Sunday, May 12, 2024

Russians have Never Changed Russia But Instead have Adapted Themselves to the State, Sergey Medvedev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 10 – Russians on their own have never changed Russia, Sergey Medvedev says. Instead, they have adapted themselves to whatever those the state wants as they are now doing under Vladimir Putin. And that will continue unless and until that state is completely destroyed.

            In an interview to Vera Rylkina, editor of Strana i mir, the professor at Prague’s Charles University, says that there are societies which are capable of changing their lives and the role of the state on their own (

            American society is one of them, Medvedev says. It has an enormous number of shortcomings and social problems, but in the last 20 years alone, it first chose Obama, a black president, and then Trump, an absolute redneck.” By so doing, it showed itself ready to “constantly change itself and try to find the best way forward.”

            But there are other societies which don’t change the circumstances under which they live but instead adapt themselves to the powers that be, he continues; and Russia is one of them, “a type associated with large eastern despotisms and empires.” In them, the people adapt and change themselves rather than change their leaders.

            This pattern was laid down in Russia a long time ago, Medvedev continues. Today, it is simply being exploited and made ever more extreme by Putin. Almost all Russians have “fit into this fascist state, settled down and lived with it: some with indifference, some with enthusiasm, and some with disgust. But they live with it” rather than trying to change it.

            Until this state is destroyed, it will prevent the rise of human subjectivity” among Russians, and “the cycles of Russian history will repeat themselves.” That is what has been happening for so long and in recent decades. “The Bolsheviks came, the Bolsheviks left, the free market came, then the Putinists and the fascists came.”

            “So many changes” at one level, Medvedev argues; but “none at all at a more fundamental one,” just as Chaadayev said almost two centuries ago. And as a result, the Russian population – it isn’t really a society – has been kept in a state of “extreme infantilism” without a sense of responsibility or a readiness to think long term.

            According to the Prague-based Russian scholar, “people are completely unready to ‘mortgage themselves’ for a better future. They will plan for a few days ahead but not for a year or two or for their old age. That is completely understandable because they know that sooner or later, the state, a pure evil, will come and take everything away.”

            Indeed, he concludes, if you want to understand Russia, visit its cemeteries. There, unlike those in many other countries, “there is a total lack of old graves,” a pattern that “says a lot about the culture of memory, about responsibility, and about the subjectivity” of those who bury their dead but don’t continue to respect them or try to make things better.

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