Saturday, December 28, 2019

Russians Ceasing to Place Their Hopes in the State and Counting More on Themselves, Protasenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Russians ever less often hope that the government will solve their current economic problems and instead are trying to figure out what they can do on their own or together with others, Tatyana Protasenko of the Academy of Sciences Sociological Institute in St. Petersburg.

            She tells Karina Savvina of Regnum that this on the whole is a positive development because it is leading to more self-reliance and the kind of cooperation which forms the basis of civil society.  And at the same time, it leads to more pragmatic assessments of the situation they and the country find themselves in (

            Such activism, Protasenko continues, is “not a form of protest, although it may lead to protests; but this depends on the actions of the authorities and the political parties.”  If they respond positively and view what the people are doing as a good thing, everyone will only benefit.

            Ever more Russians now “understand,” the sociologist says, “that one must search for one’s own means of setting oneself up in life.” This is leading to greater volunteerism, more mutual assistance, and expanded help for the elderly.  “Civil society is thus appearing, and that is a good thing.”

            In the same interview, Protasenko points to what she calls “a curious tendency” among those in power. They are increasingly enamored with and cite poll results but do not understand that “polls are not a panacea” and that how questions are asked and when drives the results, which may be far removed from what people really think.

            “Serious research must be carried out, but there is a tendency in the taking of decisions to shift responsibility unto the sociologists. The authorities could take another decision, one at odds with that of the population, because the majority is not always right. But it is necessary to explain why.”  That is something the authorities do not yet appear to have learned.

            Instead, they commission polls which provide them with the arguments for what they want to do anyway.

            In another comment, Protasenko notes that while Russians are very pessimistic about the near term, they are as are most people far more optimistic about the more distant future. Even the worst pessimists believe that “15 years from now, the country will be in better shape.”

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