Education, Autonomy, and Democratic Citizenship: Philosophy in a Changing World

By David Bridges | Go to book overview

18

EDUCATION AND CITIZENSHIP IN POST-SOVIET RUSSIA

Nikolai D. Nikandrov

INTRODUCTION

After about seventy years of very stable society which had the proclaimed aim of building communism Russia has been undergoing a period of transformation since 1985—the year when Gorbachev came to power as Secretary General of the Communist Party. This is not to say that there had been no previous changes in the economy and the social sphere. But at no time before had there been an attempt to encroach upon the sancta sanctorum—Marxist-Leninist teaching. This proclaimed in short that the future of all peoples of the world was to be communism and that capitalism was to die either by its natural death of internal contradictions in any given country or by the world socialist revolution helped by the socialist camp—i.e. by the countries where socialist regimes had already been established. The stable political system meant a uniform education system in which political education was a very important part. The term education for citizenship was hardly ever used then, but political indoctrination along Marxist lines was never put in doubt.

Gorbachev was prepared to go some way towards democratisation, but still for him the two guiding principles ‘more democracy, more socialism’ went hand in hand. So for all the change that took place in Russia under Gorbachev it was only modest compared with the drastic reforms under Yeltsin. These amounted to a revolution, a coup d’état when all economic and social values of the past (equal rights for all; planned economy; building communism as the ultimate aim of the society) were proclaimed null and void.

But after the destruction of the past, there came a time when some positive values had to be put in place of the old ones. Not long before the presidential elections of June/July 1996, President Yeltsin mentioned the necessity of formulating the national goals of Russia—which meant, in fact, the admission that for about five years we had been drifting along towards nobody knows what. It meant, too, that Russia, which had been united for a long time, must now find its national identity being torn aside by conflicting interests of various groups of population and various republics—some of them part of Russia (God knows for how long still) and some newly independent. Now

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