It occurs to me it must be kind of weird and confusing to be a Russian at this point in history. Like most national cultures, they’ve always had some kind of shared world-view in which things in general had a definite order, structure and direction – for a long time Orthodox Christianity, and then Communism. For more than 70 years the Russian people (and other peoples of the Soviet Union) were taught that they had a unique historical mission to build Communism, in their own country and the world beyond. Now that system is dismantled and its ideology discredited. The Russians have religious freedom now and Christianity has made something of a comeback; but it has not regained its pre-Revolutionary status of the people’s consensus belief-system, and it probably never will. Capitalism, if that’s what you can call what they’ve got now, has brought the people economic chaos and gangsterism. “Democracy” has given them yet another strong-man ruler. The radical nationalism of Zhirinovsky appeals only to a minority. What do the Russians of today believe in? What can they believe in?
The Orthodox church is still (or maybe that should be “again”) strong, although the young are deserting it in increasing numbers.
A significant minority believes in Soviet-style Communism and wants it to come back.
The rest - well, my impression is that many do believe in capitalism. The “self-made man” is the new ideal, wealth the goal. Generally speaking, they want to be left alone, do business, and make money. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
The Chinese hoi polloi seems to widely believe the same thing. Fact is, work and reward are pretty simple concepts to grasp, if only those interfering government bastards would get out of the way and let individuals buy and sell as they choose.
[sub]“This is Ivan Galt speaking…”[/sub]
My family members in Russia want a better life.
From what they tell me, it’s usually dependent on acquiring economic goods and being able to travel. Their wages are small and anything that makes them look better off than they really are always sparks their fancy.
When I went to visit recently I was shocked to discover that outside of the metropolis the cities/towns were dirty and decrepit while the people (mostly the young) were strutting around in extremely high fashions. It seems to me that they all want a better life on an individual level rather than coming together for the betterment of the whole community. Most of them cannot afford nice cars and houses but they look like models. Hmm…
My relatives have done things like spent a whole month’s wages ($300) on a pair of boots from Europe. This is what they want and since their life won’t be enriched significantly with a mere $300, they don’t mind buying something extravagant just to feel like they are rich every time they step out on the street.
I have no comments on the religious practices. They haven’t changed since Soviet times. Religion is important like traditions are. Oh, traditional Orthodox weddings are coming back into style.
These were just my own observations.
Kindasorta, but the modern world has never seen that kind of attitude, on a broad scale, disconnected from any shared “civic religion.” In America, we’ve always believed in democracy, freedom, American exceptionalism, etc. – communal political values, which are not in practice incompatible with doing business and making money, but dedication to which is an entirely different thing than the profit motive or personal self-actualization. What do the Russians have to give meaning and value to their capitalism?
I disagree with your premise. I don’t believe that the ideals of democracy and freedom, to use your example, have much to do with giving meaning to capitalism. If anything, it’s the other way round; democracy and freedom only have real meaning because they allow people to be left alone, do business and make money.
I would also posit that capitalism can be a “civic religion” in itself. It has ideals of its own, goals of its own.
You really think that’s all “freedom” and “democracy” mean to people? People will fight and die for their country, or for a political ideal like democracy (or Communism). Nobody but a gangster or a mercenary soldier would risk life and limb for a mere commercial opportunity.
:dubious: Furthermore, it is deeply foolish to assume (as so many economic libertarians do) that capitalism can thrive if the people are only “left alone” by the state to “do business and make money.” The Russian people have had that kind of economy since the Communist system fell apart, throwing them into a “free market” without any of the vast state and legal infrastructure necessary to sustain a healthy system of private production and commerce, and they ain’t doing too well by it. In a thriving capitalist economy like ours, the individual businessperson might regard, and personally experience, government only as a hindrance – but he/she can afford the luxury of that illusion only thanks to the work of countless statespersons, bureaucrats, judges and lawyers.
Capitalism is a mode of economic organization. It is not a belief-system. It has no “ideals” or “goals” as such. The individual capitalist has a goal – to make money – but that is not a goal of capitalism as a system. There are pro-capitalist belief-systems that might* qualify as “civic religions,” but that’s a different matter entirely.
