Longing for the Soviet Union [a survey by Levada Center revealed that 33% of Russians feel sad and anguished over the collapse of the Soviet Union – UNIAN] is part of the Russian political culture. Russians believe in the greatness of Russia, claiming that Russia takes on a special civilizational mission, aimed at bringing light to the world. This idea is deeply ingrained both in Russia’s official rhetoric and Russian literature (for example, Dostoyevsky is worth mentioning), as well as public sentiments.
Obviously, all of this performs a kind of a compensatory function because of the poor living conditions of the Russians. They reflect on the idea that despite being poor, they can “destroy America.” This is the card that Soviet propaganda used to play, based on the idea that the Soviet Union is a superpower, able to annihilate the United States easily. Today, these ideas still remain in the Russian consciousness, combined with the authoritarianism of the Russian government, public faith in a strong leader and the greatness of Russia.
Russia’s economic potential is being reduced, while economic modernization is not happening - where should one look for over-compensation? The said ideas of Russia’s “greatness” seem to be an easy solution for the Kremlin.
In addition, a "besieged fortress" atmosphere is being deliberately created in Russia, while another topic is being actively exploited, that is collecting lands surrounding Russia to be ruled from Moscow. Hence the topic of the Eurasian Economic Union, which "will become an equal partner" of the European Union… Hence the annexation of Crimea...
The Kremlin tends to skillfully fuel such sentiments. Before the annexation of Crimea, the economic situation in Russia began to deteriorate visibly, while Putin's ratings started dropping. Once Russia seized part of Ukrainian land, Russian president's ratings hiked back immediately.
A "besieged fortress" atmosphere is being deliberately created in Russia, while another topic is being actively exploited, that is collecting lands surrounding Russia to be ruled from Moscow
Of course, for the most part, it’s Russia’s senior citizens who reminisce of the Soviet times wishing to turn back time. Meanwhile, the younger generation, the so-called creative class, is obvious in its choice, which is evidenced with an increased brain-drain from Russia. Wealthier Russians are willing to secure a Plan B and get a residence permit in other countries or purchase real estate abroad...
That is why, there is supposed to be fewer young people who yearn for the Soviet past. However, we should keep in mind that the Russian youth is being raised under the influence of today’s official propaganda, affected by the promotion of distorted reality, and total control.
After all, what can the Russian government give them? Innovations? Not really. Economic growth? There is none. But what about repeating a thesis that Russia is a power pole, opposing the United States? No problem with that.
By the way, in Soviet times, major enemies of the Soviet Union were American imperialism, Zionism, Maoism, and Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism. Today, the enemies seem to be the same. Well, except for Maoism, because Russia has become China’s junior partner...
Oleksiy Haran, PhD, is a professor of political science at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and a scientific director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation