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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russians Today Simultaneously Apathetic and Angry, Khabarovsk Psychologist Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 4 – The pandemic and the steps the authorities have taken in response to it have left Russians simultaneously apathetic and angry, apathetic because they have the sense that there is nothing they personally can do and angry that those in charge have failed to explain in a consistent way why the powers have acted as they have, Ilya Latypov says.

            The Khabarovsk psychologist says that, like all other nations, Russians are divided between those who care more about security and who have thus been willing to accept restrictions more readily and those who care more about freedom and who have bridled at them (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/10/04/87369-sostoyanie-lyudey-segodnya-eto-smes-apatii-i-yarosti).

            That the second group should be angry is no surprise, but the first is angry too because its members feel the government has utterly failed to explain in a consistent fashion what it is doing and why. Instead, it has gone from saying everything is terrible, during self-isolation, to everything is wonderful, during the constitutional amendment voting.

            Members of both groups, Latypov continues, had problems with the self-isolation regime. Even people who love each other can’t be thrown together with no outlet for long periods. Otherwise, they will become irritated and even hate one another. And when this is combined with the uncertainty about when it will be over, things become worse.

            Two things are certain in such situations, he says; and both have happened in Russia. On the one hand, people begin to take out their anger on those nearby because they feel they can’t do anything about the bigger situation. And on the other, they are increasingly exhausted by the situation. That reflects the fact that they are both apathetic and angry.

            There is one interesting “paradox,” however. Many Russians who were suffering from problems before the pandemic got a certain relief from its outset. They no longer felt alone but rather sensed that everyone shared a common problem. Unfortunately, that sense has been shattered by the authorities’ one-again, off-again approach.

            But the real problem, he says, is not even that the authorities have been making mistakes. “Mistakes are inevitable.” The problem is how the powers react to their mistakes. “As a result, they never admit they have made any. Our powers cannot be mistaken: they fear to the point of panic to say that they did something incorrect.”

            And that posture, Latypov continues, “undermines trust in them much more than the errors themselves.” That is because, he suggests, people are far more ready to forgive “mistakes of the mind than mistakes of the heart.” And when they see ever more of the latter, they become even angrier, even if they attack others rather than those who are responsible.

Window on Eurasia — New Series