation of books on business into Russian.
Those whose leadership qualities had allowed them to be successful in the Pioneer organization, the sociologist says, were better positioned than others to take advantage of the new situation in which the Soviet life trajectory of school, work and family opened up to allow for many other choices.
In this new world, which was far more traumatic for their parents than for them, these one-time Pioneers choose to study longer, sometimes acquiring more than one degree, drop out of school altogether and seek their fortune in the marketplace, emigrate or drop out of society feeling themselves to be “superfluous.”
But a significant share of them succeeded, Abramov says; and he points to two sources of their success in particular: Russian translations of books like Dale Carnegie’s :How to Win Friends and Influence People, Lee Iacocca’s The Manager’s Career, and Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, and the opening of business management training schools.
These allowed those with drive and leadership skills to make the transition, pursuing careers in business instead of in the Komsomol or CPSU and for themselves instead of any larger group, Abramov says, but with the same degree of success relative to the goals they set for themselves.