Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

14Cultural transformation

I think that Russia can only be Russia. It is neither Asian nor European. It is just Russia.

(Alexei Podberezkin) 1

Accompanying the political, social and economic revolutions was a no less profound transformation of the cultural sphere. Instead of the closed, introspective and heavily administered Soviet system, a more open, pluralistic and free society began to emerge. The financial and institutional basis for this freedom, however, remained tenuous. The censorship of the communist years was abolished, but new constraints emerged, above all financial. The press may have cast off one form of oppression, but reliance on wealthy benefactors or subsidies imposed new limitations. The role of the intelligentsia as the 'conscience of the nation' also gave way to attempts to find new ways to survive in a free but relatively impoverished society. Religious freedom was restored, but here, too, fears that Russia was becoming exposed to excessive foreign evangelism led to the imposition of new restrictions. While the old political order may have changed in 1991, the people remained the same although their attitudes and views evolved. How can democratic institutions function democratically if societal values remain in some way antithetical to Western democratic values? The old forced ideology had gone, but the country appeared to experience a crisis of values.


The media

Glasnost had been the defining characteristic of Gorbachev's perestroika; society came to know itself and its own past, and in so doing appeared to lose itself. 2 Revelations about Soviet crimes and follies undermined faith in the regime; glasnost acted as a profoundly disintegrative force. The revelatory aspect of glasnost continued into the post-Soviet era, but its impact was reduced since the new facts were now part of history rather than politics. Nevertheless, some of the details revealed following the fall of the old regime retained their power to shock, especially when the executioners spoke out. A former NKVD chief Vladimir Tokarev described in chilling detail how it took a month for NKVD troops in Kalinin (Tver) to shoot 6,295 Polish officers one by one. He revealed that 3,897 had died in a similar fashion in Katyn and 4,403 near Kharkov, a total of 14,595. 3 It was only in 1990, and then without a hint of repentance, that the Soviet regime had admitted that they, and not the Nazis, were guilty of the murders in April 1940.

-331-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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