The New Elite in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Christopher Vanderpool et al. | Go to book overview

22
The Future Belongs to Me Russian Students and Their Religious Views

Samuel Kliger

Recent changes in social status, self-perception, and religious views of Russian students are of great significance for that country. The main objectives of this essay are to analyze those changes and to show how they may affect the process of new elite recruitment. The study is based on a number of polls conducted by the International Research Institute on Value Changes ( IRIVC) in Moscow in 1990-95.1


Social Structure and Changes in Self-Perception

According to the tradition developed by Lenin and then Stalin, Soviet society consisted of three major social classes: the working class, collective farmers, and the intelligentsia. The formula 2+1 (two major classes and a "stratum" or "layer" of intelligentsia) was the official base of almost all descriptions and analysis of social structure in the former USSR up until the early 1990s. While acknowledging the existence of other minor social groups (such as professional and educational groups, unskilled workers, and so on), Soviet scholars constantly studied the working class and its leading role in society.2 Soviet propaganda insisted that the working class as such was a bearer of the most "progressive" values and virtues: work ethics, internationalism, atheism, family and moral values, and so forth.

Although this particular perspective did not reflect the great differentiation in society, there is no doubt that a firm social structure in Soviet society did exist. It existed not only in the form of theoretical approaches or propaganda but also as a matter of everyday life. Virtually everyone knew very clearly who was "higher" or "lower" on the social scale, and everyone was able to answer the questions "who am I" and "who's who." As Vladimir Shlapentokh mentioned in 1989, "The

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