Thursday, February 22, 2024

Russian Society does Not have Either the Means of Achieving Consensus or Stable Divisions but Regularly Shifts Direction, Mokhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 18 – Sergey Mokhov, who has achieved international recognition for his work on funerary customs in Russia, says that because Russian society is so atomized, it does not have either the means of achieving consensus or the longstanding divisions that provide stability in other societies do but rather radically shifts in direction as a whole from one thing to another.

            That has consequences for what it is reasonable to expect – and what is unreasonable, the researcher at the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology says (

            “There are those who sit and wait for the war to continue to the point where the Russian people will form up and respond,” Mokhov says. But that is not going to happen, at least anytime soon. “The consequences of the war and any changes it might bring will come much later and not here and now.”

            In part, that is because Russian society has been subject to such shocks that it doesn’t respond in a gradual way; and in part because there is no basis for forming any public consensus. As a result, there is no easy way for large swaths of the population to reach accord on anything, including a deadly war.

            This is a reflection of Russian history. It is sometimes said that Russia did not have an Enlightenment. But this is not so. It is only that the Enlightenment in Russia opened several windows of opportunity which slammed shut before anyone could make use of them in the ways that Western countries did.

            What Russia did not have was the powerful religious conflicts that took place in Europe. Russia’s Schism was “something else entirely.” And because Russia did not have real religious wars, it never had to develop mechanisms like those which emerged in Europe for reaching public agreement.

            An additional factor which has set Russia apart, Mokhov says, was “the absolutely destructive and unique experience of the Soviet Union. Nowhere in the world was there such experience.” Had Russia avoided that, it would have developed very differently than it has. But there is no point in focusing on something that hypothetical.

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