DIFFERENT MODERNIZATIONS FOR DIFFERENT REGIONS
It did not take much time for participants in a roundtable discussion held at the headquarters of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs at Moscow’s Kotelnicheskaya Embankment to switch from ethno-cultural aspects of Russia’s modernization to the problem of its territorial integrity. Since forecasts varied diametrically, the discussion was sharp edged and often heated. Feathers were flying after the key report delivered by Emil Pain, PhD (political sciences), anthropologist and ethnographer, an architect of a new ethno-political science.
Russian knights and kindjals
Surprisingly enough, experts saw on a large presentation screen two pictures of three famous ancient Russian knights and of a group of today’s Chechens including their leader Ramazan Kadyrov armed with impressive kindjals.
“As to the Russian knights, they could be seen in daylight today only in a museum on a picture by Vasnetsov, whereas Chechen ‘knights’ here they are on a contemporary photograph with their incumbent president at the head,” the reporter said.
Such a figurative juxtaposition provided a bright example of Russia’s ethnic heterogeneity, which is constantly and absolutely wrongly ignored in debates about the paths of modernization. At the same time, the audience was able to enjoy the preciseness of the title of the report: “Ethno-cultural specificities of problems of the Russian modernization.”
“Whereas it could be said that the comparatively small and culturally homogeneous Azerbaijan has its own country mentality, which one way or another influences the economy, it would be difficult to outline such a mentality for Kazakhstan with serious differences in its Kazakh, Uzbek and Russian parts, and for Russia it would be absolutely impossible,” Professor Pain stressed.
It is absolutely impossible to modernize the “Russian” Russia and the “Caucasian” Russia using the same models, so dissimilar they are. According to sociologists, “the Russian society is the most de-traditionalized in the modern world, the most split and atomized. Population’s involvement in informal networks does not exceed 5 percent, the lowest in Europe, compared with 50%-60% in the West. Hence, the Russians’ little care for values of collectivism.” “You all know from your own experience that it is a reality, not just a sociological concept. Everybody, who like me resides is an apartment house, knows very well that it is very easy to deal with your stair neighbors, while it is harder to make agreement with your upstairs and downstairs neighbors and practically impossible – with all residents of your house. I don’t know what must occur to make people unite into a territorial association. Do they need a bomb explosion nearby? At least residents of our house were all excited over plans to build a filling station close to it. They were excited but no one went out protesting. We have no experience of joint activities and it is difficult to expect it could emerge by itself,” Pain said.
What happened to Russian traditions, to people’s unity and cohesion? Contrary to popular belief, they were ruined not only by Bolsheviks and post-Soviet liberals. They started to deteriorate already in the Tsarist epoch when peasant’ communities were abolished. Meanwhile, it is common scientific knowledge that “in the situation where the institutional environment is poorly developed and the legal and judicial system is weak, the traditional culture has an exceptionally strong influence on economy, while the highly developed institutional system significantly reduced the role of this traditional capital.”
Unfortunately, in Russia today these institutions are very weak, as President Dmitry Medvedev noted already during his presidential campaign in 2008 when he put forward the concept of “Four Is” (investments, innovations, infrastructure, institutions).
Black does not want white
In this situation, the North Caucasian society with its extremely strong traditions finds itself in an increasingly advantageous position.
“The Chechen society retains many elements of both blood feud (teip, gar, ts’ya etc are still effective one way or another) and communal (patriarchal families, territorial clans, peasant communities, religious brotherhoods virds) organization,” Pain said adding that those traditions like an armor protected people from collectivization and dekulakization. “And in the situation of deportation these traditional institutions helped safe numerous lives,” he noted.
While the traditional institutes “managed to adjust well to the Soviet system creating elements of the old boy network” the current rampant corruption provides them with “the most favorable environment leaving nothing more to desire.” Carriers of strong traditions from the North Caucasus move to Russian towns and “fit well into corruption systems.”
“If the law does not protect the word of honor does it very well. I know that in the ethnic Chechen community multi-billion contacts are concluded on parole. Just on parole, huge assets are divided into numerous legal entities so that no tax service would be able to sniff them out. On the other hand, they are effectively controllable… The formed grey shadowy society does not want a transparent one which it does not need at all,” the scientist said.
Of course, the traditionalist system has its minuses. In particular, it demands unconditional submission. Therefore, a community of immigrants from the Caucasus acquires features of “a voluntary ghetto” and its members are less competitive on the national stage.
