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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Young Not Significantly More Liberal across the Board than Those in Their 30s and 40s, Zavadskaya Says


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 14 – Because the Kremlin has expressed so much concern about the participation of young Russians in protests, many assume that the younger generation is more liberal in all respects than its parents, Magarita Zavadskaya says. But in fact the data do not support that conclusion.

            The researcher at St. Petersburg’s European University says that there are no good data available on the share young people form in recent demonstrations and that survey data show that while young people are more liberal than their parents in some regards, they are very much like their parents in others (ridl.io/ru/progressivnaja-molodezh/).

            Thus, “one must not assert that young people have become significantly more liberal in all respects and demonstrate what may be called more ‘progressive’ views.” At the same time, however, “one must not speak about the appearance of signs of ‘a turn to conservatism’ that might have been expected” among those who’ve grown up under more authoritarian conditions.

            And from this it follows, Zavadskaya says, “the demand for liberalism in Russia today is shaping up not on a generational principle.” Some young people on some issues are significantly more liberal than their parents politically, but many others are not. They thus do not form a single bloc.

            While it is true for young Russians in the major cities that being apolitical is “as it were ‘unfashionable,’” young Russian are “above all a demographic and not a social group with a common identity and articulated interests. More than that, it does not represent in its an organized political force.”

            At the same time, however, the St. Petersburg scholar says, “there is reason to expect that young people can be distinguished from older generations as a result of the global movement of different groups toward emancipation,” which in the political sphere can mean a rejection of authoritarianism and a demand for democracy.

            Young people “on average are more negative about the state as a regulator” of the economy. But at this, intergenerational differences on economic values end. Attitudes toward inequality … have become more tolerant, but toward competition, attitudes are approximately the same.”

            Differences on gender roles vary: “almost half of young people surveyed say that if there is a shortage of work places, man should have greater rights to them than women,” but young people are more supportive of the idea of women as political leaders than are their elders, Zavadskaya continues.

            “All age groups besides those over 55 show similar views on questions concerning freedom of choice in private life,” although the young are “more tolerant” of homosexuality than are their parents. “But this testifies to the gradual liberalization of views from generation to generation.”

            Zavadskaya concludes that Russian youth on the whole are only a little different in their views from Russians in their 30s and 40s. The real divide is between both of these groups and those of pensioners who are significantly more conservative across the board.

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