Values of Russians: traditionalism and modernity

Igor M. Kuznetsov,
Leading Researcher,
Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS,
Moscow, Russia

In modern European socio-political discourse, the idea that Russia is a traditionalist country is widespread. This view is not entirely accurate. Sociological surveys of the population of Russia, conducted in the last 5 years, make it possible to more accurately estimate the state of the value system of modern Russians. However, before proceeding to the presentation of the final results of these surveys, it is necessary to briefly present the main provisions of our approach to the diagnosis of value systems. The temporal dynamics of change, the difference or similarity of the values of different ethno-cultural communities is manifested (and can be measured) at the level of value meanings. These gradual changes in the content of this or that value can be placed between two poles which, following Ronald Inglehart, can be conventionally designated as traditional and modern (or secular-rational) poles of interpretation of value concepts. In our opinion, the common basis, the intention of the traditionalist pole of interpretation of value meanings is to ensure the preservation and continuity in time of this community, which is perceived, figuratively speaking, as the only environment for human habitation and reproduction not just the population, but human souls (in those socio-cultural definitions of this phenomenon which are characteristic for given community). And vice versa, the intention of modern pole of value meanings can be characterized as ensuring identity and self-realization of separate individuals regardless of given social context. Finally, following other researchers, we believe that value systems have a multilevel hierarchical structure from value imperatives of the abstract ideological level (in the tradition going back to M. Rokeach, they can be designated as “terminal values”) to a ramified set of principles of everyday behavior (“instrumental values”, according to Rokeach).

According to the data of the conducted surveys, it can be concluded that the share of Russians who are systematically oriented towards global modernist values does not exceed 2%. A systemic traditionalist orientation is characteristic of about a third of Russians. The overwhelming majority (more than 2/3 of the respondents) are in the process of rethinking their value priorities. This means that in modern Russia there is a large proportion of people who have already departed in their consciousness from the traditional system of values, but have not yet come to more or less complete acceptance of the new modernist system of interpretations. Conversely, this group includes people who, for one reason or another, are disappointed in the values of modernism and now they return to traditionalist foundations. Such a return to traditional views has been observed recently against the background of serious sanctions and ideological pressure on Russia.

More precisely, the traditionalism of Russians is most vividly manifested in the broad support for the traditional interpretation of terminal values, and the process of modernization of the modern Russian public consciousness is most clearly manifested in the revision or rejection of the traditional interpretation of instrumental values.

So, according to the latest data, a total of 70% of Russians have a traditional view of the need to strengthen their own historical traditions, moral and religious values. According to the results of long-term measurements of this (or similar) indicator, the level of support for the value in question has remained virtually unchanged for 20 years. Support for the traditionalist value increases with age, and the greatest difference in the degree of support is observed in the extreme age groups (18-30 years old and over 61 years old). But a comparative analysis showed that age differences in support for the value in question are transient, and opinion about Russia’s place in the global world changes towards the traditionalist pole with age.

At the same time, the process of renewing the traditionalist values of civic consciousness (i.e. reflecting the ideological collectivist characteristic of the Soviet period of Russian history) is characteristic not only for young people (which is quite logical), but also for older age groups, including those respondents whose civic consciousness was formed in the Soviet era. This speaks of the final refusal of Russians from the totalitarian socio-political value meanings of the Soviet period.

The fact of support for the traditionalist pole of value meanings at the terminal level is quite compatible with support for the modernized socio-political value meanings in everyday life. These latter values, being instrumental (for Russians) in their function, can meet the tasks of supporting both traditionalist and modernist values of the terminal level.

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