Professor Pain formulated his main conclusion as follows: “Applicably to Russia the term modernization should rather be used in plural form. They could be implemented only as a variety of modernizations. In the North Caucasus and in Central Russia they will inevitably vary in objectives, content and terms. And there is a heavy chance that these different modernizations will interfere with each other.”
However, the reporter decided to add a spoonful of optimism to his rather pessimistic forecasts. He described a specific genre of inventing traditions or dressing innovations in national cloths, without which no novelty could be fully legitimized. “Everything deemed to be an ancient Japanese tradition in the sphere of business was invented after 1932: it is innovation disguised as tradition… By the way, a majority of reportedly ‘millenniums-old’ English traditions were invented during the Victorian era.”
The Russians were not born yesterday as well. Former Nizhni Novgorod Governor Mikhal Prusak was effectively inventing traditions using the myth about the medieval Novgorod Republic to develop the brand and image of his region.
As a result, the region received foreign investments and saw the long awaited consolidation of population. “The problem of national consolidation, I should say, is central in every aspect and not only for modernization as it is crucial for mere survival,” Pain insisted. Unfortunately, the mentioned example is rare if not unique.
“The weakening of the traditional social ties leads to the loss of cultural information. For example, the weakening of kinship ties and practices has resulted in the omission from the practical Russian language of some kinship terms. Who are dever, shurin, zolovka, svoyak, svoyachenitsa? I have conducted an experiment with students: 99% have no idea who they are. As a matter of fact, they are very close relatives, just one step horizontally: wife’s brother, husband’s sister, etc. By the way, vertical kinship terms such as test’, tyoshcha, svekor, svekrov [wife’s father, wife’s mother, etc] are remembered far better albeit with a negative tint,” Pain said.
We can see nothing of that kind in Turkic countries, such as Kazakhstan or Azerbaijan among others. In these countries “a nephew of the husband of my wife’s sister (the fifth step of kinship) is a close relative and quite a recognized element of kinship. Therefore, in the Turkic language practice kinship terms are popular and broadly used. “A nephew of the husband of my wife’s sister” is identified by a single word clear for all.
However, according to Professor Pain, a worse evil is “the destruction of traditional social control.” “Not too long ago there were house yards where pensioners playing dominoes still looked out for neighbors and babushkas gathered to discuss moralities of local residents and all this, one way or another, was a sort of mechanism of social control functioning according to the principle: what will Mrs. Grundy say?” With the beginning of the market era this principle vanished almost completely and nothing, even Commandments of the Church, could compensate the loss.
“While the number of people who go to church is growing, the number of those who in fact observe the commandments, respect the laws of God and so on has not changed. According to the conducted research, it has not changed over the past 20 years,” the expert said adding that the same could be said about family norms which are rather disrupted than induced.
Strange as it may seem, “a low level of traditionalism in the society is compensated by a high willingness to pursue innovations.” In urban industrial agglomerations in this country people are ready for changes, risks and innovations at the same level with Belgium and slightly more than people in Bulgaria, Greece, Poland or Portugal. So, what is stopping us?
“According to great Russian authors Gogol, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Platonov and Solzhenitsyn, Russian initiative is anarchic and often immoral,” the scientist said. “Like a red challenge banner, for the past fifteen decades it has been allowing graft to circulate freely and turned the blind eye on other not quite moral aspects of the social life. In Europe, Russia has one of the lowest levels of respect to norms and rules, formal or informal such as religious, family and ethnical rules.
Saudi regime in Russian land
In the mind of Azeri and Kazakhs, images of ethnicity emerge instantly at any moment. Meanwhile, native Muscovites who like to shout “Moscow for Muscovites!” know symbols of their city not better than immigrants: their house, their office and a monument as a place to set a meeting with a counterpart.”
Isolation from the roots results in the fact that Russia has the lowest level of mutual horizontal trust compared with 27 European countries. This is nothing short of a national tragedy.
“When 70% of people believe that the others only want to deceive them, when people prefer to live behind triple-armored doors, it will be utopian to expect them to invest money in long-term projects,” Pain said. “Hence, the complexity of the main element of any modernization: no money and no fund to invest money so that the future generations could use it.”
It would have been logical to expect that at the end of the report participants in the meeting would rush to discuss various scenarios of modernization for regions with different mentality. However, quite unexpectedly the discussion shifted to another topic.
“When will the territorial integrity cease to be a clear value? You have just said that all regions will have different scenarios of modernization that might interfere with each other,” queried Yulia Shatova, editor-in-chief of news agency RIA Novy Region (information partner with the RUIE roundtable). “When will the expert society and then the population itself come to an idea that the territorial integrity of the country is not a value?”
