Staunton, Nov. 18 – Many routinely speak of the Russian mafia both inside Russia and abroad, but in fact, a new study finds, ethnic Russians are now so individualistic that they cannot form stable criminal communities without the involvement of members of other ethnic groups, a new sociological study concludes.
The study, “Sociological Aspects of the Attachment of Russians to Models of Collectivist and Individualistic Behavior” by I.A. Nikolaychuk et al. (in Russian; Vestnik Nizhegorodskogo Universiteta, 3 (67) 2022), pp. 101-113), is discussed by Russian commentator Pavel Pryanikov (publizist.ru/blogs/117734/44462/-).
According to the study, “by its socio-cultural component, Russia is today a country oriented toward individualism and in large part is Westernized.” Many Russians have worked in foreign firms and picked up the values of those firms, bringing them back into the broader society.
But even more, the study’s authors say, “ethnic Russians have turned out to be incapable of establishing stable criminal communities abroad.” Efforts to form such groups have failed except in cases where members of other ethnic and cultural communities which can hold them together are involved.
That means, Pryanikov says, that talk about “’the Russian mafia” in the US in fact is about “the post-Soviet mafia, which includes representatives mostly of Jewish, Armenian, Georgian, and Ukrainian-Galician ethnic groups with a small Great Russian stratum” that gives the groups their name but not their characteristics.
The study highlights something else as well: Russian individualism is combined with paternalism. “In Russia, expectations exist that the state must solve the personal problems of the individual,” and that is why Russians are so troubled by conflicts within the elite. Such conflicts could in their view compromise the state’s ability to meet the population’s needs.
Pryanikov calls attention to another finding of the study: given that collectivism is no longer setting the weather, various hierarchies seek to replace it in the individualistic world they find themselves by promoting loyalty instead typically by means of financial incentives. Paternalistic behavior by the state is one way to win loyalty in this new world.
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