Much ado about nothing?
|Torstaina, 24. kesäkuuta 2010 2 kommentti(a)||
Vanhempi tutkija - EU:n itäinen naapurusto ja Venäjä -tutkimusohjelma
I have often heard the claim that promoting democratic values in Russia is somehow an immoral exercise. As the argument goes, the values of individualism, open competition and liberal democracy are alien to Russia and Russians, and hence Russia should be left alone and allowed to define its own values and standards without outside involvement.
I have always protested against this simplistic way of looking at the issue. Russia is unique – just like all other nations on earth – but there are no grounds for Russian exceptionalism. I believe that Russia is not more different than most (unlike an edited volume by a Finnish academic publishing house claimed in the early 2000s).
However, I recently discovered an interesting survey called the World Values Survey, which has been carried out periodically since the 1980s. The basic idea is to assess what kind of values people around the world have and how those values are changing over time.
As one can imagine, the values people hold dear vary a great deal from country to country. I approach the cross-cultural variation here by looking at just one dimension of value orientation: self-expression versus survival values. Strong self-expression values indicate that people take responsibility over their choices, they accept pluralism in society easily, and value civil and political freedoms. When emphasis is on survival values, the self-expression values are weak, other people are viewed with mistrust and pluralism in society is feared. Order and conformity are valued higher than freedom of choice.
The survey indicates that there is a gradual global trend of moving from survival values towards self-expression values. The trend is further strengthened by economic growth. However, Russia is one of the most striking exceptions. Despite economic growth, survival values dominate among Russians.
So, does this mean that Russia is, after all, more different than most and that its values are not compatible with the western ones? Despite the risk of being accused of stubbornness, I insist the answer to the question should be no.
Russia’s place on the map of world values is far from exceptional: one can find states like Ukraine and Moldova - and even few EU member states like Bulgaria and Estonia - next to Russia on the values map. Also, people tend to value those things they can practice and to play down the importance of the things they don’t have. Once there are more alternatives available and more channels to practice democracy around, these issues are likely to grow in importance - also in Russia.
Kirjoitukset edustavat kirjoittajien henkilökohtaisia näkemyksiä.