Pain resolutely rejected an option of Russia’s complete and ruinous disintegration. He admitted that “only a small part could fall off” like Germany remained Germany even without Alsace-Lorrain when it lost this small part of its territory. He also tried to calm down the audience citing a Dagestan saying, “We did not voluntarily become part of Russia and voluntarily we will not leave it.”
“A regime of the Saudi type” created in Chechnya is absolutely incompatible with either cultural or legal matrix of the secular state. In other words, “Russia is already not fully integrated,” which reveals itself as something that strongly resembles pluralism in one mind, i.e. schizophrenia. The same people call for “Russia one and indivisible” and rally on Manezh Square shouting, “Down with the Caucasus!”
Therefore, the Russians should attend as soon as possible to the problems of ethnic alienation, deconsolidation, and the absence of ‘we.” The country is still alive but its former multinational unity has disintegrated. Pain quoted Polish and British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman as saying that “society is doomed to extinction and there will be a full collapse of social norms if the decay of traditional institutions of collectivity is not made up for by new institutions of informal contacts.” In this context the quotation had a sinister sound.
Going wild is anti-modernization
The bitter truth called to the floor Andrei Piontovsky, senior research fellow with the Institute for Systems Analysis at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Reminding what a devastating blow for the national unity was the 15-year Caucasian War, he said, “I would not be happy to know that Dagestan does not want to separate. This only means that we are beyond the problem of separation. The problem runs far deeper.”
Andrei Savelyev, PhD (Politics) pointing to a methodological error in the key report noted that the comparison of the archaic Chechen and modern Russian societies is incorrect in general.
“I got the impression that you have ignored a possibility of short-term and long-term order in human interaction,” Savelyev, a former State Duma deputy, addressed to the reporter. ‘The Chechens, united by interaction of the short-term order, abandon the long-term one. Their internal conflicts and the internal slaughter simply rule out any ideas of statehood. The Russians, on the contrary, have ruined interaction of the short-term order while interactions of the long-term order preserved. Like to like, wherever two Russians meet vodka is on the table but they would never discuss their internal clan interests. Instead, they would rather talk about life in general, raise political and philosophical issues. Here we see an absolutely different approach!”
Alexander Yusupovsky, an advisor with the staff of the Federation Council, called on the scientific community to learn the Soviet experience of filling ethnic forms with socialist content. Trying to squeeze out of the archaic mind of undeveloped nationalities outdated stereotypes such as plural marriages and religious prejudices, Bolsheviks spared no efforts to promote “red yarangas,” “the liberated woman of the East,” the Young Pioneers movement, etc: “for that time it was exactly a modernization Soviet-style.” And nobody cared that Young Pioneers were just a replica of Boy Scouts invented in the West.
“It was a powerful and compulsory for all state-run process of socialization, cooperation, collective work training and school of cooperation,” Mr. Yusupovsky was positive. “The essence of Socialism is cooperativeness. But suddenly we have forgotten the word ‘cooperation’ and started to praise ‘competition as the engine of progress,’ ‘strong personality,’ etc.” As a result, we ousted the Soviet system and fell not to postmodern but rather to pre-modern, feudalism and somewhere –in slavery.”
The theme was developed by popular blogger Darya Mitina, former MP and activist of the Russian Communist Youth League. She rued, “the society on the post-Soviet territory, untied by strong traditions, has leaped into savagery just over years not to say months.” It was a deep counter-modernization “that we survived, are surviving and risk to survive further” because, unlike progress, regress “comes instantly.”
Mitina presented rather odd results of a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Sociology for a governmental commission. The survey was to find out which Russian regions are more inclined to modernization. The results were “surprising to a certain extent.”
Art of speculation
The rural and depressed Amur region turned out to be more prepared for “a leap into the bright future” than for example the Tomsk region with its high degree of urbanization and a powerful university center. But why? It turned out that preparedness in facing modernization was assessed not by a system of social connections but rather by less serious parameters.
Amazingly enough, the main criteria were the rate of changing cars, mobile telephones, etc. “How it happens that our respectable sociologists don’t know that a resident of the Amur region changes his mobile phone more often than a resident of the Kostroma region only because of his territory’s closeness to Japan with its cheap models of phones and cars?”
Film director, actor and scriptwriter Igor Chernitsky (author of TV series The Cadets) also referred to the past when the state robbed pensioners of their meager savings. As a result, liberals and their henchmen “became rich and started to dictate their traditions.” Therefore, today we are in the situation where “modernization is tantamount to a Mayday call.”
