State and Society
The Russian Heritage
Russia has a history of power centrally concentrated in the economy, culture, education, media, religion, and citizens private lives. Initiative has been stifled in the process.
In the USSR many officials considered themselves a superior species, appointed to drive the herds of human cattle. Nepotism, friendships, or former party membership are the reason some Russians hold the higher paid jobs then others. Incompetence, sloth, conservatism are often the result which causes a tendency to avoid responsibility by passing the buck. The key thing is to stay patient when dealing with the bureaucracy, and finding someone who knows the system, or better yet, someone who knows someone high up in the chain of command.
Update: Bureaucracy – the snake that swallowed the cow, it killed the snake and the cow walked away a little wary from the constriction. The cow understands it must avoid the snake at all costs. A snake is a snake, is a snake. Death is certain but walking into its jaws………..well would you?
The nation’s sense of right and wrong has been erased under assumption that “everyone steals” . Many who are involved in bribery and embezzlement see it as the only way to survive. There is a sense of justification since, “everyone else is doing it.” The police are notorious for corrupt behavior. While Americans generally trust “the law,” Russians have a tremendous distrust of government, police and the military.
Update: Yep, it’s still here. At least it’s out in the open. Nobody agrees with it, they just haven’t figured out how to deal with it. Maybe moral behavior will change as their spiritual lives improve.
Russia has had a secret police since the sixteenth century when Tsar Ivan the Terrible established his Oprichnina to root out opposition. Over three and a half million (3,778,000) Soviet citizens were sentenced for counter-revolution activity or crimes against the state from 1930 to 1953. The KGB openly admits that 786,000 were shot to death in those 23 years. Many, many more actually lost their lives. The newly formed agency that replaced the KGB after Yeltsin took power has seemed to target issues related to business and commerce.
Update: No reason to beat a dead horse here, FSB replaced the KGB and life goes on. I don’t think they spend an inordinate time spying on their own citizens like their counterparts, if anything like stated above they are more leery of business corporate power and it’s influence over government, something their counterparts would well advised to do.
The law in Russia has served to protect the state and the community and not the individual. The leaders had the tradition of being above the law. Recently, most Russians, though motivated by fear, do not take the law very seriously. With the fall of Communism, there are often conflicting laws on the books, enforceable as police so choose at a given moment.
Update: Individualism is frowned upon here, as maybe it should be. Look what it’s done to the west! The leaders in Russia, just like everywhere else do pretty much the same, yet they respect the community for the most part, it’s a good balance. The citizens have a healthy fear of government, I’d say they have a better understanding of the spirit of the law, the letter of the law is important but they don’t let it usurp the spirit.
Americans are often annoyed by the inconveniences caused by the seemingly inefficient and lackadaisical way things are done in Russia, including shopping, driving, agricultural poor planning, etc.
Update: Yes it’s true, yet things still get done, just not at a pace that westerners expect. But things are changing as they usually do………….slowly. I think they are understanding they don’t have to compete with the west in this arena, catering to the individual isn’t highly looked upon.
An extensive system of public schools blanketed the country, eliminated illiteracy, and raised the general level of learning among the populace. Russia has one of the lowest illiteracy rates in the world. A noticeable difference in the students is a lower ability to think for themselves. “Higher Level Thinking Skills” is an unknown term in Russian education. Students are told what the answer is, not why the answer is what it is. “How did you come to that answer?” is not a question a Russian teacher would ask. It is simply right or wrong. Two plus two is four. The reason is immaterial.
Update: After spending some time in Russia and doing lots of research I’ve come to the conclusion that a high percentage of Russians do have tremendous “higher level thinking skills” probably more so than their American counterparts. After teaching at the high school level and at the university level the students are very open and highly imaginative, if they lack anywhere I’d say it’s probably in organization skills (based on a discussion with a fellow blogger). One thing is absolutely for sure the students don’t have the same deterrents (or least to the same level) as American students have which give them the ability to concentrate on their studies.
- Culture and Character of Russia (hague6185.wordpress.com)