Monday, June 2, 2008

Window on Europe: For the Putin Generation, Money and Stability Matter, Freedom and Spirituality Don’t

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 2 – Members of what Russian pollsters and commentators are calling the Putin Generation – young people aged 16 to 25 who came of age while he was president -- care a great deal about money, career and success but relatively little about creativity and spirituality, according to a report in “Novaya gazeta” today.
But perhaps more unsettling if hardly surprising, members of this generation rank “stability” far higher than “freedom” – even though the former could represent a limiting factor on their ability to pursue their dreams while the latter could allow them to move beyond the achievement of material goals alone.
The paper reported that the Public Opinion Foundation had asked Russians in that age cohort to say which of 33 characteristics were most important to them. The top seven included family, marriage, friendship, money, love, career and success; the bottom two were creativity and spirituality (
“Sociology doesn’t lie,” the paper’s Marina Tokaryeva says. “Not under Gorbachev or under Yeltsin but precisely under Putin was Russia able to bury the [Soviet Union]. Its end came not in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, but no when the streets, cafes and jets are full of people who want and are able to live for themselves.”
This new generation, she continues, has rejected the idea of building a just society. Instead, its members are focused on themselves, on satisfying their personal needs and wants. For this age group, it is as if neither Bunin nor Mandelstam nor Brodsky ever wrote,” and those who think Russian spirituality is being reborn need to dispense with that pleasing “myth.”
Unlike its parents and grandparents, the Putin generation is united “not by ideals but by hunger – hunger for the right to be different than their fathers … for the right to choose for themselves, to purchase for themselves, and to own what they want.” Many do other things as well, but the latter are subordinate to these personal goals.
But if many members of the Putin generation are relishing in their material achievements, many other Russians are not. This week brings new that dramatically higher prices for fruit and vegetables are putting them beyond the reach of many Russians and that rising gas prices are forcing many of Russia’s new car owners to walk or use public transportation.
During the first four months of 2008, Russian government statisticians report, prices for vegetables rose 41 percent compared to an overall inflation rate of 6.3 percent over that period. Cabbage now costs 83 percent more than it did at the start of the year, and potatoes 33 percent more (
And reported today that a poll of 1800 Russians showed that two-thirds of them were prepared to walk or use public transportation if gas prices rise beyond the “psychological barrier of 30 to 40 rubles” per liter, although it found that 27 percent of drivers said no price rise would get them out of their cars (

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