“You say that true traditions cannot be ruined, that it is impossible to switch off a tradition,” the maestro addressed to Pain. “It is possible. Look, it was a good tradition to give up seats in public transport to elderly. Thankfully, there are still some people left who do this. But I often see young girls swearing and using four-letter words ... Do you know why? Because television reiterates, “You are worth it!” They’re worth what? Previously, it was worthy to study, to read good books, to say “sorry” and “please” and so on. New traditions are introduces. Why are they traditions of frivolity?”
The film director specified the reference point and linked it to… Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin. Replying to a query “What is entrepreneurship?” Yelstin explained clearly enough: “Buratino buys a bottle of lemonade for 20 kopecks and sells it for 30 kopecks round the corner of the shop. That is what entrepreneurship is all about.” A new tradition of total speculation has been introduced in art which, in principle, must not “break even” because it is art that forms traditions and conscience.
“Nobody cares whether your film is good or bad, it must bring money,” Chernitsky complained. “The most terrible example is film Bastards perceived by young people as a new truth about WW2. In the film, Russians train adolescents to act as saboteurs and cut-throats. In fact, everything was vice versa. A book has been written which describes how the Nazi trained young infiltrators and how then those boys instantly surrendered to police or the NKVD. People were brought up on such traditions!”
According to the film maker, China serves a model of the respectful approach to the country’s own history as “people there do not deny a single day from the past.” With equal enthusiasm they praise their great helmsman Mao Zedong and the architect of the economic miracle Deng Xiaoping: both are “great leaders who made a lot for China.”
Then, Chernetsky announced a nostalgic counter-perestroika contest: “I view modernization as a return to the true achievements that we had not so long ago. Believe me, I’m not protecting Socialism. At those times, working at the theater I was too bad for them and they did not allow me to join the Communist Party.”
Go all out for modern style!
Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center, one of Russia's leading pollsters, praised Pain for the critical reasoning of the fact that traditions in Russian society were destroyed not during the past two decades and not even during the past century. Maybe inspired by Chernitsky’s emotional remarks, Gudkov also turned to the world of beauty.
Mentioning “the powerful description of the decay in traditional moral and community relations” in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the expert recommended to read Saltykov-Shchedrin’s undeservingly forgotten books full of colorful scenes of the decay of the old order: “Letters to Auntie,” “The Golovlyov Family” and “The Old Times of Poshekhonye.” However, he reserved his strongest indignation for the Soviet system, which “was deliberately and purposefully destroying the established relationships.”
“Every totalitarian regime starts with putting forward a new project of a new society and a new man rejecting old models and using force to create alternative systems of relations,” Gudkov said. He cited a story by Mikhail Zoshchenko where a tram conductor insists that his uncle who came from the village pay for a ticket, and here is “a conflict of relations formal and informal, universalistic and particular.”
That said, paradoxically enough Russia manages to preserve for ages organization and functioning of central government institutions as well as institutions providing support to the government: police, courts, educational system, etc. The government itself remains uncontrolled as controlling institutions simply don’t emerge.
Therefore, modernization in Russia must start with differentiation and sophistication of the structure of institutions, their multiplication and superstructure over traditional relations. Relations based on custom, imitation and personal relations should be replaced by more universal regulators and primarily by the law the observance of which will be secured by independent courts, the division of powers, competition of party programs and liberated mass media. All this brings modern, principally new, social relations.
Gudkov could not avoid the theme of the country’s disintegration viewing it as quite real: “The Caucasus has already a different legal system. Starting from this year, there is no military conscription there and they stop studying the Russian language. In fact, an alternative system of relations is being installed in a part of the formally integrated territory. One way or another, they are looking to break away. Will people object to this? I very much doubt. Now, when they hear words ‘the Kuril Islands,” people start shouting, ‘Not an inch of our land will we cede!” They don’t know where those islands are, but 90% say, ‘Not a chance!’ However, more than 60% are ready to build a fence to keep the Caucasus out.”
Poet Vladimir Kostrov treats the Soviet period with far greater piety. “As a Russian I don’t feel protected today,” he said.
It is all the fault of social scientists
The poetry master repented that he had a hand in ruining the Soviet power. In 1987, being deputy editor-in-chief of the magazine Novy Mir (New World) and “an expositor of the liberal idea,” Kostrov promoted publication of an article “Advances and Debts” by Nikolai Shmelyov calling for radical reforms of the Soviet economy. Understanding came too late: “people who came and called themselves liberal were not liberals at all.”
