Monday, November 27, 2023

Peasant Consciousness of Russians Didn’t Disappear with Urbanization Because Country’s Cities are Fortresses rather than Cities in the European Sense, Roshchin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – In less than a century, Russia has gone from an overwhelmingly rural country to an overwhelmingly urban one; but this change has not transformed Russians in the way that similar changes have elsewhere because the country’s cities are in fact fortresses created from above rather than cities in the European sense, Aleksey Roshchin says.

            As a result, urban residents in Russia still share the core values of the village: that they live at the edge of things and that the masters will decide everything rather than taking responsibility for their lives and situation, the Russian commentator continues (

            This may seem strange to those who know the history of medieval cities in Europe where there was even a proverb that held “the air itself makes the city free!” But that was true of the cities in Europe which grew up for primarily economic reasons and were not created by the state for its purposes.

            The situation in Russia has been entirely different, Roshchin says. “Cities in Russia have always bee mainly fortresses, that is, they were created administratively by the state.” As a result, “they did not make people free neither under the Soviets nor under the Russian Federation,” although there was a brief period in the 1990s when it appeared that might change.

            As the commentator notes, there is no self-government in Russian urban places and thus the cities there “strictly speaking” are not cities. Instead, they are “military settlements.” And it doesn’t matter how large they are or how many multi-story apartment buildings they have. Those things don’t make it a city “in the old European sense.”

            This is “one of the main curses of Russian life,” Roshchin concludes. “The peasant spirit of the redneck and of servility does not disappear” from the country even when the peasantry in the countryside ceases to exist because its members have moved into urban places that really shouldn’t be called cities at all.

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