Staunton, Mar. 14 – Events in Russia over the last few weeks in particular, Grigory Yudin says, in very disturbing ways recall what those who have examined Germany in the 1930s know. “We aren’t there yet and may not. But the symptoms – resentment, anger, a desire for revenge, a feeling of being constantly threatened and not having horizontal ties – are all there.”
“In addition,” the senior Higher School of Economics sociologist says, he “suspects that today’s perception of World War II” in Russia as promoted by the Kremlin “leaves no chance for Russian society to analyze the causes of Nazism and understand its social foundations” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2022/03/14/atomizirovannaia-bomba).
And because that is so, Yudin says, Russians remain “deeply convinced that Nazismis something that can occur with others but not with them.”
Trends pointing to that outcome in Russia are all too obvious, he continues; “but there are certain bases for optimism,” rooted in the fact that “Russia is being transformed.” Its society is becoming less atomized and thus more willing to display the kind of solidarity meaning that it won’t put up with everything that those in power dream up.
This transformation is especially marked among young people; and that is one of the ways which “set us apart from Germany in the 1930s.” Ever more Russians share the view that “despite everything, Russia is part of the global world” and cannot afford to cut itself off from the international community.
Russia nonetheless still remains “a very atomized society,” Yudin argues. Indeed, “this is its chief characteristic. There is very little solidarity among people and few horizontal ties. People instead focus almost exclusively on their private lives,” view others as hostile or indifferent, and are prepared to defer to the state as long as it doesn’t interfere.
According to the sociologist, Russians “are convinced that one can be responsible only for oneself. Any collective action is impossible.” But that is beginning to change. Putin opposes such changes because they inevitably will mean that the society will be less deferential to the powers that be and more demanding in asserting its rights to help guide the country.
Many societies are quite atomized, Yudin says; Russia is simply “a radical case.” In the US, society is “atomized and unstable, but there are some structures which still act as a counterbalance and preserve solidarity. But in Russia,” he suggests, the social field is “a scorched earth.”
Another reason for some optimism about the future of Russia is that “Russia will never be able to become an autarky.” It likes interacting with others and displaying itself for approval too much for that. And most “progressive” Russians view moves toward autarky like those the Putin regime is promoting now as “complete suicide.”