Wednesday, February 19, 2020

‘Soviet Children have Become Post-Soviet Adults,’ Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 12 – A disposition toward authoritarianism among Russians and their support for authoritarian leaders are the product of social rather than genetic causes, the impact of the ways in which children are raised in families and the values they acquire as a result, according to Kseniya Kirillova, a Russian journalist who lives in the United States.

            That can be seen in what are two exceptions to this pattern among Russians, among Russians who grow up in the West and among those whose parents reject the traditional child-rearing patterns of most members of that nation, she continues. And that gives hope that the pattern can be changed and this vicious circle broken (

            This family experience is not so much that of violence or drunkenness, Kirillova says. Rather it is about “the humiliation, neglect and lack of respect” that many Russian children experience in their interactions with their parents.  In such an atmosphere, “there is no place for the respect of the personality and thus no place for freedom.”

            In an important sense, the parents who behave in this way are not so much making bad choices as reflecting the way in which they were raised and the times in which they came of age. Moreover, in Russia as opposed to many other countries, this set of family experiences is reinforced rather than undercut by other social institutions.

            “Soviet children have become post-Soviet adults,” Kirillova points out. “They have applied to their offspring the very same methods of child rearing they experienced, “ and thus there should be little surprise that the values they possess will be reproduced in their children whatever the broader society proclaims.

            To be sure, the journalist writes, there is at least one “plus” in this: Russians become stronger, more independent and socialize more rapidly than do many Western children because they are “less autonomous and egoistic” than Western ones and are accustomed to searching for a surrogate to the love they do not get at home.

            But even that plus has a downside. In such situations, most quickly identify with those who are stronger, “and it is possible that in this lies the source of the sympathy many Russians have for Putin. People accustomed to a cult of strength and natural find it difficult to respect” those who don’t behave in that way.

            “Is it strange that adults accustomed from childhood to physical punishment, havin become adults, approach the cruelty of the siloviki?” Or that those who have been denigrated are more than ready to denigrate others, including whole categories of people and will be disposed of they will be prepared to accept similar destruction of others in a Stalinist state?

            Laws against family violence, however important and welcome, won’t solve the problem, because they won’t touch the attitudes but only the behavior of some parents, Kirillova says. Parents have to change their attitudes toward children, and some Russian parents have. But “the force of inertia is very great” for most.

            And at least for now, few Russian parents are prepared to turn to psychologists for help, leading to a situation in which “unrecognized problems continue to migrate from generation to generation, passing through inheritance the cult of force and lack of respect – that means of unfreedom as well.”

            This pattern can be broken, Kirillova concludes. That is the good news. The bad is that it will be very difficult and take a long time.

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