Saturday, April 1, 2023

State So Central to Russian Identity that Civil Society There Plays an Entirely Different Role, Forrat Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 29 – As a result of many centuries of development, the state has become the dominant element in the identities of Russians, Natalya Forrat says; and as a result, civil society which in other countries stands at odds with the state, in its Russian version, that type of civil organization views itself and acts on the view that it is part of the state itself.

            That means many things, the Russian sociologist at the University of Michigan says, including a different view of what parties and movements are, the meaning of conservative movements in Russia as opposed to the West, and the possibility that Russia will disintegrate in the event of a loss in Ukraine (

            According to Forrat, Russians view parties and the parliament as places which are intended to work together to ensure that the state will achieve its ends which include among other things maximizing benefits for themselves. But they are not driven by carrots and sticks as in the West but by a desire to see the state succeed.

            Moreover, conservative civil movements in the West and those in Russia are radically different. The first wants to keep the state out of the personal lives of the population, while Russian conservative “see the state as the leader, as the connecting force of society, and as the center of identity.”

            And the promotion of centralism in Russia in recent decades means that regional leaders will always look to Moscow  for solutions even if they disagree with this or that policy. “Structurally,” Forrat insists, “Russia is all the same very strongly unified, and I up to ow do not see any centrifugal forces.”

            If Moscow loses the war in Ukraine and the economy weakens, then to be sure, “the system will be decentralized” with the regions relying ever more on themselves and without the strong hand and financial subventions from the center. If the regions don’t get what they want, they may “well say ‘no’ to some other requests.” But that is unlikely to lead to collapse.


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