By Paul Goble
Because the communist system so monopolized the public future, Aleksey Levinson says, its collapse 30 years ago left Russians without a significant public future to believe in and act upon. Instead, they act as if their country’s future will be just like the present or talk about trivialities.
What was important about the Soviet system, the Levada Center sociologist says, is not that it was communist but that it was about the collective future. “And with the demise of the state and its ideological platform, this future disappeared,” depriving Russians of “the future as a category of time” (polit.ru/article/2022/12/29/levinson/).
What remains and did so “almost untouched,” Levinson continues, are private futures, those of the individual, the family, friends, coworkers and so on. “In these structures, everything is very much in order with regard to the category of the future.” Were things otherwise, the country would have descended into complete chaos.
But the lack of a common public future is a serious matter, especially as it affects not only the population but as far as one can tell the elites as well. In the focus groups he conducts, the sociologist continues, Russians simply can’t describe the future when asked that question directly.
When they are asked what would be the worst that could happen, they do have opinions, he says. Some talk about the disintegration of Rusisa, “the end of the world after which there is nothing and cannot be.” Others, talk about nuclear war.” And still a third talk of a civil war which would lead to either the first or the second.
But when asked about what would be the best, they talk about trivial things such as a stable ruble or oil at 90 US dollars a barrel. And they can’t imagine a future, even a distant one, any different than the present at least as far as their ruler is concerned. In short, they have no vision of the future and so are increasingly lacking one of the present as well.