*Or might not. E.g., objectivism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivist_philosophy) is pretty much the opposite of a civic religion.
I don’t think it’s the end all be all but I’d say it was a significant chunk of why people believe in “freedom” and “democracy.” The colonials didn’t just free themselves Britian because of lofty ideals. Many of them didn’t like the burden the British placed on American business with taxes and various restrictions that hampered their ability to make money.
I think people would cling to Communism, Fascism, or any other “ism” if they had full bellies and a comfortable life.
They basically believe anything they want, nowadays.
You’re misreading me. The “freedom” that is what you call a civic religion in America is, in part, the freedom to be left alone, do business and make money. Like MGibson says, if people are happy enough they’ll believe in whatever currently makes them happy enough.
Yes it is. Did I ever say otherwise?
I agree. Do you want to discuss what Russians believe or if they are right in what they believe?
Communism is also a mode of economic organization; yet you cited that as one of the world-views that Russians have believed in in the past.
I’m confused as to what you wish to discuss. Your original question was what Russians believe in now that Communism has fallen and the Orthodox church is dropping in popularity. There is no factual answer to that question, so I gave my opinion: many of them believe in capitalism in the sense that they believe that everyone can rise in station through hard work. The self-made man is the ideal. Many women I talked to in Russia mentioned that trait as a very desirable one in a future partner, and many men wanted to achieve it.
Now, there are of course exceptions. Like I said, there’s a significant minority that want to return to Soviet-style Communism. Most Russians were materially better off during that era, so that yearning is understandable, especially among the elderly who worked fifty years for the Soviet Union and just when they were about to retire the whole country went crashing down, their savings became worthless in an instant and now they stand in the subway begging for change. I’d want to go back too, and damn freedom and democracy. But most Russians, in my experience, simply want to make the best of the new situation, and believe they can make it better than they could before.
Yes – but only in part. Americans also get outraged when private enterprise tramples on their freedom; the labor union and the consumer boycott, are, in fact, rather more important to our civic religion than the stock market or the shopping mall. And don’t forget, we also believe in democracy (as distinct from freedom), which is the idea that the state should do what the people want it to do.
Implicitly, yes – in your assumption that “the freedom to be left alone” somehow equates to the freedom to “do business and make money.” It doesn’t.
Communism, unlike capitalism, is both a mode of economic organization and a belief-system. There are various (and conflicting) pro-capitalist ideologies, but “capitalism” has never been considered an ideology (let alone a “civic religion”) in its own right. It’s just something that happened when feudalism evolved onto mercantilism and then into industrialism.
Well, at least that is a belief-system, or the beginnings of one. I just find myself wondering if the Russians are really satisfied with that, let alone enthusiastic about it as an idea, as American traditionally have been. Especially as their experience with it, to date, has been much less encouraging than ours.
I disagree. Either capitalism is an ideology too, or Communism isn’t one. It isn’t necessary to, for example, worship Marx to promote Communism. If there is a belief-system, it’s the belief that one mode of economic organization is better than the other, and such a belief is of course present in both systems.
Weeeeeeell… I’m kinda treading on ice here, but my impression of the Russians is that they aren’t all that enthusiastic about very much at all. As a people, they take a lot of shit and just try to keep their daily routines running. Be they Czars, Communists, gangsters, capitalist fatcats or elected officials - let them rule, the average Russian seems to say, and let me get on with what I do. All in all, they’re not that impressed by capitalism, but they weren’t that impressed by Communism either.
I’m tempted to agree with this characterization. The average Russian is a big cynic by nature as well. He is able to laugh openly and readily at his condition and yet continue to go on with his life, unchanged or unchanging. I also think that the average russian will admit to life being cheap. Not his own, mind you. But just as a casual phylosophical observation.
Yeah, Mammon is the name of that God.
Hand me some more vodka, my soul is dying of thirst!
Agreeing with the last few posters – from my observations, Russians are either starry-eyed idealists or curmudgeonly cynics. Right now, the pendulum is over on the cynical side – but as history has shown, that can change fairly quickly.