Thursday, July 12, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Second Post-Soviet Generation Very Different from First

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 12 – Members of the second generation to come of age in the Russian Federation since the collapse of the Soviet Union has very different values and goals than those who formed its immediate predecessor, according to a content analysis of the blogs many Russians of both groups routinely post.
The investigation, in the issue of Ekspert Online’s “Russkiy reporter” released today, compares the values and aspirations of those who entered adulthood after 2000 with those of the slightly older age cohort who became adults in the 1990s (
The study’s authors, Sergei Sheykhetov, Konstantin Yefimov, and Ivan Bezdenezhnykh, identify six major differences in the value orientations of the two groups, differences that they suggested reflect the rapidly changing social, political, and economic conditions through which Russians have been living.
First, “the generation of the 1990s worked a lot” and plotted their every move with an idea to making a career – or at least having an income sufficient to prevent them from descending into poverty. In contrast, the generation of the 2000s, whose members believe that they will always be able to find some income, is much less careerist.
“Young people of the 1990s,” the study’s authors say, “dreamed of becoming bankers, lawyers, and commercial and financial bankers.” But the younger group has very different aspirations: they seek, or at least their blogs suggest that they aspire to become, journalists, designers, programmers, and public relations managers.
If those in the slightly older group was prepared to take almost any job in order to get a leg up, the three authors find, members of the younger generation is more interested in finding interesting and personally rewarding work than in simply running after financial rewards.
Second, in contrast to the older group whose members had a far narrower range of options and of goals and consequently appeared more conformist at least among themselves, the younger one is engaged in “a flight from mass culture,” in the search for ways in which they can set themselves apart from the mass.
And that is the case, the “Russkiy reporter” investigators continue, even though the younger group is far more the product of the age of mass culture than was the older one whose members were far more rooted in the Soviet past than in the post-Soviet reality.
Third – and this is in many ways a continuation of the first two values – members of the younger group are less interested in taking part in any political action unless it is something that amuses them or allows them to express the skeptical irony that informs much of what they do.
In fact, the authors said, members of the younger group view almost all political acitivity precisely as a manifestation of the kind of mass culture standardization that they detest.
Fourth, the younger generation likes to be travelers rather than tourists. They have the money and the time that members of the slightly older group did not and consequently they often take extremely long trips to places that intrigue them like India or Australia rather than make visits to places that might be useful in their careers.
Fifth, members of the younger generation overwhelmingly are fleeing from conspicuous consumption, the authors say. They are prepared to buy brand name goods if they like them, but they do not see having them as proving very much – indeed, too much of such consumption suggests that those engaged in it are simply copying the crowd.
Their elders in contrast were interested in flaunting what money they had, in having the right names and the right brands in order to demonstrate that they were successful in the only way that counted for them – having the kind of position that gave them money.
And sixth, the two groups differ fundamentally in their general attitudes toward reality, the study found. The older group was more optimistic and acted on the assumption that however difficult things might be, everything could and would ultimately turn around.
But the younger group is far more skeptical. Its members no longer believe that the sky is the future. Instead, they assumed that they were living in a world with limits clearly defined or not beyond which neither they nor their society have any serious chance to go.
This study, which offered no statistical data for its conclusions, is thus both impressionistic and anecdotal. Moreover, its use of one part of the Internet rather than a broader measure means that its conclusions should not be extrapolated to either age group in its entirety.
But at the same time, the shift in attitudes that the three investigators found suggests that there is no one post-Soviet generation but several and that the changes among these groups are likely to have a profound impact on the future of the Russian Federation – even if or perhaps because of the apolitical nature of the younger cohort.

No comments: