Issue 6, November 2008
|Daily Life and Psychology|
Although economic conditions are markedly better for most Russians than they were under Communism or during the Yeltsin era, daily life is still marked by insecurity, as revealed by attitude surveys of both random respondents and targeted sectors of the population. People are concerned about crime, health, and violence, and are lacking confidence about the future.
On the whole, studies indicate that the psychological profile of the Russian population includes a significant measure of fear and a desire for stability; this is often thought to contribute to a sense of stagnation. Memories of the chaotic final years of the USSR, and the upheaval and decline of the Yeltsin era, are strong deterrents to reform, and a reflexive suspicion of the West remains. The country generally lacks a dependable social welfare infrastructure, leading some pensioners to pine for the old Soviet system, under which, although most were poor, people’s most basic needs were met.
Experts have also observed the growth of a virulent form of patriotism, even bordering on xenophobia. Russia is a country comprised of more than 100 different ethnicities. “Russia for the Russians,” a sentiment often encouraged by the Kremlin, has emerged as a disturbing rallying cry. Ethnic nationalist movements, like those in Chechnya, are seen as perpetual threats, and there is great preoccupation with the treatment of ethnic Russians living outside the country, particularly those in the former Soviet republics. There are an estimated 100 million ethnic Russians living in Europe and Eurasia, 25 million of them in former USSR member states. These populations often feel trapped on the wrong side of the border when the Soviet Union collapsed, and many desire independence from the republics into which they were incorporated, or reunification with the Russian Federation.