17.12.1999 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkiv

Do we need ourselves?


The mental state of citizens of the former republics of the USSR (except the Baltic republics) may be confidently classified as a variety of the massive psychic anomaly, something like depressive syndrome that has come instead of the public maniacal psychosis. In the former times, being under the mania, the majority of Soviet citizens believed in a Great Leader and Teacher, as well as in the happy future and numerous spies and saboteurs, who were hopping around like fleas. The society needed about thirty years to begin to get rid of this mania, which reigned in the 20s – 40s, being replaced by a certain apathy. In this period the society looked like an infantile youth who is shown by grown-ups what to do, while the youth unwillingly follows their instructions and survives being helped by these adults. The perestroyka, the revolution from above, liberated the countries of the Central Europe, which were striving for freedom and independence, but it did not lead the citizens of the former USSR to civil ripeness. Our custom to respect paternalistic relations of the state to citizens has appeared rooted too deeply. The one-sided dependence ‘the state gives and the citizen gets’ prevents us to evaluate correctly the current processes.

The new states grow under extremely unfavorable psychological conditions. The will of the majority, concentrated and strained, is needed for realizing the national idea. A big proportion of citizens living in the post-Soviet space lack this will. We shall concentrate our attention on Russia, Belarus and especially Ukraine, since all former republics of Asia and Transcaucasia are developing according to their specific cultural peculiarities.

Having analyzed the situation in the three Slavic republics one can make a conclusion that the urge towards statesmanship (hypertrophied in Russia, very weak in Belarus and stable enough in Ukraine) does not help to solve the inner problems, since the citizens of these countries cannot define for themselves in which kind of state they would prefer to live. There is no stable state model, which would satisfy a critical nation forming majority. The absence of the internal consensus in the main directions of the state building have led these post-Soviet countries to the state of internal chaos and depression. As a result, the public life of these three countries is determined by several common factors:

Democratic revolutions in these countries smoothly transformed into criminal ones. The power was seized by clans of the former nomenclature that permanently redistribute property in their own interests.

There exists a permanent threat of returning communists to power since they are supported by an important proportion of the population feeling nostalgia to the past. This makes impossible any massive constructive opposition, since it will support the leftish one.

The civil society, being weak and disoriented, cherishes myths rather dangerous for the state existence. As a result, the society cannot elect, control and replace authorities, as well as protect their economic interests in a civilized manner.

The authorities have failed in the most reforms and attempts to preserve, partly or fully, the command-administrative regulation (as to the regulation, Belarus is leading, followed by Ukraine). As a result, we have the economic crisis, unemployment, poverty and a steady wish of about one third of the population to return to the communist past. The vicious circle is closing.

To break this circle is extremely difficult since the post-totalitarian countries are ruled by their myths, which, in their turn, shape psychological standards. Citizens of the former USSR have survived during 15 last years the global change of the psychology. Yet, in their essence, they have remained Soviet people, who got accustomed to a standard thinking and behavior. How is it possible to create a normal economy, if a great (may be a greater) part of the population has a firm belief that a rich man is a crook? Ukraine never had agricultural communes, the farmers conducted individual activities, so it would seem that Ukrainian peasantry was in the better psychological state and could develop like in the Baltic republics. However, it is true about West Ukraine and partly about Central Ukraine. The East industrial regions have quite different attitudes. These are thickly populated regions, which greatly determine results of elections. These regions give the majority of votes for communists, together with the Crimea, whose population is not sure about their Ukrainian identity.

Ukraine has proclaimed that it started market reforms, but enrichment is not encouraged here. The state uses the tax press to break the spine of the middle and small business, and the state is not resisted by the civil society. If a critical campaign is started against some politician, then it always suffices to declare that he is rich and, which almost needs no proof, that the riches are gained in a crooked way. But how can riches be earned in a fair way in a country where enormous taxes drove all business to the shadows? In the countries with the protestant ethics (this is mainly England, Canada, the USA) the riches are counted as a feature of diligence. In post-Soviet countries the riches are a symbol of crookedness.

This psychological anomaly smoothly passes to another myth that our leftish forces ‘stand for the people’. 30% in Russia and Ukraine voted for communists, and more than 50% of Belarus voted for the neo-communist Lukashenko. This communist revenge, that happened in Belarus, did not bring any good to the people except queues and suppression of dissident thought. The people of Belarus has not become rich and happy.

Ukraine, although it has better starting geopolitical, historical and economic conditions, is also in danger of the communist revenge. One reason is that the West of Ukraine hardly overbalance the capitalism-despising East. Another harmful idea is the universal disdain to politicians. Suspicion bred during decades makes honest and clever citizens to actively evade political activities. In the first year of building Ukraine mainly representatives of the democratic movement were elected to Sovietsof various levels, but nobody was able to influence the policy. Some of them left the political activities, others started to catch what they could. It was they who mainly discredited the democratic movement.

The state power does not fulfil its obligations towards citizens, and the citizens want to get rid of the civil servants during elections. What is most surprising, they cannot do it. Voters do not understand the mechanism through which they are fooled. Politicians adapt to voters; even bright personalities do not allow themselves original steps, varying only details (for example, N.Vitrenko promised to send bad bureaucrats to uranium mines, while A.Tkachenko promised to strip militia generals to lieutenants). The political elite has not changed for decades, and there are no prospects of coming changes.

Another psychological barrier on the road of state development is the attitude of citizens to their states.

In Russia the psychology of the citizens of a great state typical for masses leads the Russian political elite to meddling into the affairs of the formers Soviet republics. The consequence of this attitude is the Chechen war, the permanent desire to organize a union with any fragment of the former USSR. This attitude gives birth to instability and creates an impression that the Russian political elite is ready to postpone all important solutions until Russia reunites all other parts of the Soviet Union. Russia, being an immense country, which has not mastered her own resources, continues to grab the Kuril isles, continues the shameful war on the Caucasus, strives to join Sebastopol, ‘the town of the Russian fame’. At the same time the State Duma adopts the law on direct election of governors, thus destroying the executive vertical and putting a time mine into the foundation of the state. On the day of the default in August 1998 this mine almost exploded — some governors tried to introduce regional currencies. Thus, Russia is concentrated on preserving or expanding its territory. Before the invention of nuclear bombs the greatness of a country was mainly determined by the largeness of its territory. Now we know better: the most important factor is the stability and equal level of development of various regions. In this sense Russia is a very backward country.

The Belarus geopolitical paradigm seems to be quite different. The majority of the population has supported and seems to support joining Russia. Such two countries seemed to be doomed to be united. Yet, the politicians do not do any essential steps to be united economically. The economies of these two countries seem to be unblendable.

In Ukraine a brittle majority of the population wants to live in an autonomous European-type state. The instability of the situation is due to the fact that Ukraine is populated not by a single political nation. In the East we observe the tendencies rather similar with those in Belarus. Fortunately, the Chechen war and similar political adventures frighten those who would like to join Russia. Many citizens of the East Ukraine are nostalgic of the Soviet times. On the contrary, most citizens of Central and West Ukraine are firmly oriented to the construction of a European-type autonomous state, closely cooperating with the NATO, having the normal market economy, etc. However, many citizens here have a syndrome of a hyperstate. In order to realize nationalist ideas these people are ready to vote for those politicians, who propose to strengthen the state without explaining what kind of state it will be. These people are especially sensitive to the left revenge.

Side by side with Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, other brotherly Slavic countries actively develop. We especially mean Czechia and Poland. God know why, these positive examples are not followed by their Eastern neighbors.

We have a lot of difficulties, but they are created not by our authorities, but by ourselves.

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