“They tell me that there is nothing better in the world than private property,” the poet joined the course towards counter-perestroika taken by film director Chernetsky (they worked together on a number of films). “But I know that Italy has a huge cooperative sector and it works well. In Norway, oil is nationalized…”
The roundtable moderator, Sergei Magaril, lecturer at the Sociology Department of the Russian State University for the Humanities, also showed a very skeptical approach to Russia’s modernization: “To tell the truth, our chances are very slim. Russia is like the Titanic moving fast in high seas and I am not sure that we have the time to maneuver. Neither the Soviet Union not the Russian Empire did: statehood collapsed rapidly.”
Like Levada-Center Director Lev Gudkov, doctorial candidate (Economics) Magaril expressed confidence that the main problem of the state is rooted in the “frozen” institutions of power. Irrespective of a state system, they reproduce the same police state. The expert cited Max Weber, who already in 1906 clarified the issue before the whole humanity: “When you acquaint yourself with official documents of the Russian Empire, you get amazed how thoroughly they were prepared and how much work people put into them always for one and the same purpose – self-protection of the police regime.”
“A police regime is incapable of securing national development and is doomed for oblivion, it’s only a question of time,” Magaril stressed. “The only problem is the scale of associated conflicts: whether there will be conflicts of national character like in the beginning of the 20th century, or it will be a series of local conflicts like in the end of the same century.”
The roundtable moderator accused his colleagues, social scientists, as responsible for the sluggishness of national institutions and quoted the patriarch of Russian sociology, Academician Gennady Osipov, as saying, “The Russian social sciences… falsify the past in the segment of historical science, mythologize the present glorifying as the absolute remedy first total collectivization and then total privatization, and mystify the future calling on the living generation to abandon normal life conditions so that distant future generations would live in happiness and prosperity.”
Touching upon the issue of territorial integrity of such a heterogeneous country as Russia, Magaril revealed the results of poll conducted by him personally among more than 60 leading humanities scientists “from PhDs and higher.”
Quietus to the argument
Practically all outstanding specialists polled by Magaril have expressed “most serious concerns with system risks of our post-Soviet statehood.” In addition, the level of mutual trust among the Russians is 3 to 3.5-fold lower than in Europe; 90% of the Russians are positive that they cannot influence the authorities, while 80% - that they are responsible of nothing in this country.
“Where is patriotism, where is the feeling of belonging to a great power? My dear colleagues, what we are speaking about?” Magaril exclaimed. “Is it this conscience that is to be modernized? Are there at all any necessary tools, mechanisms and techniques? In spite of all social transformations of the past 15 decades, Russia is reproducing the Gogolian type of Akaky Akakiyevich, a social isolate, socially and politically ignorant person who can give rise only to an atomized society. So, what is to be done? Moreover, we are not even sure that historically we have enough time.”
The initiator and organizer of the series of roundtables on the issues of modernization, Victor Biryukov, reminded that it was the eighth such discussion. Key reports at the previous ones were delivered by RAN Academician Viktor Ivanter, Corresponding Member of RAN Ruslan Grinberg, Professor Yevgeny Gontmacher, Professor Sergei Kara-Murza, Professor Alexander Auzan, Professor Georgi Derlugian, and Professor Sergei Guriyev.
“Our first roundtables were purely economic discussions,” said Victor Biryukov, Board Member of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Economists were only assisted by philosophers, political scientists and sociologists. It did not occur to us to invite people of arts, but soon we discovered the theme of economy’s dependence on mentality and national soul. Does such correlation exist? Normally, liberals say mentality has practically no effect on economy, while conservatives are positive they are closely inter-correlated.
“Emil Pain gave a quietus to the argument: the title of his report “Ethno-cultural specificities of problems of the Russian modernization” speaks for itself. It is only logical that regions with different cultures will have different approaches to economics.”
The expert said that the failure of attempts to modernize the Muslim East provides new evidence of economy’s dependence on mentality. As the pan-Arabic revolution is raging, the West believes that a change of regimes in North Africa and Middle East would lead to democracy, modernization and progress of all kinds. However, it is impossible in principle to copy others’ modernizations. Just remember that the Iran Revolution of 1979 instead of modernization threw the country back to the dark ages.
“During perestroika our newspapers were naïve to praise American, German and Japanese systems of management,” Biryukov glanced back through decades. “They called on the Soviet people to copy everything that is being done overseas and promised that living standards will skyrocket to match those overseas. Very few people could foresee we were not destined to become Anglo-Saxons, Germans or, no way, Japanese.”
There is no room for argument. Yes, we are Scythians!