Wednesday, January 10, 2018

‘Why Should We Fight and Die for the Oligarchs?’ Young Russians Tell Psychologist

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 10 – Fewer than half of young Russians in the major cities identify as patriots – approximately 40 percent -- and say they would be ready to fight in the event of a war – 49 percent -- according to a new study conducted by St. Petersburg social psychologist V.Ye. Semenov and now attracting attention in the popular media.

            His study, “Russian Identity and Patriotism in a Polimental Society” (in Russian), Sotsialnaya i ekonomicheskaya psikhologiya vol. 2, no. 3(7) (2017): 116-139, is on line at It has been discussed this week at and

            But even among middle aged and older Russians, the figures are similar, Semenov says. If a war began, only 49 percent of all Russians say they were ready to go to the front to fight, and just 39 percent say they would be willing to give a quarter of their income to the government to fight and win such a conflict.

            Thus, as Novyye izvestiya points out, “problems with Russian identity and patriotism exist not only among young people but in the entire population of the country.” A series of studies Semenov has participated in show in fact that patriotism among Russians has been declining over the last decade.

            In 2008, 80 percent of Russians identified as patriots; in 2013, 67 percent; and in 2016, 62 percent. And in a survey conducted in September 2016, Russians were asked what they would advise a son, husband or brother to do if a war began with a neighboring country and he was called up by the military.

            Forty-nine percent said the man in question should go to the front. Sixteen percent said he should seek to serve in units behind the frontlines. Fifteen percent said he shouldn’t show up at the draft office but wait for the end of the world. The remaining 20 percent offered other answers or said they found it difficult to provide any. 

            In the same study, only 39 percent said they would agree to give the government a quarter of their pay to prosecute the war; 17 percent said they would give less; but 31 percent said they would not give anything.

            Perhaps most striking was the answer younger Russians gave to this question: “Why should I have to die for [oligarchs like] Abramovich and Usmanov?” 

            Semenov also reports that most Russians choose their heroes either from among their families or friends. They rarely point to prominent contemporary politicians, historical personalities or artists.  In general, the psychologist says, younger Russians lack attachment to any historical national heroes.

            Related to their attitudes toward patriotism and military service, Russians surveyed by the psychologist said they felt deeply the contradictions between rich and poor (76 percent), between bosses and ordinary workers (65 percent), and among people of various nationalities (52 percent).

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