Monday, April 5, 2021

‘Those Seeking to Understand “Mysterious Russian Soul’ Must Look Beyond Ring Road,’ Vyatka Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 3 – Yekaterina Mityagina, vice rector of Vyatka State University, says that Russia is so diverse and its regions display do many different facets of the people that those who are trying to understand what too many simply dismiss as “’the mysterious Russian soul’” must look beyond Moscow’s ring road.

            She is leading a team of scholars at her university to compile on the basis of big data information about the regions, in the first instance about variations in the amount and attitudes to violence within families, as a first step in the process of making this “mysterious” thing subject to scholarly investigation (

            According to Mityagina, it is also important to remember that this concept was thought up “not by foreigners” but by Russians themselves and that it arose because Russians have always sought to come to terms with how contradictory their behavior often is. Instead of exploring those contradictions, they have typically been written off as products of this term.

            For example, she continues, Russians simultaneously display a high degree of concern for justice but an equally high degree of willingness to engage in or tolerate repression which is anything but just; and they talk about universal brotherhood but seldom unite unless they have an enemy they feel they must repulse.

            The Vyatka scholar suggests that one can get a far better handle on this if one explores the diversity of mentalities across Russian regions and notes that her team has recently focused on the fact that during the pandemics, people in some regions believed some kind of fake news while those elsewhere did not.

            At the same time, Mityagina insists, Russians are not more disposed to conspiracy thinking than others. That habit of mind reflects the nearly universal phenomenon in which “there is too much information and we cannot process it. I think that this is typical for all people and not just the Russian mentality,” she says.

            “If we want to somehow reduce our negative cultural characteristics,” the scholar continues, “then educational centers must appear in the regions” both to study the mentalities of people there and help people change them for the better.” At present, too much is concentrated in Moscow and “the regions are suffering.”

            The same thing is true of book publishing and other cultural institutions. Otherwise, the gap between Moscow and the rest of the country will grow, adding yet another contradiction to what should not be seen as anything mysterious but as the product of the diversity of people in a very large country.

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